Experiencing Hardship and Putting It In Its Place

I’m writing this short dispatch in the middle of the night. Why? Well, for starters I’ve had a wicked sinus infection this week. But even if I weren’t under the weather insomnia is a frequent bedfellow of mine. Sometimes driven by my battles with diabetes, other times driven by the thoughts of a father worried about his child and the world she’s going to live in. And then there are times I just can’t sleep! Whatever the reason it takes its toll on the body as well as the mind. But I am reminded that hardships in this life are opportunities to draw closer to God. The eloquent words of the Prophet ﷺ extolls us to compartmentalize hardship within the bigger space of meaning. A’ishah, his wife, reported that he said,

مَا يُصِيبُ الْمُؤْمِنَ مِنْ شَوْكَةٍ فَمَا فَوْقَهَا إِلاَّ رَفَعَهُ اللَّهُ بِهَا دَرَجَةً أَوْ حَطَّ عَنْهُ بِهَا خَطِيئَةً

A believer does not receive the hardship of pricking a thorn — or more than that — but Allah elevates him in rank or reduces his sins because of that.Sahih Muslim, #2572

So during the quiet of this night, while my head was not being quiet, my sore throat flaring, and the cough medicine keeping me (annoyingly) up, I came to appreciate his statement ﷺ and how one can experience this mercy — particularly at a moment when one isn’t feeling overwhelmed with mercy — in that by turning to prayer, salah, I embodied that “hatta ‘anhu biha khati’ah”, or “[Allah] reduces his sins because of it”. In other words if it weren’t for this wretched sinus infection I might just be sleeping away, arguably, one of the most blessed parts of the day: the middle of the night. As we would say in culinary school: “Mise en place”, “everything in its place”, even hardship.