Why does God create people all differently with respect to provision, lifestyle,
intelligence and physiology?
Why did God create us with different levels of provision and intelligence,
lifestyle and physiology? Why does He allow some people to suffer hardship and
poverty while others live lives of luxury? Such questions, besides relating
to Destiny, also have some bearing on understanding the Divine way of acting.
Before discussing the Divine Wisdom in this matter, we should point out that
all such questions arise from not knowing the Divine Being. If we had as much
desire to learn everything about God as we do about a movie star or a sports
figure, if we had access to the necessary resources from which we could learn
something about our Lord, if we studied the Book of the Universe according to
the criteria established by the Divine Scripture, and if we followed the principles
preached by the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, to establish a true
life—if we did all of this, we could discern the immaterial dimension of things
and events through the prism of our conscience. If we could really reach that
level we would not need to ask such questions. But as long as science isolates
itself from religion and healthy meditation is replaced by mechanical life and
mass information, we will continue to ask such questions and find it hard to
know our Creator.
As a second point in understanding the Divine Wisdom behind these differences,
consider our claims of ownership and disposal over what we regard as our property.
What share do we have in producing the food we consume? Each morsel of food
requires the existence of the entire universe. Given this, and if we can claim
ownership and free disposal over our private property in which we have so little
share, why should God, the Creator and unique Owner of the universe and all
of its contents not have free disposal of His property?
God Almighty has many Names, each of which has different manifestations.
The Name All-Providing supplies beings with what they need to live; the Name
All-Healing enables patients to recover; and the Name All-Answering comes to
the aid of the needy. He warns the heedless with His Name All-Distressing, and
relieves the distressed with His Name All-Relieving. If we study the manifestations
of God’s Names, we can see the beauty in the variety they bring about in the
universe, and understand the wisdom underlying differences in creation. God
makes Himself known by manifesting His Names. For example, flowers smile at
us as the result of the manifestation of His Names originating in His Grace,
while “natural” catastrophes remind us of His Wrath as the manifestation of
His Names originating in His Majesty.
We have no right to question God Almighty for what He gives or does not give.
Remember that God did not create you as a lifeless element, a plant or an animal,
but as a human being. Also, just as there are always people who are wealthier
and healthier than you, there also are people who are poorer and sicker than
you. So, with respect to wealth and health, consider those who are poorer and
sicker than you; with respect to honesty and morality, learning and altruism,
truthfulness and generosity, and so on, emulate those who are better than you.
Suppose three destitute people are given an apartment, a large detached house,
and a palace, respectively, by a rich person. Does the one who is given an apartment
have the right to ask the rich person why he was not given a detached house
or a palace? Should he not, rather, thank his benefactor for the apartment?
Similarly, all that we have is from God. Thus, whether we are rich or poor,
sound or disabled, healthy or sick, we are obliged to thank God.
This world is an arena of trial, a place where we seek to acquire the state
appropriate for the other life. This is not easy. Like a tailor trying to design
the best possible suit for a client by cutting and stitching the material and
then having the client sit and stand and turn around to see how it fits, God
Almighty causes us to “turn about” in diverse conditions to “shape” us for the
We are like raw mineral that has to be refined. Just as there are many types
of minerals, our social life requires that we have different levels of intelligence,
physical strength, and sensitivity. Depending upon the final product desired,
whether gold or diamonds, coal or copper, different (and more exacting and demanding)
processes and methods must be applied to the raw mineral. Similarly, each of
us may need a different kind of test, trial, or training to be refined and reach
our destined final level of attainment. This means that God subjects each of
us to different levels of suffering and affliction to elevate us to a state
appropriate for the other world.
Besides being the arena of test and trial, this world is also the realm of
trouble. When God warned Adam not to eat of the forbidden tree, He reminded
Adam, surely this [Satan] is an enemy to you and your wife.
So let him not expel you both from the Garden, so that you are unprosperous.
It is assuredly given to you neither to hunger therein nor to go naked, neither
to thirst therein, nor to suffer the sun. (20:117–19)
That means that in the world we will hunger, thirst, tire, and encounter
hardship. This must be so because it is in this world that we will sow the seeds
to be harvested in the Hereafter. Those seeking only to gratify their desires
most probably are the ones God will address in the other world with the following
You dissipated your good things in your worldly life, and you
took your enjoyment in them; therefore today you shall be recompensed with the
chastisement of humiliation because you waxed proud on the Earth without right,
and for your ungodliness. (46:20)
On the other hand, those who endure hunger, thirst, and other hardship
here for the sake of God will be admitted to Paradise and addressed thus by angels:
Peace be upon you. Well you have fared; enter in,
to dwell forever (39:72); and Eat and drink
with wholesome appetite for that you did long ago, in the days gone by
As God gives you more bounties and blessing, your responsibility grows. For
example, alms-giving is compulsory for the wealthy, while the disabled, blind,
or the needy and sick do not have to bear arms in the way of God. To express the utmost
degree of piety, the Prophet Jesus says:
You have heard that it was said: “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell
you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery
with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and
throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your
whole body to be thrown into Hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your
body than for your whole body to go into Hell. (Matthew 5.27-30)
So, we do not know if being rich or poor, or healthy or sick, is better for
us. And the Qur’an tells us that: It may be that
you dislike a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although
it is bad for you. God knows but you know not (2:216).
