Retribution or Elevation?
People generally gloat over other people’s falling when they perceive them to be facing Divine justice. Other than this attitude being an ethical problem, there are at least two scientific mistakes here.
The first mistake lies in the rush to deem hardships or difficulties as an expression of Divine justice and dissatisfaction. The onlooker forgets that we as humans do not have full knowledge and that difficulties and trials in this life are most likely opportunities for elevation God gives to His Beloved ones. (To read more about this topic: click here)
As for the second mistake, let’s say that the difficulties a person is facing are indeed, in a particular case, an expression of Divine justice. In this case we should be reminded of this absolute truth: God would never break a person unless He wants to give him or her a share of His Rahma! And we are called to synchronize our feelings with God. So if you consider a person to be a tyrant or abuser and you see him or her falling and in pain, don’t make it an invitation for your lower self to gloat over his or her misery, rather show mercy and know that that person is now the focal point of God’s mercy!
When the tyrant Hajjaj was removed from power and thrown in the streets, humiliated and penniless, the members of the Family of the Prophet — who had suffered the most at his hands — were the ones who shied away most from gloating over his state. They responded to other people’s gloating with the now-famous saying: «When people once high are brought low, only mercy must you show.»
Look at the attitude of Sayidna Yussef (Prophet Joseph) with Zuleikha, the wife of the governor of Egypt, when divine justice befell her and she became poor, blind, and disfigured. Divine justice befell her because of the pain that she caused him. Not only did Prophet Joseph forgive her, he showed compassion and he did not claim superiority. He went even further: to alleviate her guilt and shame, he said, « What you have done could have come from any human soul if that soul is not elevated by God. » The rest of the story (not from authentic sources) says that he prayed for her youth, beauty, and eyesight to come back, and he married her.
Look how Rasul Allah (Prophet Mohammad may God keep nourishing his light and our connection to him) treated Abu Sufyan, Hind, and Ikrimah, when divine justice befell them because of how they had treated him. Not only did he forgive them, but he gave them as much time as they needed to consider embracing his message, and he gave them the option to never embrace it as long as they wouldn’t fight against him again. He went even further to show them compassion and mercy, saving them from people’s gloating by preserving some of their social standing and privileges…
Compare this to how vindictive and unforgiving we have become.