We all pass through difficult stages. Hardships are part and parcel of life. But the way we react to them makes us different as people. As a scholar of the past said people look the same during ease, but are different when hardships strike. Sheikh Bin Uthaymeen explained the different levels of people in a beautiful manner.
People, during afflictions and difficulties, are at four levels:
1. Becoming angry
People get angry in their heart as if they are angry with their Lord. So, they become angry with what Allah decreed for them, and this is not permissible. It’s possible that it could even lead to disbelief. Allah says:
“And among mankind is he who worships Allah as it were, upon the very edge (i.e. in doubt); if good befalls him, he’s content therewith, 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.” (Qur’an, 22:11)
Others express their anger by their tongue, calling and supplicating for destruction or ruin. This is also impermissible. Some others slap cheeks, rip their clothes, and pull out their hair. None of this is allowed. It’s in contradiction to having the required patience.
2. Remaining patient
A poet once said, “Patience, like its name, is bitter in taste, yet its outcomes are sweeter than honey.”
The patient ones bear (the affliction) although they dislike it. Their faith prevents them from becoming angry. So, the period of affliction and period without hardship are not the same to him. This (level) is obligatory because Allah commanded the people to be patient, saying: “And be patient. Certainly, Allah is with the patient ones.” (Qur’an, 8:46)
3. Being pleased
Some are pleased with the affliction. Things are pretty much the same for them. There is no difficulty facing them and they don’t bear it as something heavy.
This (level) is preferred but not an obligation according to the most correct of opinions.
4. Being thankful
Being grateful is the highest level. This is the state when a person thanks Allah for the affliction that has befallen him. He knows that such a difficulty is a means of expiation for his sins and perhaps a cause for an increase in his good deeds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“There’s no affliction that strikes a Muslim except that Allah expiates with it (his sins), even with a thorn that may prick him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
– Fatawa Arkaan Al-Islam. Translated by Abu Az-Zubayr Harrison