God Certainly Knows How We Act and Live in this World, Whether We Obey His Commands or Not. So, What is the Meaning of Being Sent to this World to Be Tested?
It is certainly the case that God knows how we act and live in this world. He sends us to be tested by Him, so that we can improve our abilities and skills through the responsibilities He ordains for us. Undoubtedly, God creates us just as He creates minerals such as coal, copper, iron, silver and gold: He is the Lord, the Cherisher, the Owner and Maker of all.
A person with artistic talents wants to express those talents and so is known through his works of art. In the same way, the majesty and splendor and artistry of the creation of God is a presentation and reflection of His sacred Names and Attributes. To show human beings His art (Might, Power, Knowledge, Wisdom, Beauty and Mercy) He created the universe and exhibited aspects of His mysterious, hidden treasures in it.
To show us how His Names, Attributes and Divine Art become manifest, He created the universe step by step. In different qualities and quantities, He grants us countless opportunities to get to know Him better, endless ways to acquire sound knowledge about Him. He is the absolute Creator who makes everything from one, and adds to whatever He wills thousands of additional benefits. Thus it is that, for example, carbon may be manifest as coal or diamond, and each further refined and adapted to a multitude of different uses.
Through whatever is created and exhibited in the universe and is given to man, man himself is tested, purified and prepared as a candidate for eternal bliss in paradise. In the same way, raw materials are refined, purified and processed into silver, gold or diamonds. In one hadith, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, said: ‘Human beings are just like minerals. One who is good in jahiliyya (the time of pagan ignorance in Arabia before Islam) is also good in Islam’ (Sahih al-Bukhari, ‘Iman,’ 10, ‘Anbiya’,’ 8–14; Sahih al-Muslim, ‘Fada’il al-Sahaba,’ 168, ‘Mana-qib,’ 25; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 3, 101). For example, ‘Umar enjoyed dignity, glory and honour before Islam, but when he became a Muslim he had more. He gained a calmer dignity, tender-heartedness and the grandeur of iman. Before Islam, he might be tough, quick-tempered, haughty, as one who thought he had everything; after becoming Muslim, he was one of the most modest and humble of men in his bearing towards the believers. Through Islam, he improved his qualities and attributes. Therefore, when we see well-mannered, dynamic, energetic, audacious and spirited people, we wish them to be Muslim, for one who was good, great, glorious and es-teemed before Islam will be far more so in Islam.
Islam deals with the most precious and invaluable of minerals—man. It takes man, kneads, improves and matures him, refining him as gold is refined pure. The Companions of the Prophet, upon him be peace, became so, 24 carat pure. Later on, however, Muslims began to fall off from this standard of fineness, from 24 to 15 carats. In the twentieth century, some people have even fallen to a standard of one carat or less in their fineness. In consequence, sadly, this century has witnessed the trouble caused by many dissolute and criminal persons.
We are tested in this world so that we may become clarified, purified and attain virtue and perfection. Even though God knows how well or otherwise we perform in the test, He tests us all the same. It is not because He does not know and wants to learn what He does not know through us, rather He knows and accordingly tests a man against himself, and man against others. When we make strenuous efforts to refine ourselves, to find out and prove what we are, what we have, and whether we are worthless and valueless like iron or great like gold, we are only acting as a means to make happen what God already knows from eternity. We are tested in what we strive for, and in what we exert ourselves to do. In this way, we shall enter the presence of God and give account of ourselves to Him: ...But their hands will speak to us, and their feet bear witness, to all that they did (41:65). ‘Hands and feet’ symbolically represent all our instruments for action, all the members of our bodies, including our faculties and opportunities. In other verses, ‘eyes, ears and skins’ are all mentioned as bearing witness against us if we have misused them.
We are being tested against ourselves, in all that we have—all the members of our bodies, all our faculties of thought and feeling, and all the opportunities we have been granted to use them. God, Exalted is He, does not test us because He wants to know how we do in the test, but because He wants to show us ourselves so that we become aware that we are testing ourselves and being tested. And God knows best.