Bi-smi llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm.
❝The Story of Prophet Ayyūb [عليه السلام] (Job)❞
Prophet Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) was one of Allāh’s very sincere worshippers. We find in his story, many lessons that we can reflect upon to assess our relationship with Allāh. This story especially should make us question, whether all our sincerity and worship for Allāh is dependent on His blessings on us.
The following story was documented by Ibn Kathīr:
Prophet Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) was Allāh’s thankful, repentant, patient and steadfast worshipper. Allāh, the Almighty, has praised Him in the Qur’ān, Sūrah Ṣād (Ṣād), Chapter 38, verse 44, thus:
❝ʾinnā wajadnāhu ṣābiran niʿma l-ʿabdu ʾinnahū ʾawwāb❞
[Indeed We found him to be patient. What an excellent servant! Indeed he was a penitent (soul)]
Ibn Kathīr narrates, that once Iblīs (shaytān) heard an angel praising Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) to other angels, extolling his noble character, patience and remembrance of Allāh and describing him as “the best creature on earth today, and an excellent model for the worshippers of Allāh.” The angel also added, that Allāh had blessed him with long life and plenty of riches, yet he was never haughty or selfish. His family, servants, the needy and the poor, all had a share in his good fortune. He bought slaves to set them free and made those who received his charity feel as if they were doing him a favor.
Overhearing all this, Iblīs became annoyed and planned to tempt Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) and lead him to disbelief.
First, he tried to distract him from his prayers by whispering to him about the good things in life, but as a true believer, Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) would not let evil thoughts tempt him. Iblīs, then tried to attribute ulterior motives to his constant glorification of Allāh, projecting his worship as being motivated from greed to safeguard his wealth. Iblīs, thus said to Allāh, “If You deprive him of his wealth, You will find that he will no longer mention Your name and his praying will stop.”
Allāh told Iblīs, that Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) was one of His most sincere devotees, whose worship stemmed from his heart and had nothing to do with material gifts or favors granted to him.
To prove His devotee’s depth of sincerity and patience, Allāh allowed Iblīs to do whatever he wished with Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām)’s wealth.
Delighted, Iblīs gathered his helpers and set about destroying Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām)’s cattle, servants and farms, depriving him of all his possessions. Then in the guise of a wise old man, he approached him and said:
“All your wealth is lost. Some people say that it is because you gave too much charity and that you are wasting your time with your continuous prayers to Allāh. Others say that Allāh has brought this upon you in order to please your enemies. If Allāh had the capacity to prevent harm, then He would have protected your wealth.”
Steadfast in his faith, Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) replied: ❝What Allāh has taken away from me, belongs to Him. I was only its trustee for a while. He gives to whom He wills and withholds from whom He wills,❞ and he (ʿalay-hi salām) prostrated before his Lord.
Frustrated with his failure, Iblīs again addressed Allāh:
“I have stripped Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) of all his possessions, but he still remains grateful to You. However, he is only hiding his disappointment, for he places great store by his many children. The real test of a parent is through his children. You will then see how Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) will reject You.”
Allāh again granted Iblīs authority, but warned him that it would reduce neither Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām)’s faith in his Lord nor his patience.
Iblīs gathered his helpers and brought the house in which Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām)’s children were living, crashing down, killing all of them. Disguised as a man who had come to sympathize with him, he said:
“The circumstances under which your children died were sad. Surely, your Lord is not rewarding you properly for all your prayers.”
The faithful believer of Allāh replied, disappointing Iblīs once again:
❝Allāh sometimes gives and sometimes takes. He is sometimes pleased and sometimes displeased with our deeds. Whether a thing is beneficial or harmful to me, I will remain firm in my belief and remain thankful to my Creator.❞
Saying this he prostrated to his Lord.
Extremely vexed, Iblīs again called on Allāh:
“O my Lord, Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām)’s wealth is gone and his children are dead, but he is still healthy in body, and as long as he enjoys good health, he will continue to worship You in the hope of regaining his wealth and producing more children. Grant me authority over his body, so that I may weaken it. He will surely stop worshipping You and will thus become disobedient.”
Allāh granted Iblīs his third request but placed a condition:
❝I give you authority over his body, but not over his soul, intellect, or heart, for in these places reside the knowledge of Me and My religion.❞
Armed with this new authority, Iblīs afflicted Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām)’s body with disease, reducing it to mere skin and bone. He suffered severe pain yet remained strong in faith, and patiently bore all the suffering without complaints. Hopeful of Allāh’s Mercy, he neither despaired nor turned to others for help. Although he had lost all his children and was deprived of his wealth and physically afflicted, he still continued to glorify Allāh the Almighty, day and night. His disease lasted for a long time. His friends felt disgusted and his close relatives deserted him. The sole companion and comforter through many years of his suffering was his kind and loving wife.
