Letters to the Editor

From Allah

Kindly would you clarify this problem? When a calamity befalls us should we think it as a test from Allah or is it because of our evil deeds? How can we know this, because I’ve heard people saying that everything happens according to Allah’s will? If this is so, then there is an ayat in the Qur’an which says whatever calamity befalls you is because of your own evil deeds. Then how do you explain this? Please reply.

Dr. Farheen, via email


This is a commonly faced dilemma in our times. Many a people from among the common humanity, have given up belief in God, unable to resolve this issue. On the Muslim front, the blame can be laid against our failure to understand the deeper aspects of Islamic thoughts, ideas, and beliefs.

It should be obvious that since the whole of mankind is under trial, all that happens on this planet is a matter of test for the mankind. How does mankind react to an event? Are the people grateful or ungrateful, obedient or rebellious, believers or faithless? This is the test to which mankind is subjected: Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

As for the individuals, this first principle should not be forgotten by them when considering the events of the world. They must realize that whatever is happening to them is part of a large scheme. Further, humanity plays the main role, individuals are a small part of it. In other words, events happening to the individuals should be analyzed from the point of view of the whole; that is, whole of the humanity, and whole of the world, living and non-living. Sometimes, an event may not suit a group of individuals, but suits others. E.g., rains. Let us say it does not rain over a group of people. But since the amount of rain coming down by Allah’s command is the same every year, the rain the group was expecting – as usual – was shifted elsewhere by the Lord of the worlds, for reasons best known to Him. This particular group then, should not be trying to find out whether the rain-failure is an act of punishment by their Lord, or a trial. They must realize that it is an act of God, and He is Just.

Of course, elements of trial and punishment remain. The group therefore, should react properly (by remaining faithful) and seek forgiveness through obedience to Allah’s commands. They must accept His judgment. Also, they must seek out His forgiveness for any sins committed by them. In the meanwhile, they must find solutions for the problems faced due to drought.

But most of us overestimate ourselves. Because of materialistic achievements, most people’s ego is high in our times. Therefore, when a calamity strikes one of us, he begins to wonder: “What wrong have I done for Allah to have punished me?” (In other words, “I have done no wrong. But, if I have, then, so many others do the same things. So, why He picked me?”) Or, they tend to ask, “Am I being tried?” (Again, if so, “Why I was chosen for the trial, why not others?”)

The Companions met with calamities without questioning why. When there was starvation in Madinah during `Umar’s time, they did not ask: “What wrong have we committed?” But rather, `Umar ordered food grain to be sent across from Egypt; and `Amr b. al-`Aas wrote back that I shall send you such a large caravan that if the first is in Madinah, the last will be in Egypt.

We can see how the Companions behaved. They did not ask why. They did not blame each other for sins. They did not go to the mosque, pray Salaah al-Haajah seeking Allah to drop down grain from the “ghayb.” But rather, `Umar did the most rational thing: he sought help from Egypt. (Some ignorant people say that `Umar was warned from the “ghayb” that what he did was wrong, he should rather pray to Allah, than ask a governor to send grains. This reflects the philosophy of the ignorant).

When the Prophet arrived at Madinah with many Companions following suit, many fell ill. Abu Bakr was ill, Bilal was ill. `A’isha was so ill that she lost her hair. No one asked, “O Allah. Is this the reward for Hijrah?” Or, “Are the trials that started at Makkah, still being continued?” No one ever thought any such thing. Later, the Prophet prayed for shifting of the fever to other areas. Why? Because, he had no medicine, no medical practitioners, and no money to buy medicine, if prescribed. They had no money for food. So, when it became unbearable, by a people who were proven bearers of afflictions, he prayed to Allah.

But a modern Muslim, who is hardly a Muslim if we follow the standards set by the Companions, asks: “Why?” And, “Why me alone?” This is because of the ego problem. They think too much of themselves.

In short, we must do the most rational things when we are struck with a hardship: re-confirm our faith in Allah and turn to Him in repentance. It may be asked, why should we turn to Him in repentance? The answer is, because we are too full of sins.

Alusi adds, Asma` bint Abi Bakr would place her hand on her head when she experienced headache and say, “This is because of my sins although Allah forgives much.”

As for Prophets and pious men, the tribulations they undergo are for raising their status in the Hereafter (Thanwi and others).

As regards the

وَمَا أَصَابَكُمْ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَنْ كَثِيرٍ

And, whatever affliction strikes you is because of what your own hands have earned,51 although He forgives much. Shura, 30

Alusi adds, Asma` bint Abi Bakr would place her hand on her head when she experienced headache and say, “This is because of my sins although Allah forgives much.”

As for Prophets and pious men, the tribulations they undergo are for raising their status in the Hereafter (Thanwi and others).

Whatever good happens to you (O man), it is from Allah. And whatever evil befalls you, it is from yourself (as a retribution). (4: 80)

Asad paraphrases the Islamic viewpoint in a neat manner: “There is no contradiction between this statement and the preceding one that ”all is from God”. In the world-view of the Qur’an, God is the ultimate source of all happening: consequently, all good that comes to man and all evil that befalls him flows, in the last resort, from God’s will. However, not everything that man regards as “evil fortune” is really, in its final effect, evil – for, “It may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know” (2: 216). Thus, many an apparent “evil” may sometimes be no more than a trial and a God-willed means of spiritual growth through suffering, and need not necessarily be the result of a wrong choice or a wrong deed on the part of the person thus afflicted. It is, therefore, obvious that the “evil” or “evil fortune” of which this verse speaks has restricted connotation, inasmuch as it refers to evil in the moral sense of the word: that is to say, to suffering resulting from the actions or the behavior of the person concerned, and this in accordance with the natural law of cause and effect which God has decreed for all His creations, and which the Qur’an describes as “the way of God” (sunnat Allah). For all such suffering man has only himself to blame, since “God does not wrong anyone by as much as an atom’s weight” (4: 40).”

As for the misfortunes that befall a virtuous man, they are meant to purify him, and hence they are no misfortunes at all (Thanwi).

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