By Imam Murtadha Gusau
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. May the Peace and blessings of Allah be upon whom Allah sent as a mercy to the Worlds, Muhammad, upon his Family, his Companions and his Brothers till the Day of Resurrection.
Dear brothers and sisters, on the night of Monday, April 14, 2014, Nigeria opened a disastrous chapter in the history of insecurity that has been plaguing it for years: massive students abduction.
After the years of bombings, attacking and killing Innocent souls, the Boko Haram terrorist group decided to try their hands in massive students abduction, and they did it successfully in Chibok town in Borno state, Nigeria.
Today, seven years down the line, Nigerians have had to witness at least five massive abductions, each time generating various hashtags on social media to prevail on the governments to secure the release of the innocent children.
Firstly, the sleepy and peaceful town of Chibok on Monday, April 14, 2014, witnessed its perhaps the most traumatic experience when Boko Haram terrorists invaded Government Girls Secondary School in the town and abducted about 276 girls. The traumatic experience gave birth to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media and sparked global outrage.
While the global outrage in part put pressure on the government which in turn led to the release of some of the girls through negotiations, it also inadvertently give the terrorists some boldness and international recognition. Seven years, more than a hundred of the “Chibok girls” are still in the den of the terrorists.
While the government kept promising to secure the release of the remaining girls, another abduction happened, this time in Dapchi, Yobe state. On the evening of Monday, February 19, the Boko Haram terrorists launched another massive abduction. They invaded Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC) in Dapchi town, Yobe state, and kidnapped 110 schoolgirls.
About five weeks later, the federal government was able to secure the release of the girls. However, five of the girls did not survive the ordeal. Also, one innocent girl, Leah Sharibu, is still currently been held for allegedly refusing to renounce her religion, Christianity.
While #FreeDapchiGirls hashtag has been laid to rest with the release of the students, #FreeLeahSharibu is still active as the terrorists continue to hold on to the innocent girl.
Perhaps emboldened by the success of the two abductions carried out by the Boko Haram insurgents, armed bandits in Katsina state launched a daring attack. The bandits in the evening of Friday, December 11, stormed Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina state, and abducted over 300 schoolboys.
About a week after, with #KankaraBoys trending on social media, the innocent boys were released. While Governor Bello Masari claimed that no ransom was paid to get the boys released, a report by some newspapers stated otherwise. Whether or not ransom was paid, the successful abduction of the Kankara boys shifted the attention of armed bandits to students kidnapping; three related abductions have since occurred since the Kankara abduction.
On Saturday, December 19, armed bandits ambushed students of an Islamic school (Islamiyyah) who were on celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad Peace be upon him (Maulud Nabiy) and abducted about 84 of them.
The kidnap occurred in Dandume local government area of Katsina state. It is probably the least popular among the abductions because the police were able to rescue the children within a very short period.
On Wednesday, February 17, the armed bandits turned their attention to Kagara town in Niger state, where they kidnapped about 42 persons, including 27 schoolboys.
While President Muhammadu Buhari has insisted his administration will not pay any ransom or grant amnesty to the armed bandits, the criminals have also insisted they won’t release the victims until they are paid a ransom.
While Nigerians are impatiently waiting for the release of the Kagara students and others, the bandits struck again in Zamfara state.
In the early hours of Friday, February 26, armed bandits invaded the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, in Talata Mafara local government area of Zamfara state, and kidnapped some students. Some reports have put the number of the abducted school girls at over 300 or 317.
In the last seven years, over 1,000 Nigerian school children have faced the trauma of abduction by Boko Haram terrorists and criminal armed bandits.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has finally reacted to the abduction of Zamfara school children. The president said criminals terrorising the country should not think that they are more powerful than the government. He boasted that Nigeria has the capacity to massively deal with the bandits, adding that the nation’s limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the criminals.
Respected brothers and sisters, being afflicted by calamities, tests, trials and tribulations is part of this worldly life, especially with our sins, our failings and our shortcomings, and the negligence, commission and omission from the side of our governments at all levels.
