The tests from Allah [s.w.t.] comes in various forms. At times, we are tested with challenges and difficulties - and the antidote is to bear them with beautiful patience. At other times, we are tested with goodness such as wealth, intelligence or success - and the believer increases his gratitude.
It has been popularly said that two things define you: your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything. Sayyidina 'Uthman ibn 'Affan [r.a.] is a shining example of success in the face of both tests. He has a very defining history but today we shall limit the discussion to one aspect of his personality through his acceptance speech upon being appointed as the 3rd Caliph of Islam. He said:
“You are in a transient realm which you will soon leave, but now you have some of your life left, so hasten before death comes to do the best you can, for death may come to you at any time, morning or evening. This world is very deceiving, so let not this present life deceive you, and let not the chief deceiver (Syaitan) deceive you about Allah - "O mankind! Certainly the promise of Allah is true. Let not this present life deceive you, nor let the Chief Deceiver deceive you about Allah." [Fatir 35:3]
This maiden speech as Caliph not only defined his caliphate-ship, but the constant thought of his transient nature defines his personality as well. He was generous, unassuming and a kind man. He was known for his humility, modesty, and piety. Sayyidina Uthman [r.a.] would often spend the nights in prayer and he was known to fast often, sometimes on alternate days. In spite of his wealth, he lived simply and would often sleep wrapped in a blanket on the sands of the mosque.
Again, with constant thoughts of death, he wisely invested in the Hereafter. When the Beloved Prophet [s.a.w.] came to Madinah and built a mosque, Sayyidina Uthman [r.a.] purchased a house nearby so the mosque could be expanded to accommodate the growing Muslim community. During Tabuk, he provided the Muslims with 950 camels, 100 horses, 200 ounces of gold and 1,000 dinars to help finance the expedition! Due to this, the Prophet [s.a.w.] declared: "From this day on, nothing will harm 'Uthman regardless of what he does." [at-Tirmidhi] When the Muslim community was poor, weak and struggling in Madinah during its early years and had to pay exorbitant prices for water from a well, he bought the well for the free use of the people.
However in his later life, he was tested with a great challenge. When rebels besieged him in his own house, he was denied any access to the water which he paid and to the mosque which he built. Yet, he faced them with great courage, firm resolve and fortitude.
What are our learning points from this short narration?
1- Just like Sayyidina Uthman [r.a.], we should always put things in proper perspective: that this life is temporary and our permanent life is in the Hereafter. So, when we are besotted with disappointments in life, take respite in our better future in Jannah.
2- Let that perspective direct the way we behave and act in this life. Sayyidina Uthman [r.a.] invested much of his life, energy, wealth, blood and sweat both for this life and for the Hereafter. That balanced outlook in life ensures success for him.
3- Remain real, simple and humble. Despite coming from an affluent family, his concern was only on his state of piety: obedience to Allah [s.w.t.] and to the Prophet [s.a.w.]. The rest of life's offerings, be it wealth, status or power are only life's illusions. Do not be deceived by these temporary deceptions.
4- Put your expectations and attachments to The One. If all that you are and all that you do are directed only to The Almighty, and you are not dependent on anyone's validation or approval, then you have set yourself for zero disappointments in this life or the next. Allah [s.w.t.] will never betray your trust in Him.
So, in this blessed month of Ramadhan, let us take inspiration from Sayyidina Uthman [r.a.] and start devoting more time in preparing for our Hereafter. Increase your devotions through knowledge, through deeds and through being of benefit to mankind.
Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. You are the sum values of your daily struggles and successes.