Rābiʿa al-ʿAdawiyya al-Qaysiyya was an ascetic who lived in Basra in the first century of Islam. She advised against conducting our relationship with Allah like that of an ill mannered servant, who will not do a good job unless they are beaten up, or who, if left alone, will cheat and perform their job poorly.
We are supposed to be the willing slaves and servants to Allah, whatever stage of life we are in, whether in ease or distress. Yet this slavery is often diluted by the love of dunia. Sometimes Allah sends us tragedies and trials to cure us from our attachment to dunia. We cannot overcome Allah's will, but should have the ability to submit to it so that our journey will be calm. We can either submit with grace, or resist.
Have you seen a person receiving an injection? Either way, the medication has to enter the patient's system. If he panics, struggles or resists he might need to be held down and the experience will be unpleasant. If he accepts the injection calmly, it might cause momentary discomfort but he will barely feel any sensation. It is the same with what Allah dispenses. What is written for us will overtake us, and it is up to us how we want to accept it.
If not for the sake of Allah, often the very thing we love is what leads us to our destruction. For example, excessive love for a man or a woman, such that it causes us to do insane things or consumes so much of our emotions and priority, that our world revolves around that person and we forget Allah or even disobey Allah to please the other person. How many people have abandoned Islam for the sake of a non-Muslim husband or wife? They then claim that they worry about their souls and the souls of their children, but still persist with the love of another above the love of Allah. They are afraid to let go, because their dependence is on the loved one, and not on Allah.
There are many real life examples of Muslims putting the love of a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife above the love of Allah. This causes them to make great compromises on their faith, and some even abandon Islam totally. We have met the children of such marriages, who do not even realise that one of the parents was originally a Muslim. By then, often the damage is done, and as a result of following the heart, the next generations also have to pay the price when the parents sell out their Islam for a forbidden love.
Sometimes, because of our refusal to listen to Allah, Allah sends calamities and hardships as a wake up call. The degree of trial can escalate if we ignore His signs or cling on to the aspect of dunia that we are supposed to release.
People who don't understand this will think that Allah sends them calamities due to hate, and not love. This misconception leads them to rebel against Allah when something precious is taken away from them, or when they are suddenly placed in hardship.
In the case of a believer, the opposite is true. If Allah has sent us difficulty, it is only because we are on His radar. For example, if we care intensely about someone, we would not abandon him. We would constantly keep an eye on him. If we see our child about to touch an open flame, we would grab him back immediately without negotiation, even if it causes the child to cry. This is to avoid a greater harm.
If a person means nothing to us, we would ignore him, and let him be, even if he is on the verge of self destruction. This can potentially happen to us when we continue to ignore Allah's multiple warnings. There are those who, when diagnosed with cancer or a terminal illness, prefer to take a holiday or buy a flashy car instead of spending the last remaining time and money on umrah, hajj or any goodness.
What about us? Do we need Allah to warn us to the brink of death before we take any notice?
If Allah tests us with calamities, it means we are within His care. It indicates that He is nudging us towards the right path when we have strayed too far. He is not ignoring us the way He has ignored others who have chosen to ignore Him. If we are lost in dunia, away from the remembrance of Allah, and no calamity befalls us, then it does not bode well.
Allah constantly checks our sincerity. When Allah deprives someone of the thing he loves, Allah is purifying his heart until it is eradicated of that worldly love, and he surrenders to the love of Allah. To a believer, every calamity is a cleansing of sins from Allah and a reaffirmation of Allah's love and attention to him. If Allah denies us what we desire, we should not throw tantrums or get depressed.
If we believe in Allah, when He takes something away from us, it is because He has something better planned for us.
It is inconsistent to claim that we love Allah while lamenting and sighing about what He has decreed for us. Be it illness, divorce, a failed exam or a job loss – these are the fearful things that affect us the most and are often beyond our control – it is all for our good. A believer gracefully accepts because of his concrete conviction that what Allah gives is the best. The love of Allah is the ultimate level of tawheed.