You can listen to Imam Adam’s Khutbah above (starts at 13:36), watch it below, or read the summary below.
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا ۚ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ
La yukallifu Allahu nafsan illa wusAAaha laha ma kasabat
Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.
(Surah Baqarah, Quran 2:286)
My dear brothers and sisters, all praises are due to Allah, the One who has guided us, the One that has given us faith, the One that has given us the blessing of imaan, the One that has given us food, water, and shelter. We have so many blessings and we can never repay Allah for what He has given us.
Today, I want to talk about challenges and how the Quran trains us to not only face challenges, but the mental battles that come with those challenges. This topic came up as I was reading a study about overpraising children and about being careful with the way in which we praise our own children, or any children for that matter. This study discussed how when children are constantly told how smart they are and how intelligent they are, then they are very likely to develop what’s called a ‘fixed mindset.’
What is a fixed mindset?
It means, “I don’t really have control over what I can or cannot do, it is decided purely by how intelligent I am. And my intelligence, I don’t have any control over it. It’s something either I was born with, or I was not.” What that leads to, for example, when it comes time to take any risk or when it comes time to perform a test, if they find any difficulty, that fixed mindset can lead to under performance on tests because they feel, “It’s difficult for me. It must mean that I am not smart enough for this test.” So they’re unable to comprehend how to tackle that challenge. The psychologists said that it’s more important to praise the right process, procedure, effort, and hard work. It’s more important to praise those actions.
That reminded me of two things. Number one, it reminded me of how in the Quran and in the Sunnah, Allah and His Messenger (pbuh), warn us from overpraising people. When one companion of overly praised in an exaggerated way how righteous another one was in front of his face, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “You have cut his neck.” Meaning you have destroyed him by overpraising him. It will make him insincere. He will be righteous not for Allah, but for the people. And so this exists in our text.
The second thing it reminded me of was how the Quran trains us to face challenges. Aside from tests and school, how does the Quran tackle challenges that we generally have in life? The Quran takes a balanced approach. On the one hand Allah says –
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ
Walanabluwannakum bishayin mina alkhawfi waaljooAAi wanaqsin mina alamwali waalanfusi waalththamarati
We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property, lives, and crops.
(Surah Baqarah, Quran 2:155)
So, on the one hand, the Quran tells us that yes, tests are a part of life and those tests manifest in those physical forms of loss of wealth and life, and hunger, and fear. These are all tests from Allah. And on the other hand, Allah also tells us that He does not burden anyone with more than what they can handle beyond their capacity.
So the first verse informs us that a lot of this life is presented with tests. The other verse tells you that Allah knows what you can handle and what you cannot handle, and only gives you the tests that you can actually pass. And so that gives you courage meant to inspire hope inside of us that, “We can live up to those challenges and we can pass those tests. And that Allah will never give us a test that we cannot pass.”
An important example is a teacher. Imagine you know the teacher who was preparing your test, and the teacher knows you. More importantly, the teacher knows what you can handle and what you can’t handle. The test is not being curated by some standardized testing agency that doesn’t know you, but rather by your own teacher, your own Creator, the One who knows you, the One who knows the tools and the resources that He has given you. These verses were revealed that Allah does not bear anyone more than what they can handle.
This verse was revealed at the very end of the Meccan phase. Right before the Prophet (pbuh) was about to migrate to Medina. It was such an important verse because that was the peak of persecution of Muslims in Mecca. That was the peak. That is when they left Mecca to go to Medina. They could not bear it any longer and the command came down to migrate. And so at the peak of that persecution, that is when this verse was revealed, that Allah does not burden someone with more than what they can handle.
I attended an event at the University of Washington MSA called “Believer’s Voice.” There, some of the young people shared their personal stories. They shared funny ones and painful ones. One sister talked about smuggling McDonald’s into the Masjid. Another sister discussed letting her group members do all the work in the group projects for a class that didn’t matter to her. Another man talked about walking to Safeway and being held at gunpoint and robbed. Another young student talked about getting into a freak accident where he was in a coma for two weeks when he was just a teenager.
