Everyone is different. It’s natural for us to mesh with some people better than with others.
When two people who are very different are thrown together in the same space, it sometimes can be draining and hard to tolerate. For both of them. Personality differences in interpersonal relationships can seem almost impossible to deal with.
Whether with friends, siblings, parents, or children – differences in personality types will inevitably arise and will often lead to fights, resentment and tension.
When ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb became the Khalīfah of the Muslim ummah after the death of Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq, this is what he said in his first official address to the public; his first khuṭbah as Khalīfah:
“اللهم إنى شديد فَلَيِّنْى، وإنى ضعيف فقونى، وإنى بخيل فَسَخِنِى»، وتابع بعدها: «إن الله ابتلاكم بى، وابتلانى بكم…”
“O Allāh! I am stern so make me softer; and I am weak so strengthen me; and I am miserly so make me generous.”
He started off by making this du‘ā’ – listing some things he perceived as his personality traits. May Allāh be well pleased with him.
Then he continued:
“O people! Certainly Allāh has tested you with me, and tested me with you…”
The khuṭbah continues, but this opening section deserves deep thought:
“Allāh has tested you with me, and me with you…”
We are all a test for one another. The people around us are a test for us and we are a test for them. They are tested by having to deal with us, and we are tested by having to deal with them.
Allāh says in the Qur’ān:
وَجَعَلْنَا بَعْضَكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ فِتْنَةً أَتَصْبِرُونَ ۗ وَكَانَ رَبُّكَ بَصِيرًا
“And We have made some of you [people] as trial for others – will you have patience? And ever is your Lord, Seeing.” (Sūrat al-Furqān, 20)
In the tafsīr of Ibn Kathīr, we find under the explanation of this āyah:
وفي صحيح مسلم عن عياض بن حمار ، عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” يقول الله : إني مبتليك ، ومبتل بك ” .
It has been narrated in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim from ‘Iyāḍ ibn Ḥimār, that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Allāh has said: ‘I am testing you, and testing others through you.'”
This idea of two-way testing – of people simultaneously being a test for you while you are also test for them – is something truly profound.
In the tafsir of Al-Qurṭubī, we read under the explanation of this same āyah:
قوله تعالى : وجعلنا بعضكم لبعض فتنة أتصبرون أي إن الدنيا دار بلاء وامتحان ، فأراد سبحانه أن يجعل بعض العبيد فتنة لبعض على العموم في جميع الناس مؤمن وكافر ، فالصحيح فتنة للمريض ، والغني فتنة للفقير ، والفقير الصابر فتنة للغني . ومعنى هذا أن كل واحد مختبر بصاحبه ، فالغني ممتحن بالفقير ، عليه أن يواسيه ولا يسخر منه . والفقير ممتحن بالغني ، عليه ألا يحسده ولا يأخذ منه إلا ما أعطاه ، وأن يصبر كل واحد منهما على الحق ; كما قال الضحاك في معنى أتصبرون : أي على الحق . وأصحاب البلايا يقولون : لم لم نعاف ؟ والأعمى يقول : لم لم أجعل كالبصير ؟ وهكذا صاحب كل آفة
This part of the āyah is an indication that this dunyā is a place of tests and trials. Allāh has willed that He make some of His slaves a test for other slaves, in general as a population, as in the believer for the kāfir, and the kāfir for the believer. And the healthy person is a test for the sick, and the rich person is a test for the poor, and the patient poor one is a test for the rich.
And the meaning of this is that each person is tested with his companion: so the rich is tested with the poor – he has to console him and not scorn him. And the poor is tested with the rich; he has to not envy him (ḥasad) and not take from him more than he has given. And each of them must persevere upon the Ḥaqq.
Just as Al-Ḍaḥḥāk has said, regarding the meaning of “Will you be patient?”: i.e., upon the Ḥaqq.
So the people with diseases say, “Why weren’t we made healthy?” And the blind man says, “Why can’t I be like the seeing?” And thus is the case with everyone who has a problem.”
The point of this is, as Allāh tells us in the āyah:
“Will you have ṣabr?”
Will you have ṣabr and remain steadfast? Will you be patient? Will you persevere and endure the issues? Will you refuse to give up and throw in the towel? Will you cling on, even when things get hard? Will you stay upon the Ḥaqq, have faith in Allāh, and not complain about your situation or compare it to someone else’s?
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And in the end, we must give serious consideration to how this āyah finishes:
“And your Lord has always been All-Seeing.”
Allāh sees what you do to others, and what others do to you. Allāh sees what you have that others weren’t given. And what others have that you weren’t given. And how you handled that difference.
May Allāh put barakah in our interpersonal relationships and grant us ṣabr. Āmīn.