Why Does God Allow Evil?

The Islamic position on life’s trials and tribulations is one that is extremely empowering. Calamities, disasters and tragedies – all forms of suffering and difficulties , are seen as divinely sent tests. This life is not meant to be a giant party, but we were created with a noble purpose – to worship God. Tests are an inevitable part of that purpose. These tests serve as a reminder of our greater purpose, as a means of purification and, ultimately, as a way of approaching God. The tests are really seen as a sign of God’s love. In fact, Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“WHEN GOD LOVES A SERVANT, HE TESTS HIM” [TIRMIDHI]

Why would God test those He loves? Trials and tribulations are a way to achieve divine mercy; a means to enter the eternal happiness of paradise. God clearly states this in the Quran, saying:

“Do you think that you will enter the Garden without first suffering like those who preceded you?

They were struck by misfortune and hardship, and they were so shaken that even the messenger and the believers with him cried out, “When will Allah’s help come? Now surely Allah’s help is at hand. ” [Holy Quran 2: 214 ]

The beauty of this is that God has empowered us with all the means necessary to overcome these trials. Indeed,

“Allah imposes nothing on the soul but what is in his capacity.” [Holy Quran 2: 286]

In general, any evil or suffering experienced in life is the exception and not the rule. The disease is relatively short compared to good health, just like earthquakes compared to the age of the Earth. Furthermore, just because we may not be able to understand the wisdom behind something, does not mean it is not there. For example, in some cases, the disease results in the build up of immunity; earthquakes relieve the pressures accumulated within the Earth; and volcanoes spew minerals resulting in a rich and fertile soil for agriculture.

There is an ancient wisdom that states: “From the snake’s venom comes the antidote”. Otherwise, can one enjoy the facility without experiencing difficulties for the first time? Would it be possible to appreciate good health if the disease does not occur? They say;

“Evil in the world is like the shaded spaces in a painting; if you get close to that, you will see these as defects, but if you move farther away you will find that the shaded areas are necessary to fulfill an aesthetic function within the art. ” (Islamic Theology vs. the Problem of Evil, -Islamic Theology vs El Problema del Mal, by Abdal Hakim Murad)

Skeptics can focus on the negative aspects, claiming that evil and suffering are not for a greater purpose. Muslims, on the other hand, believe that trials and tribulations are an inevitable part of establishing their ultimate purpose. The Quran emphasizes this concept, stating,

“He who created death and life, to test which of you is better at works – and He is the Almighty, the Forgiver.” [Holy Quran 67: 2]

In some religions, a person’s good condition in the world is seen as an indication that God is satisfied with him or her. For example, if a person has a good job or a nice home, the conclusion is that God loves him. However, in Islam, health, wealth, poverty, disease, etc., are not signs of success or failure: they are a means of testing the individual to determine his response to a particular situation.

False Assumptions

There is no denying the amount of evil and suffering that exists in the world, and we must all be concerned with how we can make the human experience more peaceful. Some argue that the existence of all this evil and suffering undermines the existence of God. However, put emotions aside, is this a convincing argument?

The argument can be summarized as follows:

“It is unbelievable that a good and all-powerful God exists with all the evil and suffering in the world.”

In its logical form:

  • There is a good and powerful God
  • Evil and suffering exist
  • So a good God
  • and powerful does not exist

A basic logic lesson will make someone realize that this argument is not deductive. The conclusion does not necessarily follow from the previous two statements. Instead, the conclusion is probably true; essentially, it is a probabilistic argument. The problem of the evil argument is very weak because it is based on two major false assumptions.

These are:

  • God is the only good and all-powerful
  • God gave us no reason why He allowed evil and suffering

Is God the Only Good and Almighty?

The problem of the evil argument distorts the Islamic concept of God. God is not only good and all-powerful; rather, it has many names and attributes, all of which are understood holistically. For example, one of His names is The wise man. Since the very nature of God is wise, it follows that whatever He wants is according to wisdom. If something has wisdom behind it, there is a purpose for it. In response, skeptics usually respond as follows:

“Why does He have to test us in such evil ways?”

This mistaken response to the Islamic position and undermines the fallacy of arguing for ignorance. The point here is that just because wisdom cannot be understood, it does not mean that there is not one.
This reasoning is typical of young children. Many children are disguised by their parents for something they want to do. For example, wanting to drink a seductive golden brown liquid, also known as whiskey. Children can cry or throw a tantrum because they are thinking how bad Mom and Dad are for not letting them drink. They still don’t realize the wisdom behind them not being allowed to consume it.

The Qur’an uses profound stories and narratives to instill this understanding in the reader’s mind. Take, for example, the story of Moses and Al-Khidr:

“And they found one of Our servants, to whom we gave mercy from Us, and taught him science, from Us.

Moses said to him, ‘May I follow you, on condition that you teach me something that you have been taught righteously?’

The other said, ‘You certainly cannot bear with me.

And how to be patient, about what you do not embrace in science?

Moses said: ‘You will find me patient, if Allah wants, and I will not disobey you in any order,

The other said, ‘So if you follow me, don’t ask me about anything until I mention this thing.

