The Rewards for the Patient
Patience during adversity runs counter to mankind's hasty instinct to despair at the first sign of calamity. It may not come naturally, but such patience can be cultivated. If we do indeed achieve this patience, in surah Az-Zumar, Allah says:
Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account. (Al Qur'an 39:10)
Have you ever been so pleased with someone that you shower him with gifts? Yet, your generosity is limited by your resources. What about Allah? He is the One who created diamonds, rubies and gold on this meagre earth, so when He promises to reward you without account, from His inexhaustible treasures, can you fathom the amount of rewards in store?
Rasulullah (SAW) said that the people who have been healthy, will, after witnessing the abundant rewards on the Day of Judgment, wish that they suffered more diseases during their lifetimes!
Even if it is a terminal illness, there is a happy ending if you are patient in bearing the illness up to the last day. Surah Al Ra'd says: "Salamun 'Alaikum (peace be upon you) for that you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home!" (Al Qur'an 13:24)
What gives us the tolerance to endure the situation and harness the power of patience within us? When we remember Who allowed it to happen in the first place; the One who loves us, the one Who wants to elevate and reward us. A mu'min, in the face of calamity, is full of joy and happiness regarding the calamity inflicted over him. He knows that his Creator loves him, wants to cleanse him in this life and elevate his rank in the hereafter, and that every moment that passes is leading to his ultimate joy in this Paradise.
What to do when Ill?
Our normal reaction when we are ill is to seek a diagnosis and then medication to alleviate the symptoms. For the majority, we only turn to Allah when an anomaly is suspected or when the ailment gets out of hand!
From an Islamic perspective, we should do the following:
Make istighfar (seek forgiveness from God). The students of one of the early pious imams and scholar, Sufiyan Ath-Thauree, noticed that he constantly provided the same answer to everyone who sought his consultation. A farmer seeking advice about the drought, a husband complaining about marriage, a mother who yearned for a child and a person who was ill were all advised to make istighfar. Eventually his students wondered whether he was lacking in knowledge to keep repeating the same reply, so they asked him about it. He replied that his knowledge came from the Qur'an:
'Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers. And give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers. (Al Qur'an 71:10 – 71:13)
Any ahadeeth compilation will contain a complete chapter on istighfar and its powers. Istighfar shields us from calamity, cures us from disease and protects us from the enemy. This is why at the first stage of problems or illnesses, we should hasten to make istighfar.
Ask Allah for Al Afu Wal Afiyya. This is another teaching of Rasulullah SAW, which is to ask Allah to deal with you with pardon and to erase your bad deeds, and to deal with you with His rahmah rather than merely with justice.