Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

When witnessing the apparent paradox of life on earth, one may be left wondering, why do bad things happen to good people?

We often assume that those who are moral and upright, true and sincere, should be graced with ease. Yet more often than not, they who are the best of us are often they who are the most intensely tested.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

The Messenger of God ﷺ stated, “None are more severely tried than are the prophets, and then the believers according to their ranks.”


Mus’ab ibn Sa’eed reported that his father asked the Prophet ﷺ, “O Messenger of Allah, which people are tested most severely?”

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, replied, “They are the prophets, then the best after them, and then the best after them. Each man is tried according to his religion. If he is firm in his religion, then his trials will be more severe. If he is weak in his religion, then he is tried according to his strength in religion, and the servant will continue to be tried until he is left walking upon the earth without any sin.” [Tirmidhi]


In understanding why do bad things happen to good people, in the blessed and noble teachings of the Prophet ﷺ, we come to realize that the purpose of trials and tribulations are not punishment, but rather purification.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? Awakening.

All growth takes place outside of our comfort zones. By definition, growth is discomfort. And in seeking to secure ourselves in comfort, we are in fact preventing growth.

It is only when we are pushed and stretched that we grow, evolve and awaken. Comfort leads to sleep and unconsciousness, and so the Universe by the Will of the Divine continually nudges us towards awakening, and ultimately towards freedom and invulnerability.

Why do bad things happen to good people? To support them in awakening.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? Strength.

Again, only through pressure and stress does one develop strength. Just as a muscle must be pushed to and beyond its limits to grow, so too must the human heart and soul be pushed to and beyond their limits to grow, expand and open.

Thus said the great Rumi (qs), “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.”

The ultimate goal of pressure, stress, tension and friction are purification, transformation and the evolution of consciousness.

A diamond only becomes such under intense pressure, and in its transformation, becomes one of the hardest and strongest structures known to man, as well as one of the most beautiful and pure.

Why do bad things happen to good people? To strengthen them and prepare them for greater responsibility in service to the Divine and to His creatures.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? Love.

By nature, we as human beings are selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed. Yet al-Islam seeks to guide humanity beyond ego-based consciousness towards selflessness, and thus towards love.

Ultimately, death will take from us everything that we hold dear. Yet for those destined to awaken, they will suffer greater loss and hardship early in life, and this progressively leads to selflessness and humility.

Only when one has suffered, bled and hurt does he or she truly develop the capacity for love and for empathy. Only when one has personally undergone significant pain does he or she seek to ease the suffering of others.

The true believers of God in fact go even further, and carry the burdens, hardships, pain and suffering of others for their sake.

One of the great lovers of the Divine in the early period of Islamic history was recorded as having supplicated, “O my Lord, when you cast me into the hellfire, make my body so large so as to fill the entirety of the fire that none else may fit therein!”

Why do bad things happen to good people? To deepen and strengthen their faith, to purify them of ego-consciousness and to give them the courage to love with no regard to self.


Awaken Your Potential for Divine Love

Suffering is inevitable and a part of life, yet by developing the capacity for transcendence, we transform and awaken to a greater possibility that ultimately leads beyond suffering and into peace. Rediscover the spiritual path that leads to your true self beyond ego and mind-based consciousness, and rediscover Divine Presence of the Eternal.

Discover Your Divine Potential

Comments 4

  1. MashAllah excellent post.

    Though things in life make a strong person more tougher and tough things in life break the weak person. Tough thing are best way to test our toughness of faith and belief.

    If you have not dealt with tough situations, how can you guide others, so tough things also teach great lesson of patience, reliance (tawaqal) and thankfulness in real sense, beyond the explanation of words.

