O you who cries out and laments! If you want to join this luminous caravan, offer thanks in patience. For if you complain, they will not accept you. You will fall into the pits of the people of misguidance, and travel a dark road.
Yes, there are some illnesses which if they lead to death, are a sort of martyrdom; they result in a similar degree of sainthood. For example, people become martyrs who die from the illnesses accompanying childbirth1 and pains of the abdomen, and by drowning, burning, and plague. There are also many blessed illnesses which gain the degree of sainthood for those who die from them. Moreover, since illness lessens love of the world and attachment to it, it lightens parting from the world through death, which for the worldly is extremely grievous and painful, and it sometimes even makes it desirable.
O sick person who complains at his distress! Illness prompts respect and compassion, which are most important and good in human social life. For it saves man from self-sufficiency, which drives him to unsociableness and unkindness. For according to the meaning of the verse,
Indeed man transgresses all bounds * In that he looks upon himself as self-sufficient,(96:6-7)
an evil-commanding soul which feels self-sufficient due to good health and well-being, does not feel respect towards his brothers in many instances, who are deserving of it. And he does not feel compassion towards the sick and those smitten by disaster, although they deserve kindness and pity. Whenever he is ill, he understands his own powerlessness and want and he has respect towards his brothers who are worthy of it. He feels respect towards his believing brothers who visit him or assist him. He feels human kindness, which arises from fellow-feeling, and compassion for those struck by disaster, a most important Islamic characteristic. And comparing them to himself, he pities them in the true meaning of the word and feels compassion for them. He does what he can to help them, and at the very least prays for them and goes to visit them to ask them how they are, which is Sunna according to the Shari‘a, and thus earns reward.
The period this martyrdom may be won through illness is around the forty days of ‘lying-in.’