My friend resumed his arguing in a derisive note of voice.
- How dare you speak of your God as the perfect, the omnipotent, the merciful, the bounteous, and the ruthful while he is the creator of all evils in the world: disease, old age, death, earthquakes, volcanoes, microbes, poison, scorching heart, freezing cold, and the torments of cancer that spare neither new-born babe nor decrepit senile. If God is truly love, beauty, and goodness, how then did it come that he created hatred, ugliness, and evil?
- The problem, raised by my friend, is among the basic questions of philosophy; opinions differed and schools of thought split over it. We say that God is all mercy and goodness. He did not enjoin evil but suffered its existence for a wise end:
"God does not enjoin what is indecent. Do you tell of god that you
Do not know? Say: My lord ordered you to act in injustice. Turn to him wherever you
Kneel in prayer and call on him with true devotion"
God only enjoins justice, amity, charity, forbearance, and benevolence. He only accepts what is good. Why, then, does he suffer the unjust, the murderous, and the thieving to perpetrate their deeds? The answer is that he wanted us to be free; freedom necessitates error; it would be meaningless if it did not allow us the right to trial, error, and right judgment and the unrestricted choice between sin and obedience.
God was quite capable of making us all benevolent by compelling us to obey him. This, however, would have entailed that he deprive us of the freedom to choose. But in his plan and law, freedom with suffering is more honorable to man than slavery with happiness. That is why he let us sin, suffer, and learn; this is the wisdom in his sufferance of evil to exist.
Nevertheless, a just and objective consideration of the matter would reveal to us that benevolence is the rule in the universe while evil is the exception. Health is the rule, disease the exception; we spend most of our life enjoying health and are visited by sickness only for few days in comparison. Similarly, total of the time during which earthquakes have struck would amount to only a handful of minutes in relation to the age of our planet which is measured in many millions of years. In the same reckoning, volcano eruptions or wars are but short-lived convulsions in the life of nations interrupting long periods of quiet and peace.
Moreover, we can discern a benevolent aspect in almost everything. Sickness bequeaths immunity; suffering engenders hardiness, fortitude, and endurance; earthquake relieve the pent-up pressure inside the earth preventing its crust from blowing-up and restoring mountains to their places as 'belts' and 'weights' that stabilize the crust; volcanoes spew up minerals and other hidden resources thus covering the land with rich soil; was unify and amalgamate nation's leading to their gathering in blocks and alliances and then in a league of nations and finally, in a security council which is like a universal tribunal where complaints are aired and settled. The greatest inventions were made during wars; penicillin, atomic power, rockets, jet planes and many others came out of the crucible of war. The ancient wisdom still hold true: "out of the snake's poison comes the antidote."
Even now we manufacture the serum from microbe. If our forefathers have not met their death we would not have attained the positions we now hold. Evil in the universe is like the shaded space in a painting; if you come very near to the painting, you will see these parts as defects and fault in it; but if you draw back to a distance and take a general view of the painting as a whole, you will discover that the shades are necessary and indispensable fulfilling an aesthetic function within the structure of that artwork.
Could it be possible for us to know health if disease did not occur? Health glitters as a crown on our heads that is only known when we are ill. Likewise, it is impossible to know beauty but for ugliness or to know that which is normal without getting acquainted with the abnormal. This is why the philosopher Abu Hamed El-Ghazali said that the universe's imperfections are the essence of its perfection just as the curving shape of the bow is the -essential feature of its usefulness since a 'straight-shaped bow' would be unfit for shooting arrows.
Another use of hardships and sufferings is that they sort out men and reveal their true nature. As Arabic verse eloquently put it:
"But for hardships all men would rule supreme bounty beggars
And boldness kills."
These tribulations are trials by which we know ourselves; they are tests which determine our degrees in the sight of God.
This world is but one act of a play that has many; death is not the end of the story but its beginning. It is inadmissible to judge a play on the testimony of just one act or to reject a book because its first page did not appeal to us. The judgment in both cases is incomplete.
The entire significance of any such work can only be known at its end.
One wonders at the alternative that our scoffing friend has in mind. Does he, for instance, envisage for us a life without death, sickness, senility, deficiencies, disability, grief, or suffering? Is he seeking absolute perfection? But the latter is for God alone. The really perfect being is one and cannot be many. Indeed, why should be multiply? What can be possibly lack in himself to seek for it in others? The upshot is that my friend will not be satisfied except by becoming God which is presumption par excellence.
Let us, in our turn mock him and those, like him, who scoff at everything. We ask those who dream of our life becoming a flawless paradise, 'what have you done to deserve a paradise on earth?' Indeed, what services did our friend render to humanity so as to set himself up as God, the one and the vanquisher who order everything to be and creates all by his flat?
My grandmother had more sense than our French-educated, 'learned' friend. She used to say in all simplicity: 'Good comes from God, evil from ourselves.' A terse remark, indeed, but what a true view of the entire matter is contained here in a nutshell! God sends the winds and makes the river flow but a greedy captain may overload his ship with people and goods and when it sinks, he curses fate and destiny. What is God's fault here? He sent a benevolent wind and caused the river to flow smoothly but greed and avarice turned his good into evil.
Indeed, what beautiful and fine words; 'Good comes from god, evil from ourselves'.