Allah has created everything in this world

The Purpose of Suffering in Islam

God tests all people, even God’s chosen messengers, and prophets were put to the test. Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the sufferings given to us. Allah says:

الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ

“[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving.” (Surah Al-Mulk 67:2)

God allows us to enter this world with all its risks, aware that facing and overcoming such perils is essential to our eternal progression. Sufferings occur to teach us that we must adhere to Allah’s natural and moral laws. Let us repent and ask forgiveness and reform our ways. “Could it be a test and a trial for us?” Let us work hard to pass this test.  Allah says:

فَلَمَّا نَسُوا مَا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ أَبْوَابَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا فَرِحُوا بِمَا أُوتُوا أَخَذْنَاهُم بَغْتَةً فَإِذَا هُم مُّبْلِسُونَ

“So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.” (Surah Al-Anam 6:44)

All suffering, all pain, and every tear that has been shed on earth are either a direct or an indirect result of sin. Even natural disasters happen because the world was cursed. This was a natural result of the laws God had made long before He even created the earth. He knew that sinning brought suffering. That’s why He tries so hard to get us not to do it. God did create a world without suffering. This was heaven and earth before the fall. 

Here are some reasons why God Allows Suffering:

  1. Suffering awaken the lost to their need for God
  2. Suffering reminds us that the world is broken
  3. Suffering does justice in response to our sin
  4. Suffering is meaning in the community 
  5. Suffering believers testament of faith
  6. Suffering is real and very personal
  7. Suffering because of the jealousy
  8. Suffering from the wrong choices
  9. Suffering  groans for redemption
  10. Suffering objects away from evil
  11. Suffering a response of freedom
  12. Suffering  a picture in this world
  13. Suffering caused by our actions
  14. Suffering  is a matter of perspective
  15. Suffering caused by an act of nature
  16. Suffering keeps us dependent on God 
  17. Suffering means a powerful God exists
  18. Suffering gives a picture to near to God
  19. Suffering makes the bliss of heaven sweeter 
  20. Suffering is used to train us in righteousness

Allah sometimes allows some people to suffer to test others, how they react to them. When you see a person who is sick, poor and needy, then you are tested by Allah. Allah is there with that suffering person to test your charity and your faith. Those who will pass this test will find an eternal world that is perfect and permanent. Allah says:

الَّذِينَ قَالَ لَهُمُ النَّاسُ إِنَّ النَّاسَ قَدْ جَمَعُوا لَكُمْ فَاخْشَوْهُمْ فَزَادَهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَقَالُوا حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ

“Those who said to them [the people], “Indeed the people (have) certainly gathered against you, so fear them.” But it increased them (in) faith and they said, “Sufficient for us (is) Allah and (He is the) best [the] Disposer of affairs.” (Surah Al Imran 3:173)

People who have not tasted the delight of belief in their hearts will deny that Allah (God) exists by all kinds of reasoning. First of all, Allah did not make this world a permanent world. This is a temporary world and everything here has a time limit. When its time comes it will die, come to an end and finish. Neither the good things of this world are forever, nor the bad things eternal. We are here for a short time and we are being tested. Allah says:

وَالَّذِينَ هَاجَرُوا فِي اللَّهِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا ظُلِمُوا لَنُبَوِّئَنَّهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَلَأَجْرُ الْآخِرَةِ أَكْبَرُ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ

“And those who emigrated in (the way) (of) Allah after [what] they were wronged, surely We will give them posit in the world well, but surely the reward (of) the Hereafter (is) greater, if they know.” (Surah An-Nahl, 16:41)

Hardship and adversity are also decreed by God as a cleansing of our souls for sins we have already committed. It can also be said that God, being the Most Just, would not punish us twice for the same sin. This means that the punishment we are given cleanses us and no further punishment is due. The concept of cleansing the human from sins in this life is a Quranic truth. It can be achieved through the experiencing of hardship and adversity. Allah says:

أَمَّن يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ وَيَجْعَلُكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ الْأَرْضِ أَإِلَٰهٌ مَّعَ اللَّهِ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَذَكَّرُونَ

“Is He [not best] who responds to the desperate one when he calls upon Him and removes evil and makes you inheritors of the earth? Is there a deity with Allah? Little do you remember.” (Surah An-Naml, 27:62)

Suffering through hardship and adversity is also a reminder for people who tend to take things for granted and forget all of God’s blessings. Despite all the blessings given to humans by God, the human being is unappreciative. If you count God’s blessings, you can never encompass them. Adversity and hardship is also very effective reminder for those who are too much absorbed in this worldly life.

