“Or do you think that you shall enter the Garden (of Bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried: “When (will come) the help of Allah?” Ah! Verily, the help of Allah is (always) near!”
Surah Al-Baqarah (2:214)
Whether or not we realize, we live in the world that comprises not only the non-Muslims who believe in other Gods, but some of these non-Muslims are the atheists who do not even believe in God. One of their strongest arguments is that, if God exists, why are there too much sufferings and calamities on earth?
A famous philosopher, David Hume once posed this question to the theists in his doubt of God’s existence: “If God is willing to prevent evil, but He is not able, then He is impotent. If God is able to prevent evil, but He is not willing, then He is malevolent. But if God is both able and willing, why is there evil?”
By presenting the fact of the existence of evil in this world, they argue the following. First, God is not omnipotent or powerful because He cannot prevent evil. Secondly, God is Himself evil because He allows evil to exist.
The funny thing about those arguments is that to be able to claim that God is impotent and Himself evil, these atheists must firstly agree to the existence of God! How do you attach a description to something without firstly agreeing to its existence? It is as if asking a question whether James gives birth to a baby boy or a baby girl, although the first question that should come is whether James can give birth?
Praise be to Allah, that in Islam, the teaching of Allah through His deen is so perfect that it provides all answers to these absurd questions from the unbelievers.
First, we Muslims do not only believe that Allah (God) is good and omnipotent. Instead, we believe that part of Allah’s names and attributes include the Just, the Severe in Punishment, the Wise, the Avenger and many others. It is these attributes that automatically remove all doubts and confusion about Allah. In the case of the Christians however, who believe that God is all good and omnipotent, they will have a problem to then explain why there are evil and suffering if God is all good and omnipotent.
As for the Muslims, the evil and suffering of the world can be explained as follows.
First, it is a manifestation of God’s punishment as a result of our sins or bad actions. Secondly, it is part of God’s wisdom that difficulties and suffering exist. Let me narrate a short story that in a way helps me understand how every difficulty God permits in this world comes with wisdom.
There is a company that breeds beautiful butterflies for sales. One day, they plan to increase their production by reducing the time it would take for a butterfly to come out from its pupa. So they use some chemicals and apply them onto the pupa to make it softer. The technique really helps and the butterfly escapes faster from its pupa.
To their surprise however, all of the butterflies tested could not even expand their wings! The wings seem to wrap around the body and well, a butterfly is not beautiful without its colorful wings, is it?
What do they finally find out? Actually, the pupa is hard because it helps strengthens the muscles the butterfly uses to expand its wings. So, a hard pupa is necessary so that a true butterfly with wonderful wings can come into being!
Before I end this article, there are two more important things I need to touch on. First, good or evil is something absolutely subjective to mankind. We do not know, if the sufferings or difficulties we face in life are actually to keep us in check so that we always remember Him and do not be arrogant, so never take them negatively. Also, if we were to follow our definition of what is good and bad, or what is right and wrong, we will never be able to. This is simply because at different places, people perceive things differently. If we follow mankind, we will continue to live in a world where some people agree to homosexuality and some don’t and this will never end. It is only through Divine message that we can get a clear picture and guidelines, on which is permissible and which is prohibited instead.
Secondly, we always have to understand, contrary to the humanist and atheist, we believe that life is a test and therefore is temporary. It is life in the Hereafter that is eternal and we have to be clear about it. By accepting this, then we can set ourselves free from wrong interpretation of occurrences in this world. Difficulties in life can either be a test so that we can prove our faith in Allah, or it may be a means to cleanse us from sins insya Allah.
In Sahih Bukhari, Prophet Muhammad SAW beautifully told us that, “No calamity befalls a Muslim but Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it was the prick he receives from a thorn.”
Allah assures us, that in every difficulty, there is relief. And He says this twice in the same Chapter in the Quran, Surah Al-Inshirah (94:5-6) that for every difficulty, there is relief. So it is now our job to look at the world with a correct perspective and may Allah increase our faith further until the time He presents to us the Paradise insya Allah. Wallahua’lam and may Allah bless us all.
This article is written for As-Shifa' Magazine, IMU MSOC 2011
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