How do you know if a calamity is a trial or a punishment?
Answered by Shaikh Sālih Ibn Fawzān Al-Fawzān
The Questioner asks: How does a servant know if that which Allāh has decreed to befall him is a punishment or a test and an exam from Allāh?
Sheikh Sālih Al-Fawzān replied: “He looks to himself and holds himself to account. If he has sins and evil deeds, then it is a punishment, and a warning from Allāh so that he may make tawbah.
And if it is the case that he does not have any sins — although there is nobody who is free from sins except if Allāh wills. However, if it is decreed that he has no sin, then it may be an elevation of his rank. It is possible that it is written for a person that he has a rank in Paradise that he cannot attain by way of his actions alone. So Allāh trials him with calamities, so that Allāh may by way of them elevate his station with Himself (subhānahū wa ta’ālā).
Verily Allāh is the All-Wise and All-Knowing! He does not restrict a servant at all and he does not vengefully decree things in order to harm a person. Rather he decrees them for the benefit of the believer, forever and always.
As for the hypocrite and the disbeliever then Allāh decrees them as a punishment upon them.
And for this reason, Allāh said when the Incident of Uhud took place, and there occurred within the Muslims that which occurred: ‘So that Allāh may test (or purify) the believers (from sins), and destroy the disbelievers.’
This is wisdom from Allāh (subhānahū wa ta’ālā). So the calamities are for the believers a purification, and for the Disbeliever they are punishment and destruction. In this there is no doubt.
So the Muslim holds himself to account, and he knows: ‘Nothing befalls you of calamity except due to that which your own hands have earned. And [Allāh] pardons much.’”
Translation Date: 29 December 2021
By Abdullāh ibn Abdul-Wāhid Alam