hy does evil exist? This is the age-old question, which has been put forward by those who question the existence of Allah (Almighty God). They ask, “If there really is a good, all-knowing and all-powerful God, then there should be no evil in the world.” It is a crucial question that has hindered many from following the path of God. Evil is what many claim is the Achilles’ heel of all religions and hence disproves the existence of God.
God willed to create human beings and he revealed this knowledge to his angels in heaven.
“Behold your Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a vicegerent on Earth.’ They said: ‘Will You place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? — while we do celebrate Your praises and Your holy [name]?’ He said: “I know what you do not know.” (Quran 2:30)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is narrated to have said: “How amazing is the case of the believer; there is good for him in everything, and this characteristic is exclusively for him alone. If he experiences something pleasant, he is thankful, and that is good for him; and if he comes across some adversity, he is patient, and that is good for him.”
We understand that life is a test from our Creator and, therefore, we try to see the bigger picture in the grand scheme of life no matter what situation we are in. There is wisdom in all that happens no matter how random it seems, and true wisdom resides only with the Creator of all that exists. We understand that pain, hardship and afflictions are part of the test of life.
It is our limited perception or lack thereof that prevents us from seeing the bigger picture. For instance, a course of action that we perceive as being good may only result in bad consequences. Likewise, what we may perceive as being bad today may result in a great benefit to us. One example of this is the story of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him).
The Children of Israel were enslaved by the Egyptians of that time, and one day it became known to the Pharaoh that one from among the Israelites would rise up and bring ruin to his nation. The Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn Israelite males. On the birth of Moses, God inspired his mother to hide him as long as she could. When she could no longer do so, she was to place him in a basket in the Nile River.
“And We inspired the mother of Moses that, ‘Suckle him; then when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear nor grieve; We shall indeed return him back to you and make him one of the Noble Messengers.’(28:7)
“Then the people of Pharaoh picked him up [from the river]: [it was intended] that [Moses] should be to them an adversary and a cause of sorrow: for Pharaoh and Haman and [all] their hosts were men of sin. (28:8)
“The wife of Pharaoh said: ‘(Here is) a joy of the eye, for me and for thee: Slay him not. It may be that he will be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son.’ And they perceived not [what they were doing]!” (28:9)
From the initial evil that occurred through the murder of innocent newborns, there arose the mechanism that allowed Moses to grow up safe and protected under the very roof of the Pharaoh. Moses would be the person who would free the Children of Israel from slavery.
Our inability to understand something should not be a reason for our disbelief in God. Life is a test from God and man has been given free will to do good or bad. When a drunken driver gets behind the wheel of a car and kills someone, who should bear the blame? God who gave man the choice to choose between right and wrong — or the man who made the wrong choices?
Rather than assert that if there is a God, there would be no evil, we should ask, “what is the reason for the current state of the world, what choices have we made, and what wisdoms lay behind these conditions?”
Often when we look deep into the afflictions that befall us, we see there are outcomes that in the end benefit us. After a great calamity, we may realize the arrogance in ourselves and become more humble in our approach to life and with the people around us.
Sometimes it is necessary to experience unpleasant situations to truly know the joys in this world. How would we appreciate happiness if there was no grief? How would we appreciate justice if there was no injustice? How would we appreciate tranquility with no anguish? God says in the Quran in Chapter 94, Solace:
“So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief. (94, 5)
“Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.” (94, 6)
It is true that horrible things happen: people die, lives are destroyed, and societies fall apart. For all the evil in the world, there is good in it — provided we allow ourselves to learn from it and to grow because of it.
Omar Conteh, who resides in Bangor, is a third-year student at the University College of Bangor majoring in mental health and human services. Columns on are published in cooperation with the Islamic Center of Maine in Orono. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.