“…So, one may wonder how to distinguish whether a person is being simply tested by Allah Ta’ala or being punished for one’s sins…”
As part of our Islamic faith, we believe that all matters are in the hands of Allah Ta’ala. However, for some of us our faith can get shaken during times of trials and hardships. It is during those times though that we should remind ourselves that a believer’s position and rank is raised in front of Allah Ta’ala and that such a hardship may very well be a sign of Allah’s love for the believer. This can help us in maintaining and even strengthening our faith.
Great Rewards Associated with Great Calamities
It was narrated from Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:
“ Great reward comes with great trials. When Allah loves a people, He tests them, and whoever accepts it attains His pleasure, whereas whoever shows discontent with it incurs His wrath.” Narrated and classed as hasan by at-Tirmidhi (2396)
In this hadith, we find that the prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasallam) has provided a message of relief for those who endure difficulties with patience. He also associated greatness of difficulties and calamities with higher rewards. So, enduring through lighter problems and challenges has a smaller reward than enduring greater difficulties and challenges. Given that this life has its share of challenges and difficulties for all, Allah Ta’ala has provided an opportunity of high rewards for those who endure these challenges with patience rather than with complaints and ingratitude. And for those who show displeasure and discontent with Allah’s decree end up in a lose-lose situation because not only they have to live through their current suffering but also incur Allah’s wrath for their displeasure and discontent with His decree.
We should also realize that our patience when facing difficulties raises our status in front of Allah, and may lead to the forgiveness of our sins. He says in the Quran:
“… Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning ” Quran (Surah Az-Zumar:10)”
The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:
“ Nothing befalls a believer, a (prick of a) thorn or more than that, but Allah will raise him one degree in status thereby, or erase a bad deed .” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5641) and Muslim (2573).
The Messenger (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasallam) said in a well known hadith the following:
“ How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Narrated by Muslim, 2999).
We should also realize that when Allah Ta’ala puts His steadfast believers through trials and tribulations, that is a sign of His love for them. It was narrated that Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“If Allah wills good for His slave, He hastens his punishment in this world, and if He wills bad for His slave, He withholds from him (the punishment for) his sin, until He requites him for it on the Day of Resurrection.” Narrated and classed as hasan by at-Tirmidhi (2396)
Al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “ Do not resent the calamities that come and the disasters that occur, for perhaps in something that you dislike will be your salvation, and perhaps in something that you prefer will be your doom.”
Al-Fadl ibn Sahl said: “ There is a blessing in calamity that the wise man should not ignore, for it erases sins, gives one the opportunity to attain the reward for patience, dispels negligence, reminds one of blessings at the time of health, calls one to repent and encourages one to give charity.”
Calamities and Problems – Trials or Punishment?
We also know that some who face difficulties are punished for their sins. So, one may wonder how to distinguish whether a person is being simply tested by Allah Ta’ala or being punished for one’s sins. In this context, scholars have said that “(as Allah knows a person beforehand), the sign of calamity by way of punishment shows as signs of impatience and ingratitude in a person when a calamity befalls, and the sign of calamity by way of expiation and erasing of sins shows as contentment, acceptance, and patience in accepting the will of Allah Ta’ala until relief comes.”
Furthermore, if the one who is affected shows displeasure and panic, then it cannot be thought that his calamity is an honor from Allah Ta’ala to raise him in status, because Allah Ta’ala, may He be glorified, knew that he would not be patient and accept it with contentment. So in this case it is most likely that it is a requital and punishment
Also, if the Muslim is a devoted worshipper, obedient and righteous, and there is nothing between him and Allah but true ‘uboodiyyah (servitude), gratitude, praise, repentance and submission to Him, may He be glorified, then it is most likely that this calamity is a kind of honor and raising in status, and people are the witnesses of Allah Ta’ala on earth. If they know him to be righteous, then they may give him the glad tidings of raised status before Allah Ta’ala if he is patient in bearing the calamity. (source: islamqa.info)
Regarding difficulties, in the following verse Allah Ta’ala compares the situation of the one who is steadfast in his faith and facing difficulties with those who are evil doers and are in a similar situation:
“… if you are suffering (hardships) then surely, they (too) are suffering (hardships) as you are suffering, but you have a hope from Allah (for the reward) that for which they hope not; and Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise” Quran (Surah An-Nisa:104).
So, a true believer can face his difficulties with a positive state of mind hoping for rewards from Allah Ta’ala and such an attitude can provide true relief and happiness. Besides, if Allah lifts this calamity from the believer and saves him from the torment, then that can double the reward and happiness. Allah Ta’ala says in the Quran:
“… and give glad tidings to As-Sabirun (the patient).”
Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return. ”
They are those on whom are the Salawat (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones. Quran (Surah Al-Baqara:155-157)
Source : http://jamiat.org.za