All of us go through hardships and calamities that are not pleasing to us. We have all experienced moments and days of sorrow and suffering; be it one or more of the natural disasters, the loss of health or wealth, the loss of one of our dear ones, or even simpler issues that we face in our everyday life. The number of people who do not complain while they are suffering an incident is very few. Sometimes the calamities are so huge that they put us under severe pressure and take us to the point where we start complaining to Allah and asking Him the famous “why” question: “Why should this happen to me? Why don’t you help me overcome my problem? Why does this suffering seem everlasting?”
If you are one of those who have happened to ask these questions from Allah in specific situations, then this article might be useful to you and to myself, as it tries to answer all the above questions based on the words of Allah and the Islamic traditions.
We may be surprised in reading the verse of the Quran in which Allah (SWT) says:
“Certainly We created man in travail.” (90: 4)
Why would He do such a thing to us? Was He going to take revenge on us for something? Or does He enjoy seeing us suffering?
The fact is that all different types of problems, sorrows, losses, and sufferings can be looked at from two different perspectives. If one looks at problems and calamities only from a materialistic perspective, one may be able to find a material reason for each; For example, the drought is caused by the lack of rain, the disease is caused by poor hygiene and bankruptcy is a sign of lack of business awareness. But from the Islamic viewpoint, there are several factors influencing these events and disasters only some of which are considered material causes.
One of the wisdom behind worldly sufferings according to the verses of the Quran is that Allah tests His servants with hardships and calamities, and in this test only those who are patient are victorious:
“We will surely test you with a measure of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth, lives, and fruits; and give good news to the patient.” (2: 155)
It is noteworthy that there is no problem in mourning for our sorrows, feeling down, and even crying over them. We are all human beings, flesh, and blood, and sometimes we feel so burdened by the difficulties of life that we find it hard to bear. Yet one should be wary not to blame Allah for these sufferings and turn his/her back to Him. Instead, we should find the capacity to submit to the fate destined for us by Allah, believing in the fact that Allah is the only One who can save us from these calamities and would never do injustice to us. These are the times we should get closer to Allah and rely on His mercy and help.
But, why would Allah need to test His servants? He mentions in a verse of the Quran that being faithful is not accepted in words only, and to prove one’s faith, he/she should go through different tests:
“Do the people suppose that they will be let off because they say, ‘We have faith,’ and they will not be tested? Certainly, We tested those who were before them. So Allah shall surely ascertain those who are truthful, and He shall surely ascertain the liars.” (29: 2-3)
It is not for Allah (SWT) to find out if we are real believers or not, but by putting us through tests He allows us to see the real level of our faith and try to improve it or leave it as it is.
Therefore, one can conclude that the divine test is performed to separate and recognize the truthful from the false claimants and to make the believers pure. The higher the level of our faith goes the harder the tests become.
Another reason behind worldly sufferings according to Islamic teachings is that Allah (SWT) wants to save and strengthen His servant’s faith. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) narrated from Gabriel from Allah that:
“Among my faithful servants, there are some whose faith is not amended except by poverty and destitution, and if I make him rich, this wealth will corrupt and destroy his faith. And among my believing servants, there is one whose faith is not corrected except by wealth, and if I make him poor, poverty and misery will corrupt and destroy his faith. ... I guide them by the knowledge that I have of the hearts of my servants. It is true that I am Wise and Knowledgeable.” 
Therefore, there are many things that happen to us by the will of Allah which may not be pleasing to us and we may interpret them as sufferings while at the heart of them are great blessings for us:
“… may be that you dislike something, which is good for you, and it may be that you love something, which is bad for you, and Allah knows and you do not know.” (2: 216)
Sometimes we are so pleased and drowned in the blessings that Allah (SWT) has provided us that we totally forget our mission and goal of living in this world. In these moments Allah (SWT) tests us with some calamities and puts us through some sufferings to remind us of our goal and warn us about the consequences of neglecting our mission. These little sufferings as mentioned in the Quran are the ones that keep us away from the harder sufferings:
“We shall surely make them taste the nearer punishment prior to the greater punishment, so that they may come back.” (32: 21)
Another important reason behind worldly sufferings is that these types of things show the human being how weak he is and how needy he is toward his Lord. It is at the time of suffering that we realize there is nothing we can do to solve the problems and we turn to Allah to ask Him for help.
Allah (SWT) mentions this point in the Quran in different verses:
“When distress befalls you at sea, those whom you invoke besides Him are forsaken. But when He delivers you to land, you are disregardful [of Him]. And man is very ungrateful.” (17:67)
Therefore, hardship and suffering cause us to remember that He is the only One who can help us, thus we turn to Him.