  2. Dear Ihsan Bhai,

    There is no denying the fact that all kinds of people , good or bad alike, undergo the hardships and uncertainties of life in this world. The people who have to face more pain in life are fortunate and that becomes the tipping point in life and a trigger to turn towards truthfulness-the spirituality. To say that God/ universe puts good people to more severe tests in life is not correct according to my understanding of the issue. God has no favorites or enemies that he will discriminate them or he wants some good people to awaken and some, who are bad ,not to awaken, through the instrument of pain. This looks illogical to me and God can not be reduced to a policeman or an administrator governing the pain of each individual personally after assessing their worth and capacity for pain and subsequent reward in awakening process. Islam at no stage speaks like this either through Quran or Sunnah. The fact is that God/ Universal or Cosmic consciousness operates through its divine natural laws that governs the entire universe that includes the atomic world with human being as a very insignificant and small part in relation to the total universe. These laws of nature apply to the human beings or any animate life form in equal measure irrespective of their position, status and power in the world. If you walk out of a window instead of a door, you will in any case be pulled down by gravity, irrespective of who you are- a prophet, a saint or an ordinary man, unless you have some divine powers to transcend the gravitational pull. A human being cannot fly because it does not have wings and that kind of ability that nature provides a flying object. Even if you are a saint , you cannot fly against the laws of nature unless you have the divinity to transcend all forces that pull you to ground. So all people, good or bad , will have to abide by the universal laws that govern the operation of the whole universe, to be able to pull through and anyone, whatever his position, resists or contravenes that in its habitat will meet his fate. Prophets, saints and good people have to fight , not only against their own egoistic, body and object consciousness but also of the people they are trying to transform, that they face the wrath of their own self and the collective resistance of the people they wish to transform. That makes their resolve more firm. It is wrong to say that it makes them easy to awaken. Such people are already awakened through the grace of God(Innayat). They are born great and then send to the world to perform the arduous tasks. It cannot be said that prophets and saints go through more tests and pain because they need to be awakened.
    Mr. Ihsan, we Muslims need to be more pragmatic and understanding of the message of Islam rather than beating the old and worn out path.

  3. Call of awakening and test are two different things.

    Call of awakening is mostly similar but sometimes severe. E.g. QURAN and Sunnah is call of awakening in form of knowledge. However without sincerity this knowledge cannot be transformed into wisdom. Then their are real life experiences as call of awakening, like when some of your closed one borns or dies, like when you go through unexpected hardships or ease of life. The more we consider the incidents happening around us seriously and attentively, the more we are able to see call of awakening happening everyday and every moment around us. Once a person recognises and follow the call of awakening, then he becomes a person of faith, and it is there onwards when the test begins.

    Test are for those who say we have faith, who think we are firm with Allah. Their test is harder often but may not always and God knows the best.

    Besides no one can claim that he fully understands Quran and Sunnah because there is no knowledge outside of Quran and Sunnah but God reveals that knowledge to those whom he wants. Therefore what we know about Quran and Sunnah is our understanding of that, which can be right or wrong or can also still have many gaps of understanding.

  4. Salams Ihsan,

    A very enlightening post, helped me a lot. Thank you very much.

    I think its also important to note that bad things happen because of our mis-steps. I’ve copied a talk by Sheikh Nazim from ‘Liberating the Soul’ (vol. 1 pg. 202) to explain:

    “Facing Difficulties

    Difficulties come to everyone from Allah Almighty. Some of them come in spite of our will, and some of them come because of the action of our will.

    Sometimes difficulties are from Allah Almighty’s Will, to give you high degrees. They come to cover your sins, your wrong steps. Therefore, for the difficulties which come without our wills, by our Lord’s Will, we must be patient.

    Some difficulties come, also, according to the actions of our wills. Those difficulties that come to you because of your actions and will, you must take care of them. At that time, don’t accuse anyone except yourself.

    You must take care of your own actions and will; because of them, some difficulties and troubles and sufferings have come on you. Then you must correct your steps. It means that there is something wrong with you, so that you have left the right way and gone on the wrong way, and you must quickly correct the course, your way.”

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