What is the Purpose of Pain?
And slacken not in following up the enemy: If ye are suffering hardships, they are suffering similar hardships; but ye have Hope from Allah, while they have none. And Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. (1)
Why is there so much suffering in the world? How do we deal with emotional, spiritual, and psychological pain? Why does Allah sometimes allow righteous Muslims to suffer extreme pain?
These questions pose a paradox. The fact that we are naturally upset by suffering testifies to our belief in Allah , who is fair and righteous, whom we expect to rule the world justly. And yet, we see that pain and suffering cause many people to question the very existence of Allah .
Even in the deepest moments of suffering, we must realize that our absolute iman is what gives us the ability to understand and deal with our pain. With Allah guiding us, we can accept pain as part of the challenge of life; it motivates us to seek answers, to explore our relationship with Allah , and to grow from the experience.
Are there any benefits to pain and suffering?
Abu Hurayrah recorded that The Prophet used to say: "O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from poverty", lack and abasement, and I seek refuge in Thee lest I cause or suffer wrong." (2)
Pain and suffering are opportunities to challenge the way we look at life. When things are going well, we tend to take life for granted, but trauma brings us to the edges of life, allowing us to view it from a new, dynamic angle.
So the real question we must ask is not just why we sometimes feel such acute pain, but what we are meant to learn from it.
Trust in Allah is our way of turning pain around...
When you see beyond a one-dimensional life, when you realize that you are comprised of not just a body but a body and a soul, you recognize that there is a far higher purpose to your life, and a far deeper meaning to your pain.
The only true explanation for pain and suffering is that the world itself is innately good and that pain and suffering are somehow part of the larger good. This is not to suggest that pain itself is good, nor that we should peacefully accept it. In fact, we must express our feelings of pain to the fullest, and do everything in our power to alleviate suffering in ourselves and in others.
It is your duty to discover how pain may be a blessing in disguise and to overcome the pain and restore harmony to your body and soul. Consider the inevitable frustration that precedes any creative growth, or the intense pain that a woman feels while giving birth. No matter how great such pain may be, it is ultimately justified by the goodness it produces.
How can we relieve our pain?
Of their goods, take alms, that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them; and pray on their behalf. Verily thy prayers are a source of security for them: And Allah is One Who heareth and knoweth. (3)
It is important that you see pain as a test that examines how consumed you are with material comfort as opposed to spiritual growth.
Instead of being broken by pain, you must demonstrate your complete trust in Allah by continuing your life with an intense commitment to goodness. Trust in Allah is our way of turning pain around. It proves to Allah that, although we may not fully understand our pain, we recognize it as part of a greater good. And despite our setbacks, despite our confusion, despite our pain, we remain absolutely confident that goodness will prevail.
Freeing yourself from pain can only come about through movement - moving away and distracting yourself from the painful situation, moving away from the cause that produced such painful symptoms. This movement may be as simple as finding a new friend, reading a new book, getting involved in da'wah or taking a class - anything to alter your solitary, limited perspective on yourself and the world.
For some, starting the climb out of pain requires a strong push, or even hitting rock bottom. This is where true friends play a vital role. When someone you love and care for is in pain, you must be there for him, no matter what he needs. He may say he wants to be alone, that he wants to work through his problems, but you must recognize that this will not work, that the answer is to broaden his perspective, not further limit it. Find a way to spend time with him, to talk with him, to share your thoughts with each other. Most important, love him and help him help himself.
Abu Dharr related that The Prophet said: The best of the actions is to love for the sake of Allah and to hate for the sake of Allah. (4)
The Believers are but a single brotherhood. (5)
2) Abu Dawud - Book 8, Number 1539
4) Abu Dawud - Book 40, Number 4582