Developing Thick Skin

Mufti Abdul Rahman Waheed

The bedazzlement of Dunya deludes us to believe that our dreams are meant to come true in this world. We become so immersed in the activities of Dunya that we forget the capricious nature of Dunya and become deceived by its empty promises. It is a responsibility upon the believer to remind themselves of the default state of a believer: to practice patience during adversity and recognize the blessings hiding among the tribulations.

In the biography of Urwah Bin Zubair, it is narrated that when he was traveling to Syria with his son, Muhammad, his leg became infected with an organism, rendering the tissue necrotic. The disease was so severe that his doctors recommended amputation to prevent further progression of the infection, but he declined, hoping the infection would resolve itself. When the infection spread to the entirety of his leg, the doctors insisted upon amputation. When he was given a glass of wine to numb his senses for the operation, he vehemently refused, “How can I use Haram to numb the senses which Allah the Almighty has gifted me? Rather you may perform the procedure when I am praying Salah because I will not feel it then.”

During the procedure, Urwah fell unconscious under the severity of the pain. When he woke up, he was given the heartbreaking news that his son, Muhammad, was trampled over by an animal and has passed away. Trembling, he raised his hands and exclaimed:


He found the blessing that was hidden in his tribulation and he found the contentment that was perched in his anguish. This story is a reminder that not only is our happiness not meant to be found in this world, but regardless of our condition, Allah (SWT) is still The Most Merciful and The Most Worthy of Praise.

An immense amount of energy is placed into the assembly of our worldly affairs, blinding us to the variability of life and forgetting Allah’s (SWT) words:


In this poem, Imam Shaaf’i (RA) challenges us to change our perspective and think differently, in hopes of resolving this issue. He says:


This means to leave whatever is not within your control. As humans, we scramble to exert control over all areas of our lives, falsely believing that we have mastery over our decree. We must acknowledge Allah’s (SWT) master plan and that He is in complete control.

We should live with a smile on our face, like our beloved Prophet (SAW). It comes in the description of the Prophet (SAW):


Yet despite his grievous nature, he always maintained a joyous expression. He was at ease because he knew the truth about his existence, that the control of his subsistence and his affairs are in the hands of Allah (SWT).

The Prophet (SAW) loved his uncle, Abu Talib, and hoped for him to become Muslim one day. However, Allah (SWT) did not decree for his uncle to be guided and thus, Abu Talib left this world without saying the shahada. This grieved the Prophet (SAW) immensely and his insecurities as a Messenger of Allah (SAW) were magnified. Allah (SWT) consoled him by revealing the following ayah:


Imaam Shaaf’i (RA) mentions how we can reconcile with this new way of thinking:  


This means to be content knowing that Allah (SWT) is watching and is not negligent. We must remember that Allah (SWT) sees our hardships and would not let our struggles be in vain.



It is a strong reminder that Allah (SWT) subjects His loved ones to both tribulations and benefits. When advising Abdullah Bin Abbas (RA), the Prophet (SAW) said:



A common impulse among those facing difficulty is to disregard another’s compassion because they “do not know what I am going through.” This statement is rendered useless when speaking to Allah (SWT) because He is the only being who knows the contents of our struggles and possesses irrevocable compassion at our heartbreaks. Which other being do we need other than Allah (SWT), The Most High? Who else is worthy of pleasing other than Allah (SWT) The Most Loving?


Our dismay at our struggles is similar to a child who is thrown into the air by his father. When the child is up high, there is a brief moment of panic quickly followed by a quiet sense of tranquility as he or she falls back into the arms of the father. It is within the nature of human beings to be alarmed at our misfortunes and be frightened by the unknown, but our devotion to Allah (SWT) will replace the panic in our hearts with ease and serenity. When he was thrown into the fire and was offered assistance by the angels, Ibrahim (AS) responded:  


Therefore, we must always be aware of the fickle nature of the human experience, that our trials and our ease are temporarily oscillating in a periodic cycle. The authority of this world is out of our control and the feeble nature of our existence is something that we cannot change. On the day of Uhud, when the enemies were turning away, The Prophet (SAW) recited a long Dua:


The Prophet (SAW) mentioned that on the Day of Judgement, two people will be brought forth in front of Allah (SWT). The first will be a man who has lived his entire life in health, wealth, and prosperity but is destined for the Hellfire. He will be dipped in the fire for a moment and Allah (SWT) will ask him:


The man will answer, “I swear to you, never (has any good come to me) Oh my Lord!” Then Allah (SWT) will call upon the second man who has lived with illness, poverty, and hardship in the Dunya but is destined Paradise. He will be dipped in Paradise for one moment and Allah (SWT) will ask him:


The man will answer, “I swear to you, never (has any hardship come to me) Oh my Lord!”

