This question can be asked about religions in general and is somewhat similar to asking “if God is good, then why does He allow bad things to happen?” or “where was God when I kept praying?” which some people who are not very religious /atheist might ask. I will try to examine this from an Islamic point of view.
- Allah (God) has given us more blessings than we can ever count:
وَءَاتَٮٰكُم مِّن ڪُلِّ مَا سَأَلۡتُمُوهُۚ وَإِن تَعُدُّواْ نِعۡمَتَ ٱللَّهِ لَا تُحۡصُوهَآۗ إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ لَظَلُومٌ۬ ڪَفَّارٌ۬
“And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” (Surah Ibrahim 14:34)
If you think about it, there are more blessings than we can ever count such as our sight, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the shade that we can stand in and countless other blessings. Allah “owes” us nothing for any of our supplications and good deeds. That even applies to the Prophet PBUH (Peace Be Upon Him) as he said, “Be deliberate in worship, draw near to Allah, and give glad tidings. Verily, none of you will enter Paradise because of his deeds alone.” They said, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, “Not even me, unless Allah grants me mercy from himself. Know that the most beloved deed to Allah is that which is done regularly even if it is small.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6099, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2818)
- Allah is always aware of everything and always listens to supplications:
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِى عَنِّى فَإِنِّى قَرِيبٌۖ أُجِيبُ دَعۡوَةَ ٱلدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِۖ فَلۡيَسۡتَجِيبُواْ لِى وَلۡيُؤۡمِنُواْ بِى لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَرۡشُدُونَ
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” (Surah Al Baqara 2:186)
- Allah is aware of any difficulties or hardships that might befall anyone:
مَآ أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ إِلَّا بِإِذۡنِ ٱللَّهِۗ وَمَن يُؤۡمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ يَہۡدِ قَلۡبَهُ ۥۚ وَٱللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَىۡءٍ عَلِيمٌ۬
“No disaster strikes except by permission of Allah. And whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart. And Allah is Knowing of all things.” (Surah 64:11)
- Allah did not really creative “evil” or “bad” as that is basically an absence of good. This is somewhat similar to what you might find in things such as physics. For example, there is no darkness but an absence of light and there is no cold but an absence of heat.
- Whatever bad occurs is from people’s own wrongdoing:
وَمَآ أَصَـٰبَڪُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ۬ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتۡ أَيۡدِيكُمۡ وَيَعۡفُواْ عَن كَثِيرٍ۬
“And whatever strikes you of disaster – it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much.” (Surah Al Shura 42:30)
There are too many examples of this. For example, Allah created trees and forests and people committed deforestation; Allah created natural resources such as oil and diamonds but people fight and kill each other over these; Allah gave wealth and people committed corporate fraud and theft; Allah created the earth clean but people have been destroying the ozone layer and polluted the environment and much more.
- Not answering the prayers is a way of getting people to reflect on their own actions and for them to improve themselves. The Prophet PBUH explained, “Allah the Almighty is Good and accepts only that which is good. And verily Allah has commanded the believers to do that which He has commanded the Messengers. So the Almighty has said: “O (you) Messengers! Eat of the tayyibat [all kinds of halal (legal) foods], and perform righteous deeds.” [23:51] and the Almighty has said: “O you who believe! Eat of the lawful things that We have provided you.” [2:172]” Then he PBUH mentioned [the case] of a man who, having journeyed far, is disheveled and dusty, and who spreads out his hands to the sky saying “O Lord! O Lord!,” while his food is haram (unlawful), his drink is haram, his clothing is haram, and he has been nourished with haram, so how can [his supplication] be answered? (40 Hadith Nawawi, Hadith 10)
- Sometimes things might occur, which would seem completely illogical to us at first but later we can see the wisdom behind the events. There are many examples but here is one that was taken from the book, Muslims of the World: Portraits and Stories of Hope, Survival, Loss, and Love by Sajjad Shah (you can see it from here): in 1955, a Syrian family wanted to go to the US due to the difficulties that they were facing and were told at the airport that the women could only travel if they took off their headscarves and had their photos taken. The youngest daughter refused and kept insisting on not removing her headscarf until finally they were allowed to travel without removing it. They all ended up missing their flight, which made the mother angry. At first sight, this seems like a very silly thing to do and that the young girl was simply very stubborn, letting her religion create problems. However, later when they finally joined the rest of the family in the US, they found out that the flight that they had missed had crashed and people were killed in the crash. Therefore, what might have seemed illogical at first turned out to be a blessing and they were saved.
- It is all too easy for Allah to give us everything we want, whenever we want. One of the reasons for not doing that is to help us be thankful and appreciative of things. Allah explained:
وَلَوۡ بَسَطَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلرِّزۡقَ لِعِبَادِهِۦ لَبَغَوۡاْ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَلَـٰكِن يُنَزِّلُ بِقَدَرٍ۬ مَّا يَشَآءُۚ إِنَّهُ ۥ بِعِبَادِهِۦ خَبِيرُۢ بَصِيرٌ۬
“And if Allah had extended [excessively] provision for His servants, they would have committed tyranny throughout the earth. But He sends [it] down in an amount which He wills. Indeed He is, of His servants, Acquainted and Seeing.” (Surah Al Shura 42:27)
This is quite easily noticeable if you think about what would happen if someone losses their blessings. For example, someone might keep complaining about not having the best quality food and drink and always wanting more but if they spend the whole day outside in the sun without any shade, they would simply want to go back into a shaded area and might be happy with just water.
- Sometimes people are not given what they want to test them and see how strong their faith in Allah is:
وَمِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَن يَعۡبُدُ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ حَرۡفٍ۬ۖ فَإِنۡ أَصَابَهُ ۥ خَيۡرٌ ٱطۡمَأَنَّ بِهِۦۖ وَإِنۡ أَصَابَتۡهُ فِتۡنَةٌ ٱنقَلَبَ عَلَىٰ وَجۡهِهِۦ خَسِرَ ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَٱلۡأَخِرَةَۚ ذَٲلِكَ هُوَ ٱلۡخُسۡرَانُ ٱلۡمُبِينُ
“And of the people is he who worships Allah on an edge. If he is touched by good, he is reassured by it; but if he is struck by trial, he turns on his face [to the other direction]. He has lost [this] world and the Hereafter. That is what is the manifest loss.” (Surah Hajj 22:11)
This is common with any sort of job you do. The harder the job and the higher the position, the harder the tests are such as the training courses that need to be passed, the interviews and more. In the end however, the rewards are also much higher.
- If despite any difficulties people are patient and still try to do their best without losing faith, there are rewards for them as the Prophet PBUH said, “How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him”. Riyad Al Saliheen Book 1, Hadith 27. In another narration: “I heard Allah’s Messenger PBUH as saying: There is nothing (in the form of trouble) that comes to a believer even if it is the pricking of a thorn that there is decreed for him by Allah good or his sins are obliterated”. (Sahih Muslim 2572).
Some of the people who are remembered the most are the ones who struggled the most but overcame their difficulties. Some examples include President Nelson Mandela (he was in prison for 27 years), Malcolm X (he struggled a lot to fight for the rights of African Americans), Thomas Edison (he did about 1,000 experiments before inventing the lightbulb) and Professor Stephen Hawking (his entire body was paralysed but despite this he had made great scientific breakthroughs in physics). This is somewhat similar to the case of Muslims who face difficulties but remain patient as there is hope that they will someday be rewarded insha Allah (God Willing).
***Was this answer useful to you? If so, please share***