"And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirun (the patient). Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: "Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return." They are those on whom are the Salawat (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones." [Noble Quran 2:155-157]
Every Believer Will Be Tested
It is clear that this life is filled with calamites, tests and trials. Every believer will be subjected to many of these calamities, tests and trials. Sometimes these trials are manifested in himself, sometimes in his wealth, and sometimes with his beloved ones. These preordainments are from the One who is All-Wise and they touch the believer in various ways and manners. If a believer does not have the correct understanding regarding the manner of dealing with trials and tribulations he may err seriously. This is especially true when facing difficult and burdensome calamities.
Many people are ignorant of the wisdom behind facing trials and tests. They may not understand that Allah does not intend to punish us through tests; rather Allah creates an opportunity to earn His Mercy. The believer should look at the matter of Ibtilaa' (being put to tests) and trials through the textual proofs from the Quran and the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), in order to stand firmly grounded regarding these matters.
Yes, it is a test and a trial. Every day we are tested in this life.
Our wealth is a test; the spouse is a test; the children are tests; poverty, wealth, and richness are tests and health and illness are tests. We are tested in everything which we possess and encounter in this life and until we meet Allah the Most High. Allah says:
"Everyone is going to taste death, and We shall make a trial of you with evil and with good. And to Us you will be returned." [Noble Quran 21:35]
And Allah said: "Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: "We believe," and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allah knows all that before putting them to test)." [Noble Quran 29:2-3]
Therefore both the healthy and the ill are tested. The one who was healthy did not know until he was touched by a trial, and the one who was ill did not feel that he was being tested until he was cured. No one is safe from this due to his prestige or his status. This does not prevent the matter of testing as we remember from the authentic Hadith, where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"The most intense in terms of testing are the prophets and then the like and then the like." [Bukhari]
Amongst us there is no one who possesses the ability to reject tests. The faithful, patient, persevering individuals, who anticipate their reward from Allah are the successful ones amongst the tested. Also from amongst us are those who are tested but they fail due to their weak faith and their objection to Allah; we seek refuge in Allah from such a state.
May Allah's Mercy be upon Al-Fudhayl bin 'Iyadh who said,
"As long as the people are in a state of good welfare, once tested, they will return to their realities. The believer will go to his faith and the hypocrite will go to his hypocrisy."
Everything Has Been Preordained
Allah preordained everything for us including our sustenance and our life spans. Allah says:
"...It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in this world..." [Noble Quran 43:32]
Our sustenance and livelihood are preordained with clear and certain measures. Illness is preordained, one's welfare is preordained; everything in this life is preordained. So a person should accept what Allah has preordained for him and should not hate, dislike or feel discomfort regarding the preordainments of the Almighty and All-Wise. On understanding that a certain test is a part of the decree of Allah, one should submit his affair to Allah and know that whatever befalls him could not have missed him and whatever misses him could not have befallen him.
How The Believer Deals With Tests & Trials
Whosoever wants their life be monotonic (always according to his wishes and without trials), it is as if he wants the pre-decree of Allah to be in accordance with his desires. This is wishful thinking. No matter what pre-ordinance or test occurs it a matter that is good for the believer. However, this is conditional upon the believer's gratefulness to Allah for His favors and his being patient during times of trial.
It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Amazing is the affair of the believer. His affair for him is all good, and this is for none except the believer. If he is touched by something good and he gives thanks, then it is good for him. And if he is touched by a calamity or hardship and he is patient then this is good for him." [Sahih Muslim]
Allah said: "...it may be that you dislike a thing through which Allah brings a great deal of good." [Noble Quran 4:19]
"...and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know." [Noble Quran 2:216]
One should recognize that Allah is the One who tests him and also the One who bestows favors upon him. He should also know that not all that he dislikes is to be disliked in reality, and likewise, not everything which he desires is in reality beneficial for him. "Allah knows and you do not know".
Some of the Salaf said:
"If you are afflicted by a calamity and you are a patient, then your calamity is one. But if you are not patient, then your calamity is doubled - losing the reward and losing the beloved one, the Hereafter (Paradise)."
