It is a divine tradition for God to test humans for different purposes. We are always prone to tests so as to have an assessment of our behavior and deeds. “Do people think that they are left alone by saying: 'We are believers, ' and will not be tried?” (Surah Al-Ankabut, verse 2)
Therefore, man should always expect to face a new test. The tools and means for these tests are also extensive and range from blessings to calamities. Any incident happening around us can be a means for testing. “Every soul shall taste death. We will try you with a trial of evil and good. Then, to Us you shall be returned.” (Surah Al-Anbiya, verse 35) Just like disasters and calamities, blessings such as youth, health, wealth, beauty, children etc. also act as means for trying people: “We have appointed all that is on the earth an adornment for it, in order that We try which of them is finest in works.” (Al-Kahf, verse 7)
Divine tests are a general tradition and are not exclusive to any particular individual or society, rather all people will be tried. What bears the highest importance here is being aware of the aim and incentive of these tests. The first purpose of them can be to determine the hidden potentials and merits of people. “Allah might test what was in your breasts and that He might purge what was in your hearts; and Allah knows what is in the breasts.” (Surah Al-Imran, verse 154)
Verse 7 of Surah Al-Ma'idah which reads “surely Allah knows what is in the breasts,” shows that God does not aim to determine the truth via testing, rather, He seeks to train and manifest the capacities that exist deep in humans.
The second aim of the tests is to have a measure for rewards and punishments. Having internal traits cannot lead to rewards or punishments by themselves, rather, these traits lead to related deeds. Imam Ali (AS) points to this in Hikmat 93 of Nahj al-Balagha: “God known man better than himself but tries him to reveal deeds that are criteria for rewards and punishments."
The third aim can be considered differentiating good from bad; because in a society in which all people introduce themselves as faithful, the best tool for spotting true believers is divine tests. “Allah will not leave the believers in that which you are till He shall distinguish the evil from the good.” (Surah Al-Imran, verse 79)
This article was derived from a book titled “Manshur Javid” [eternal charter] written by Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, a prominent Iranian Muslim scholar and Marja.