How To Identify the Greatest Trials Faced by Muslims Today

Trials of a Muslim's Faith, or "Fitnahs", are Increasing in Intensity

The word “fitnah” has many connotations in the Qur’an and Sunnah. The most common meaning of this word is “trial” – that is, any situation or object that makes it difficult for a Muslim to obey the command of Allah, abstain from sin, or safeguard his faith.

A fitnah is a distraction that deflects a believer’s attention from Allah’s worship.  “Ibn al-A’raabi summed up the meanings of fitnah when he said: “Fitnah means testing, fitnah means trial, fitnah means wealth, fitnah means children, fitnah means kufr, fitnah means differences of opinion among people, fitnah means burning with fire.”” (Lisaan al-‘Arab by Ibn Manzoor)
[Question 22899,]  

Satan uses diverse fitnahs to make Muslims deviate from the path of righteousness. It is easy for him to lead most of mankind astray. For the more devout and knowledgeable Muslims, however, his plots are subtler.

  1. Wealth


    “Your wealth and your children are a fitnah (trial), and Allah it is with whom is a great reward.”
    [Al-Taghaabun 64: 15]

    Having wealth in any form – money, land, or possessions – gives a person the ability to do impermissible things, which they could not have done in poverty. They can afford more means of enjoyment and worldly pleasure. They also acquire friendship of the influential elite segment of society, leaving them little time for worship or remembrance of Allah.

    Even if he’s pious and devout, a rich person finds it difficult to restrain himself from what is haram (forbidden), and if he is able to do that, then he occasionally slips, by being extravagant in what is halal (permissible). Calculating his yearly zakaah and keeping track of expenses becomes a tedious task. He is also consumed with thinking up ways to sustain his wealth and status.

  2. Spouses and Offspring

    Children are one the greatest blessings anyone can have. However, if one gets so involved with their children that the latter cause them to deviate from their duties towards Allah, they become a fitnah for them.

    Nowadays, Muslims are obsessed with providing the highest standard of living for their children. Luxuries are deemed necessities, with parents allowing extravagance under the guise of “love”, on exorbitantly-priced food outlets, entertainment, designer couture and private tuition. I was flabbergasted when I recently read about a Pakistani lady’s 15-year-old son arguing with her to let him go on a skiing vacation to Europe!

    Whenever Muslim parents are advised to hasten performing Hajj [the annual pilgrimage, obligatory only once in a lifetime], or to serve their aging parents instead of living away from them in foreign countries, or to be more active in Da’wah activities, they always have one answer: “We’d do that, but we have to first earn and save enough for our children’s future.”

  3. Disputes and divisions in the ummah

    The Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said, "…Those of you who will live after me will see many differences. Then you must cling to my sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly-guided kaliphs. Hold fast to it and stick to it." [Abu Dawood]

    Whether it’s a group of bearded “aalims” (religious scholars) interrupting each other over heated debates on TV shows, or those issuing verdicts against other religious organizations over trivial differences, dissensions among Muslims have increased so much that the ummah cannot even unite on starting the Ramadan fasting, or celebrating Eid, together!

    Consequently, when people are invited towards Islam, they respond by saying, “How do I know which school of fiqh [Islamic Jurisprudence] is on the right path? If I become religious, I’ll be forever confused about who to follow. No thanks; I’m fine the way I am.”

  4. Women are the greatest fitnah for men

    “My brother recently said that he might have an accident while driving,” commented a friend to me some time ago. “He keeps getting distracted by the pictures of women on billboards.”

    The Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said: “I have left behind no fitnah more harmful to men, than women.” [Sahihain: Al-Bukhari, Muslim]

    A young woman’s body and her engaging conversation is the greatest fitnah for men. Men can ably fight battles, but have no protective armor against the charms of a woman. Even the sway of a woman’s gait, the softness of her voice, or the look in her eye, can make them falter from grace. Women of his family, too – be it a mother, wife or daughter – can so engage a man that he might neglect his religious duties or acquiesce to earn money unlawfully to fulfill their desires.

    Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said: "I have not seen any one of deficient intellect and deen, who is more destructive to the intelligence of a cautious man, than you women." [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 6, No. 301]

    That is not to say that women in general are considered a fitnah in Islam. However, men's innate weakness of being attracted to beautiful women is being described.

