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A Cycle of Fortune and Misfortune

By  Muhammad Siraaj


Do not be faint of heart, and do not grieve; for you shell gain the upper hand if you are truly believers. If misfortune befalls you, a similar misfortune has befallen other people as well. Such days [of fortune and misfortune], We deal out in turn among men. God wants to mark out those who truly believe and choose from among you such as [with their lives] bear witness to the truth. God does not love the wrongdoers. (Quran 3: 139-40)

Believers must not lose heart, nor should they allow grief to overtake them because of what may happen. Eventually if they remain steadfast they will gain the upper hand, because they have faith. Believers submit themselves only to God, while others are worshiping false deities and worldly desires.

These verses makes it plain to the believers that they are indeed on the path of truth. It tells them, they follow a way of life established by God while the methods followed by other groups have been devised by His creatures. Moreover, their role is noble, because they have been selected for a position of trust, to convey God's guidance to all mankind. Other people are unaware of this guidance, and have gone astray. Their place on earth is righteous, and it is the righteous that will inherit the earth. Therefore, believers have to demonstrate the strength of their faith by not losing heart and not grieving. The rules determined by God make it possible that they may score a victory or suffer a defeat, but in due course, after enduring the test and striving for God's cause, will be in their favor.

"If misfortune befalls you, a similar misfortune has befallen other people as well" The misfortune which is said to have befallen the Muslims and the fact that a similar one befell those who reject the truth may be a reference to the Battle of Badr, in which the idolaters suffered a heavy defeat. On the other hand, it may be a reference to the Battle of Uhud, in which the Muslims were initially close to victory, but were then defeated. What the Muslims suffered was fair reward for their disagreement and disobedience. Moreover, it represents an aspect of how the rules of nature established by God never fail. The disagreement among the rearguard of the Muslim army was the result of their greed. In any campaign of struggle, God grants victory to those who strive for His cause, without regard of the petty gains of this world. Another rule of nature which is seen in full operation is the dealing out of fortune and misfortune among people according to their actions and intentions. In this way, true believers are distinguished from hypocrites. Mistakes are identified and the way ahead becomes very clear.

"If misfortune befalls you, a similar misfortune has befallen other people as well. Such days [of fortune and misfortune] We deal out in turn among men. God wants to mark out those who truly believe." (Verse 140) When hardship is followed by prosperity and the latter is followed by another hardship, people's true characters emerge. They reveal how clear their vision is , how much they panic and how patient in adversity they can be, as well as how great their trust in God is and how submissive to His will they are. Thus true believers are distinguished from those who are hypocrites. Their true intentions are apparent to all. The believers who submit them selves to God are strengthened by the fact that those who do not truly submit to God are identified and excluded.

God knows all secrets and He is aware of those who are true believers and those who are not. But the alternation of days of fortune and misfortune does not merely reveal secrets; it also translates faith into action and compels hypocrisy to express itself in practical measures. Hence, it is action that merits reward.

God does not hold people to account for what He knows of their position, but He counts their actions for or against them. The cycle of hardship and prosperity is an accurate criterion. Prosperity is as good a test as hardship. Some people may withstand hardship but become complacent when they are tested with ease and prosperity. A true believer is one who remains steadfast in adversity and is not lured away by prosperity. He knows that whatever befalls him of good or evil happens only with God's permission.

In the process of molding the Muslim community and preparing it for the role of leadership of humankind, God tests it with hardship after prosperity and with a bitter defeat after a spectacular victory. Both happen according to the laws of nature which never fail. That is because God wants the true believers to learn what brings them victory and what causes defeat. Thus, they become more obedient to God and reliant on Him. Through the cycle of fortune and misfortune they become aware of the true nature of the Islamic way of life and what is required to implement it.


1. In the Shade of The Quran by Sayyid Qutb

2. The Holy Quran - Text, Translation and Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali



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