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If God is all good, then why does evil exist?

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Question

I have a very strange question to ask and may God forgive me asking this but i really need  a convincing answer as this issue is troubling me.The question is that If God is Benevolent and Omnipotent, then why is there existence of evil in the world? If God allows evil to exist, then He is not all-good. If God cannot help but allow evil to exist, then he is not all-powerful.

Regards and waiting for your answer eagerly

Reply
The word ‘Evil’ is generally used in two separate connotations. Firstly, it is used for reference to the bad deeds of people; for instance lying, injustice, oppression etc. Secondly, it is used for circumstances and conditions, which people consider as ‘not good’; for instance poverty, earthquakes, natural calamities, drought etc. The above question is generally asked from both perspectives, i.e. ‘if God is All-good, then why does He allow people to do evil?’ and ‘if God is All-good, then why is there so much suffering in this world?’.

As far as the first question is concerned, evil deeds are, in fact, a result of the freewill that God has bestowed upon man, for the particular purpose of the test, during the life of this world.This ‘test’ would not have been possible without granting man the freewill to choose what ever he wishes to.Thus, the Qur’an (Al-Maaidah 5: 48) says:

“And had God so desired, He would have made you a single people [and not given you the freedom to deviate], but for the purpose of testing you in what He has bestowed upon you [He granted you freedom]”

At another instance, the Qur’an also tells us that God created man on the path of ‘good’, evil came into existence only because of man’s deviation from that ‘good’. Yunus 10: 19 says:

“And [in the beginning,] people were but a single nation [on the path of piety], but then they started creating differences [and thus, deviated from the right path]. And had it not been for God’s decision, which had preceded [regarding testing man and allowing him time], the matter would have been [immediately] decided between them, regarding what they differed in”

It is clear from the cited verses that ‘evil deeds’ are only a product of man’s deviation from the right path, which, in turn, is the result of the freewill, which God has bestowed upon man. One may, however, say that when man commits a sin – deviates from the right path – God should restrict his freedom. Even though, it was possible for God to do so, yet doing so would effectively have meant taking away man’s freewill and, thereby, terminating his test. This is precisely what is referred in the above-cited verse in the words: “had it not been for God’s decision, which had preceded [regarding testing man and allowing him time], the matter would have been [immediately] decided between them, regarding what they differed in.”

Hence, for the purpose of making the test possible, it was necessary to allow man to deviate from the prescribed path, if he so desired, without following such deviation with any immediate punishment: as an immediate punishment for doing ‘evil’ and an immediate reward for doing ‘good’ would also have rendered the ‘test’ ineffective and impossible. The Qur’an (Faatir 35: 45) says:

“And had God [immediately] punished people for their deeds, He would not have left any moving creature on the face of the earth. But He allows them [to do their deeds] till an appointed time. Then, when that time comes… Indeed, God is fully watchful over His people”

As should be obvious, there is nothing in the concept of ‘test’, which refutes God’s benevolence, mercy or His being all-good. Nevertheless, if all were to end with man’s death, if ‘good’ and ‘evil’ were not to meet their separate ends, if the test, during the life of this world, were abandoned without its logical results – this would then, indeed, refute all benevolence, mercy, justice and goodness of the Creator. It is because of this reason that the Qur’an has emphatically declared that it would not be all over at man’s death and that at the end of the ‘test’, man shall be rewarded or punished for his performance during this ‘test’. Thus, the verse of Al-Maaidah cited above, goes further to say:

Therefore, excel in good deeds, to your Lord shall be the return of all of you, then He shall inform you regarding that, in which you differed.

Now, let us turn to the second question. The Qur’an tells us that the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ times are also a part of the ‘test’ of man. It tells us that ‘good’ times are a test of man’s gratitude, while ‘bad’ times are a test of man’s perseverance and steadfastness in God’s ways. The Qur’an (Al-Anbiyaa 21: 35) says:

“We shall try you with good and bad times, as a test. And to Us shall you return”

The Qur’an also tells us that the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ times for a particular individual or a people is not merely a test for that particular individual or people alone. It is also a test for all others, who directly or indirectly come in contact with those individuals or people. For instance, loss of wealth of an individual is a ‘test’ of perseverance and steadfastness for that particular individual, on the one hand, while on the other, it is a ‘test’ for those living around that individual, insofar as how they behave and help out that particular individual in his hard times. Similarly, a famine, for instance, is not merely a ‘test’ for those directly affected by the calamity; on the contrary, it is also a ‘test’ for those whom God has bestowed with surplus food.

Thus, as a general principle, an individual, according to the Qur’an, may be faced with extreme ‘hard times’ for any of the following reasons:

  1.     The person faced with the particular situation is tested with such a situation while others are made to realize the blessings of God and the privileges that they enjoy in life. Such a situation normally is to point out to others the great blessings of God that we tend to take for granted. A normal person suddenly loses his eyesight and is turned into a blind. This extra-ordinary event in the life of one person may point out to others the great blessing of “eyes that see”, which we normally tend to ignore in our lives and may also help us realize the duties that are incumbent upon us for enjoying this extra-ordinary privilege in life. On the other hand, the particular individual faced with such a situation is tested for his steadfastness and perseverance in the God’s ways. Our hardships, normally, fall into this category. The ideal attitude that we all must aspire to develop is that every time a hardship comes our way, we should consider it an opportunity of success in our ultimate life and pray to God to help us succeed in this test.
  2.     Sometimes God selects a person, on the basis of His absolute knowledge, to behave as an epitome of gratitude toward God for all those around him. In such cases, the primary objective of putting an individual through an extremely severe situation is to teach others of the correct attitude of thankfulness and gratitude toward their Lord. In this situation, others are made to see the individual’s faithful and thankful behaviour toward his Creator in a very severe situation and thereby realize the importance of the good things God has given them and also to compare their own behaviour with that of the person put in such a severe situation. The basic difference between this situation and the one described in number 1 above is from the particular individual’s perspective that is taken through such extra-ordinary situation. In number 1, it is primarily a test for the individual, while in number 2, it is a privilege for the particular individual that he is selected by God for the purpose of teaching others of the right attitude and to act as an example for them. An example of this may be seen in the life of Hadhrat Ayyub (pbuh) [For details, you may see the book of “Job”, in the Old Testament]..
  3.     To cleanse an individual of the bad deeds that he might – knowingly or unknowingly – have committed in the past. If the person remains steadfast and faithful to his Lord in this cleansing process, all his bad deeds are washed away in the life of this world, which guarantees his success in the life hereafter.
  4.    To punish an individual for his general attitude of transgression against God in life In such a situation the severe condition is only a preamble for the real punishment that the person shall face in the life hereafter.

Hope it answers your question

UIUK team

 

 

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