For every tribulation, illness and fear in this world there are matters for which the intelligent should rejoice and give thanks.
How is that so? How can I rejoice and be grateful for a tribulation?
Firstly, remember for every misfortune and disease there is one that is even worse. It could be worse than it is for you right now. A lot worse. So be thankful that there are not greater misfortunes in store for you in this world. Haven’t you considered the millions (if not billions) of people who have less or no wealth, no access to health care, education and even basic necessities? Be thankful you are not one of them.
Second, your misfortune could be in your religion. A man said to Sahl [al-Tustari] (may God be pleased with him), ‘A thief entered my house and took my furniture’. Sahl replied, ‘Be thankful to God (Exalted is He). Had Satan entered your heart, he would have corrupted your belief in the unity of God. What would you have done then?’
Therefore, if every person who suffers a tribulation reflects carefully on the truth regarding his bad conduct, both open and concealed, in relation to his Lord, surely he would see that he deserves more than what befalls him, both now and the future. He who has the right to give you one hundred lashes and lessens the punishment by then deserves thanks.
Thirdly, have you not considered that it is possible for every punishment to be delayed until the hereafter? That is a lot more painful than anything here. The mere fact that it has been hastened in this world requires thankfulness; why are you then not thankful to God (Exalted is He) for this?
He whose punishment is hastened in this world is not punished a second time. As the messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘Truly, if the servant commits a sin and distress and tribulation befall him in this world, God is more generous than to punish him a second time.’
Fourthly, a misfortune or trial was preordained (maktūb) in the preserved tablet (Umm al-Kitāb) for there is surely no escape from it. When the trial arrives and it is over and you have found relief from it, then this is also a blessing.
The fifth aspect is that the reward [for misfortune] is greater than the tribulation. For the misfortunes of this world are roads to the Hereafter in two ways.
The first way is similar to the blessing of a bitter medicine for the sick man. For the wisdom of God is vast and He knows even more than us what is good for His servants. We will one day thank Him for the tribulations, when we see God’s reward for tribulations.
The second way [in which misfortunes of this world are roads to the Hereafter] is that all sins leading to perdition are to be found in the love of this world, while all the means of deliverance are to be found in turning the heart away from the abode of vanities. If we were given blessings according to our desires without having to go through any tribulation and misfortune, our hearts would find itself at home in this world until it considers it to be Paradise. Our pain at death would be great because of the separation from this world. On the contrary, if we were to find misfortunes in this world a constant reality then our hearts would be disturbed by this world, we would not be at peace with it, we would not ‘feel at home’ in it, and it would become a prison for us.
Our deliverance from this world would be the utmost delight, just like being released form prison. For this, the Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘This world is the prison of the believer and the Paradise of the non-believer’.