Allah Almighty says in The Holy Quran:

  • “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Quran 13:28)
  • “O you who believe! Seek help in patience and the prayer…” (Quran 2:153)
  • “For them is destruction and Allah will make their deeds vain.” (Quran 47:8)
  • “We (Allah) said: O’ fire! Be you coolness and safety for Ibrahim.” (Quran 21:69)
  • “Perhaps Allah may bring victory or a decision according to His Will.” (Quran 5:52)
  • “They are dead, lifeless and they know not when they will be raised.” (Quran 16: 21)
  • “Whenever We sent a prophet to a town, We took up its people in suffering and adversity, so that they might learn humility.” (Surah Al-Araf, 94)

Suffering can also be a test and trial for some people. Allah allows some people to suffer to test their patience and steadfastness. Good people sometimes suffer but their sufferings heal others and bring goodness to their communities. Allah says:

فَلَوْلَا إِذْ جَاءَهُم بَأْسُنَا تَضَرَّعُوا وَلَٰكِن قَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

“Then why not when came to them Our punishment, they humbled themselves? But their hearts became hardened and made fair-seeming to them the Shaitaan what they used to do.” (Surah Al-An’am, 6-43)

Suffering may lead us to put our trust in the Lord and to keep His commandments. It is God’s design to subject people to various tests entailing hardship and adversity to test their faith, their resolve and their trust in God. To pass the test, the believer must maintain his belief that only God can relieve his hardship.

Take the steps that will help us to overcome these challenges:

  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones: Suffering brings faithful believers into a deeper understanding and relationship with Allah. Try to visualize this world in this light.
  • Turn your anxiety and fears into offer Dua: The non-believers face the sufferings with doubts and confusion. Believers face sufferings with dua, prayers, repentance, and good deeds.
  • Don’t give up on your efforts: The rationality of the Islamic faith is not undermined by the existence of evil and suffering. One does not punish or reward someone for a test that they never took.
  • As they say, let go and let God: Suffering allows us to see that we have something worth far more than anything this earth can afford. The non-believers face the sufferings with doubts and confusion.
  • Repent on the mistakes you have made: It is never too late for a true Muslim to repent to Allah, and to shed tears. When we see unrighteousness and cruelty, we can be champions for righteousness and compassion.
  1. Change your expectations: God knows the outcome of the test beforehand, this is to serve as a testament about how strong one’s faith is in the Day of Judgement.

وَمَا تَأْتِيهِم مِّنْ آيَةٍ مِّنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ إِلَّا كَانُوا عَنْهَا مُعْرِضِينَ

“And not comes to them [of] any sign from (the) Signs (of) their Lord but they are from it turning away.” (Surah Al-An’am, 6;4)

God often uses suffering to train and discipline us to grow us into maturity in our faith. We all feel it: the pain of this world, the darkness trying to cloud out the light. You don’t have to go very far to feel overwhelmed by how devastating life can be. Sometimes suf­fering and disaster are used not as a test, but as a warning to sinners or a punishment for transgres­sors. Allah says:

لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful. “(Surah At-Taubah 9:128)

When God created the earth, he intended that it would be an extension of the peace and harmony of heaven. Nevertheless, Satan was allowed access to the earth, and he tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. When Satan offered Eve a choice of following God’s way or the way of sin, God had dearly hoped that she would choose His way. And it became worse and worse as time went on. When a person sinned, he reaped suffering, those around him suffered, the earth itself suffered.