Advice to the Sick and Those Afflicted with Calamities

Advice to the Sick and Those Afflicted with Calamities

al-ʿAllāmah Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

08 February 2021

Seven points of advice on coping with illness and affliction from the Book and the Sunnah.

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...That he is very hopeful that this calamity will cease. This is because opening [the gates of] hope necessitates the vitality of the soul, expansion of the chest and the tranquillity of the heart.

al-ʿAllāmah Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn [d. 1421 AH]

   

[Q]: The questioner is saying: Some of the sick blame themselves, constantly complain, and express their discontent with the sickness they are experiencing; so what is your advice to the likes of these individuals, and is it one of seeking reward and being patient? May Allāh reward you with good.1 

[A]: So he (رحمه الله تعالى) responded by saying: My advice to my brothers, these unwell individuals, and to those who are afflicted with calamities related to their wealth and family is to be patient and seek their reward [from Allāh] and to know that these afflictions and calamities are a trial from Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى) and a test; as Allāh (تبارك وتعالى) says: 

وَنَبْلُوكُم بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً ۖ وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ ﴿٣٥

And We test you with evil and with good as a trial, and to Us you will be returned.
[Al-Anbiyāʾ, 21:35] 


And as Allāh (تعالى) puts the servant to trial with blessings that He bestows upon him to test him — will he be thankful or ungrateful? Similarly, He tries His servant with that which is contrary to that in order to test him—will he be patient or impatient and express displeasure [during difficulties]? 

And that which will aid a person to be patient in these affairs are [the following] matters: 


The First Matter:
 

To have faith that Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى) is the Lord of everything and its possessor. All of the creation is His creation and His servants. He disposes of their affairs how He wills, for a reason and wisdom that we may know or not know. Hence, there is no objection and resistance to Him (سبحانه وتعالى) for what He does in His dominion. 

لَا يُسْأَلُ عَمَّا يَفْعَلُ وَهُمْ يُسْأَلُونَ ﴿٢٣

He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they will be questioned.
[Al-Anbiyāʾ: 21:23] 

The Second Matter: 

That he believes that the afflictions and calamities which have befallen him are an expiation of his sins. His mistakes are wiped away and his sins are forgiven, as it has been reported from the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ). 

And indeed a woman from the worshippers sustained an injury to her finger; however, she was not resentful, neither was there any trace of pain observed on her. She was asked concerning that, so she replied: "Indeed, the sweetness of its reward has made me forget the bitterness of being patient with it [i.e. the pain]". 

It is well known that patience has a lofty station; it is not attained except by the presence of something a person can be patient with, so that he can be from amongst those who are patient. And [Allāh says]:  

إِنَّمَا يُوَفَّى الصَّابِرُونَ أَجْرَهُم بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ ﴿١٠

Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full, without reckoning.
[Al-Zumar, 39:10] 


The Third Matter: 

That he consoles himself with the fact that others besides him have also been afflicted. So he is not the only one to be afflicted with these calamities; rather there are those amongst the people who are afflicted far more than his affliction. Indeed the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) — and he was the noblest of the creation to Allāh — was afflicted with tremendous calamities, so much so that he would suffer from fever like the suffering of two men from us. Still, he would be patient and expectant of the reward from Allāh. 

And to find consolation in others [i.e. to know that you are not the only one to be afflicted] is to make the calamities and afflictions lighter. 


The Fourth Matter: 

That he hopes in Allāh (عز وجل) and expects reward from Him by being patient during this calamity, so if he hopes and expects the reward from Allāh (عز وجل) by being patient with this calamity then it will result in — besides it expiating sins — Allāh raising his level, due to his hoping and expecting reward from Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى). It is common knowledge that many people are submerged in their sins, so when the likes of these afflictions occur: sickness or loss of family, or wealth, or friends, or similar, the matter is made lighter by looking to the reward and the recompense that he will receive for being patient with it [i.e. the afflictions] and hoping and expecting reward from Allāh. The greater the calamity, the more the reward. 


The Fifth Matter: 

He knows that these calamities of sickness and other than them will not remain, for nothing lasts forever; rather it will cease sooner or later, but the longer it lasts, the more the reward and the recompense, and it is necessary in this case that we remember the saying of Allāh (تبارك وتعالى):

فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا ﴿٥ إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا ﴿٦

So verily, with the hardship, there is relief. Indeed, with hardship there is relief.
[Al-Sharḥ, 94:5-6] 

And we remember the saying of the Prophet (ﷺ), "And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and hardship with ease.’2 


The Sixth Matter: 

That he is very hopeful that this calamity will cease. This is because opening [the gates of] hope necessitates the vitality of the soul, expansion of the chest and the tranquillity of the heart. Indeed man —whenever an hour passes him by— he sees that he is closer to the relief and the removal of these calamities, and in that is a stimulation of his soul, until he forgets what has befallen him. There is no doubt that a person who forgets what has befallen him or is oblivious to it does not feel it. Indeed, this is something that is witnessed: If the person is unmindful concerning what he himself has from sickness, injury or other than these, he will find himself invigorated and cease to think about it, and not feel the pain. 

On the other hand, if he was to focus his senses on this sickness or this pain then it will increase. For this I will give you an example of a manual worker: You will find a manual worker whilst he is doing his work, a stone may drop on him injuring his foot, or glass falls on him injuring his hand, or something similar to this, and he continues in his work and does not feel that which occurred to him. However, when he finishes his work, he turns his attention to that which caused him injury, at this point, he feels it. This is why when the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) received a complaint because of the whisperings (thoughts) that a person experiences within himself he (ﷺ) said: "If he detects that then let him seek refuge with Allāh, or if he feels that then let him seek refuge with Allāh, then let him stop". Meaning, let him turn away from that and not pay any attention to it, then it will cease. And this is something witnessed and proven by experience. 

