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Monday, June 05, 2006

Why Does Allah Allow Suffering and Evil in the World?

We go through things in life that can be labeled as good or bad. These
are the passing phases of life that fade away as time goes by. But some
of them do leave an ever lasting effect on someone and influences his
future decisions. This effect could be so strong that might turn a
person into a devil. For example Hitler carried unleashed those
atrocities on the Jews because he held them responsible for all his
personal sufferings. (He had a difficult childhood and his youth years
were too no different). In a recent incident, few months back, the
commander of the militant outfit LeT (in POK) gunned down a girl just
because she refused to marry him.

These are acts of sane-men-turned-insane by the burning fire of
vengeance in them that surpasses all forms of humanity. I cannot hold
the entire community responsible for the mistakes of an individual
belonging to the community and similarly one cannot take away human
just because someone refused to comply with my wishes.

Now as a Muslim we should understand that this transformation is the
work of shaytaan. Its difficult to be good to bad people but then the
virtues of having patience is immense . One cannot blame all the riches
in this world for my poverty, all the beauties for my ugliness,
healthiness for my disability…… the list continues. We should thank
Allah for what we have. But the question always arises Why Does Allah
Allow Suffering and Evil in the World?

Please read on this wonderful article by Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi,
Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County and President of the
Islamic Society of North America.

"Indeed Allah is All-Powerful (Al-`Aziz) and He is able to do all
(`ala kull sha'in qadir). The Qur'an has mentioned this hundreds of
times. It is also mentioned in the Qur'an that Allah is the Creator and
He is the Best Creator. "Glory be to Allah, the best Creator."
(Al-Mu'minun: 14)

But then the question comes why do pain and sufferings exist in the
world. We find sickness, old age and death. We see things that are
people who are insane and foolish. There are storms, earthquakes,
floods, draught and famine. We also see people commit sins, show
disloyalty, unfaithfulness, greed and insincerity. We see people commit
rapes, murders; they fight and make wars. We know all these and many
more problems. There are evils caused by human beings and there are
natural disasters. There are suffering for individuals and there are
those that involve a large number of people.

But we also know that this is not the whole story. Besides all these
negative things, we also see beauty, health, prosperity, life, birth,
wisdom, intelligence, growth and progress. We also see goodness among
people, faith, sincerity, charity, love and the spirit of sacrifice. We
also see a lot of virtue and piety. It is wrong to see one side of the
coin and not to see the other side. Any philosophy that concentrates on
one aspect of the creation and denies or ignores the other side is
partially true and partial truths are no truth at all.

It is also the fact that the element of good is more in the creation
than the element of evil. We all see that there are more people who are
healthy than those who are sick. There are more that eat well than
who starve.

There are more that lead decent life than those who commit crimes.
Goodness is the rule and evil is the exception. Virtue is the norm and
sin is the aberration. Generally trees bear fruits, the flowers bloom,
the winds move smoothly.

But then the question is why does Allah allow these exceptions to the

Let us ask this question to understand Allah's ways in His creation.
Qur'an tells us that good, evil and whatever happens in this world
happens by Allah's Will (mashi'at Allah). Only Allah knows fully His
Will. We finite beings cannot grasp fully His infinite Will and Wisdom.
He runs His universe the way He deems fit. The Qur'an tells us that
Allah is Wise and everything that Allah does is right, just, good and
fair. We must submit and surrender to His Will. The Qur'an has not
us all the details about Allah's Will, but it has enlightened us with
the guidance that is useful and sufficient for us. There are several
points that we should keep in our mind to understand this issue:

1. First of all, Allah did not make this world a permanent world. This
is a temporary world and everything here has a time limit. When its
times comes it will die, come to an end and finish. Neither the good
things of this world are forever, nor the bad things eternal. We are
here for a short time and we are being tested. Those who will pass this
test will find an eternal world that is perfect and permanent. Those
will fail this test shall see the evil consequences of their sins and

2. Allah has placed a physical law and a moral law in this universe.
Allah allows suffering to occur when one or more of these laws are
broken. The physical law is based on cause and effect . Sickness comes
if one does not take care of one's health or is exposed to infections.
car accident occurs when one is not alert, or drives in a careless
manner, or if the cars are not checked, roads and freeways are not made
and kept in right shape, or the traffic laws are not right or not
properly enforced. Study of causes and effects is very important to
facilitate safeguards. Even here we should keep in mind that Allah
saves us and He does not let us suffer from every negligence. How many
times it happens that we are not careful and still we reach safely to
our destinations. The way people drive in some cities, it is a miracle
that more accidents do not happen and more people do not suffer. Allah

