In our lives and in the world, many ’negative’ things happen (and you’ll see in a moment why the word negative is in quote marks). To us, to the people around us, to everyone. They sometimes lead us to question:
Why me? Why does Allah allow suffering? Why do natural disasters happen? Why is there no world peace? If God was so loving and caring, why would He allow such bad things to happen to His own creation?
And without a doubt, every single one of us has, at some point, come across at least one of these questions in our life. But the truth is, there’s more than one answer.
1. Why we are here.
Firstly, we need to remind ourselves of a fundamental point we forget quite often. In the holy Quran, the verse: ‘[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed, and He is the Exalted, the Forgiving.’ (67:2) suggests that Allah has created us in order to see what our actions are. To assess our intentions. To see how we deal with difficult situations, not just easy ones. The real test lies in difficulties.
Allow me to give you multiple choice exams as an example. Some of you may know that each question has three, maybe four wrong answers but only one correct. Is it logically acceptable for a student to go to the teacher and ask why there are wrong answers? No – the teacher will, in some way, respond with that it is the whole point of the test – to see if you know your answers well. Likewise, we need to understand that the suffering we witness in life is the whole point: to see whether or not we will act in the recommended ways – patience and prayer. What would be the point in creating a Heaven and Hell if everyone always did the best actions and never sinned?
If you have a lawn but you neglect it, unwanted weeds will grow on it. The more it is neglected, the more weeds grow. If one day you see the entire area covered with weeds, you will then realise how impossible it is to regrow without completely uprooting everything in it.
Think of your heart as your own internal lawn such that when you sin, a weed or dead spot is created in it. Imam Ali (as) teaches us that the abundance of sins causes hearts to harden – and on that basis, problems and trials are the way through which Allah purifies our hearts.
2. Allah is disciplining us.
We’re human, and we usually take health, wealth, family and almost every other blessing for granted.
When do we most appreciate money? When we’re broke.
When do we most appreciate health? When we’re ill.
When do we most appreciate our loved ones? When they’re away or dead.
By taking something away every now and then, Allah allows us to be thankful and grateful for his blessings.
3. A preparation for the afterlife.
Picture this: if someone randomly goes up to a hospital manager and asks “if you’re so generous and care about people, why don’t you hire me as a surgeon?” The most obvious answer would be that they cannot hire just anyone who isn’t qualified to be a surgeon.
The same goes to the question: ‘if God is so generous, why doesn’t He just put us all in heaven?’ Through problems, He prepares us. He makes us stronger. He makes us deserving of Heaven.
Perspective, perspective, perspective.
When you are facing difficult times, worry not. Rasulullah (sawas) himself says: “the likeness of a believer is of a scale. As his faith grows, his trials grow.” So if there’s anything you really should be worried about, it’s having a problem-free life.
At the end of the day, you will come to realise that being tried in life is in fact the best blessing in life.
Suffering forms the human soul the same way gold is formed by high pressure and temperature. The process? Undoubtedly painful. The end result? I’ll leave you to answer that.