“It is necessary for the Messengers of God to face great trials, and for their followers and the generation after them to be tried and tested, so that God may distinguish between the honest and the insincere, the steadfast and the wavering.
عشق اوّل سرکش و خونی بود
تا گریز ہر کہ بیرونی بود
[Love, in its very essence, is wilful and bloodthirsty, so that everyone who does not belong to it may keep away.]
The trials which initially confront prophets and saints and make them appear dishonoured despite their being loved and accepted by God do not come to disgrace them or destroy them or wipe their names off the face of this earth. Nor can this be their purpose, for how can God become the enemy of those who love Him and bring disgrace upon them? These trials, which appear with the ferocity of a roaring lion and cause darkness to descend all around, come upon God’s chosen servants in order to raise them to the highest levels of acceptance and to open for them the finer dimensions of Divine knowledge. This has always been God’s practice towards His servants, and it is substantiated by the entreaties made by Davidas in the Psalms, by the Gospel’s account of Jesus’ heartrending supplications during his time of trials, and by the humble supplications of the Holy Prophetsa that are recorded in the Holy Quran and the traditions.
One of the supplications which David made during his time of trials, and are recorded in the Psalms, is:
Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire where there is no standing. I am weary of my crying: mine eyes fail. They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head. Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake. They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards. Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour. I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none. (Psalms 69)
The Gospels also contain an account of how the Messiahas prayed and supplicated during his night of trial, and how he remained awake all night and was overwhelmed by grief and anguish as if in the throes of death. All night he cried and beseeched his Lord to let the cup that he was destined to drink pass from him. But, despite his many prostrations, his prayer was not heard, because prayers that are offered during trials are not accepted.
We should also not forget the sufferings endured by our lord and master, pride of the Messengers, and seal of the Prophets, Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, during his times of trial. At one such time, he prayed, ‘My Lord! I complain to you of my weakness and confess my helplessness at your threshold. My humble state is known to You. I am ready to bear every hardship until You are pleased with me, and I have no strength other than You.’
If past Prophets and saints had not faced these difficulties, they would not have attained the high status they did through the blessings of their trials. Their ordeals set the seal on their perfect obedience, firm resolve, and readiness to offer the ultimate sacrifice. In the face of adversity they displayed wonderful steadfastness, complete obedience and true love. They were caught in terrible storms, enveloped by darkness, shaken by earthquakes, ridiculed, and considered liars and deceitful and dishonourable, and deserted by everyone.
For a time, they were even deprived of the Divine support in which they put all their trust, and all at once He seemed to withdraw His sustenance, as though in anger, and left them in difficulty and sorrow, as though they had become deserving of His wrath. He appeared indifferent to them and did not seem to care for them in the least, and seemed instead to show concern for their enemies. Thus their trial was drawn out and one ordeal was followed by another, and trials came upon them like torrential rain in a dark night, but they did not waver in their resolve and did not lose heart.
In fact, the greater the trials that beset them, the faster they moved forward; and the more they were battered, the stronger they became; and the bigger the difficulties and dangers they faced, the greater the bravery and courage they showed. But they finally succeeded in their trials with flying colours, and were blessed with complete success due to their perfect sincerity, and were bestowed the crown of honour. All the objections of the unenlightened then vanished like vapour as though they had never existed.
In short, prophets and saints are not free from trials, and have to face them more than others, but they always overcome them by the strength of their faith. Common people do not recognise them, just as they do not recognise God, and they are particularly vulnerable to deception when the loved ones of God are going through their period of trials, for they do not have the patience to wait and see what the future holds and are completely overwhelmed by the flood of deception. They fail to see that when God prunes a tree which He has Himself planted, He does not do so with the intention of destroying it, but only to help it grow and blossom so that it may yield as much fruit as possible.
It is imperative for the inner purification and spiritual perfection of prophets and saints that they face these trials which serve as virtual uniforms by which these Divine soldiers are known. Whoever wins anything in a manner contrary to this, only succeeds to a degree and is not granted complete success.
It is highly unfortunate that man should readily yield to suspicion and presuppose that all those who claim to be from God are cheats and swindlers and seek to serve their own interests. In time such beliefs make people harbour doubts about sainthood, and once they have rejected sainthood, they begin to have reservations about the status of Prophethood, and when that, too, has been rejected, they start doubting the existence of God and think that perhaps the whole concept is a baseless fabrication and a superstition that has gradually found its way into people’s minds.
O you who love truth with your heart and soul, and you who hunger and thirst for it! Do understand that belief in sainthood and its essentials is the sine qua non for passing through this chaotic world with one’s faith intact. Sainthood helps to safeguard belief in Prophethood, and belief in Prophethood safeguards belief in God. Saints are like pegs that reinforce Prophethood, and Prophets are like nails that strengthen belief in the existence of God. Whoever fails to recognise a saint will also not succeed in recognising a Prophet, and he who does not recognise a Prophet will certainty fail to recognise God and is bound to be led astray. No amount of rational arguments and conventional knowledge will be of any avail to such a person. […]
Finally, let it be clear that I have complete and absolute trust in my Lord to take care of my affairs, and I am not bothered whether people are with me or against me, whether they accept my claim or reject it, whether they like me or hate me. Disregarding everyone, and considering everything, except God, to be as good as dead, I carry on with my mission. There are some from among our own people and belonging to our own religion who look disdainfully at what I am doing, but I make allowances for them knowing that what has been revealed to me has not been revealed to them, and the thirst that I feel has not been felt by them.
کُلٌّ يَعْمَلُ عَلٰى شَاكِلَتِهٖ
[Everyone acts according to his own way. (Surah Bani Israil, Ch.17: V.85)]”
(The Green Announcement, pp. 13-21)