Difference Between Punishments And Trials
Islamic Rulings -
Living Shariah Verdicts
Islamic Questions & Answers
mentions in the Quran that when an evil befalls us it
is due to what our own hands have earned. Also our
beloved Messenger, Muhammad (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him) said in a hadeeth (report) that the
most tried are the Prophets, then those in piety after
those. So therefore in our day to day life when things
go wrong in our lives, how do we decide whether it is
due to our sinfulness or that Allah loves us and
therefore sends a trial upon us?
Praise be to Allah.
Punishments are what happen to people in return for
their evil deeds. Trials are tests which are sent to
try people, and people may be tested by good things or
Concerning punishments, Allah says (interpretation of
"Whatever of good reaches you, is from Allah, but
whatever of evil befalls you, is from yourself…"
Concerning the phrase "is from yourself", Qatadah
said: "[It means] the punishment is for you, O son of
Adam, because of your sin." Abu Salih said that
"whatever of evil befalls you, is from yourself" means
"because of your sin, and I [Allah] am the One Who
decreed it for you." (Tafseer Ibn Katheer).
Allah also says (interpretation of the meaning): "And
whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of
what your hands have earned. And He pardons much."
Ibn Katheer, may Allah have mercy on him, said: "[It
means] whatever misfortune happens to you, O people,
is because of evil deeds that you have already done,
and 'He pardons much' refers to evil deeds – He does
not punish you for them but He pardons them. 'And if
Allah were to punish men for that which they earned,
he would not leave a moving (living) creature on the
surface of the earth…' [Fatir 35:45 – interpretation
of the meaning]."
Concerning trials, the Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him) said: "If Allah loves a people, He
tries them, and whoever has patience will have
patience, and whoever is anxious will be anxious."
(Reported by al-Imam Ahmad; Saheeh al-Jami', 1706).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
also said: "The extent of the reward will be in
accordance with the extent of the trial. If Allah
loves a people, He tries them, and whoever is content
will have contentment, and whoever is angry will have
anger." (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 2320; Saheeh al-Jami',
The following outlines how one may tell whether a
given event is a punishment or a trial:
If the misfortune results from doing an act of
obedience to Allah, such as being wounded in jihad, or
losing money when migrating for the sake of Allah, or
losing a job because of becoming a Muslim or
increasing one's commitment to Islam, then this is a
trial. Whoever bears it with patience will be
rewarded, but if one reacts angrily then one will earn
the wrath of Allah. If the misfortune results from
sin, such as sexually-transmitted diseases or
illnesses caused by drinking alcohol and taking drugs,
and so on, then this is the kind of punishment that
comes in this world (as opposed to being deferred
until the Hereafter). If the misfortune is connected
neither to a good deed nor a sin – such as other kinds
of diseases and sicknesses, losing a child, or failing
in business – then it depends on the person's
situation. If he is good and devout, it is a trial,
and if he is sinful, it is a punishment.
The misfortune may be a punishment to atone for sins,
or it may be a trial aimed at raising a person's
status and increasing his hasanat (good deeds/rewards)
– this may be determined by whether a person is
obedient or disobedient. A person should not praise
himself, rather he should criticize himself for his
shortcomings and strive to attain perfection. He will
benefit from misfortunes in any case, if he has
patience and hopes for reward.
And Allah knows best.
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid