Why does God (Allah) allow suffering?

Indeed God is all-powerful and He is able to do all things. This has been mentioned numerous times in the Holy Book of Islam (Quran).

But then the question comes why does Allah allow suffering in this world? We find sicknesses, accidents, old age, and deaths. We see lots of things that are ugly, people who are insane and foolish. There are earthquakes, drought, floods, storms, and famine. We also see people commit sins, show disloyalty, unfaithfulness, and insincerity.

When we look at the other side, we also see beauty, health, prosperity, growth, intelligence, and progress. We see the goodness in people, faith, sincerity, love, charity and the spirit of sacrifice. We also see virtue and piety.

But then the question is, why does Allah include problems in humanity?

This will help us understand Allah’s ways in His creation though. The Holy Quran tells us that goodness, evil and whatever happens in this world happens by the will of Allah. Only God knows fully what he wills. We finite mortals can never grasp His all His infinite Will and Wisdom.

He (Allah) runs the universe the way He deems fit. The Qur’an tells us that Allah is wise and everything that Allah does is right, good and fair.

We must submit and surrender to His Will. The Holy Qur’an has not given us all the details about Allah’s Will, but it has enlightened us with the guidance that is useful and sufficient for us. There are several points that we should keep in our mind to understand this issue.

The world is temporal

First of all, Allah did not make this world a permanent place. It is temporal and everything here has a time limit. When its times comes it will come to an end. 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. Those who will pass this test will find an eternal world that is perfect and permanent. Those who will fail this test shall see the evil consequences of their sins and corruption.

May Allah protect us!

Some Problems are reactions for our Actions

Allah has placed a physical law and a moral law in this universe. Allah allows suffering to occur when one or more of these laws are broken. The physical law is based on cause and effect. Sickness comes if one does not take care of one’s health or is exposed to infections. A car accident occurs when one is not alert, or drives in a careless manner, or if the cars are not checked, roads and freeways are not made and kept in right shape, or the traffic laws are not right or not properly enforced.

Study of causes and effects is very important to facilitate safeguards. Even here we should keep in mind that Allah often saves us and He does not let us suffer from every negligence. How many times it happens that we are not careful and still we reach safely to our destinations. The way people drive in some cities, it is a miracle that more accidents do not happen and more people do not suffer.

The way we exceed the measures set by Allah and violate His laws of cause and effect is incredible. It is really the mercy of Allah that we are saved. Strictly speaking, the question should not be why does Allah allow suffering, but how much Allah protects us and saves us all the time in spite of our violations and negligence. The Qur’an says:

“And if Allah were to punish men for that which they earned, He would not leave a moving creature on the surface of the earth; but He gives them respite to an appointed term, and when their term comes, then verily, Allah is Ever All-Seer of His servants.”(Quran 35:45)

But sometimes Allah does punish people because of their violations of His laws whether they are physical or moral. The Qur’an tells us that many nations and communities were destroyed because of their sinful lifestyles – (Al-Hajj: 42-45)

Test and Trial

Suffering can also be a test and trial for some people. Allah allows some people to suffer in order to test their patience and steadfastness. Even Allah’s Prophets and Messengers were made to suffer. Good people sometimes suffer but their sufferings heal others and bring goodness to them. People learn lessons from their good examples. Martyrs die for their faith, soldiers give their lives for their nations and this brings liberation and freedom for their people.

Also, 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. In a very moving Hadith Qudsi (Divine Hadith) the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

“Allah will say on the Day of Judgment, ‘O son of Adam, I was sick and you did not visit Me.’ He will say, ‘O my Lord, how could I visit You, when you are the Lord of the Worlds.’ Allah will say, ‘Did you not know that My servant so-and-so was sick and you did not visit him? Did you not know that if you had visited him, you would have found Me there?’

Allah will say, ‘O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not.’ He shall say, ‘O my Lord, how could I feed you and you are the Lord of the Worlds?’ And Allah will say, ‘Did you not know that My servant so-and-so was in need of food and you did not feed him? Did you not know that if you had fed him, you would have found that to have been for Me?’

Allah will say‘O son of Adam, I asked you for water and you did not give Me to drink.’ The man shall say, ‘O my Lord, how could I give You water when You are the Lord of the Worlds?’ Allah will say, ‘My servant so-and-so asked you for water and you did not give him. Did you not know that if you had given him to drink, you would have found that to have been for Me.’ (Muslim, Hadith no. 4661)

Prophet `Isa (Jesus), peace be upon him, is also reported to have said something similar. (See Matthew25: 35-45)

So to summarize, we can say that sufferings occur to teach us that we must adhere to Allah’s natural and moral laws. It is sometimes to punish those who violate Allah’s natural or moral laws. It is to test our faith in Allah and to test our commitment to human values and charity.

Whenever we encounter suffering we should ask ourselves,

“Have we broken any law of Allah?” Let us study the cause of the problem and use the corrective methods.

“Could it be a punishment?” Let us repent and ask forgiveness and reform our ways.

“Could it be a test and trial for us?” Let us work hard to pass this test without flaws.

Believers face the sufferings with prayers, repentance, and good deeds. The non-believers face the sufferings with doubts and confusions. They blame Allah or make arguments against Him.

May Allah keep us on the right path, Amen!

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