I had sent this question to you earlier, though not through this service. It is one that has perturbed me immensely. Islam teaches that life is a test that will consist of both prosperity and adversity, and that in a state of the former, we are tested for our gratitude and of the latter, for steadfastness and perseverance in the way of God.
The Qur’an mentions that if we do not maintain the right attitude, we are prone to becoming boastful and arrogant in times of prosperity and to losing all hope in the mercy of God in times of adversity. When I think about God’s tests of adversity, I am deeply troubled by the fact that they are so enormously difficult. It is one thing to test us with ruptured appendices and temporary unemployment, but it is quite another to test us with mass starvation, ravaging diseases (like ebola and smallpox), major natural catastrophes, and genocide. Yes, if we maintain the right attitude, we can become stronger human beings even through such calamities. Yet we are human, and we will scream and cry when we see our children slaughtered before us or when our siblings die of cholera. We may easily lose hope in the mercy of God. If this happens, we fail in the test of adversity and failure in the test of the life of this world entails punishment in the Hereafter. My question is: would God send us to Hell for losing hope in His Mercy and Wisdom when faced with dire suffering? I would really have a hard time accepting ‘yes’ for an answer, for I liken such a scenario to a father throwing his children into a pit of poisonous snakes and then condemning them when they curse their father for doing such a thing to them. But I cannot believe this of my God … please clarify this for me.
Thank you and God bless you.
My dear brother, to be able to give a value judgment about God’s inflicting pain and subjecting people to the various calamities and ailments, we are in need of such information, which, generally, we do not have. For instance, the mere fact that we are not aware of the exact reasons for which a particular person is subjected to a particular ailment disqualifies us from passing a value judgment about the wisdom and the mercy of the Judge.
Even though we do have some information regarding why an individual may be subjected to an extremely severe situation1, yet it is almost impossible for us to understand and decide why a particular person has been subjected to particular severe circumstances. However, on the basis of our belief in an All-Merciful and an All-wise Creator, we must submit that none of the micro or macro calamities that befall man refute the knowledge, wisdom, mercy or justice of the Creator.
I hope this helps.
December 26, 2001