Questioner: If a person is befallen with a sickness or is trialled in his person or wealth, how does he know whether that trial is a test or Allāh’s Anger?
Shaykh Ibn Bāz: Allāh trials His slaves with good and bad, difficulty and ease. He may test them to elevate their rank, to exalt their mention and to multiply their good deeds, as He does with the Prophets and Messengers and the righteous from His worshippers. The Messenger of Allāh (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) stated: “The most severely tested of the people are the Prophets, then the righteous and then those closest to them.” ²
And sometimes He does this as a recompense for sins and wrongdoing; thus, the punishment is hastened as Allāh states:
“And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much.” [al-Shūrā42:30]
So predominately, the human being falls short [in his duty] and does not fulfill what is obligatory upon him; therefore, whatever befalls him, it is a result of his sins and failings in his duty to Allāh. But when one of the righteous worshippers of Allāh is tested with sickness and the like, then indeed this is from the test of the Prophets and Messengers, elevating them in rank, magnifying their rewards and making them examples for others in patience and contentedness.
In short, the test may be to elevate a person in rank and magnify their reward, as Allāh does with the Prophets and those from the people of good; or it may be to expiate sins as Allāh says:
“Whosoever works evil, will have the recompense thereof.” [al-Nisā 4:123]
And the statement of the Messenger of Allāh (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam): “No affliction, nor grief, nor hardship, nor sadness, nor harm befalls a Muslim, even being pricked by a thorn, except that Allāh expiates some of his sins due to it.”³ And his statement: “If Allāh wants good for a person, He afflicts him with trials.” 4 Perhaps this may be a hastened punishment due to sins and delay of repentance as found in the ḥadīth of the Prophet: “When Allāh wants good for His worshiper, He hastens his punishment in this world; and if He wants evil for him, He withholds (his punishment) until He fulfills it on the Day of Resurrection.” This narration is collected by al-Tirmidhī, and he grades it ḥasan. 5