Let us first understand Allaah’ plan for human beings:
Allaah SWT created human beings with freedom to make and execute decisions with a plan for them to love for ever. However, while being a creature with finite capabilities, it would never have perfect knowledge and wisdom to always make the right decisions and while having strong desires, it would also be prone to deliberately making the wrong decision to fulfil his desires.
Thus, bestowing freedom of choice upon human beings and giving them the authority to execute their decisions has two built-in dangers. Firstly, people can make wrong decisions because of the imperfection of human knowledge and wisdom. Secondly, people can choose to misuse their authority and disobey Allaah by practising injustice, violating others’ rights or doing other evil acts. Such erroneous decisions result in problems in society and loss of peace, justice and harmony as well as in ecological imbalance and environment problems. All of the injustices, exploitations, crimes, cruelties, terrorism, wars, environmental destruction, pollution, concentration of wealth in fewer hands vis-à-vis the exploitation/starvation of masses of people, etc. are examples of the problems created by the excesses committed by people who transgress/disobey the Creator.
Other human beings can be fair in their actions and dealings. Fairness and justice spreads peace in the society. However, freedom of choice gives human beings opportunities to excel as well. And some human beings choose to pursue excellence in this regard. They try to do even better than justices and fairness. If wronged; they forgive. If deprived, on their turn, they bestow even to those who derived them. They reconcile and make mends, even if people want to break away from them. They help the poor and needy even if they have to sacrifice their own needs and wants. With their excellence, they beautify the human society. These are the people Allaah loves. And He gave Islam to persuade the maximum number of people to pursue excellence.
Allaah SWT put us in a temporary universe to give everyone a fair and equitable chance to redeem themselves by using their freedom for establishing justice and excellence. Such people will continue to enjoy freedom in the eternal life Hereafter. But the transgressors who choose to commit excesses and misuse/abuse the freedom bestowed by Allaah, will be imprisoned and punished in the hell in the Hereafter.
Making this world temporary also required building into it some imperfections. The natural laws had to be such that would lead to its own destruction. While it had to be made sustainable for a long period to let all planned generations of human beings find the earth hospitable and inhabitable, it must not have been perfect in all respects to continue in an ideal way forever. Some of its imperfections show up in the form of natural disasters. Natural disasters demonstrate to people the temporary nature of this world. They are a part of Allaah’s plan and serve as signs of Allaah’s power and authority. They remind people of the limits of the power and authority given to them in this world and the limitless power and authority of the Creator Himself. They put those who misuse their freedom in place and in check. Without such countermeasures and signs, the transgressors to Allaah’s commands would believe that they are in absolute control of the affairs of the world and would rebel beyond limits creating insurmountable problems for other human beings while looking out only for themselves and their friends at the expense of all others.
Testing people through a temporary life had its own needs. Such natural laws for human life had to be ordained that would make the timing of a person’s death unpredictable. An individual’s span of life without a predictable time frame was designed so that people would prepare for death knowing that it can occur anytime and that delaying obedience to God to a future time would be extremely risky because a future opportunity to repent and become obedient might not come. This required that people would die at different ages: some at a very young age, some at a very old age, and others anywhere in between; and that such occurrence should appear random to people.
Those who do not understand these aspects of Allaah’s plan tend to deny Allaah’s existence on that basis. They think that if a Merciful Creator existed, He would not allow any injustice or crimes in the world. They do not realize that it is because of His mercy that He has put this temporary system in place to weed out the transgressors so that all others can have peace afterwards forever. They forget that once this short test is over, the victims of human crimes will enjoy the mercy of Allaah on the Day of Judgment and in the eternal life hereafter. Similarly, some people question that if an Omnipotent God were taking care of the universe, why would human beings suffer from natural disasters? They miss the point that these natural occurrences evidence the power of God, become signs for the rebellious, and remind the faithful of the need to prepare for the ultimate destruction on the Day of Judgment. They wonder why a Kind God would let the innocent people or a child die. They forget that there is nothing cruel or unjust in moving people naturally to the next stage of life where it will be perfect in every respect, continue forever, discomfort-free and full of pleasures and joys for the obedient people. That is where we will experience the full limitlessness of the mercy of Allaah. Even those who bear the grief of these deaths in this world will be compensated generously in the hereafter for all the troubles they had to suffer. We are going through a temporary phase on a path towards an eternal bliss, if we live by Islam.
Some people may question: If Allaah has created us so that we obey and serve Him like slaves and create a society of peace and justice, why has He not pre-programmed us to do so as He has done to the angels and His other creations? Why not make this life permanent with eternal bliss without putting us through this temporary test where people have opportunities to do bad things and others have to suffer?
The answers to these questions can become self-evident with a bit of reflection and pondering.
Making this life permanent and problem free would have required Him to pre-program our behaviour without giving us freedom to make decisions. If He were going to pre-program us for obedience, then there would be no need to create us because there were two groups of living creations already pre-programmed for obedience: animals as carnal creatures, and angels as spiritual beings who do not have any carnal needs. The only key difference between animals and humans is intellect and its use to acquire knowledge and to choose some behaviour other than that dictated by instincts. Pre-programmed human beings with carnal needs would not require intellect because no decision-making would be needed. They would be just another species of animals. Human beings without carnal needs would be like angels, who are already fulfilling that role perfectly. In either case, our creation would be redundant, purposeless and unnecessary, and it is far from the Glory and Majesty of Allaah to do something that is unnecessary and purposeless.
The other aspect is that any pre-programmed creation, such as an angel or an animal, can do only what is right and just. A creation that has freedom of choice, on the other hand, has the capacity to do more than what is right. It can do more than what is required; give more than what is due; respond with what is the best; and forgive, overlook and forget the wrongs of others. It can opt for excellence, compassion, mercy, magnanimity, generosity and forgiveness. In this way, the creation that has free choice can reflect some of the qualities of the Creator in its behaviour, which a pre-programmed creature cannot. It is only in this sense that human beings have been created in the “image” of God.
By putting us temporarily on this earth, Allaah has given us the opportunity to show who of us is capable of portraying Allaah’s qualities that go beyond justice -- doing better than what is fair, expected or required. It is only these people who will enjoy freedom and bliss in the eternal life that is to come after this temporary life.