Compensation for our sins
According to Islamic teachings, worldly sufferings are also a way by which Allah (SWT) makes up our mistakes and sins. It is narrated from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) that:
“The sorrows, sicknesses, and sufferings that befall on a believer are the means of wiping away his/her sins by Allah.” 
However, sometimes these sufferings are not to compensate for our sins. We have all seen or heard that sometimes some of the very faithful servants of Allah face huge sufferings. These types of suffering according to Islamic teachings is to elevate the spiritual or even the material capacities of human beings.
- Shaikh Sadough: Al-tawheed. (1398 A.H.), p. 400
- Ali bin al-Husain bin Shu’ba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-Uqul, p.38.
According to what has been said in the first part of this article, the income one earns is either Halal (gained through lawful ways), which can be freely spent, or Haram (gained through foul means), or sometimes of doubtful origins (mixed up of both Haram and Halal), which must be seriously avoided. Now you might wonder what some of the precise examples of unlawful earning are in today’s world.
Translated as usury, Riba refers to unfair, exploitative interests made in business. The unjust interest gained from the repayment of a loan or the simultaneous exchange of unequal commodities are the two common examples of usury. “There is the principle of the relationship between one's efforts and the amassing of wealth and the importance of participating in the risk of losing one's wealth as well as increasing it in any economic transaction. That is why Riba or interest is forbidden in Islamic Law”  [i].
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has said: “The worst unlawful earning is the income a governor gains through bribery” . When some people bribe to gain what they want easily, the others who avoid giving bribes for any reason will face many difficulties to obtain what they are entitled to. Also, the bribe receivers will not fulfill what they are required to do by law unless they are bribed.
So, if bribery spreads among people, especially government officials, in a society, it will definitely lead to an increase of corruption within the community [ii].
One of the great sins in Islam is cheating in selling things, which could be of two kinds; selling something at a higher price than its real value, especially when there is a shortage of that product in the market, and also selling short measures to consumers [iii]. The loss of public trust and financial corruption are among the most devastating results of this sin.
There are also other examples for selling short measures, one of the most common of which happens in offices when employees are not conscientious enough to fulfill their job commitments and responsibilities. So, the income they earn is Haram.
Any income one gains through the role she/he has in producing, distributing, or consuming alcoholic beverages and also drug is considered Haram:
“They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, "In them is a great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit…"” (2:219)
Muslims believe there is no harming nor reciprocating harm in Islam. So, they seriously avoid anything that inflicts harm upon them or their fellow brothers.
Based on the verse above, the money one earns through gambling is Haram, too[iv].
That is because Islam highly recommends earning the livelihood through productive jobs and encourages hard work and striving to earn money rather than becoming wealthy or losing all one’s money overnight.
The income one may earn by singing or playing a song which is typical of or suitable for frivolous gatherings, and carouses are also unlawful (Haram) [v].
“Indeed those who want indecency to spread among the faithful—there is a painful punishment for them in the world and the Hereafter, and Allah knows, and you do not know” (24:19)
There are numerous instances of indecency in the world we are living today, from the provocative pictures of countless celebrities anyone can find in media, on the internet, etc. to the films that encourage immorality, and to sexual exploitation of women and so forth and so on. In fact, Islam has been sent to spread and complement the best of morality .
Therefore, the income earned through any attempt to spread any immorality or indecency in the society is certainly Haram.
Magic and fortune telling are believed to be destructive in the Islamic teachings, since according to the Quran: “Your omen is with Allah” (27:47), so, we should not put our trust in anyone except Him. Islam considers magic an act of devil and a great sin which has to be avoided [vi].
What has been mentioned above are among the most common examples of unlawful income. There are other instances as well which you can ask a proficient Islamic jurist or scholar about. On top of that, human’s common sense and reason can indicate what is exactly unlawful (Haram) and should be avoided.
This article is to give you some hints so that you become more cautious about your income in order to lead a decent and virtuous life.
[i] “Those who exact usury will not stand but like one deranged by the Devil’s touch. That is because they say, ‘Trade is just like usury.’ While Allah has allowed trade and forbidden usury” (2:275).
[ii] “Do not eat up your wealth among yourselves wrongfully, nor proffer it to the judges in order to eat up a part of the people’s wealth sinfully, while you know [that it is immoral to do so]” (2:188).
[iii] “‘O my people! Observe fully the measure and the balance, with justice, and do not cheat the people of their goods, and do not act wickedly on the earth, causing corruption’” (11:85).