Furthermore, many rich people cannot enjoy food and drink or the world’s
beauty as much poor people do because of their lack of appetite or bad health.
Although poverty is not something to be desired and indeed, as stated by the
Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, can even cause unbelief,
it is difficult to claim that the rich are always happier than the poor. No
one can assert that people in the Middle Ages, when living standards were relatively
low, were less happy than today’s rich people. Happiness lies in spiritual satisfaction,
not in having the material facilities to gratify bodily desires.
Another point to emphasize is that no one should complain about hardship.
When compared with times of good health, comfort, and happiness, times of illness
or hardship usually are not worth mentioning. Also, we usually live unaware
of the constant bounties we receive. For example, the sun rises every day and
sends us its heat and light for free. We are never deprived of air, without
which we would die instantly, although we pay nothing for it. All the “natural”
events necessary for producing rain occur without any contribution from us.
What we should do is thank God for these and all other bounties (none of which
we can provide for ourselves), for the greatest part of our life (spent in health
and comfort), and not to complain to God about illness, hardship, or the lack
of some additional blessing.
Equality in material resources, as well as in intellectual and physical ability,
should not be considered a desirable social objective, for it is incompatible
with the requirements of social life. These differences, as well as those in
individual temperament, disposition, and preference, sustain the variety of
human occupations, a fundamental element of human social life. This variation
causes people to need one another and to establish mutual good relations. However,
these relations should be based on justice and mutual love, respect, understanding
and care. They should not lead to oppression, usurpation, cheating, or to class-based
social hostility and contempt. According to Said Nursi (d. 1960), a Muslim
scholar, thinker, and activist who started a major Islamic revival in Turkey
in the first half of the twentieth century, two major reasons for all the revolutions
and upheavals of the last few centuries are the attitudes: “I do not care if
others die of hunger so long as I am full,” and “You work so that I may eat.”
Islam tackles the first attitude with zakat, the obligatory alms-tax
on wealthy Muslims, principally for redistribution among the poor and needy.
Islam tackles the second attitude by prohibiting all interest-based transactions.
Further, Islam extols the virtue of helping the poor and needy and commends moderate,
disciplined living. The lives of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessing,
and his four immediate political successors (known collectively as the Rightly
Guided Caliphs) are good examples for the Muslim élites to follow.
Before closing this discussion, we should point out that however undesirable
and even appalling in appearance, affliction and illness usually bear good results.
Just as punishing our children to train them, amputating a gangrenous limb,
or deriving medicine from a snake’s venom, most afflictions or illnesses usually
produce good results. For believers, they are always meant to give good results,
even for unbelievers who are not oppressors who lost the ability to believe,
they are meant to give good results, serving as warning at least. They require
good patience for they are usually followed by good and bring much reward for
the next life and perfection of this life.
A sparrow-hawk’s swooping contributes to a sparrow’s alertness and develops
its ability to escape. People may be hurt by rain or electricity or fire, but
no one actually curses them. Fasting may be difficult, but it provides the body
with energy, activity, and resistance. A child’s immune system usually gains
strength through illness. Exercise is not easy, but it is almost essential for
the body’s health and strength. Our spirit is refined and acquires the state
deserving Paradise through worship and meditation (tafakkur), as well
as through illness, suffering, and hardship. God gives a large reward for a
small sacrifice. Hardship and suffering promote us to higher spiritual degrees
and will be rewarded in the other world with a generosity that we cannot even
imagine. For this reason, Prophets suffer the most grievous hardship and difficulty,
and they are followed by saintly people and other believers, each according
to their degree of belief.
Hardship, illness, and calamity cause believers’ sins to be forgiven and
remind them to remain alert to sin and the attempted seduction of Satan and
their carnal self. They also help us appreciate God’s blessings, express our
gratitude, and encourage the rich and healthy to help the poor and the sick.
Those who never experience hunger cannot fully appreciate the conditions in
which the hungry live. Nor can one who has never been sick be aware of what
sick people live through. So, hardship, illness, and calamity may establish
closer relations between different groups or classes of people.
Calamity and suffering increase our resistance to the hardships of life and
train us to persevere and endure. They also separate the strong and sincere
supporters of a cause from those who are supporters out of convenience or some
other personal (and therefore inappropriate) reason.