When Adam and Eve were in Paradise we are informed that they had an abundance of provisions.
[2:35] We said, “O Adam, live with your wife in Paradise, and eat therefrom generously, as you please, but do not approach this tree, lest you sin.”
وَقُلْنَا يَاآدَمُ اسْكُنْ أَنْتَ وَزَوْجُكَ الْجَنَّةَ وَكُلَا مِنْهَا رَغَدًا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمَا وَلَا تَقْرَبَا هَٰذِهِ الشَّجَرَةَ فَتَكُونَا مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ
The Arabic word used for this description is the word رَغَدًا (ragadan), which means to eat and drink freely without toil. This means that in Paradise Adam and Eve did not have to work to gain provisions, but instead that it was provided to them freely. This is because up until this point they were without sin.
Interesting enough it wasn’t until they sinned by not only approaching, but also eating from the forbidden tree that their punishment was to be sent down to Earth, where they were required to work and search for provisions. When before they had the food and drinks readily available for them now they were required to hunt and search for food and drinks. We see this same example in the Bible:
Genesis 2: 15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and tend it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Genesis 3: 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; With hard labor you shall eat from it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; Yet you shall eat the plants of the field; 19 By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”
We see a similar pattern with Adam’s two sons (Quran 5:27), where according to the Bible, Able was a huntsman and Cain a farmer…
Genesis 4: 2 …. Now Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought an offering, from the firstborn of his flock and from their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering; 5but for Cain and his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his face [c]was gloomy.
Yet when Cain killed Able his punishment was that the work he would need to endure to gain provisions would no longer come easy.
Genesis 4: 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a wanderer and a drifter on the earth.”
The word ragadan only occurs three times in the Quran, the second occurrence is used in regards to the Children of Israel towards their command to enter the Promised Land. It reads.
[2:58] Recall that we said, “Enter this town, where you will find as many provisions as you like. Just enter the gate humbly, and treat the people nicely. We will then forgive your sins, and increase the reward for the pious.”
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا ادْخُلُوا هَٰذِهِ الْقَرْيَةَ فَكُلُوا مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ رَغَدًا وَادْخُلُوا الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا وَقُولُوا حِطَّةٌ نَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ خَطَايَاكُمْ وَسَنَزِيدُ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
Yet, what was the outcome for the Children of Israel that refused to enter as they were commanded? They spent the next forty years roaming the desert in search for shelter and provisions.
[5:24] They said, “O Moses, we will never enter it, so long as they are in it. Therefore, go—you and your Lord —and fight. We are sitting right here.” [5:25] He said, “My Lord, I can only control myself and my brother. So allow us to part company with the wicked people.” [5:26] He said, “Henceforth, it is forbidden them for forty years, during which they will roam the earth aimlessly. Do not grieve over such wicked people.”
We see this formula also emphasized in the Bible further that if you abide by God’s commands then our ways will be fruitful and easy, but if we disobey God’s commands then the consequence is that we will have to work harder to obtain even less than we had before.
Leviticus 26 – Penalties of Disobedience
14 ‘But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, 15 if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul loathes My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, but rather to break My covenant, 16 I, in turn, will do this to you: I will summon a sudden terror against you, consumption and fever that will make the eyes fail and the soul languish; also, you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it. 17 And I will set My face against you so that you will be defeated before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you. 18 If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. 19 I will also break down your pride of power; and I will make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 Your strength will be consumed uselessly, for your land will not yield its produce and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit.
This lesson is also confirmed and reinforced in the Quran as well.
[7:163] Remind them of the community by the sea, who desecrated the Sabbath. When they observed the Sabbath, the fish came to them abundantly. And when they violated the Sabbath, the fish did not come. We thus afflicted them, as a consequence of their transgression.
وَاسْأَلْهُمْ عَنِ الْقَرْيَةِ الَّتِي كَانَتْ حَاضِرَةَ الْبَحْرِ إِذْ يَعْدُونَ فِي السَّبْتِ إِذْ تَأْتِيهِمْ حِيتَانُهُمْ يَوْمَ سَبْتِهِمْ شُرَّعًا وَيَوْمَ لَا يَسْبِتُونَ لَا تَأْتِيهِمْ كَذَٰلِكَ نَبْلُوهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ
The last occurrence of the word ragadan in the Quran is in the following verse…
[16:112] GOD cites the example of a community that used to be secure and prosperous, with provisions coming to it from everywhere. But then, it turned unappreciative of GOD’s blessings. Consequently, GOD caused them to taste the hardships of starvation and insecurity. Such is the requital for what they did.
وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا قَرْيَةً كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِنْ كُلِّ مَكَانٍ فَكَفَرَتْ بِأَنْعُمِ اللَّهِ فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ
If we are appreciative and believe then God will make our ways prosperous, but if we are unappreciative, particularly by not abiding by God’s commandments then God allows us to taste the hardships of scarcity and insecurity to get us back on the right path. God does this for our own good.
[4:147] What will GOD gain from punishing you, if you became appreciative and believed? GOD is Appreciative, Omniscient.
