Reward and Punishment

قال الله عز وجل: { وَمَا أَصَابَكُمْ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَنْ كَثِيرٍ} سورة الشورى 30.

Allah the Exalted says: { And whatever misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned, but Allah pardons much} (Surah 42, verse 30).

وعن بريدة الأسلمي رضي الله عنه قال: سمعتُ رسولَ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم يقولُ: « ما أصابَ رجلًا من المسلمين نكبةٌ فما فوقها- حتى ذكر الشوكة- إلا لإحدى خصلتين: إلا ليغفرَ الله من الذنوبِ ذنبًا لم يكن ليغفرَ الله له إلا بمثل ذلك، أو يبلغَ به من الكرامة كرامةً لم يكن يبلغها إلا بمثل ذلك».  رواه ابن أبي الدنيا والبيهقي.

Narrated Burayda Al-Aslami, may Allah be pleased with him: “I heard the Prophet ﷺ say: ‘Whatsoever small misfortune or greater than it–he even mentioned a thorn–befalls a Muslim for two reasons: Either so that Allah forgives a sin that He would have not forgiven except for that, or to make him attain honor that he would not have attained except for that.’ ”  Related by Ibn Abi Ad-Dunya and Al-Bayhaqi.


In the Qur’an, Allah the Exalted states that He created this life to test people’s belief and disbelief, obedience and disobedience, and righteousness and evil. Part of the test is that this worldly  life (dunya) is never perfect: beside its happiness there is sadness; beside its richness there is poverty; beside its fortunes there are misfortunes, and beside its pleasures there is adversity. Then the human is tested in how he acts in every situation–the levels of his faith, piety, patience, and devotion to God are measured and recorded.  Based on the actions of the human and the Perfect Judgment of God, the person is then either rewarded with Paradise or punished with Hell on the Day of Judgment.

This worldly life is not a lawless place where man can live with no rule or code; rather, in every era, Allah the Exalted sent messengers with Divine instructions to lead mankind to guidance and to the path of eternal bliss in the Hereafter.  The Qur’an mentions many prophets and their Divine messages.  We read about the story of Adam, whom Allah created with His Own Exalted Hand from mud and blew the soul into him to bring life to him. We read about the first instruction to humans in the form of staying away from the forbidden tree.

Due to human nature being prone to slips and falls, Prophet Adam was tempted by Satan and ate from the tree, and was then moved from Paradise to the earth. But just as human nature is prone to slips and falls, it is also inclined to righteousness and repentance. Indeed, just as there is a dark side to the soul, there is a countering good side as well. Thus, Prophet Adam spent forty days on earth in prostration, crying in repentance to God. Allah the Most Merciful bestowed His mercy and forgiveness upon Adam and Eve and instructed them to act righteously on earth. Ever since, every nation and generation has received a Messenger and an accompanying Divine book with the instructions and commandments of God. There were many prophets who came as warners to their people, including Prophet Noah, Prophet Moses, Prophet Isa (Jesus), Prophet Abraham, Prophet David, Prophet Solomon, and many others. The last Prophet and Messenger of Allah is Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the seal of prophets who has been sent to humankind at large until the end of time.

If we read about previous nations, we see that some nations followed the guidance their prophets brought them from God and gained eternal bliss, while others refused to obey and were punished both in this life and the Hereafter. In the Qur’an we read some of the stories of the people who were punished, like the story of people of Noah who were destroyed with the Great Flood, the story of the people of Thamud who were annihilated with the Piercing Cry, the story of the people of Aad who were destroyed with the Violent Wind, the story of Pharaoh who was drowned, and many others.

Allah the Exalted mentioned the stories of the nations before us in Qur’an so that we take heed and act righteously. These true stories are great lessons for us, and forewarn us of the consequences of our actions. Indeed, we see the effects of our actions in this life before the Hereafter.  In the above verse, Allah the Exalted states that a lot of corruption and evil we see on earth is a direct consequence of disobedience to God.  These consequences can appear in the form of misfortunes and adversity (though we should realize that misfortunes can also be a test for the righteous).  Therefore, we are instructed to repent to Allah and seek His forgiveness frequently during the day and night, but more so during times of difficulty and adversity.  Allah the Exalted says:

}وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَى أُمَمٍ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ فَأَخَذْنَاهُمْ بِالْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَضَرَّعُونَ * فَلَوْلَا إِذْ جَاءَهُمْ بَأْسُنَا تَضَرَّعُوا وَلَكِنْ قَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ{

{Verily, We sent (Messengers) to many nations before you (O Prophet Muhammad). And We seized them with poverty and hardship so that they may believe with humility.

Then why, when Our Torment reached them, did they not believe with humility? Instead, their hearts became hardened, and Satan made attractive to them that which they were doing} (Surah 6, verse 42-43).

Thus, Allah the Exalted instructs us to turn back to Him during time of difficulty and adversity, and to seek His forgiveness and mercy with greater degree of humility and pleading.  But that must be accompanied by repentance, true repentance that dictates leaving the sin or sins that may have led to these consequences. When struck with a calamity or difficulty, the Muslim is instructed to seek forgiveness and mercy from Allah, to repent of sins, and then to seek His help and aid.

The time of difficulty is a time of reflection, a time of looking back at our actions, a time of carefully considering which rules of Allah we aren’t following.

As the verse above states, sometimes adversity and difficulty are just a reminder for the Muslim to abandon sins and repent to Allah. But when the human continues to act as before and tries to ignore the consequences of bad actions and finds no link between the two, then the situation may worsen–we seek refuge with Allah.  On the other hand, when the Muslim takes heed and starts by purifying his own self and then seeks Allah’s help, Allah will find him a way out of every difficulty and provide him from whence he doesn’t expect, a promise by Allah:

{And whoever fears Allah (by following His Commands and staying away from sins), He will make for him a way out (of difficulty).  And He will provide for him from where he does not expect} (Surah 65, verses 2-3).

In conclusion, we see a common habit of dissociating actions from their consequences. The Prophet ﷺ  mentioned in the hadith above that adversity and difficulty could be a direct result of some sin the Muslim is committing or it could be an elevating test for the pious person. And the above verses make it abundantly clear that happiness and calamity in both worlds have a direct link to human action. Therefore, in all difficulties, the Muslim is instructed to reflect upon his actions, repent of his sins, seek the forgiveness and mercy of Allah, and then seek help and aid from Allah, the Most Merciful and Most Forgiving.  And Allah knows best.

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