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.