مَا يَفْعَلُ اللَّهُ بِعَذَابِكُمْ إِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ وَآمَنْتُمْ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ شَاكِرًا عَلِيمًا
There is one caveat to this, how about all the examples of the Quran of believers who fell on hard times e.g. Joseph, Moses, Job, etc. Why did they have rough patches in their life?
Part of the purpose of this life is to work hard to redeem ourselves, but also to come out better than we came into this situation.
[90:4] We created the human being to work hard (to redeem himself).
لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ
There is something astounding that happens when the human faces hardship it will either break us, or it will make us stronger. In the military during their training they conduct something called “stress inoculation”. The objective is that if you can train someone under immense stress then they will be able to perform better under such environments. Such that the things that stress a person who had no struggle in life will not even be noticable for one who experienced much stress in their life.
The other week I went camping with my family and we stayed in this beautiful tiny cottage, and despite having a comfortable bed and even my own memory foam pillows that I brought from home, I still complained about kinks in my neck and back from the nights of sleep. What made me laugh was as I was hobbling due to my soarness one day as we were walking to the river, I noticed there was an old man sleeping outside on a hard wooden picnic table with nothing but a paper towel roll for a pillow. And it became that much more obvious to me how soft I have become.
So if you want to have an easy life, you need to make the hard choices. The hard choice would have been for the Children of Israel to enter the gate and do as they were told, but they went with what appeared to be the easy choice and thus brought hardship upon themselves. The hard choice was to not listen to the temptations of Satan, but the easy choice was to given to the personal desires.
[90:10] Did we not show him the two paths? [90:11] He should choose the difficult path. [90:12] Which one is the difficult path? [90:13] The freeing of slaves. [90:14] Feeding, during the time of hardship. [90:15] Orphans who are related. [90:16] Or the poor who is in need. [90:17] And being one of those who believe, and exhorting one another to be steadfast, and exhorting one another to be kind. [90:18] These have deserved happiness.
Talk to anyone who has experienced a divorce and they will tell you it was one of the hardest things they had to have ever endured. And even though as believers we aim to never break our promises and therefore not to divorce, it still can happen. Sura 65 of the Quran is entitled Divorce and we see the following assurances for people during their darkest times.
[65:1] O you prophet, when you people divorce the women, you shall ensure that a divorce interim is fulfilled. You shall measure such an interim precisely. You shall reverence GOD your Lord. Do not evict them from their homes, nor shall you make life miserable for them, to force them to leave on their own, unless they commit a proven adultery. These are GOD’s laws. Anyone who transgresses GOD’s laws commits an injustice against himself. You never know; maybe GOD wills something good to come out of this.
[65:2] Once the interim is fulfilled, you may reconcile with them equitably, or go through with the separation equitably. You shall have two equitable witnesses witness the divorce before GOD. This is to enlighten those who believe in GOD and the Last Day. Anyone who reverences GOD, He will create an exit for him.
[65:3] And will provide for him whence he never expected. Anyone who trusts in GOD, He suffices him. GOD’s commands are done. GOD has decreed for everything its fate.
[65:4] As for the women who have reached menopause, if you have any doubts, their interim shall be three months. As for those who do not menstruate, and discover that they are pregnant, their interim ends upon giving birth. Anyone who reverences GOD, He makes everything easy for him.
[65:5] This is GOD’s command that He sends down to you. Anyone who reverences GOD, He remits his sins, and rewards him generously.
[65:6] You shall allow them to live in the same home in which they lived with you, and do not make life so miserable for them that they leave on their own. If they are pregnant, you shall spend on them until they give birth. If they nurse the infant, you shall pay them for this service. You shall maintain the amicable relations among you. If you disagree, you may hire another woman to nurse the child.
[65:7] The rich husband shall provide support in accordance with his means, and the poor shall provide according to the means that GOD bestowed upon him. GOD does not impose on any soul more than He has given it. GOD will provide ease after difficulty.
[65:8] Many a community rebelled against the commands of its Lord and against His messengers. Consequently, we held them strictly accountable, and requited them a terrible requital. [65:9] They suffered the consequences of their decisions; a profound loss. [65:10] GOD has prepared for them severe retribution. Therefore, you shall reverence GOD, O you who possess intelligence and believed. GOD has sent down to you a message— [65:11] a messenger who recites to you GOD’s revelations, clearly, to lead those who believe and work righteousness out of the darkness into the light. Anyone who believes in GOD and leads a righteous life, He will admit him into gardens with flowing streams; they abide therein forever. GOD will generously reward him.
[17:11] The human being often prays for something that may hurt him, thinking that he is praying for something good. The human being is impatient.
وَيَدْعُ الْإِنْسَانُ بِالشَّرِّ دُعَاءَهُ بِالْخَيْرِ وَكَانَ الْإِنْسَانُ عَجُولًا
[2:216] Fighting may be imposed on you, even though you dislike it. But you may dislike something which is good for you, and you may like something which is bad for you. GOD knows while you do not know.
كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسَىٰ أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسَىٰ أَنْ تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
2 thoughts on “Sin, Hardship, and Growth”
Interesting article. I would like to know what “reverence God” means to you practically.
Peace if I had to define “reverence God” I would summarize it as a feeling of deep respect mixed with fear and wonder. We can show our reverence by following God’s commands.