Having Good Thoughts (Ḥusn al-Ẓann) of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) in Times of Trial & Affliction
Jābir b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Ansāri relates that he heard Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) say three days before his death:
As Muslims, we should always assume the best about our Lord. As long as we are striving to engage in good deeds, we should expect the best outcome. We should expect that Allāh will accept our good deeds; and from His grace, He will forgive us and bless us to live this life, until its conclusion, upon faith.
This ḥusn al-ẓann (having optimistic, positive thoughts about Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā)) may become difficult at times of trials and afflictions. Many times trials come in succession – one after another or many come at the same time, simultaneously. During these times the heart feels broken, shattered and constricted. It feels as if the ‘walls’ of this world are closing in; ready to choke you to death. At these times one may feel worry and anxiety, which may affect their sleep and daily life. It is precisely at these times when we feel that everything is caving in and the world is about to swallow us that we must have good, sound and positive thoughts of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) because we know that His tests are measured and precise according to our strength and capabilities. He knows us better than we know ourselves!
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) knows exactly what is in our hearts and He is all aware of our innermost thoughts and feelings when we are facing these tests. He (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has already spoken about this in the Qur’ān when He (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says:
We shall test you through fear, hunger, loss of life, property, and crops. (Muhammad), give glad news to the people who have patience”
In this āyah Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) is not promising us wealth, health and prosperity all the time, but He (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) is saying that He will surely test us with many things such as fear, hunger, loss of life, and property, but He is also giving glad tidings of relief from such trials and afflictions if we are patient.
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) also says:
“Do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as it came to those who passed on before you?”
Throughout the history of mankind, the righteous, the pious and the wicked were always tested according to their capacity and Allāh’s infinite wisdom of that capacity and capability. Our ancestors faced trials and tribulations that were extremely difficult and continuous as Allāh has informed us:
They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, “When will the help of Allāh [come]?”
However, they remained firm, strong and true to their faith. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) answered them directly with a clear statement, in the verse immediately following, which should bring ease to all of our hearts:
“Unquestionably, the help of Allāh is near.”
Therefore, have patience in Allāh’s Decree! Tie up your heart and restrict your mind from having any evil thoughts about Allāh and His Divine Wisdom. Then take a deep breath and let your heart relax and be content with Allāh’s Divine Decree. Know that with every hardship, ease is simply around the corner.
“Verily, with hardship there is relief”
Allāh informs us that with every difficulty there is ease, and then He reaffirms this by repeating this same ayah in Sūrah al-Sharḥ. This particular āyah is immensely important and even a very simple understanding of Arabic grammar will open the huge treasure chest that is the deep meaning of these two āyāt and thereby bring peace, comfort and ease to the one afflicted with difficulty.
In this sūrah Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says:
“Verily, with hardship there is relief”
And then He repeats the same statement in the following verse:
“Verily, with hardship there is relief”
Here Allāh uses the word maʿa (with), which is a different to when Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) states:
“Allāh will grant after hardship, ease”
where He uses the word baʿda (after).
The letters alif and lām are also attached to the noun ʿusra (difficulty), which means that this difficulty is a difficulty that is single in number and is a known and specified difficulty. However, the noun yusra (ease) has no alif and lām attached, which means that it is unspecified and therefore could be many. The scholars of tafsīr have stated this means that when Allāh afflicts His servant with a difficulty, simultaneously, at the same time, He will give him many types of ease – two at the very least! Therefore, one difficulty will never overcome two matters of ease. In other words it is as if Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) is saying: “indeed, surely, definitely with (not after) every difficulty, there will be many matters of ease” and He (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) repeats it for emphasis.
Therefore, trials and afflictions should never shake us and weaken our faith, rather they should be used as an opportunity to get closer to Allāh through repentance, duʿā, dhikr, ṣalāh, recitation of the Qur’ān and other types of worship because if a trial does not bring us closer to Allāh, then it is unlikely that a blessing ever will. Allāh sometimes puts us into ‘deep waters’ not to drown us but to cleanse us of our sins and cleanse our hearts.
Engaging in different acts of worship helps alleviate what seems to be a difficult situation during trials and tribulations. The Prophets and the righteous always understood the huge status of ṣalāh among other acts of worship and so they would hasten to it during times of trials and afflictions. It is authentically reported that Ṣuhaib (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said:
“When the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) used to pray he would whisper something we could not hear…and they (i.e. the Prophets) would flee to prayer when they were alarmed or dismayed by something.”
Part of being patient is to know that our reaction to the calamity will determine what happens to us, for whoever accepts Allāh’s Qadr, Allāh will be pleased with him and whoever is angry at it, Allāh will be angry with him.