Man — from the cradle to the grave — will be tested with these trials. Allah Almighty says:
“Verily, We have created man in toil (hardship).” [Qur’an, 90:4]
There is no one but is afflicted and tested with one or the other type of sedition (fitnah). Afflictions, in general, are of different types. Allah the Most High says:
“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits…” [Qur’an, 2:155]
Everyone is tested according to his level of Iman (faith). Allah Almighty says:
“Allah does not charge a soul except (with that within) its capacity.” [Qur’an, 2:286]
Narrated Musab Bin Sa’ad that:
“His father, Sa’ad Bin Abi Waqqas said to the Prophet (Peace be upon him): “O Messenger of Allah, which people are most severely tested?” ‘He said: The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment. Trials will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the earth with no sin on him.” [Sunans Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]
Some afflictions are more severe and worse than the others. The afflictions could be of spiritual or temporal like loss of wealth, death of someone, illness, killings, kidnappings or harm done by others. But the most severe ones are those in religion. Allah Almighty says:
“…and Al-Fitnah is worse than killing.” [Qur’an, 2:191]
Rather Allah Almighty says:
“… and Al-Fitnah is greater than killing.” [Qur’an, 2:217]
These trials of one’s faith are through shirk, innovation in religion, kufr (apostasy), hypocrisy etc. And there’s some benefit from these trials. Allah Almighty says:
“And when the believers saw Al-Ahzab (the confederates), they said: “This is what Allah and His Messenger had promised us, and Allah and His Messenger had spoken the truth, and it only added to their faith and to their submissiveness (to Allah).” [Qur’an, 33:22]
While others lose, as Allah the Most High says:
“And of the people is he who worships Allah on an edge. If he is touched by good, he is reassured by it; but if he is struck by test and trial, he turns on his face (i.e. reverts to disbelief after embracing Islam). He has lost (this) world and the Hereafter. That is what the manifest loss is.” [Qur’an, 22:11]
Narrated Abu Hurairah that:
“The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: ‘Be prompt in doing good deeds (before you are overtaken) by turbulence which would be like a part of the dark night. During (that stormy period) a man would be a Muslim in the morning and an unbeliever in the evening or he would be a believer in the evening and an unbeliever in the morning and would sell his religion or his faith for worldly goods.” [Muslim]
Allah indicated that these men (the mushriks of Makkah) are committing disbelief in Allah, associating with Him (in the worship) and hindering people from His path, and this is more severe and much greater evil and more disastrous than killing.
Abu Al-Aliyah, Mujahid, Sa’id Bin Jubair, Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and Ar-Rabi Bin Anas are of the opinion that “Shirk (polytheism) is worse than killing.”
Commenting on fitnah, Imam Ibn Kathir says:
“Al-Fitnah is greater than killing means, forcing believing Muslims to revert to disbelieve (Kufr), which Allah considers as worse than killing.”
Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Salih Al-Uthaimin said:
“It means to prevent the people (the Muslims) from (practicing) their religion; as Allah said in Qur’an (85:10): ‘Verily, those who put into Fitnah (trial) the believing men and believing women (by torturing them and burning them), and then do not turn in repentance, (to Allah), will have the torment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the burning Fire’.”
So preventing the people from their religion is a Fitnah more severe than killing them. This is because by killing them, the utmost they can do is cut off the person from pleasures of this world; whereas the Fitnah cuts them off from the world and the Akhirah, as Allah Almighty said:
“… but if a trial befalls him, he turns back on his face (i.e. reverts back to disbelief after embracing Islam). He loses both this world and the Hereafter. That is the evident loss.” [Qur’an, 22:11]
In Tafsir Al-Sa’adi: And when the fighting took place near the Masjid Al-Haram (in Makkah), (and after He) conveyed that it is evil (to fight) in this sacred land, Allah informed that the evil fitnah of shirk and preventing people from Islam is more severe than the evil of killing.
And this verse is used as an evidence for the famous principle, i.e. “Choosing the lesser of two evils to ward off the greater one.”
The purpose of these afflictions is to purify our sins and to separate the believers from the hypocrites. Allah Almighty says:
“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe,” and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allah knows all that before putting them to test)’.” [Qur’an, 29:2-3]
Allah Almighty also says:
“That Allah may reward the men of truth for their truth (i.e. for their patience at the accomplishment of that which they covenanted with Allah), and punish the hypocrites if He will or accept their repentance by turning to them in Mercy. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Qur’an, 33:24]
Therefore we should constantly ask Allah that He keeps us firm upon the religion.
Respected brothers and sisters, to be saved from destruction one is obligated to hold fast to Straight Path. Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud (RA) said that Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) drew for us a straight line and said:
“This is Allah’s Straight Path.”
Then he drew lines to the right and to left and said:
“These are divergent paths. At the head of each of these paths is a devil calling to it.”