So they both went on until, when they boarded the ship, he punctured it.

Moses said: ‘Did you break it, to drown its occupants? In fact, you did something nefarious!

The other said, ‘Didn’t I tell you that you certainly couldn’t be patient with me?’

Moses said: ‘Do not blame me for what I forgot and do not impose difficulties on me, above my condition.

So they both went on, until, when they met a young man, then he killed him,

said Moses; ‘Did you kill an innocent person without killing another? In fact, you did something terrible!

The other said, ‘Didn’t I tell you that you certainly couldn’t be patient with me? 

Moses said: ‘If, after that, I ask you something, don’t come with me anymore! In fact, you got an excuse from me. ‘

Then, both went on, until, when they reached the residents of a city, they asked their inhabitants for food, and they refused to host them. Then, there, they both found a wall about to fall apart, and he straightened it.

Moses said: ‘If you wanted, you would receive a prize for that.

The other said, ‘This is the time for the separation between you and me. I will inform you of the interpretation of that, with which you could not have patience.

As for the ship, it belonged to the poor, who worked at sea. So, I wished to damage it, because, ahead of them, there was a king, who took, by usurpation, all undamaged ship.

And as for the young man, his parents were believers, and we were afraid that he would induce them to transgress and renounce the Faith. So we wish that their Lord would replace their son with a better one than he, in purity, and closer in blandicia. .

And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphaned boys in the city, and underneath it was a treasure for both; and his father was whole: then your Lord wished that both of you would reach your full strength and bring out your treasure, out of your Lord’s mercy.

And I didn’t do it on my order. That is the interpretation of that, with which you could not have patience. ” [Holy Quran 18: 65-82]

Commenting on the above verses, the classical scholar of Qur’anic exegesis, Ibn Kathir, explained that Al-Khidr was the one to whom God had given knowledge of these realities, and He had not given it to Moses. With reference to the statement:

“In fact, with me, you can never be patient”

Ibn Kathir writes that this means:

“You will not be able to accompany me when you see me doing things that go against your law, because I have knowledge of God that He did not teach, and you have knowledge of God that He did not teach me.” [Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir]

In essence, God’s wisdom and knowledge are limitless and complete, while we, as human beings, have their details: in other words, limited wisdom and knowledge. Therefore, Ibn Kathir explains that the verse:

“And how can you be patient about something you don’t know”

means,

“For I know that you will justifiably denounce me, but I am aware of the wisdom of God and the hidden interests that I can see, but you cannot.” [Ibid]

The view that everything that happens is in line with divine wisdom is empowering and positive. That’s because God’s wisdom doesn’t contradict other aspects of His nature, such as His perfection and goodness. Therefore, all evil and suffering are ultimately part of a greater divine plan. This evokes positive psychological responses from believers, because in the end, all evil and suffering serves a purpose that is both wise and good. Classic 14th-century scholar Ibn Taymiyya sums up this point by saying:

“If God – exalted be – is the Creator of everything, He creates good and evil because of His wise purpose; insofar as His action is good and perfect. ” [Minhaj As-Sunnah 3: 142/2: 25]

Didn’t God Give Us Reasons?

A sufficient answer to the second assumption is to provide a strong argument that God has justified reasons for allowing suffering and evil in the world. The intellectual wealth of Islamic theology provides us with many reasons, some of which include:

The primary objective of the human being is not to enjoy a transient feeling of happiness, but to achieve a deep inner peace through knowledge and worship of God. This fulfillment of the Divine Purpose will result in eternal blessing and happiness. If this is our main objective, other aspects of the human experience are secondary. God says:

“And I didn’t create jinns and humans except to worship Me.” [Holy Quran 51: 56-57]

As already mentioned, God created us for a test; an inevitable part of it is being tested with suffering and malice. The Qur’an mentions:

“He who created death and life, to test which of you is better at works – and He is the Almighty, the Forgiver.” [Holy Quran 67: 2]

Having difficulties and suffering allows us to realize and know the attributes of God, such as “The Victor” and “The Curator”. For example, without the pain and suffering of the disease, we would not like the attribute of God to be “The healer”. Knowing God is a greater good, and it is worth the experience of suffering or pain, as this will mean the fulfillment of our main purpose.

Suffering allows the 2nd order to be good. The first good order is physical pleasure and happiness, and the first order evil is physical pain and sadness. The second good order is high kindness, like courage. Courage is appreciated in the presence of cowardice.

God has given us free will, and free will includes the choice of evil acts. This explains personal evil, which is the evil or suffering committed by a human being. One can argue the following: why doesn’t God give us the choice to do good or evil, but always make sure we choose good?

The problem here is that good and evil would lose their meaning if God were to always guarantee that we choose good. Consider the following example: someone always points a loaded gun to your head and asks you to give charity. You obviously give to charity, but do you have any moral value? Do not.

Conclusion

A number of responses to the perceived problem of evil have been discussed here. Ultimately, the absence of any harm or suffering would point to absolute perfection, but that is something reserved for God alone. Life on earth can never be an impeccable paradise: this state can only be obtained by those who pass the test of this worldly existence.

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