The Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said, “Reward is directly proportional to the affliction. If Allaah loves a people, He inflicts them with a calamity. Whoever accepts it, Allaah is pleased with them, and whoever resents it, Allaah is displeased with them.” [Hasan: Related by at-Tirmidhee (no. 2398) and Ibn Maajah (no. 4021), from Anas (radiyallaahu ’anhu). It was authenticated by al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (no. 146).]
Likewise, the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whenever Allaah loves a people, He sends affliction upon them. So whoever is patient, is one of the patient-ones, and whoever resents it, is one of the resenters.” [Saheeh: Related by Ahmad (5/427), from Mahmood Ibn Lubayd (radiyallaahu ’anhu). It was authenticated by al-Mundharee in at-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb (4/283), al-Haythamee Majma’uz-Zawaa‘id (2/291) and Ibn Hajar in Fathul-Baaree (10/108).]
The meaning of the first hadeeth is: the greater the affliction, the greater the reward. And it is said: Indeed, afflictions bring about a reward as well as expiating sins. This was the preferred saying of Ibnul-Qayyim that the one afflicted with a calamity is not only rewarded for it, but his sins are expiated as well. However, if this affliction was the cause of him doing certain righteous actions – such as having sabr, contentment with the Decree of Allaah, repenting to Allaah or asking for His forgiveness – then the person will be rewarded for such actions as well. Because of this it is said that the meaning of the hadeeth is: Indeed, the reward is proportional to the affliction, providing there is sabr and expectation of reward.
Similarly, in the hadeeth of Sa’d, ‘The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) was asked, ‘Who from mankind suffers the greatest afflictions?’ He replied, ‘The Prophets, then those most like them, then those most like them. A person is afflicted with calamities in comparisons to his Religion, so if he is firm in his Religion, then his afflictions are strong and if he is weak in his Religion, then his afflictions are lighter. A person is afflicted with calamities until he is left walking upon the face of this earth without any sins.” [Saheeh: Related by Ahmad (l/172), at-Tirmidhee (no. 2398) and Ibn Maajah (no. 4023). It was authenticated by al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (no.143).]
This hadeeth and its like are from the proofs for Tawheed. Since if a person knew that the Prophets and the awliyaa‘ (the friends of Allaah) are themselves afflicted with calamities and that none can remove these afflictions from them except Allaah, then it will be known that they can bring neither benefit nor ward of harm to themselves – so how can they ward off harm for others! Thus rather than turning to the Prophets and righteous people for the removal of harm, or relief from worries and grief, one should turn directly to Allaah alone – the One who is able to accomplish this.