Presentation and Criticism

Why does evil exist in the human world?

hose who raise this question find it difficult to reconcile the existence of evil with God’s attribute of mercy. In this context, the only attribute of God they mention is mercy. They overlook his other attributes of infinite wisdom, might and greatness.

Over time, this question has frequently been discussed, both from the philosophical and religious points of view. Extensive research has also been conducted on this issue. I will mention a few brief rules which will enable us to understand the question of evil. Before that, however, we need to put some questions to atheists: Has your denial of God put an end to evil in the world? Have massacres stopped? Have floods subsided and have we seen an end to earthquakes and the eruption of volcanoes? Besides, tell us about tyrants who killed thousands or millions of people: will they be punished after they die? Will those who suffered injustice at their hands be given justice?

The real problem with regard to the question about evil is faced by atheists and unbelievers who do not believe in life after death. Conversely, a believer who is certain that people’s actions will be reckoned and there will be reward and punishment in an afterlife is not so faced. In his view of the question of evil, a believer stands on solid ground and has a clear and coherent perspective. His attitude is not based on emotions and feelings that are unsupported by evidence. We may describe its outline as follows:

One: God has given man free will which enables him to choose good or evil. To be held to account for the use of his will is a requirement of justice. When man chooses, by his own will, to kill, this is his own evil action, not God’s.

Two: We cannot understand the wisdom behind the presence of evil in this life unless we believe that this life is incomplete and represents a test. It is not the place where mankind receive their dues for what they do. Whatever evil or disasters take place in it is part of this general condition that God wanted this life to be. Yet some people continue to look for reward and punishment in this world, and when they do not find them they protest against God. These people do not understand God’s purpose of making this life the way it is.

Three: One of the constant laws God has established for this present life is subjecting people to tests. This is His way that will never change. It is consistent with His attribute of wisdom. A test is often the way a believer purges himself of what is unbecoming. After the test, he is as pure as pure gold that has been subjected to very high temperature. Tests often make people turn back to God, purge them of sin and spare them all punishment in hell.

Four: Some aspects of wisdom are implied in what we may consider to be evil, and these may not be readily apparent at first sight. For example, Moses accompanied al-Khadir on his travels and saw him doing outrageous deeds. They were on a ship and al-Khadir made a hole in it. Moses could not understand why he did this. He said to him:‘Do you want the people on board to drown?’(18: 71)

Later, al-Khadir told him the reason for his action. The ship belonged to some poor people who went to sea to earn their living. They were subject to a tyrant ruler who confiscated all seaworthy ships. Al-Khadir decided to slightly damage it, to ensure that the tyrant ruler would not confiscate it. It would remain with those poor people.

The same applies in our own lives. We may aspire to something, feeling that we will be very happy to have it, but when we actually have possession of it we discover that it is not as we thought. Indeed, we wish that we did not have it at all. How often do a couple try hard to have a child, and when a child is born to them, the child becomes the source of all their troubles and misery? They wish that they had never had a child. This shows that our own ideas of what is good or evil are not necessarily true.

God does not create anything that is totally evil. We may initially judge something to be evil, but when we examine it more carefully, we find that it has some good aspects. What good it has may not appear in this present life, and it may be delayed to the life to come, where it may produce something far better.

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