Painless Affliction

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I was reading back on some of my old posts this morning, and I saw this hadith again:

The believing man or woman continues to have affliction in person, property and children so that they may finally meet Allah, free from sin (Tirmidhi).

I was also reading some comments on a thread from another sister-writer, who often speaks about breaking attachments to anything except Allah. Finally, someone else saw what I had been seeing, that perhaps this sister is trying to work out her own emotions under the guise of trying to help others.

It made me think.

I think it’s safe to say most Muslims will agree that hadith is more true than any thoughts or philosophies we might be able to conjure up on our own.  If we understand things a certain way, what is revealed in Qu’ran and hadith trumps it and we should be reforming our thoughts to come in alignment with them.  We should not be trying to twist them to fit what we want to believe in our nafs.

So back to this hadith.  It is clearly staying that we, every believing man and woman, every Muslim (and perhaps even some non Muslims as Allah wills), is purposely being afflicted so we can enter the next life pure, clean, and worthy of Paradise.  So the next question is, what does it mean to be afflicted?

Most people would say the answer is obvious: being afflicted means going through something difficult or painful. Enduring a situation we would rather be free from….why? Because it’s uncomfortable.  Here is my key question: If someone, anyone, were to find a way to escape the pain and discomfort of affliction on a regular basis, would they truly then be afflicted? And, if they were not truly being afflicted because whatever they were going through is pain-free, then can we honestly say they are getting the full benefit of the cleansing and redemption offered through these trials?

It makes me think of a passage in the Bible attributed to Jesus, where he says something along the lines of “loving your friends is easy, but loving your enemies is tremendously hard. That’s why the blessing comes with the latter and not the former”.  Needless to say, what any of us find to be an affliction is going to vary. Some women find the pain of childbirth unbearable, and beg for an epidural as soon as they start laboring.  Other women do all they can to cope with the pain on their own, just so they can have the most natural and healthy experience of it possible.  Some people might be crushed when they are given the pink slip at work, while others find it only to be a minor inconvenience.  Some might find the loss of their cat crippling, while others simply go adopt a new pet.  Suffice it to say, no matter what I or you or anyone else thinks is an affliction or painful, we all have our set of things that brings out the aches in our hearts.  So while I might be only mildly agitated that my husband spends more time on the computer than with me, another wife might find it hard to not want to harm herself when her spouse does the same. Out of the two of us, who is being more afflicted? Who is being more forgiven when they try to have sabr for it?  I tend to think in that scenario, it’s probably not me.

So even if I have say, five things that cause me tremendous pain, and I go to all efforts to try to make those experiences pain free, then can I really admit that they are afflicting me?  And if I’ve found a way to not feel that affliction, then what is so difficult about that trial? Am I earning anything by it?

I think those who want to cut ties with every “attachment” because it could possibly cause hurt , are maybe blindly giving up the barakah that this hadith is referring to.  They may possibly be losing a chance of redemption, because they are trying to take all the ache out of affliction.   Rather, perhaps the most noble way to find the purity and mercy that will ensure our ease in the hereafter is to actually chase and immerse ourselves in situations that would afflict us: helping those who want to “use” us, giving to those who are “undeserving”, loving with all the risks of heartbreak and disappointment, attaching to those around us knowing full well that the attachment will cause the greatest pain.  After all, the greater the pain, the greater the mercy and redemption that accompanies it.

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