[iv] “O you who have faith! Indeed wine, gambling, idols, and the divining arrows are abominations of Satan’s doing, so avoid them, so that you may be felicitous” (5:90).
[v] “Among the people is he who buys diversionary talk that he may lead [people] astray from Allah’s way without any knowledge, and he takes it in derision. For such there is a humiliating punishment” (31:6).
[vi] “…and Solomon was not faithless but it was the devils who were faithless—teaching the people magic and what was sent down to the two angels at Babylon, ... They would learn that which would harm them and bring them no benefit; though they certainly knew that anyone who buys it has no share in the Hereafter. Surely, evil is that for which they sold their souls, had they known!” (2:102).
- S.Hussain Nasr, A Young Muslim’s Guide to Islam, p.58
- al-Jame al-Saqir, vol. 2, p. 45
- Allama al-Hilli, Nahj al-haqq wa kashf al-sidq, p. 495
- Kanz-ol-a’maal, 13th vol. p.151, Hadith #36472
A feature that is being propagated by different types of media about Muslims and Islam is an angry and aggressive face. This is while Islam has a lot of direct commands and recommendations about controlling anger and being good-tempered. A narration from Imam Sadiq (AS) defines good-temper very well: “Good temper is to soften your attitude and clear your speech and meet your brother with kindness.” 
In this text, we will study the viewpoint of Islam on being good-tempered.
There are many verses of the Quran that teaches us how to interact with others. The Prophet of Islam (PBUH&HP) was sent as a role model:
“There is certainly a good exemplar for you in the Apostle of Allah—for those who look forward to Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much.” (33:21)
This exemplar is defined in different verses of the Quran, not only by admiring the number of his prayers but with his excellent manners. Allah admires his apostle by saying:
“And indeed, you possess a great character.” (68: 4)
Therefore, when Allah tells us:
“Obey Allah and the Apostle so that you may be granted [His] mercy” (3: 132), He means that by following the characteristics of the Prophet (PBUH&HP), one can achieve success and prosperity. One of his most important features was his good-temper.
One may think that many people are not good-tempered and yet have very successful lives. However, the Quran introduces being soft and kind to people as a means of reaching goals.
Almighty Allah says to His Apostle:
“It is by Allah’s mercy that you are gentle to them; had you been harsh and hardhearted, they would have surely scattered from around you. So excuse them and plead for forgiveness for them, and consult them in the affairs, and once you are resolved, put your trust in Allah. Indeed Allah loves those who trust in Him.” (3: 159)
As it is mentioned in the above verse, Allah introduces being good-mannered and good-tempered as the essential element that made the Prophet (PBUH&HP) successful in guiding people. Also, some of the features of a good-tempered person are mentioned in this verse:
1.To be forgiving towards people’s faults and mistakes in our social or family life (Excuse them).
2.To ask Allah to forgive other people for their sins and mistakes (plead for forgiveness for them). Having this manner helps us feel real compassion towards others, and therefore, it allows us to interact with them with kindness and a good temper.
3. To give credit and respect to other people by asking their ideas even if we know better than they do (consult them in the affairs).
Imagine that if in our daily life, we try to consider these three crucial hints, how peaceful our life will become, and how influential we can become in our relations and communications.
Should we be soft and gentle to everyone? Or are there groups of people to whom we should be harsh and demanding?
Two verses in the Quran explain how Muslims should behave towards different groups of people. This verse of the Quran: “Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah, and those who are with him are hard against the faithless and merciful amongst themselves,” (48: 29) indicates that Muslims should be kind and merciful to other Muslims and harsh on those who deny the existence of Allah and the hereafter. However, when Allah orders prophet Moses (PBUH) and Aaron to go to Pharaoh to invite him to monotheism, He orders them:
“Both of you go to Pharaoh, for he has indeed rebelled. Speak to him in a gentle manner; maybe he will take admonition or fear.” (20: 43-44)
Again, in this verse, Allah introduces the importance of soft and gentle speech as an essential means of reaching goals.
Experience shows that by being good-tempered, one can become popular among others and can make his/her own life as well as others peaceful.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says:
"being good-tempered sustains friendship.” 
Imam Al-Sadiq (AS) says:
“Charity and being good-tempered flourish lands and increase lifetime.” 
And in the words of Imam Ali (AS):
“The treasures of the provision are in being good-tempered and affability.” 
These verses of the Quran clearly show that if people wish to have a good life in this world and the hereafter, they need to work on themselves to control their anger and to be good-tempered in their relationships.
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 68, p. 389
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, p. 389
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, p. 395
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 75, p. 53