Prophet Ayoub (Alaihi-salam – May be peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was one of Allah’s very sincere worshippers. We find in his story many lessons that we can reflect upon to assess our relationship with Allah. This story especially should make us question whether all our sincerity and worship for Allah is dependent on His blessings on us.
Prophet Ayoub (A) was Allah’s thankful, repentant, patient and steadfast worshipper. Allah the Almighty has praised Him in the Quran thus:
“Truly! We found him patient. How excellent a slave! Verily, he was ever oft-returning in repentance to Us” (Saad 38:44).
Ibn Kathir narrates that once Iblis (satan) heard an angel praising Ayoub (A) to other angels, extolling his noble character, patience and remembrance of Allah and describing him as “the best creature on earth today, and an excellent model for the worshippers of Allah.” The angel also added that Allah 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, Iblis became annoyed and planned to tempt Ayoub (A) 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, Ayoub would not let evil thoughts tempt him. Iblis, then tried to attribute ulterior motives to his constant glorification of Allah, projecting his worship as being motivated from greed to safeguard his wealth. Iblis thus said to Allah, “If You deprive him of his wealth You will find that he will no longer mention Your name and his praying will stop.”
Allah told Iblis that Ayoub (A) 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, Allah allowed Iblis to do whatever he wished with Ayoub (A)’s wealth.
Delighted, Iblis gathered his helpers and set about destroying Ayoub (A)’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 Allah. Others say that Allah has brought this upon you in order to please your enemies. If Allah had the capacity to prevent harm, then He would have protected your wealth.
Steadfast in his faith, Ayoub (A) replied: “What Allah 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 prostrated before his Lord.
Frustrated with his failure, Iblis again addressed Allah:
“I have stripped Ayoub (A) 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 Ayoub (A) will reject You.”
Allah again granted Iblis authority, but warned him that it would reduce neither Ayoub (A)’s faith in his Lord nor his patience.
Iblis gathered his helpers and brought the house in which Ayoub (A)’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 Allah replied, disappointing Iblis once again:
“Allah 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, Iblis again called on Allah:
O my Lord, Ayoub (A)’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.”
Allah granted Iblis 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, Iblis afflicted Ayoub (A)’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 Allah’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 Allah 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.
Iblis became desperate. He consulted his helpers but they asked him:
“How is it that your cleverness cannot work against Ayoub (A), yet you succeeded in misleading Adam, the father of man, out of paradise?”
Iblis went to Ayoub (A)’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.”
Iblis 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 Allah to remove this suffering?
Ayoub (A) sighed, and replied softly:
“Iblis 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 Allah. 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, Ayoub (A) turned to Allah, not to complain but to seek His mercy:
“And (remember) Ayyub (Job), when he cried to his Lord: ‘Verily, distress has seized me, and You are the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy.’ So We answered his call, and We removed the distress that was on him, and We restored his family to him (that he had lost) and the like thereof along with them as a mercy from Ourselves and a Reminder for all those who worship Us” (Al-Anbiya 21:83-84).
Almighty Allah further says in the Quran:
“And remember Our slave Ayyub (Job), when he invoked his Lord (saying): ‘Verily Shaitan (Satan) has touched me with distress (by ruining my health) and torment (by ruining my wealth)!’ (Allah said to him): “Strike the ground with your foot: This is (a spring of) water to wash in, and a cool and (refreshing) drink.” And We gave him (back) his family, and along with them the like thereof, as a Mercy from Us, and a Reminder for those who understand (Sad 38:41-43).
Ayoub (A) obeyed Allah’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. Ayoub (A) had regained his health! She embraced him and thanked Allah for His mercy.
Ayoub (A) 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 Allah. Therefore, Allah in His wisdom and mercy, came to the assistance of His faithful servant, and instructed him:
“And take in your hand a bundle of thin grass and strike therewith (your wife), and break not your oath” (Sad 38:44).
Thus Allah the Most Merciful rewards His faithful and grateful servants.
Source: Ibn Kathir
This story should remind us that we should never make our worship and sincerity toward Allah contingent on our perceived blessings. Allah tests us in many ways and we should, therefore, be steadfast in His worship constantly.