The dealings of God with His servants and the manner in which He deals with them are called sunnatullāh by the Qur'ān. The Almighty says that these practices are permanent and unalterable. Consequently, for a true comprehension of God, just as knowledge of His attributes is essential, knowledge of His dealings with His creation is also essential.
Following are the sunan (practices and dealings) of God:
1. Tests and Trials
God has created this world for test and trial. Every single person on this earth faces these trials and as such His practice of putting mankind through trials is a universal phenomenon. Whatever is ingrained in human nature comes to surface because of these trials; the secrets of the inner personality of a person are revealed through these very trials and the levels attained by a person in his ideologies and in his deeds are ascertained through these very trials. The Qur'ān says that life and death have been created for the very purpose of judging that who among mankind adopts a rebellious attitude towards his Creator and who leads a life according to the liking of his Creator. No doubt, the Almighty has knowledge of everything; however, He has set the practice for Himself that He does not merely reward and punish people on the basis of His knowledge; on the contrary, He does so on the basis of their deeds. For this very purpose, He has implemented the system of trials and tests on this earth.
The circumstances of sorrow and happiness, poverty and affluence, grief and joy which befall a person in this world are governed by this very practice of God. Through such circumstances, the Almighty tests His servants and differentiates the good among them from the evil. When He blesses people with affluence and status, He tests whether they will remain grateful to Him or not and when He afflicts people with poverty and hardships, He tests whether they will remain patient or not.
2. Guidance and Error
In this trial, man has been asked to guard himself from going astray and to consciously adopt the guided path. The Qur'ān has informed us that this guidance is found in the very nature of a person. Moreover, once a person attains the age of intellectual maturity, the signs of the heavens and the earth around him direct his attention to this guidance. If a person values and treasures this guidance and benefits from it and is grateful to his Lord for it, it is the practice and law of God that He increases the glow of this guidance and creates in a person a further desire for this guidance and as a result of this induces in him the urge to benefit from the guidance brought by the prophets of God.
If a person decides upon evading this ingrained guidance, refuses to use his intellect, and deliberately deviates from the truth, then in the words of the Qur'ān this is zulm (wronging the soul) and fisq (defiance) and the Almighty never guides a person who continues to wrong his soul and persists in defiance and He leaves him to wander in the darkness of error and misguidance.
3. Beyond-Capacity Directives
In the sharī'ah revealed through His prophets, the Almighty never gives a directive to human beings which is beyond their capacity. In all that emanates from God for human beings, it is always made sure that they are not burdened beyond what they can bear and whatever directive given is given keeping in view human capacity and capability. Consequently, a person will not be held liable for sins done out of forgetfulness or misunderstanding or done inadvertently, and God's only requirement of man is that he should follow His directives in both letter and spirit with full veracity and honesty. However, this does not mean that if people adopt a rebellious behaviour, then too the Almighty does not burden them beyond their capacity. It is evident from the Qur'ān that for reprimand and training or for punishment or to show them the consequences of their evil deeds or to make them aware of their helplessness against the power of God people are certainly burdened beyond their means.
4. Rise and Fall of Nations
Under the law of trial which has been mentioned earlier, just as God selects people to make them undergo a trial of patience or of gratitude, in a similar manner He also selects nations for this purpose. As a result of this selection, when a nation once rises among the comity of nations the practice of God with it is that He keeps it on this position until it itself plunges into lowliness with regard to morality and knowledge. This is an unchangeable practice of God and when, after repeated warnings, He decides to humiliate and depose a nation no one can stop Him and no power of this world can help that nation against the Almighty. The whole history of mankind bears witness to this practice of God regarding the rise and fall of nations.
5. Divine Help
When the Almighty entrusts a person or a group with any of His missions and asks them to achieve it, He also provides His help to them. This mission can relate to propagation of His message and it can also relate to jihād and warfare. The Almighty has held it mandatory on Himself to help the believers who have taken up such a mission. This help does not come randomly. It is based on a principle. This principle is mentioned in the Qur'ān and it is in accordance with this principle that people receive this help from Him.
6. Remorse and Repentance
If a person commits a sin, there exists a chance for him to repent. In this regard, the rule is that if people repent immediately after they commit a sin the Almighty definitely forgives them; however, He does not forgive people who deeply indulge in sin all their lives and when they see death approaching start to repent and seek forgiveness from the Almighty. Similarly, He also does not forgive people who deliberately deny the truth if they persist with this denial till death.
7. Reward and Punishment
In the Hereafter, reward and punishment is a certain reality; however, it is evident from the Qur'ān that at times this reward and punishment also takes place in this world. These lesser days of judgement are a prelude to the greater day of judgement which will take place in the Hereafter. The various forms of this reward and punishment which the Almighty has spelled out in the Qur'ān are:
Firstly, people who are only after this world, live and die for it and are absolutely indifferent to the Hereafter are given whatever worldly benefits the Almighty wants to give them and then their account is settled by Him in this very world and they are rewarded or punished on the basis of their deeds right in this world.
Secondly, those who reject their respective rasūl (messenger) even after being communicated the truth to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it are punished in this very world and those who profess faith in him, blessings of God embrace them from all sides.
Thirdly, the Almighty has promised the progeny of Abraham (sws) that if they adhere to the truth, they will lead all nations of the world and if they deviate from it, they will be deposed from this position and will have to face the punishment of humiliation and subjugation.
(Translated from Al-Islam by Dr Shehzad Saleem)