What the Muslims are afflicted with of evil, trials, tribulations and harm is less than that which the disbelievers are afflicted with and practical experience testifies to the truth of this fact. In a similar fashion the righteous are afflicted less in this world than the sinners, the transgressors and the oppressors.
When the believers are afflicted with something, they place themselves in the state of rida and ihtisah [being expectant of Allah’s reward], if they are unable to achieve rida they recourse to sabr and ihtisah, this in turn lightens the burden of the tribulation. Each time they see the return of their efforts it becomes easier to bear the difficulty. The disbelievers are not able to recourse to rida or have ihtisah, and if they show sabr, it is the sabr of animals. Allah, Exalted is He, informs us of this with His words,
“Do not relax in pursuit of the enemy. If you feel pain, they too are feeling it just as you are, but you hope for something from Allah which they cannot hope for.” (an-Nisa 4:104)
Hence both groups felt pain, but the disbelievers are distinguished by hoping for reward and drawing close to Allah, Exalted is He.
When the believers are afflicted, they are afflicted in accordance to their level of faith, actions of obedience and sincerity. The believer is able to bear such affliction that would have been unbearable by any other. This is part and parcel Allah’s defending the believers, for Allah holds back much trial and tribulation from His servants, and the trial that does come their way, is something that is within their ability to bear.
The more love becomes firmly embedded in the heart, easier does it become for the lover to endure harm and adversity in the pursuit of pleasing his beloved. Indeed true lovers boast about such occasions in the presence of their beloved, as one of them said, ‘Were you to choose to afflict me with adversity, Truly delighted would I be that I crossed your mind.’ So what then would one think of loving the Greatest object of love, Whose trial of His beloved is pure mercy and beneficence?
What is seen of the disbeliever, the sinner and the hypocrite gaining ascendancy, might and position, is far less than what is gained by the believer. Indeed the reality of what is gained by the first is disgrace, subjugation and ignominy, even though the outward appearance of things may seem different. Al-Hassan, may Allah have mercy upon him, said, ‘They, even though they have masses of horses and mules subservient to them, the ignominy of sin is in their hearts and Allah will only ever disgrace those who disobey Him.’
The believer facing tribulation is like medicine, it removes such disease from him that were it to have endured, it would have destroyed him, or at the very least diminished his reward and ranking. Trials and tribulations extract that disease and prepare him to receive complete reward and lofty ranking. With this in mind, it is understood that the existence of this, with respect to the believer, is better for him that its absence.
Trials and Tribulations: Wisdom and Benefits (Note that this extract is taken from Aid for the Yearning One in Resisting Shaytan) Imam ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah Pages 41-44