Assalamualaikum ustaz. I want to ask a question. For your information, I’ve been unemployed for the last two years after I finished my studies. I have sent dozens of resumes to numerous companies. Unfortunately, none would employ me. Even if I was invited for an interview, I failed all my interviews. I relate my experience to my friend and he said maybe I did a mistake that results in the impediment of my sustenance by Allah SWT. I have given up and I don’t know what to do. Is the explanation given by my friend true? Is it true that Allah SWT would impede the sustenance of people that make mistakes? I hope ustaz can answer my questions.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Committing sins towards Allah SWT is one of the reasons that the sustenance of someone is impeded. Allah SWT states:
وَمَا أَصَابَكُمْ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَنْ كَثِيرٍ
“And whatever strikes you of disaster - it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much.”
Surah al-Syura (30)
In Tafsir al-Jalalayn (pg.643), the word “كَسَبَتْ” means sins that they committed. In other words, sins that we committed are the very reason of the disaster that befall us. However, if he did not commit sins, then the disaster is a test from Allah SWT to raise his standing in the hereafter (if they are patient).
Meanwhile, Imam Ibn Kathir states in his commentaries, the disaster is a replacement of the punishment that he would otherwise face in the hereafter, thus Allah SWT forgives him and penalizes him before he dies. Refer Tafsir al-Quran al-Azhim(7/207).
He also includes a statement of the Prophet PBUH:
وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ، مَا يُصِيبُ الْمُؤْمِنَ مِنْ نَصَبٍ وَلَا وَصَب وَلَا هَمٍّ وَلَا حُزَن إِلَّا كَفَّرَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ بِهَا مِنْ خَطَايَهُ حَتَّى الشَّوْكَةِ يُشَاكُهَا
"By Him in Whose Hand my soul is! No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that." Hadith muttafaqun alaih.
When viewed from one angle, there is some truth in your friend’s statement. Accordingly, we must repent immediately, increase our worship and apologize to anyone whom we may have wronged before.
However, if we have already repented but we still experience hardship in terms of sustenance, it may not be the result of sins. Maybe it’s because the concept of sustenance and its division are misunderstood.
First Category: Fixed Sustenance, Without Any Effort
This is a type of sustenance that are fixed and set by Allah SWT without any effort by humans. For some people, even if he puts in a little of effort, he receives great sustenance from Allah SWT. Or even when he does not put any effort at all. Allah SWT states:
قُلْ إِنَّ رَبِّي يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ وَيَقْدِرُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“Say, "Indeed, my Lord extends provision for whom He wills and restricts [it], but most of the people do not know."
Surah Saba’ (36)
Hence, there are some that are born in a rich family and some who are born in a poor family. The same with people born in an average income family. For those born rich, their sustenance is a test for them, whether or not they are grateful for what they have. Thus, Allah SWT critics the rich who are ungrateful and stingy.
Allah SWT states:
وَاللَّهُ فَضَّلَ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ فِي الرِّزْقِ ۚ فَمَا الَّذِينَ فُضِّلُوا بِرَادِّي رِزْقِهِمْ عَلَىٰ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ فَهُمْ فِيهِ سَوَاءٌ ۚ أَفَبِنِعْمَةِ اللَّهِ يَجْحَدُونَ
“And Allah has favored some of you over others in provision. But those who were favored would not hand over their provision to those whom their right hands possess so they would be equal to them therein. Then is it the favor of Allah they reject?”
Surah al-Nahl (71)
For the poor, Allah SWT critics them too, if they are disappointed and blames Allah SWT for their life:
وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ
“But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me."
Surah al-Fajr (16)
The above verses are a clear answer as to the issues of sustenance that we cannot change as it has been fixed by Allah SWT. Sometimes, the rich would be in need of the poor to work for them and vice versa. Allah SWT states:
أَهُمْ يَقْسِمُونَ رَحْمَتَ رَبِّكَ ۚ نَحْنُ قَسَمْنَا بَيْنَهُم مَّعِيشَتَهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۚ وَرَفَعْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِّيَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُهُم بَعْضًا سُخْرِيًّا ۗ وَرَحْمَتُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ
“Do they distribute the mercy of your Lord? It is We who have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of this world and have raised some of them above others in degrees [of rank] that they may make use of one another for service. But the mercy of your Lord is better than whatever they accumulate.”
Surah al-Zukhruf (32)
Furthermore, if everyone is rich, then it will destabilize the society we live in. Allah SWT states:
وَلَوْ بَسَطَ اللَّهُ الرِّزْقَ لِعِبَادِهِ لَبَغَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَٰكِن يُنَزِّلُ بِقَدَرٍ مَّا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِعِبَادِهِ خَبِيرٌ بَصِيرٌ
“And if Allah had extended [excessively] provision for His servants, they would have committed tyranny throughout the earth. But He sends [it] down in an amount which He wills. Indeed, He is of His servants, Acquainted and Seeing.”
Surah al-Syura (27)
Second Category: Sustenance that Needs Effort
Other than the fixed sustenance by Allah SWT with minimum or no effort, the second type of sustenance requires our efforts. Allah SWT states:
وَهُوَ الَّذِي سَخَّرَ الْبَحْرَ لِتَأْكُلُوا مِنْهُ لَحْمًا طَرِيًّا وَتَسْتَخْرِجُوا مِنْهُ حِلْيَةً تَلْبَسُونَهَا وَتَرَى الْفُلْكَ مَوَاخِرَ فِيهِ وَلِتَبْتَغُوا مِن فَضْلِهِ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
“And it is He who subjected the sea for you to eat from it tender meat and to extract from it ornaments which you wear. And you see the ships plowing through it, and [He subjected it] that you may seek of His bounty; and perhaps you will be grateful.”
Surah al-Nahl (14)
We may think that our sustenance is impeded, but in reality, our efforts and strategies in acquiring our sustenance are insufficient. Reflect on Allah SWT’s words when He states, ‘that you may seek of His bounty’.
Thus, we have to seek sustenance through all channels that are permissible and not limit it to a certain method or strategy. Maybe our sustenance is not through employment but through setting up our own business or maybe it’s the opposite. The important point here is, we have to put in our best effort and strategize, which also includes discussions and asking of other people’s opinions and suggestions based on their experiences, then be determined and rely and put your trust in Allah SWT (tawakal).
Allah SWT states:
فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
“And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].”
Surah al-Imran (159)
As a Muslim, we have to believe in the qadha and qadar of Allah SWT, and we are obligated to accept whatever it is that Allah SWT has fixed for us. We should always be grateful for everything that He has given us and at the same time work hard to polish our skills and potential. Everyone possess their own unique ability and skills, and it is our job to identify our own capabilities. InsyaAllah we will be successful. Looking from the worldly perspective, there are numerous millionaires that had a tough life and were unemployed, but with hard work and perseverance, they turn their lives around and now they employ hundreds of workers.
Let’s reflect on the hadith from Saidina Umar al-Khattab, where the Prophet PBUH said:
لَوْ أَنَّكُمْ كُنْتُمْ تَوَكَّلُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ حَقَّ تَوَكُّلِهِ لَرُزِقْتُمْ كَمَا تُرْزَقُ الطَّيْرُ تَغْدُو خِمَاصًا وَتَرُوحُ بِطَانًا
"If you were to rely upon Allah with the required reliance, then He would provide for you just as a bird is provided for, it goes out in the morning empty, and returns full."
Sunan al-Tarmizi (2344)