Suffering: Something to erase past mistakes

Q618 :It is stated that when somebody falls ill or suffers misfortune, it is a way of Allah to provide forgiveness of his sins. Is this statement true? If it is, then does this mean that one should keep off from getting medical help to earn blessings. Please comment.

A618 : In a reference to the unlimited grace which Allah bestows on those of His servants who are keen to earn His pleasure, it is stated that Allah credits any of His dutiful servants, who is prevented by illness from doing a good action which he normally does, with the same reward that he would have earned if he had done it. For instance, if a person is in the habit of fasting once every week and he is unable to fast owing to an illness, he still earns the same reward which he would have if he were healthy despite the fact that he could not fast. It is a grace by Allah. When a Muslim falls ill, or indeed suffers any physical or mental hardship, he stands to earn reward for this suffering. Lady Aisha, the Prophet's wife, quotes him as saying: "For any adversity a Muslim suffers, Allah erases some of his sins, even though the suffering may be no more than a thorn pricking him." (Related by Al-Bukhari). Another version of this Hadith is related by Al-Bukhari on the authority of Abu Saeed Al-Khudri and Abu Hurairah, who quote him as saying: "Whatever befalls a Muslim of exhaustion, illness, worry, grief, nuisance or trouble, even though it may be no more than a prick of a thorn, he earns forgiveness by Allah for some of his sins." The first thing to note in these two Hadiths is that when a Muslim suffers some adversity, whether physical or mental, or has some suffering to contend with, he will have some reward and that reward is for enduring it with patience and contented acceptance. Let me point out that this reward is not a credit for the suffering; and it cannot be as he has not brought the adversity upon himself, but it is rewarded in the form of a relief by Allah by pardoning some of his past sins. In an authentic Hadith related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and An-Nasaei Attaa ibn Abu Rabah reports that once Abdullah ibn Abbas, the Prophet's cousin who was one of the best scholars among the companions of the Prophet, said to him: "Would you like me to point out to you a woman who will be in heaven?" Attaa said: "Yes." Ibn Abbas said: "This black woman came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: I suffer from severe epilepsy and parts of my body get exposed. Will you please pray to Allah for me? The Prophet said to her: The choice is yours. You may wish to endure with patience and have admission into heaven as your reward, or you may wish me to pray Allah to cure you. She said: I will endure it, but some parts of my body get exposed, so pray Allah for me not to be exposed. The Prophet prayed for her." The woman in this story was called Suairah, an Abyssinian black woman, who was attached either through slavery or alliance to the tribe of Asad. She used to come to the Prophet after the death of his first wife, Khadeejah, and he used to treat her with kindness and befitting hospitality. He knew that she was a firm believer, so he put a choice to her. When a believer understands all this, he would not feel too depressed when he suffers a serious illness. No one suggests that a Muslim should wish for illness or try to catch it or having suffered should not look for treatment. Indeed health is a blessing which every one of us should work diligently to preserve. But if we are taken ill, we should accept this with patience. Abu Saeed Al Khudri visited the Prophet when he was unwell. He noticed that the Prophet had very high temperature. Abu Saeed said: "Messenger of Allah, you have a very high fever." He said: "We are like this: our trials are very hard and our reward is multiplied." Abu Saeed asked: "Messenger of Allah, which people have the greatest affliction?" He replied: "The Prophets, and then the most pious and righteous. Any one of them may be tested with poverty until he could find nothing more than a robe to cover himself with and he would wear that. Another could be tested with fleas until they almost killed him. They were more pleased with their affliction than any of you may be pleased with gifts." (Related by Al-Bukhari).

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