  5. Obscenity, nudity and adultery

    Uncovered thighs, midriffs, and arms; tantalizing eyes and mouths pouring out from advertisement hoardings; explicit and life-sized intimate acts showing at the click of a mouse, or a flick of the TV remote. “Fahshaa” – obscenity - which was physically restricted a few decades ago, is just the press of a button away now. On cell phones, computers, television or even fruit-vendors’ push-carts, marketers use carnal imagery to promote any product, be it a deodorant or biscuit. As a result, illicit relationships and adultery are on the rise – one of Satan’s most destructive fitnahs that gnaws at society’s family structure.

  6. Killing

    Abu Hurairah [رضی اللّٰہُ عنہ] said, "The Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said, “The Hour will not come until 30 dajjals appear, each of them claiming to be a messenger from Allah, wealth increases, tribulations appear and Al-Harj increases.” Someone asked, “What is Al-Harj?” He said, “Killing, killing.””

    Suicide bombings, ‘terrorist’ attacks, and civilian air strikes have reduced the value of human blood to nothing, particularly in the Muslim-majority countries of the world.

    Narrated Abu Hurairah [رضی اللّٰہُ عنہ]: The Prophet [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said: “There will be fitnah (civil strife) which will render people deaf, dumb and blind regarding what is right. Those who contemplate it will be drawn by it, and giving rein to the tongue during it, will be like smiting with the sword.”

    [Abu Dawood: Book 30, Number 4251]

    As the above narration explicitly predicts, civil strife will increase to such an extent that entire nations witnessing these atrocities will be rendered completely unable to decipher the truth from falsehood; this is rampantly apparent today. The true teachings of Islam will become indistinguishable from the concocted, skewed "interpretations" of its Holy Book - the Qur'an - verses of which regarding war, will be quoted out of context as justification to perpetrate heinous crimes and killing of innocent people (both Muslims and non-Muslims). Confusion about what the Qur'anic commands actually mean, which situations sanction war against the disbelievers and which circumstances endorse peace and mutual harmony, will become so widespread that even expert Islamic scholars will shake their heads in desperation and prefer to remain silent rather than to issue official verdicts. As a consequence, the amateur, illiterate and totally ignorant masses will take the matter of religious verdicts into their own hands, using the slightest pretext to go on a killing rampage for personal motives. As the Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] stated, "giving rein to the tongue (during fitnah) will be akin to smiting with the sword"; those who openly encourage discussions about suicide bombings, venting their anger via the media and pointing fingers of blame to anyone under the sun, give rise to more killings and bombings as a result of this hate-mongering and sensationalism. The right course of action, as the Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] indicated, would be to remain silent and pass no judgment. After all, how does one know what actually motivates terror outfits? Some lucrative deals with other power-hungry authorities in return for instigating mass fear by killing innocents? There is no way of knowing for sure that what the media depicts is absolutely true.

  7. Islamophobia

    For immigrant Muslim families dwelling in non-Muslim majority countries in the world, the trial of islamophobia is posing the greatest threat to their safety, social acceptance and peace of mind. Since 9/11 happened, Muslims in Western countries are "guilty" until proven innocent; they are considered terrorists or helpers of them. Social ostracization and constant media focus has made it difficult for most Muslims to continue practising Islam in their daily lives. They have either entirely given up, or reduced, praying at work, wearing hijab, or frequenting the mosque, because of the constant fear of criticism and/or persecution. They have to constantly defend their faith as a peaceful religion; one being deliberately depicted by terrorists as violent. Some Muslim youths opt out completely, giving up their faith, it's practice or it's proclamation altogether. It isn't uncommon, therefore, to now see immigrant families returning to their homelands as a result, in order to be able to practice Islam openly, with peace of mind and physical safety.

The only defense a Muslim has against the modern-day fitnahs outlined above, is to adhere fast to the Book of Allah, the Qur’an, and the sunnah of His Messenger [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] - which can only be done by gaining authentic knowledge of Islam from its authorized sources; not just by casually reading sensational publications, watching so-called 'Islamic' television programs, or listening to power-hungry, smooth-talking, Muslim media-moguls.

Besides adhering to the correct teachings of the Qur'an and sunnah, a Muslim should also guard his tongue during fitnah: to abstain from voicing his views, and from taking sides or point fingers when any killing takes place in the name of 'Islam'. To safeguard his religion, he can even consider retiring to a remote, rural place, if the need so arises:

Narrated Abu Sa'id al-Khudri [رضی اللّٰہُ عنہ]: “The Messenger of Allah [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] said: “A Muslim's best property will soon be sheep which he takes to the top of mountains and the places where the rain falls, fleeing with his religion from fitnah (civil strife)”.”
[Abu Dawood, Book 30, No. 4254]

Sadaf Farooqi is a freelance writer who writes regularly for the Islamic Family Magazine, Hiba. She can be contacted directly at [email protected].

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