These stories made me think of my own children. My children are young, three years old and six months old. They’re younger. I’m closer in age to the college students than my kids are to them. But all I could think about was my own children and how no matter how much I wish to protect them, I wish to secure them, I wish to curate for them everything that they will hear or see or do. At the end of the day, they are in Allah’s hand and Allah is in control. We have to relinquish that and realize that our job as parents is to guard them, to direct them, to give them the tools that they need to make the right decisions. That is what Allah has asked us to do. That’s what I learned from those stories that I heard from those young Muslims, the challenges that they faced. One of them, her father didn’t talk to her for three months because of a decision that she made. For three months. So we are permitted to ask Allah to make it easy for us, and that it gives us strength to tackle the challenges before us. And I ask Allah, that He does make it easy for us and gives us the strength to tackle these challenges. Ameen.
أقول قولي هذا وأستغفر الله لي ولكم ولسائر المسلمين فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
I say what you have heard and I seek forgiveness from Allah for me and you from every sin.
My brothers and sisters, those tests and those challenges that we face in our lives, they are a part of this hayatut duniya – this worldly life. They are a part and parcel of this dunya. This dunya is not jannah. This dunya is not paradise. And when times are good, it’s easy to have faith. But when there’s a challenge presented, when there is a test that is presented to you, then that is when your faith truly comes to bear.
Allah says in the Quran,
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ
Ahasiba alnnasu an yutrakoo an yaqooloo amanna wahum la yuftanoona
Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried?
(Surah Ankabut, Quran 29:2)
Do the people perceive that they will say, “We believe” and that that belief will not be tested, that there will not be fitnah and challenges to those? And the word fitnah is a very interesting word because fitnah was used for the process of purifying iron. Iron ore, when in its natural form, is brittle and has many impurities. So it is put into a furnace and in that furnace it purifies. That was the process of fitnah. That is what is described when imaan is faced with fitnah, that imaan gets stronger.
One sister had a beautiful baby boy and a few years after they had the child, they realized that this child had autism. When members of her community found out, many of them said,
“Sister, you have to pray for him. The mother’s duaa is accepted and you have to pray for him and inshallah he will be healed.”
So she prayed, and she prayed, and she prayed.
And the next time they interacted, they said, “But Sister, did you pray?”
And she said, “I’ve been praying, nothing’s changing.”
And he said, “You know what? Because you are not praying enough. Or it could be that you’ve committed some sin in your past. And because of that sin, that is why your child is sick.”
Imagine how this mother must have felt. Now she is being blamed, that because of some sin that she committed, her son is suffering. So the emotions that she went through, the trauma that she went through, that she had to get over, she started to really study and figure out, “is this what Islam says?”
Unfortunately, as Muslims we embody this kind of folk religion, this transactional religion, that “I pray to Allah, in exchange for services that Allah provides me. I pray to Allah XYZ and He will give me ABC. If I read this surah this number of times, my hair will grow back. If I read this verse, after every Salah five times a day, my in laws will stop bothering me.” People have imbibed this kind of folk religion in American prosperity gospel, that if you have strong belief then you will be wealthy, and that those that are wealthy deserve it. They deserve to be there because they have a strong belief. And those of us that haven’t made it up there is because our belief is not strong enough. Our prayers are not strong enough. And this is wrong. This is not Islamic. This is transactional religion. This is something different. This is not true. Because Allah does not weigh anyone else down. No soul bears the burden of another soul. If we face difficulties, that is not a sign that our faith is deficient.
Look at the role models that we have in the Quran. Yusuf (as) is betrayed by his own brothers and thrown into a well. Would you say to Yusuf, “Because you did not pray enough?“
Asiya (as), the wife of Pharaoh, lived in a palace. Whatever she could dream of, she could have. Yet she wanted the house with Allah. She’s killed because of that. She is killed. Is it because she didn’t have enough faith?
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), look how many difficulties he faced in his life. How many tragedies, that all of his children passed away before he did, except for Fatima (ra). He buried all of his children except for Fatima (ra). Will you say that he did not have enough faith? Will you say that he should have prayed more? No, of course not. Never.