Iblīs became desperate. He consulted his helpers, but they asked him:
“How is it that your cleverness cannot work against Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām), yet you succeeded in misleading Adam, the father of man, out of paradise?”
Iblīs went to Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām)’s wife in the form of a man. “Where is your husband?” he asked her.
She pointed to an almost lifeless form crumpled on the bed and said: “There he is, suspended between life and death.”
Iblīs reminded her of the days when he had enjoyed good health, wealth and children. The painful memory of years of hardship overwhelmed her. She burst into tears and asked her husband:
“How long are you going to bear this torture from our Lord? Are we to remain without wealth, children or friends forever? Why don’t you call upon Allāh to remove this suffering?”
Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) sighed, and replied softly:
❝Iblīs must have whispered to you and made you dissatisfied. Tell me, how long did I enjoy good health and riches?❞
She replied, “For eighty years.”
Then he asked, ❝How long have I been suffering like this?❞
She said, “Seven years.”
Then he told her: ❝In that case I am ashamed to call on my Lord to remove the hardship, for I have not suffered longer than the years of good health and plenty that I enjoyed. Your faith seems to have weakened and you are dissatisfied with the fate decreed by Allāh. If I ever regain health, I swear I will punish you with a hundred strokes! From this day, I shall not eat or drink anything from your hand. Leave me alone and let my Lord do with me as He pleases.❞
Crying bitterly, with no other choice, she left with a heavy heart. In his helpless state, Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) turned to Allāh, not to complain but to seek His mercy:
❝wa-ʾayyūba ʾidh nādā rabbahū ʾannī massaniya ḍ-ḍurru wa-ʾanta ʾarḥamu r-rāḥimīn❞
[And Job, when he called out to his Lord, ‘Indeed distress has befallen me, and You are the most merciful of the merciful’]
― Sūrah al-Anbiyāʾ (The Prophets), Chapter 21, verse 83.
For which, Allāh replied:
❝fa-stajabnā lahū fa-kashafnā mā bihī min ḍurrin wa-ʾātaynāhu ʾahlahū wa-mithlahum maʿahum raḥmatan min ʿindinā wa-dhikrā li-l-ʿābidīna❞
[So We answered his prayer and removed his distress, and We gave him [back] his family along with others like them, as a mercy from Us, and an admonition for the devout]
―Sūrah al-Anbiyāʾ (The Prophets), Chapter 21, verse 84.
Almighty Allāh, further says in the Qur’ān:
❝wa-dhkur ʿabdanā ʾayyūba ʾidh nādā rabbahū ʾannī massaniya sh-shayṭānu bi-nuṣbin wa-ʿadhābin❞
[And remember Our servant Job [in the Qurʾān]. When he called out to his Lord, ‘The devil has visited on me hardship and torment,’]
―Sūrah Ṣād (Ṣād), Chapter 38, verse 41.
❝urkuḍ bi-rijlika hādhā mughtasalun bāridun wa-sharāb❞
[[We told him:] ‘Stamp your foot on the ground; this [ensuing spring] is a cooling bath and drink.’]
―Sūrah Ṣād (Ṣād), Chapter 38, verse 42.
❝wa-wahabnā lahū ʾahlahū wa-mithlahum maʿahum raḥmatan minnā wa-dhikrā li-ʾulī l-ʾalbāb❞
[And We gave [back] his family to him along with others like them, as a mercy from Us and an admonition for those who possess intellect.]
―Sūrah Ṣād (Ṣād), Chapter 38, verse 43.
Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) obeyed Allāh’s instructions, and almost immediately his good health was restored. Meanwhile, his faithful wife, who could no longer bear to be parted from her husband, returned to beg his forgiveness, and to serve him. On entering the house, she was amazed at the sudden change she saw. Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) had regained his health! She embraced him and thanked Allāh for His mercy.
Ayyūb (ʿalay-hi salām) was now worried about the oath he had taken to punish her with a hundred strokes if he regained health. He did not wish to hurt her but could not break a promise to Allāh.
Therefore, Allāh in His wisdom and mercy, came to the assistance of His faithful servant, and instructed him:
❝wa-khudh bi-yadika ḍighthan fa-ḍrib bihī wa-lā taḥnath ʾinnā wajadnāhu ṣābiran niʿma l-ʿabdu ʾinnahū ʾawwāb❞
[[We told him:] ‘Take a faggot in your hand and then strike [your wife] with it, but do not break [your] oath.’ Indeed We found him to be patient. What an excellent servant! Indeed he was a penitent [soul]]
―Sūrah Ṣād (Ṣād), Chapter 38, verse 44.
Thus Allāh the Most Merciful rewards His faithful and grateful servants.
This story should remind us that we should never make our worship and sincerity toward Allāh contingent on our perceived blessings. Allāh tests us in many ways and we should, therefore, be steadfast in His worship constantly.