If one second in the Hellfire renders our pleasurable memories of Dunya fictitious, why are we striving so hard to attain happiness in Dunya? And if a brief moment in Paradise causes us to forget the difficulties we faced in Dunya, is it not worth it to endure the tribulations with hopes of gaining the ultimate reward from Allah (SWT)? For indeed, The Prophet (SAW) has told us:


It is with this concept that Imaam Shaafi’ (RA) says later in the poem:



Imam Shaafi’ (RA) continues his beautiful words of advice and says:


Rather than focus on the faults of others, we should be tremendously critical of our own affairs. Hasan Al Basri (RA) says, “May Allah (SWT) have mercy on a person whose own faults occupy him/her from the faults of others”. The actions of others are not of our concern as long as they are not causing harm. Allah (SWT) says:


Our actions will always be subjected to criticism, whether it is valid or not, so we must develop a thick skin and learn to accept it. Like the poet says in Urdu, “Sometimes just drink the glass of hardship”.

When a man was swearing absurdities at Abu Zar Al Ghifaari (RA), he (RA) stood in total silence and let the man finish, after which he responded, “There will come a day when I will have to cross a bridge to reach Paradise. If I make it through, then I am better than the words you are calling me. However, if I fail and fall into the Hellfire, then I am even worse than the words you are calling me”. This signifies that the hurtful insults thrown against him did not deter him from his path because he knew in his heart that the only valid judgment is the judgment from Allah (SWT).

If there was anyone more deserving of the fruits of this world, it would have been the Prophet (SAW). However, we know from the Seerah that was not the case, for his life was filled with insults and tarnish by his own clansmen. However, that did not deter him from his mission and he did not falter from his goal, for he practiced “Samaahah”, which is to forgive and overlook. This leaves us with the uplifting conclusion that if we can learn to accept our hardships and pardon those around us, then we will reach the status of the greatest saints of our time.


 دَعِ الأَيّامَ تَفعَلُ ما تَشاءُ                        وَطِب نَفساً إِذا حَكَمَ القَضاءُ

وَلا تَجزَع لِحادِثَةِ اللَيالي                         فَما لِحَوادِثِ الدُنيا بَقاءُ

وَكُن رَجُلاً عَلى الأَهوالِ جَلداً                   وَشيمَتُكَ السَماحَةُ وَالوَفاءُ

وَإِن كَثُرَت عُيوبُكَ في البَرايا                   وَسَرَّكَ أَن يَكونَ لَها غِطاءُ

تَسَتَّر بِالسَخاءِ فَكُلُّ عَيبٍ                       يُغَطّيهِ كَما قيلَ السَخاءُ

وَلا تُرِ لِلأَعادي قَطُّ ذُلّاً                        فَإِنَّ شَماتَةَ الأَعدا بَلاءُ

وَلا تَرجُ السَماحَةَ مِن بَخيلٍ                   فَما في النارِ لِلظَمآنِ ماءُ

وَرِزقُكَ لَيسَ يُنقِصُهُ التَأَنّي                   وَلَيسَ يَزيدُ في الرِزقِ العَناءُ

وَلا حُزنٌ يَدومُ وَلا سُرورٌ                    وَلا بُؤسٌ عَلَيكَ وَلا رَخاءُ

إِذا ما كُنتَ ذا قَلبٍ قَنوعٍ                      فَأَنتَ وَمالِكُ الدُنيا سَواءُ

وَمَن نَزَلَت بِساحَتِهِ المَنايا                    فَلا أَرضٌ تَقيهِ وَلا سَماءُ

وَأَرضُ اللَهِ واسِعَةٌ وَلَكِن                     إِذا نَزَلَ القَضا ضاقَ الفَضاءُ

دَعِ الأَيّامَ تَغدِرُ كُلَّ حِينٍ                      فَما يُغني عَنِ المَوتِ الدَواءُ

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