This first passage of the sūrah concludes with an outline that links the laws relevant to creation, formation and sustenance with those relevant to the nature and destiny of human life:
“And We did not grant to any man before you eternity [on earth]; so if you die – would they be eternal? Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned.”(Al-Qur’an Suurat Al-Anbiya Ch 21: Verses 34-35)
“Literally, ‘Our.’ The ‘royal We’ is barely used in English, but it is a common feature of Arabic speech, used to indicate the importance of the speaker. So don’t be confused. The ‘We’ doesn’t indicate plurality. Rather it indicates importance and respect of speaker. Indeed God is One and Unique. He has no partner.”
No human being has ever been granted immortality. Every creature is bound to die, and whatever has a beginning will certainly have an end. So if God’s Messenger [peace be upon him] is also destined to die, why do they think they would be granted life everlasting? Since they cannot hope to live for ever, why do they not behave like ones who will inevitably taste death? Why do they not reflect and contemplate?
“Every soul will taste death.” (Verse 35) This is the law that governs life. It has no exceptions or exemptions. The living, then, must take this into account and prepare themselves for it. This short journey on earth is bound to come to an end, and its end is the death of every living thing. All shall return to God. But whatever happens to us during this trip through life, whether good or bad, is meant as a test: “We test you with evil and with good as trial;” (Verse 35)
When we speak of being tested by something evil or hard, we can all easily understand this notion. It is a test to show the endurance and patience of the one who is being tested. It is the means to determine how unshakeable his trust in God, his Lord, is, and how much trust he places in God’s mercy. But a test with good things needs to be explained.
To be tested with good things is more difficult than hardship, even though it may appear easier. For the fact is that many people can endure being tested by evil, but few can endure a test with the good. When the test takes the form of sickness and weakness, many are able to endure and withstand the hardship, but when its form is that of good health, strength and ability, then few are those who pass through successfully.
People may be able to withstand poverty and deprivation, maintaining their dignity in such situations, but few are those who succeed in a test with comfort and affluence. For the latter tempts us to satisfy all our desires.
Equally there are many who cannot be deterred by torture or physical harm. They are not overawed by such threats and actualities. By contrast, however, only a few can resist the temptations posited by wealth, position, comfort and desire.
It is not difficult to tolerate the hardships of struggle and the injuries that one sustains in such a struggle. But it is extremely hard to experience comfort and a carefree life without becoming so keen to maintain it even at the expense of one’s dignity. Indeed such an experience could easily lead to accepting humiliation in order not to lose it.
A test with hardship may arouse within us a keen sense of dignity, encouraging us to resist. Thus, all our powers and faculties are directed at the hardship and enable us to pass through successfully. Affluence, on the other hand, has a calming effect which reduces our awareness of the test. Hence, many fail it. This applies to all human beings, except those that God helps and protects. They are the ones described by the Prophet as ending up with what is good in all situations: “Amazing is a believer’s situation, because it all ends up in what is good. This applies to no one other than a believer. If he experiences what is good and pleasing, he will express his gratitude to God and this is good for him. On the other hand, if he experiences hardship, he will patiently persevere and this is good for him.” [Related by Muslim] Hence to keep on the alert when being tested by affluence and comfort is more important than doing so when we go through a test with hardship. Maintaining a sound relation with God is the best guarantee in all situations.
Taken from In the Shade of The Qur’an Vol.12 page 24-25