Then he (Peace be upon him) recited:
“And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not other paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become pious.” [Al-An’am: 153]
So beware of calamities, tests, trials and tribulations that steer you away from following the religion of Allah, and take heed of the saying of Allah:
“Alif-Lam-Mim. Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and they will not be tested and tried? We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.” [Al-‘Ankabut: 1-3]
Dear brothers and sisters, fitan (singular fitnah) are tribulations, trials and tests that Allah puts His servants through to distinguish between the truthful, devoted, steadfast believer and the hypocritical liar and deceiver― and to discern the one strong in faith (Iman) from the weak-hearted believer. So when the fitan appear, then from the people are those who make apparent their hypocrisy and the absence of iman (faith), or at least their terrible weakness. Allah Almighty stated regarding the hypocrites:
“And of the people are some who say, ‘We believe in Allah and the Last Day,’ but they are not believers. They think to deceive Allah and those who believe, but they deceive not except themselves and perceive it not.” [Al-Baqarah: 8-9]
Muslims should know that a person is tested and tried in accordance to his adherence. And those who are tried and afflicted the most are Prophets of Allah, then those who resemble them the most as occurs in the Hadith above.
So, those who are most like the Prophets are those who proceed upon their methodology in calling to Allah and in calling to what they called to, and they receive harm due to that. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“No one has ever been harmed like I was harmed in the way of Allah.” [Hasan, reported by Ad-Dailami, also see As-Silsilah As-Sahihah of Sheikh Albani]
Dear servants of Allah, all human beings are subjected to tests and trials in life. Many of us do not even realise that we are being tried. It’s as if you sit the most important exam of your life without even realising that you are in the examination hall. Needless to say that preparation is required.
The best way Muslims can prepare and respond to tests and trials is to examine ourselves, cool down the fire of these tribulations, remove their causes and reduce the effects to the bare minimum.
When Muslims are tested and tried one can distinguish between the faithful Muslims and the liars; between the sincere Muslims and the opportunists. We are all tested according to the level of our faith.
Allah has warned the Muslims in the noble Qur’an with calamities, tests, trials and tribulations, if they turn away from the religion of their Lord and His laws. The word ‘trial’ here includes all kinds of punishments — rampant in all societies today — like killings, kidnappings, natural disasters, imposing of bad leaders on us and disease.
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) gave us hope when it comes to difficulties by saying:
“Verily, if Allah loves a people, He makes them go through tests and trials (ordeals, suffering and difficulties). Whoever is satisfied, for him is contentment (happiness), and whoever is angry, upon him is wrath (anger).”
It is part of our faith (Iman) to be content with all that is decreed (written in our fate): all of what is good and bad.
So how should Muslims act at times of calamity, difficulty and stress? Muslims should seek remedy against the tests and trials by holding fast onto the religion. Allah Almighty says:
“Then, whoever follows My Guidance shall neither go astray, nor fall into distress (suffering) and misery (sadness).” [Qur’an, 20:123]
Muslims should implement the commands of Islam in every aspect of their lives.
Supplication (Du’a) is one of the means of facing calamities, tests and trials for there is no power except with Allah. It is recommended for Muslims to supplicate longingly and extensively to their Lord during calamities, tests, trials and tribulations. Muslims should try to purify their hearts through good deeds. Our little acts of sincerity strengthen the hearts during tests and trials.
Perseverance (persistence, determination) and piety (taqwa) are also good protection against the calamities, tests, trials and tribulations. One is saved from tribulations by turning to Allah sincerely and invoking Him truthfully. Prophet Yusuf (Peace be upon him) was saved because of his sincerity and the people of the Cave were saved because of their truthfulness. So whoever is more perfect in faith (Iman) and remembrance (Zikr) will have greater protection and defence from Allah and whoever has less faith and remembrance gets less defence and protection.
As Muslims, we pray and repent to Allah to remove the tests, trials, calamities and tribulations that are afflicting the nation. We perform righteous deeds and continue to help and support our unfortunate brothers and sisters who are persecuted through numerous facades of oppression.
Allah Almighty revealed Islam to us to turn our world into paradise and a peaceful place. Although we seek the Paradise of the Hereafter, it should be obvious to Muslims that nobody should assume or claim a guarantee to enter Paradise. Entering Paradise is a gift from Allah, and in His Forgiveness and Generosity, we seek refuge. Allah Almighty says:
“Do you think that you will enter paradise without undergoing such tests and trials as were experienced by the believers before you? They met with adversity and affliction and were so shaken by tests and trials that the Prophet of the time and his followers cried out “When will Allah’s help come?” Then they were comforted with the good tidings, “Yes, Allah’s help is near.” [Qur’an, 2:214]
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: email@example.com or +2348038289761.
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