"(Allah) Most Gracious! It is He Who has taught the Qur'an. He has
created man: He has taught him speech (and Intelligence). The sun and
the moon follow courses (exactly) computed; and the herbs and the trees
both (alike) bow in adoration. And the Firmament has He raised high,
He has set up the Balance (of Justice), in order that you may not
transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not
short in the balance. It is He Who has spread out the earth for (His)
creatures." (Ar-Rahman:1-10)

The way we exceed the measures set by Allah and violate His laws of
cause and effect is incredible. It is really the mercy of Allah that we
are saved. Strictly speaking, the question should not be why does Allah
allow suffering, but how much Allah protects us and saves us all the
time in spite of our violations and negligence. The Qur'an says:

"If Allah were to punish people according to what they deserve, He
not leave on the back of the (earth) a single living creature: but He
gives them respite for a stated Term: when their Term expires, verily
Allah has in His sight all His servants." (Fatir:45)

But sometimes Allah does punish people because of their violations of
His laws whether they are physical or moral. The Qur'an tells us that
many nations and communities were destroyed because of their sinful

"If they treat thy (mission) as false, so did the Peoples before them
(with their Prophets), the People of Noah, and Ad and Thamud. Those of
Abraham and Lut; and the Companions of the Madyan people; and Moses was
rejected (in the same way). But I granted respite to the Unbelievers,
and (only) after that did I punish them: but how (terrible) was My
rejection (of them)! How many populations have We destroyed, which were
given to wrong-doing! They tumbled down on their roofs. And how many
wells are lying idle and neglected, and castles lofty and well-built?"
(Al-Hajj: 42-45)

3. Suffering can also be a test and trial for some people. Allah allows
some people to suffer in order to test their patience and
Even Allah's Prophets and Messengers were made to suffer. Prophet Ayyub
is mentioned in the Qur'an as a Prophet who was very patient. Good
people sometimes suffer but their sufferings heal others and bring
goodness to their communities. People learn lessons from their good
examples. Martyrs die for their faith, soldiers give their lives for
their nations and this brings liberation and freedom for their people.

4. Allah sometimes allows some people to suffer to test others, how
react to them. When you see a person who is sick, poor and needy, then
you are tested by Allah. Allah is there with that suffering person to
test your charity and your faith. In a very moving Hadith Qudsi (Divine
Hadith) the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

"Allah will say on the Day of Judgment, 'O son of Adam, I was sick and
you did not visit Me.' He will say, 'O my Lord, how could I visit You,
when you are the Lord of the Worlds.' Allah will say, 'Did you not know
that My servant so-and-so was sick and you did not visit him? Did you
not know that if you had visited him, you would have found Me there?'
Allah will say, 'O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me
not.' He shall say, 'O my Lord, how could I feed you and you are the
Lord of the Worlds?' And Allah will say, 'Did you not know that My
servant so-and-so was in need of food and you did not feed him? Did you
not know that if you had fed him, you would have found that to have
for Me?' 'O son of Adam, I asked you for water and you did not give Me
to drink.' The man shall say, 'O my Lord, how could I give You water,
when You are the Lord of the Worlds?' Allah will say, 'My servant
so-and-so asked you for water and you did not give him to drink water.
Did you not know that if you had given him to drink, you would have
found that to have been for Me.' (Muslim, Hadith no. 4661)

Prophet `Isa (Jesus), peace be upon him, is also reported to have said
something similar. (See Matthew 25: 35-45)

So to summarize, we can say that sufferings occur to teach us that we
must adhere to Allah's natural and moral laws. It is sometimes to
those who violate Allah's natural or moral laws. It is to test our
in Allah and to test our commitment to human values and charity.
Whenever we encounter suffering we should ask ourselves, "Have we
any law of Allah?" Let us study the cause of the problem and use the
corrective methods. "Could it be a punishment?" Let us repent and ask
forgiveness and reform our ways. "Could it be a test and trial for us?"
Let us work hard to pass this test.

Believers face the sufferings with prayers, repentance and good deeds.
The non-believers face the sufferings with doubts and confusions. They
blame Allah or make arguments against Him.

May Allah keep us on the right path, Amen!

Allah Almighty knows best.


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