So with these six matters, the sick person will attain tranquillity and much good. 


The Seventh Matter: 

He believes that impatience and discontentment [with what Allāh has decreed] does not remove anything, rather it increases [the affliction] in intensity and causes distress to the heart just as it causes pain to the body. In connection to this, I would like to clarify that the people facing calamities that befall them are divided into four categories: 

The first category: One who is impatient and discontent [with the decree of Allāh] and is not able to be patient. Rather, he cries for ruin and destruction, to the tearing of clothing, and the striking of the faces, and the pulling out of hair [all of this with despair and in lamentation] and his heart is filled with anger towards his Lord (عز وجل). As a result, this person is a loser in this life and the Hereafter due to this action of his being unlawful, and the pain is not removed by way of it. So because of this, he will be a loser in this world and the Hereafter. It may even lead to disbelief in Allāh (عز وجل). Allāh (تبارك وتعالى) says:  

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَعْبُدُ اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ حَرْفٍ ۖ فَإِنْ أَصَابَهُ خَيْرٌ اطْمَأَنَّ بِهِ ۖ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ فِتْنَةٌ انقَلَبَ عَلَىٰ وَجْهِهِ خَسِرَ الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةَ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ ﴿١١

And among mankind is he who worships Allāh upon the very edge; if good befalls him, he is content with it; but if a trial befalls him, he turns back on his face (i.e. reverts to disbelief after embracing Islām). He loses both this world and the Hereafter. That is the evident loss.
[Al-Ḥajj, 22:11] 

The second category: Patience, meaning that this afflicted person does not love that the calamity should occur, rather he detests it and is saddened by it, but he is patient. He prevents his heart from discontentment, and his tongue from speaking and his limbs from acting. However, he swallows the bitterness of patience whilst not wanting the calamity to occur, so this person has fulfilled what is required, become free from blame and saved himself. 

The third category: That he counters this calamity with contentment, an expansive chest and tranquillity of the heart, so much so it is as if he had never been afflicted by it, due to the strength of his contentment in Allāh (عز وجل). So the difference between this person and the first one, the one before him, is that the first one has a dislike to what occurred and swallowed the bitterness of patience. As for this one, then no, he does not have a dislike and he does not have in his soul bitterness, he says: "I am the servant and the Lord is [my] Lord, he did not decree this for me except due to a wisdom." So he is completely content and pleased.

The scholars have differed, may Allāh have mercy upon them, concerning this 'contentment', is it an obligation or a recommendation? That which is correct, it is recommended, because it is patience and something more, and it has preceded that patience is an obligation, and as for that which is beyond patience then it is recommended. Therefore, the person having contentment is more complete than the one who is patient. 

The fourth category: Being thankful to Allāh (عز وجل) for that which has occurred. So he thanks and shows gratitude to Allāh (تعالى) for this calamity. However, a person may say: "This matter is not possible according to the natural disposition and normal behaviour, that a person is thankful to his Lord when a calamity befalls him." So it is said: Yes, if we were to look purely at the calamity alone then the natural disposition would reject the thanking of Allāh for that [i.e. the calamity]. However, if a person looked at the consequences of this calamity: the forgiveness of major sins and the expiation of minor sins and the raising of levels, he thanks Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى) for storing the reward and recompense [until the time where he is in most need of it], this is better for him than what has occurred to him from this calamity. So due to this, he is thankful to Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى). It was from the guidance of the Prophet (ﷺ) that when something happened to him that pleased him, he used to say: “الـحمد لِلّٰهِ الَّذِي بِنِعمتهِ تتِم الصالـِحات” (All praises are for Allāh by Whose blessing all good is completed and perfected). 

And if something contrary to that happened to him, he said: “الحَمْدُ لله عَلَى كُلِّ حَلٍ” (All praises are for Allāh in every circumstance). And this is what a person should say.3 

As for what is widespread, upon the tongues of people when they are afflicted with an affliction: All praises are for Allāh who is not praised during adversity save Him, then it is a distasteful expression, and a person should not say it because this person is clearly proclaiming that he hates that which Allāh has decreed for him, and in it is something from discontentment even though it is not clear. And this is why we say that you should say what the Prophet (ﷺ) used to say, and it is: “الحَمْدُ لله عَلَى كُلِّ حَلٍ” (All praises are for Allāh in every situation). 

Finally, I advise my sick brothers and those who have been afflicted with afflictions with being patient upon that, and hope and be expectant of the reward from Allāh (عز وجل)، and Allāh the Most High is with the patient, and: 

إِنَّمَا يُوَفَّى الصَّابِرُونَ أَجْرَهُم بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ ﴿١٠

Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full, without reckoning.
[Al-Zumar, 39:10] 


Translated by Abu Tasneem Mousuf

Endnotes:

[1] Fatāwá Nūr ʿAlá al-Ḍarb, p.2 Vol.4 
[2] Shaykh al-Albānī declared it to be ṣaḥīḥ in al-Ṣaḥīḥah (No.2382) [Tr.]
[3] Ḥadīth reported by Ibn Sunnī in ʿAmalu al-Yawm wa-al-laylah (No.378) and al-Ḥākim (1/499) from the ḥadīth of ʿĀʾishah, declared authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmi’ (No. 4727 [Tr.] 

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