Suffering is not necessarily a punishment for a sin one has committed, but it may be a test and trial for some people. Allah allows some people to suffer in order to test their patience and steadfastness. Even Allah’s Prophets and Messengers were made to suffer. Moreover, Allah sometimes allows some people to suffer to test others, how they react to them. Whenever we encounter suffering, we should ask ourselves, “Have we broken any law of Allah? Is the cause of the problem our own misdeeds?” In that case, we should correct the situation. “Could it be a punishment?” Let us repent and ask forgiveness and reform our ways. “Could it be a test and trial for us?” Let us work hard to pass this test. Believers face sufferings with prayers, patience, repentance and good deeds.
In this regard, Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, states: Not every sickness or handicap is necessarily a punishment; rather it may be a test, by which Allah will expiate bad deeds or raise their status in Paradise if they bear this trial with patience. Allah says: (Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning.) (Az-Zumar 39:10)
For us Muslims, life does not end when we die; rather, we believe that beyond death there is Paradise and Hell, in which are true life. Those who did good will find the reward for their good deeds waiting for them with Allah, and those who did evil will find the punishment for their evil deeds waiting for them. Good and evil cannot be equal, and the patience of the one who was tested and bore it with patience will not be wasted with Allah. Indeed, those who were not tested in this world may wish that they had suffered similar calamities when they see the high status attained by those who bore calamities with patience. There is a great deal of evidence to this effect in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Examples of this are as follows: Allah says, (And certainly, we shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient.) (Al-Baqarah 2:155)
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for all of it is good, and that applies to no one except the believer. If something good happens to him he gives thanks, and that is good for him, and if something bad befalls him he bears it with patience, and that is good for him.” (Reported by Muslim)
From this, it should be clear to that the calamities that befall those who seem to us to be innocent— and indeed befall all people —are not necessarily a punishment. Rather they may be a mercy from Allah, but our minds and reason are imperfect and are often unable to understand the wisdom of Allah in such matters. Either we believe that Allah is more just than us, and wiser, and more merciful towards His creation, so we submit to Him and accept His will while also acknowledging our inability to understand the true nature of our own selves.
Or we boast of our imperfect reason and feel proud of our weak selves and insist on calling Allah to account and objecting to His Decree. But such thoughts can never cross the mind of anyone who believes in the existence of a wise Lord, Creator and Sovereign Who is perfect in all ways. If we do that, then we have exposed ourselves to the wrath and vengeance of Allah, but nothing can ever harm Allah. Allah draws attention to this when He says, (He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they will be questioned.) (Al-Anbiya’ 21:23)
A sign of man’s weakness and short-sightedness is that he focuses on the calamities without paying any attention to the benefits they may bring, and not looking at other blessings that he enjoys and sees around him. For Allah has blessed all people in ways that do not compare with the calamities that may befall them. If there was a man who does a lot of good but occasionally does not do good, then forgetting the good things that he does would be regarded as ingratitude and denial. So how about when this is our attitude towards Allah, to Whom belong the highest attributes, and all of Whose dealings with His creation are good and cannot be bad in any way?
Moreover, the Prophets and Messengers are the most beloved of creation to Allah, yet despite that, they were the most severely tested of mankind and suffered the most calamities. Why? It was not a punishment for them, and it was not because of their insignificance before their Lord. Rather it is because Allah loves them and has stored for them a perfect reward that they will enjoy in Paradise, and He decreed that these calamities should befall them so that He might raise them in status. He does whatever He wills, however He wills, whenever He wills; none can put back His judgment, none can repel His command, and He is All-Wise, All-Knowing. And Allah is Most High, Most Knowledgeable and Most Wise.