Many people misunderstand the concept of blessing and punishment. Even I was. To us, happiness, wealth and success are the blessings, while sadness, poverty and failure are the punishment. We often have the wrong idea on the purpose of why Allah sends us hardships. Most of the times, happiness is sent not to bless us, but to test us. On quite the opposite way, the sadness, in which many of us usually regard it as His punishment, is actually sent to bless and purify us.
How do we know which one of these things is a blessing, and which one is a punishment? I got this from Yasmin Mogahed’s speech “Hardships and the path to God". She said that a blessing should be able to make you closer to Allah. It is supposed to thicken your faith. Sometimes, it comes as or in a worldly problem such as losing something you love the most. Just because He takes something special away from you, doesn't mean He is punishing you. If after your loss, you find yourself praying to Allah in a way you have never done before, in a way that it thickens your faith and detaches you from the world and its pleasures; it is indeed, a blessing.
On the other hand, a punishment is something that draws you away from Him. It doesn’t matter; it could be a failure and it could also be happiness. I have faced both kinds of punishment; the kind that purifies me, and the kind that blesses me. Maybe it would rather be easier for me to explain it from my personal life examples.
Have you ever sat down and thought, whether what you ask after your prayers is a do’a, or just phrases that you happened to have memorised or practice since you were kids; because you were told by your parents these are the do’a you should recite after your prayers, so you just say the do’a and by the time you realise, you already reach to the last part when you say “Amin”. After that, you fold the praying mat and leave, without really knowing what have you actually asked? That was my mistake. I focus on dunya but no on the Hereafter. Here is a false attachment – my false attachment to this dunya.
The failures I have faced before were the wake-up calls from Allah but I failed to see them in that way. Pain and failures are the wake-up calls from Allah. Allah is trying to tell me, you, all of us… that something is wrong with our attachments; we might have to re-evaluate and correct it before He does.
Now, another way on how to distinguish between punishment and blessing is to look at the results. If the results make you feel ungrateful and make you ask Him “Why?” then it is a sign of punishment. Then again, punishment is not really a bad thing, because punishment is not meant to punish you, but to purify you. I define “purify” as a given chance for you to readjust your intention. When one’s heart has been purified, the person should be able to see what was wrong in his previous doings, where did he put his expectations and hopes on, before he can set it right.
Now, that is a punishment to purify you… but what about happiness sent to test you?
My past experiences taught me that when someone tries to correct us and we feel offended, that hard blow thrown at us is what makes me remember more and eventually, we will learn to accept. As I said earlier, most people tend to misinterpret happiness for being blessing. Again, a blessing is supposed to move you closer to Him
I’m not trying to show that I'm perfect. To be honest, sometimes, I wonder about His plans by keep on asking why this and that, why me?! But now, the more I wonder, the more I believe He has something really special for me. "On those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning." Qur'an, 39:10.
Understanding all this made me realize where does the term “blessings in disguise” come from. The blessings don’t have necessarily come after the hardships but it could also be that the blessings have been with us all this while. Like the quote from Maurice Setter, "Too many people miss the silver lining because they're expecting gold”, yea..