The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whenever Allaah intends to do good to a servant, He hastens to punish him in this world. And whenever Allaah intends evil for a servant, He postpones the punishment until the Day of Judgement.” [Saheeh: Related by at-Tirmidhee (no. 2398) and al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak (1/340), from Anas (radiyallaahu ’anhu). It was authenticated by Shaykh al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (no. 1220).]
His saying, “Whenever Allaah intends to do good to a servant, He hastens to punish him in this world.” means: that he is punished by being inflicted with afflictions and difficulties due to the sins he has committed, due to which he is cleansed from them all, and in the Hereafter he has no sins to account for.
Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said, “The occurrence of afflictions are actually a form of blessing, since they are an expiation for sins committed and they call for a person to have sabr – for which he is duly rewarded. Likewise they cause the person to turn to Allaah in repentance, being humble and submissive before Him, whilst at the same time turning away from hoping in any of the creation. There are – besides these – other great advantages.
Thus, those afflictions which befall a person are actually the cause of Allaah wiping away his sins, and this is one of the greatest blessings. So the occurrence of afflictions are a source of mercy and bounty, providing such a person does not enter into that which is a cause for even greater disobedience than before. For this affliction will then become a cause of great evil to the person’s Religion. Indeed, there are people who – when afflicted with a trial or a affliction; such as poverty, illness or starvation – causes hypocrisy to sprout in them, or causes their hearts to become diseased, or it causes them to fall into ingratitude and disbelief, or to abandon certain obligations or commit certain prohibited acts – all of which is extremely harmful to one’s Religion. So to remain safe from, and to be protected against such afflictions and trials, is better for a person, since the afflictions and trials – rather than being a source of blessings – becomes a source of great injury. However, if the person had sabr and remained obedient, then such an affliction would have been the cause of mercy and blessings from Allaah – the Mighty and Majestic -which necessitates praising Him.
So whosoever is afflicted with a calamity and is provided with sabr, then this sabr is a blessing for the person and a mercy for him, since his sins are expiated due to it. Likewise his Lord bestows upon him praises and prayers, as Allaah – the Majestic – says,
“They are those on whom are the blessings and praises from their Lord and His mercy. They are the ones who are guided.” [Sooratul-Baqarah [2:155-157]
Such a person is also forgiven by his Lord for his sins, and is raised to higher ranks – all of this is due to the one who has sabr.” [Abridged from Majmoo’ul-Fataawaa (10/48) of Ibn Taymiyyah.]
The saying of the Prophet, “Whenever Allaah intends evil for a servant, He postpones the punishment until the Day of Judgement,” means: such a person’s punishment is delayed until the Hereafter, where he will receive severe punishment.
Al-’Azeezee (d.1070H) said, “Such a person is not punished in this world, so that in the Hereafter he can be punished for his sins in a way that he fully deserved.” [as-Siraajul-Muneer (l/88) of al-’Azeezee]
In the above hadeeth is a lesson and a reminder that one must have good expectations in Allaah and a good opinion about Him with regard to what He has decreed for a person,
as Allaah – the Most High – says,
“It is possible that you hate a thing and it is good for you, and love a thing and it is evil for you. Allâh knows and you do not know.” [Sooratul-Baqarah [2:216]]