So it’s important for us to understand what our deen tells us in terms of facing challenges. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Allah tests those whom he loves.” When some people hear this, they say, “You know what? I don’t want to be tested. I don’t want to be someone who Allah loves.” This is how some people think. But actually, if you are someone who Allah loves, then Allah prepares you for that test. That when that challenge comes about, your mind is not wandering, “Where is Allah? What has He done?” Rather, you are focused and you know how to respond and it prepares you for that test.
That sister who had the autistic child mentioned this verse, a verse that we hear all the time,
إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
Inna maAAa alAAusri yusran
Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.
(Surah Ash-Sharh, Quran 94:6)
It’s one of the few verses where Allah repeats. He repeats it twice. “Indeed, surely, with hardship, comes ease.” And what’s interesting in this verse is that most of us, when you hear it, they say, “Okay, there’s, there’s going to be hardship. And after that hardship, there will be ease.” That’s the way most of us have understood it. But Allah did not say – إِنَّ بَعَدَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا – He did not say that “after hardship, there is ease,” but rather – مَعَ – ma’a – He said, “with hardship, is ease.”
And so that sister, when she read this verse over and over, she realized something. That in her hardship, there was ease. That even though she had a child with a disability, she learned so much from that. And she and her husband grew from that. They grew in their imaan. They grew in their faith. And they realized that Allah will only give them that which they can handle and that Allah has a wisdom in everything that he does, because he is Al-Hakim.
Want to be able to read and understand the Quran without translations?
Going back to the story of Yusuf (as). He gets thrown into a well, then he gets picked up by a caravan, then they sell him into slavery, then he gets thrown into jail. He goes through all of these tests and trials and challenges and difficulties. But at the end of it, he’s the right hand man to the king. He’s the most powerful person in Egypt next to the king. So how that story went and however sympathetic those challenges that Yusuf (as) went through, they lead somewhere. And all of these people who face these challenges, to them, as the Quran tells us, success and failure are very different from what normal people think success and failure is. Asiya (ra), she has a palace she lives in, she’s the wife of the king, what other success is there? Is there any other woman in those times who can be more successful than the queen of the king? Who can be more successful? Yet to her that was not success. To her, success was the pleasure of Allah. So the aakhirah put everything into perspective. When Ibrahim (as) was willing to be thrown into a fire, it was because he had a different idea of what success and failure was, and he was willing to make that sacrifice. So we ask Allah that He shows us the truth gives us the wisdom to see it.
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّآ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِیعُ العَلِیمُ
وَتُبْ عَلَیْنَآ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوَّابُالرَّحِیمُ
رَبَّنَآ ءَاتِنَا فِى ٱلدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِى ٱلْءَاخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ ٱلنَّارِ
What are the challenges that we’re facing? Before I conclude, one of the challenges that we’re facing now is the Coronavirus. Of course we believe that it’s important to take the cure. We cannot simply ask Allah for the cure, but we also have to take the steps necessary for the cures. In our tradition, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “If a city has plague, then you should not leave that city, nor should you venture to that city.” Because people were thinking, “No, you should have imaan and you should just go and you should not worry. And you should leave it in the hands of Allah.” But in fact, Prophet (pbuh) told us no, you still have to take precautionary measures. Just like you look both ways before you cross the street. And so we ask that people follow the practices of our religion. Wash your hands before you eat. Get used to washing your hands, get used to covering your mouth when you cough or you sneeze. Use the hand sanitizer. If you are sick and have symptoms, it’s okay to not shake hands with people. Just say, “Asalaamu Alaykum.” Do a fist bump or something instead. Just be aware and take the necessary precautions.
May Allah preserve the health of everyone. If anyone is sick, may Allah give them complete shifa and cure. If anyone has passed away, may Allah have mercy on them. May Allah forgive them. May Allah give their families patience. If anyone has any need then may Allah fulfill that need. If anyone has any suffering, may Allah alleviate that suffering. And we ask Allah to accept our deeds and to forgive our mistakes and shortcomings.
عِبَادَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Servants of Allah. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا
Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors – He will increase you therein. And seek forgiveness from Him – He will forgive you. And be conscious of Him – He will provide you a way out of difficult matters.
And, establish the prayer.