وَمَۤا أَصَابَكُمْ مِنْ مُص۪يبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْد۪يكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَنْ كَث۪يرٍ
Whatever affliction befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned, and yet He overlooks many (of the wrongs you do). (Ash-Shūrā 42:30)
It does not contradict with the essentials of Islam that an affliction which befalls us is a punishment for a sin or evil we have committed. However, if we were punished for every sin we commit in this world, we would never be free from afflictions. We would be punished for every action in our everyday life that is displeasing to God Almighty, and we would never be free from calamities. This means that God Almighty, Whose mercy surpasses His wrath, overlooks many of our misdeeds and forgives us many times in a day. In fact, the conclusive part of the verse expresses this reality: “… yet He overlooks many (of the wrongs you do).”
Truly, it is the command of the Qur’ān that people should accept that any affliction that befalls them is because of their own faults. Otherwise, people look for a guilty one other than themselves for their sufferings, and one who thinks like this can never find the real guilty one and get rid of the sin of the ill-suspicion of others. Indeed, the Qur’ān presents us a standard to find the guilty. The guilty one is nobody but our own selves. To illustrate, suppose that you hit a glass carelessly and the hot tea inside it is spilt and burns your foot. In such a case, instead of getting angry and looking for someone to blame such as the one who has put the glass there, you should turn to yourselves and think or say: “My Lord! There is no room for chance in the universe and happenings. This must be a punishment for my heedlessness and some disobedience to You. Forgive my sins.” You should not blame others. Otherwise, if you look for a guilty one other than your own self, then you will act against the command of God, “Do not hold yourselves pure (sinless)” (An-Najm 53:32), and think ill of others in opposition to another Divine command, “Avoid much suspicion” (Al-Hujurāt 49:12).
If one considers themselves as guilty for the afflictions that befall them, this leads them to self-interrogation. As a matter of fact, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, turned to God for anything evil which befell him, prayed to God, and asked for His forgiveness.
The expression “your hands have earned” in the verse does not only refer to our hands with which we commit evils; it refers to all of our limbs or organs such as our feet, eyes, ears, tongues, and so on. Hence, all the vices from backbiting to adultery are included in the evil deeds from which we—and all parts and organs of our body—are prohibited.
Sometimes there may be a correlation between the wrongdoing committed and the nature and size of the afflictions, and sometimes not. Nevertheless, every affliction is like a tap under which a believer is cleaned of their offenses or sins. Thus believers preserve their essential purity.
In one of the hadīths related by Ibn Abī Hātim, the pure Prophet said: “Having a thorn in any of the parts of his body or his slipping or getting sweaty in distress is because of a sin or evil that a believer has committed. Yet, God Almighty forgives many of his sins.” Whether Almighty God forgives a believer of his sins without any affliction out of His Mercy or by inflicting him with a suffering, as Caliph ‘Ali said, He is both exalted and munificent enough not to call a servant to account and punish in the Hereafter for a sin of them which He forgave them in the world.
Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and any wasteful act we may have done in our duty, and set our feet firm, and help us to victory over the disbelieving people!