Since Allāh only afflicts His servants due to his Infinite Wisdom, Love and Mercy for them and even when doing so, sends many matters of ease with it, the servant should busy himself with good and positive thoughts because the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) informed us said that,
“Allāh the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’”
Imām al-Nawawi (raḥimahu Allāhu) further added: “… this means He will forgive him if he seeks forgiveness, will accept his repentance if he repents, will answer him if he supplicates, and will suffice him if he asks for something. It is also said that it refers to having hope and longing for relief, and this is more correct.”
This Ḥadīth Qudsi forces us to think about the words of our Lord very carefully. The first thing Allāh is calling us towards is to have a positive outlook about Him under all circumstances, since it is that very thought, belief and expectation that will determine how Allāh relates to us, His servants. When the servant assumes the best about his Lord and pins his hopes on his Lord’s love, forgiveness and mercy, His Lord will not disappoint him. When we plead to Allāh and call unto Him, we should be convinced that our prayer will be answered. When we sincerely repent for our sins, we should trust that Allāh will forgive us. When we perform a virtuous deed, we should assume that Allāh will accept it and reward us for it. All of this is part of assuming the best about Allāh.
This is why the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
“When you beseech Allāh in supplication, be convinced that He will answer you.”
Assuming the best about Allāh is an integral aspect of our belief in Allāh, since it is based upon our belief in His mercy, His power, His generosity, and His might. It is also a fundamental aspect of our tawakkul (trust, reliance) upon Allāh, which is essential to our belief in Him.
Assuming the best about Allāh can only come as a result of righteous conduct and good deeds. The righteous person always assumes the best about his Lord, whilst the sinner who persists in wrongdoing, injustice, and disobedience is prevented by his evil deeds from assuming the best about his Lord. Good assumptions are intricately linked to righteous actions, whilst disobedience causes ill thoughts about Allāh and a disturbed state of mind. A sinner always feels estranged from his Lord to the extent of his sinfulness. However, the person who has the best outlook on his Lord is undoubtedly the one who is the most obedient to his Lord.
We must never let trials, tribulations and afflictions affect our good assumptions of Allāh because it is precisely those thoughts that will allow us to persevere, continue in our worship and call unto Him to remove these afflictions. Having positive thoughts about Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) and assuming the best about Him really means pinning our hopes and expectations on Allāh. We know that Allāh can be severe in punishment as well as being Most Merciful, so we strive to do good and hope for His mercy and be confident that if we sincerely repent for our sins and strive to do good, we will attain Allāh’s Mercy. We must never despair. We must never see our sins as being too great for Allāh’s forgiveness because Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says:
“Never despair of Allāh’s mercy. No one despairs of Allāh’s mercy except the unbelieving people.”
Bibliography Al-Hilali, Muhammed Taqi-ud-Din & Khan, Mohamed Muhsin ‘Interpretation of the Meaning of The Noble Qur’an’ (Darussalam Publishers & Distributers, 1996).  al-Hawwâs, Sheikh Târiq b. Abd al-Rahmân “Assuming the Best about Allāh” (online article).  Al-Qayyim, Imam Ibn ‘Al-Fawa’id: A Collection of Wise Sayings’ (Umm Al-Qura – for Translation, Publishing & Distribution, 2004).  Al-Qayyim, Imam Ibn ‘Provisions for the Hereafter (Mukhtasar Zad Al-Ma’ad) (Darussalam Publishers & Distributers, 2003).  An-Nawawi, al Imam ‘Shar Saheeh Muslim.’  As-Sa’di, Abdur-Rahman Naasir ‘Taysir al-Kareem ar-Rahman fe kala me al-Manaan’ (Dar Ibn Jawzi 1416h).  al-Dumayji, Dr Abdullah ibn Umar ‘at-Tawwakul a’la Allāhi ta’ala wa alaqatu bil-asbaab’ (Dar al-Huda an-Nabawi, 1442h).  Al-Maaliki, Sulayman ibn Yahya ‘Husnu Adhan’ (online article, said.net).  Al-Asqalaani, Ibn Hajar ‘Fathul Baari’
Notes: Saḥīḥ Muslim (5125)  Al-Qur’ān 2:155  Al-Qur’ān 2:214  Al-Qur’ān 2:214  Al-Qur’ān 2:214  Al-Qur’ān 94:6  Al-Qur’ān 94:5  Al-Qur’ān 94:6  Al-Qur’ān 65:6  Reported by Aḥmad in al-Musnad (4/333)  Provisions of the Hereafter (Mukhtaser Zaʿd al Maʿad, p. 438).  Saḥīḥ al-Bukhāri (6856) and Saḥīḥ Muslim (4832)  Fatḥ al-Bārī  Sharh Saḥīḥ Muslim  Sharh Saḥīḥ Muslim  Sunan al-Tirmidhî (3401)  Al-Qur’ān 12: 87