This saying of some of the Salaf is in relation to what Allah Almighty says:
"And among mankind is he who worships Allah as it were upon the edge (i.e. in doubt): if good befalls him, he is content therewith; but if a trial befalls him he turns back on his face (i.e. reverts to disbelief after embracing Islam). He loses both this world and the Hereafter. That is the evident loss." [Noble Quran 22:11]
The Reward Associated With Tests & Trials
Certainly being tested is a station for a while (i.e. it is temporary). It erases the sins just as the leaves fall from a tree, as mentioned in the Ahadith by Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri and Abu Hurairah that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that." [Bukhaari and Muslim]
Abu Hurairah also narrated that the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials." [Bukhaari]
In a Hadith narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar he said, "I visited the Prophet during his ailments and he was suffering from a high fever. I said, "You have a high fever. Is it because you will have a double reward for it?" He said, "Yes, for no Muslim is afflicted with any harm except that Allah will remove his sins as the leaves fall from a tree." [Bukhaari]
Hence, the reward is affirmed regarding every type of harm or hurt, tangible or intangible, if the believer patiently perseveres and anticipates the reward. As Anas bin Malik reported: I heard Allah's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) saying,
"Allah said, 'If I deprive my slave of his two beloved things (i.e. his eyes) and he remains patient, I will let him enter Paradise in compensation for them.'" [Bukhari]
Tests and trials are a means to removing sins (from the believers) and all the children of Adam commit sins. Tests and trials may also raise one's degree enabling one to move on to a higher level in Paradise as in the Hadith where Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
"When the child of a person dies, Allah says to His angels: 'You have taken the soul of the child of My slave?' They say: 'Yes.' He says: 'You took the fruit of his heart.' They (the angels) say, 'Yes.' Then Allah says, 'What did My slave say (upon that)?' They say, 'He praised you and made Istirja' (meaning he said, Innaa Lillahi Wa Innaa Ilayhi Raji'un' - To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return). So Allah says, 'Build for My slave a house in Paradise and name it The House of Praise." [Bukhaari]
In another Hadith: "Any Muslim who is hurt by a thorn or greater than that, Allah will remove a sin from him and elevates him a degree (raise his status) because of that." [Sahih Muslim]
So (he is raised) degree above degrees, until he reaches his final degree in Paradise which comes due to his patience and above that, due to the Favor of Allah, as He says:
"Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning." [Noble Quran 39:10]
Thus calamities, trials and tests are signs of love from Allah for the believers. They are comparable to a cure; although it may be bitter, you accept it because it is from the one whom you love, and to Allah belongs the best example. As comes in the Hadith, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"The magnitude of the reward is proportional to the magnitude of the affliction. When Allah loves some people, He tests them. He who is content (with Allah's decree) will receive the Pleasure (of Allah); and he who is discontent will attain the wrath (of Allah)." [Ath-Tirmidhi and Sheikh Al-Albani graded it Sahih]
Imam ibn Al Qayyim said:
The Ibtilaa' (testing) of the believer is like medicine for him. It cures him from illness. Had the illness remained it would destroy him or diminish his reward and level (in the hereafter). The tests and the trials extract these illnesses from him and prepare him for the perfect reward and the highest of degrees (in the life to come)."
Certainly the affliction of tests and trials is better to the believer than the punishment of the hereafter. Certainly it is a cause for the elevation of one's rank and expiation for his sins, and therefore it is better.
In the Hadith, Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "If Allah intends good for the Believer, He hastens his punishment in this life and if He intends otherwise, He withholds his punishment for his sin until he re-compensates him for it on the Day of Resurrection." [Ath-Tirmidhi and Sheikh Al-Albani authenticated it]
The People of Knowledge made it clear that this is in reference to the one who is a hypocrite. Allah withholds the punishment from him in this life to give him his full account on the Day of Resurrection, and we seek refuge in Allah from such.