Are Worldly Troubles a Form of Mercy or Punishment?

From some narrations of aḥādīth we learn that the troubles and calamities of this world are a mercy of Allah and immensely virtuous.We find this in the aḥadīth where it is mentioned that Allah inflicts the Ambiya with the most calmities followed by the pious, close servants of Allah. Yet, in contrast we learn from many verses of the Qur’an and various aḥādīth that calamities and misfortunes are in fact the consequences and effects of our misdeeds. And from some we learn that they are an implication of the wrath of Allah. As a result, it isn’t quite clear whether an individual faced with a difficulty is actually a recipient of the wrath of Allah or a fortunate beneficiary of His mercy?

Ḥaḍrat Shaykh ʿAbd-ul-Qādir Jīlanī has given an amazing solution for this matter which ʿAllāmah Ibn Jawzī has written in his book Ṣafwat-us-Ṣafwah:

“Calamities and misfortunes are of three types. In some cases they are the (manifestation of the) wrath and anger of Allah. At times, they are expiation for sins or for elevation in ranks. The way to determine one from the other is that if the one inflicted with troubles and calamities is angered by the decree of Allah, it is a sign that this calamity is a punishment and chastisement from Allah. If this is not the case, but rather he endures the hardship with patience, it is expiation for his sins. If with patience, he also displays contentment and satisfaction, it is an indication of elevation in rank.”

We learn from this that the hardships and troubles encountered by the Ambiyā and Awliyā (friends of Allah) are from the third category. The general Muslims come under the second category and the disbelievers in the first. May Allah safeguard us from this. Āmīn.

(Adapted from ʿIlmī Kashkowl by Muftī Muḥammad Shafīʿ, Pg: 106)


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