Between Trial and Punishment
Almighty Allah makes it clear in the Qur’an that good and evil are part of life’s nature; He says : ” … We shall make a trial of you with evil and with good. And to Us you will be returned.” (21: 35) Trials are sometimes to punish those who violate Allah’s laws. But this is not always the case. Other times, trials are to test our faith in Allah and hence be given high ranks in Paradise.
In this sense, a Muslim should always keep in mind that life is full of its ups and downs, and strives hard to battle against life’s vicissitudes. It should be borne in mind that whatever befalls man in life is a form of test and trial; so it behoves every true Muslim to remain patient at times of afflictions and trials, and this will earn him great reward, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “Great is the state of a believer, for he is winner at any rate. If he is given a blessing and thus shows gratitude, it is good for him. If he is struck with an affliction and then shows patience, it is good for him.”
Almighty Allah tests His servants with good and bad things, with adversity and prosperity. These tests may be a means to give them reward and high ranks in Paradise. This happened in case of many Messengers and Prophets and many righteous servants of Allah. Our Prophet (peace be upon him), is reported as saying: “The people most subject to afflictions are the Prophets, then come the righteous and after them come the best people – all according to his goodness.” Sometimes, afflictions may be a result of one’s sins and his keeping away from the way of Allah. With this meaning comes the verse that reads: “And Whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is what your hands have earned. And He pardons much.” (42: 30)
By and large, being afflicted with a misfortune may be a means of giving high ranks in Paradise as in the case of Prophets, Messengers and righteous men. It may also be a means of removing sins and expiating mistakes. Stressing this meaning, our Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “Whatever befalls a Muslim of sorrow, grief, exhaustion, fatigue or harm, Allah will forgive him his sins for that. This is true even for a thorn that pricks his foot.” He (peace be upon him) is also reported as saying: “He whom Allah wants to bless in the Hereafter, He afflicts him with tribulations.” Al-Tirmidhi also quotes the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying: “When Allah wants to bless someone, he hastens His punishments for him in this world. If He wants otherwise with a person, He defers the punishment for him till the afterlife.”
In the light of the above mentioned facts, it’s clear, that a great reward is in store for observing patience and perseverance at times of afflictions, which befall men as part of the nature of life, and in a form of test through which Allah distinguishes His true servants from all and sundry.