Answered by Shaykh Farid Dingle
If trials are sent to expiate sins, why were the Prophets afflicted?
Thank you for your important question.
Trials befall us because of our own sins, because of the sins of others, and as a test of patience. The trials that befall the prophets are due to the last two.
Trials and Tribulations
The Messenger of Allah was asked which people are tried the most, and he answered, “The prophets, then the next best, then the next best. The more religious a man is, the more he is tested. If he is solid in his religion, his test is very hard; if he is weak in his religion, he is tested in kind. A slave is continually tried with difficulties until they leave walking on the Earth without a single sin to his name.” [Ahmad; Nasa’i; Tirmidhi and others]
This hadith tells us that trials and tribulations happen to the best of us and that they expiate sins.
The concept is reiterated in many hadiths, such as this one. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “A slave only ever suffers the slightest harm, or anything worse or lighter, because of a sin, while that which Allah simply forgives is even greater.” He then recited the words of Allah, “And whatever calamity afflicts you is for what your hands have earnt. And yet He pardons much.” [Quran, 42:30] [Tirmidhi]
Imam Tirmidhi deemed the hadith to be weak.
The question arises, “Why would prophets who are sinless need trials and tribulations to expiate for their sins?
The rule that every calamity is brought about by sin by that particular individual is simply a general rule. Many hadiths tell us that one may also be tried because of the sins of others or simply to test one’s own patience and acceptance of Allah’s decree. This is the case with Prophets and fits perfectly with the hadith above: “The more religious a man is, the more he is tested.
The trials that befall the prophets are due to the sins of others and are a test of patience.
I pray this helps.
[Shaykh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years, he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.