Since ancient times, some ignorant people have criticized God for His alleged injustice. They have put forward some issues which, in their conceptualization, are in conflict with God’s genuine justice. They have even gone so far as to use these issues to support both the negation of God’s justice and His existence altogether.
Among the things, they see as evils are those mishaps which at times afflict man, plants and other living organisms.
Among them are natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes and other general calamities.
This issue is often brought up in relation to either theism as opposed to atheism, or God’s justice or lack thereof. In order to comprehend this topic, let us consider the following carefully:
Man’s Relative Judgment and his Limited Knowledge:
In judging some things, we usually rely upon our own selves. For instance, we will say that something is near to us or far from us, or, we refer to another person as either strong or weak. This comparison is done by comparing that person’s strength or weakness with our own, both physically and mentally. In relation to good and evil, people employ the same approach.
For instance, if it rains somewhere, we would ignore the impact of that rain on the general economy of our country, instead, we would only be concerned with our immediate environment, our homes, our fields, or at most our city. If the impact of that rain is positive, we will refer to as it a blessing from God, and if it had deleterious effects, we would refer to it as a disaster sent from heaven.
Let us give you another example: when a dilapidated building is torn down to be replaced by a better building, we refer to the dirt produced as an evil thing, forgetting for the moment that the newly built building might be a hospital from which numerous people would benefit in the future. In the case of that rain, we might temporarily forget that it might have positive advantages for the community.
In our superficial and unfounded judgments, we would consider a snake’s poison as an evil thing, forgetting for the moment that this poison is one of the defense mechanisms of the snake and that this poison could be used for pharmaceutical purposes to save a man’s life.
Therefore, to avoid falling into this pitfall, we should not use our limited knowledge to judge world affairs. In our judgments, we should avoid judging things and affairs exclusively based on ourselves; rather, we should take as many factors as possible into consideration.
Basically, the geographical and climatic events in the world are inter-related: the storm blowing in our city today and the torrential flood pouring down tomorrow are links in the universal chain of events which are taking place. These events have their roots both in the past and in the present.
We will conclude from what we have said above that jumping to conclusions based on scanty pieces of the picture and ignoring the whole body of evidence is irrational indeed.
What should be strongly denied is the creation of “absolute evil.” It would be more acceptable to see things as good from one perspective but from another aspect, and the good aspect to be more is predominant in it.
A surgical operation is extremely painful from one aspect but is of a great benefit to the person involved.
An earthquake naturally creates a lot of destruction in some areas of the earth. But when we put it into the perspective of other related affairs, our judgments drastically change.
Scientists present us with two types of causes for earthquakes. According to one theory, it is caused by the moon’s attraction to the dry outer layers of the earth. In accordance with a second theory, earthquakes are caused by heat and gases within the earth.
No matter which theory is taken to be true, we should take its other consequences into consideration.
In other words, we should be aware of the effects of the earth’s internal heat over the formation of fossil resources, such as oil and coal inside the earth.
Therefore, earthquakes could be regarded as relatively benevolent and good.
Another example is the tides, which are created by the attraction of the moon to the oceans and which results in the irrigation of the dry coasts of the oceans and seas. This, too, is of relative benevolence.
Thus, we understand that our relative judgments and limited knowledge are the real causes for our misunderstanding of universal events. The more we study the inter-relationship between events, the more we will recognize the limited scope of our judgments. Regarding this, the Holy Qur’¡n tells us:
And you are not given aught of knowledge but a little. [Qur’¡n 17:85]
With this limited knowledge, we should avoid rushing to jump to conclusions.
UNPLEASANT EVENTS AND WARNINGS
All of us have observed some people, who when they gain possessions and affluence, become immersed in vanity and false pride, forgetting for the moment, most of their responsibilities and important human affairs.
We have also seen that people are steeped in luxury; they become carried away by negligence which, if it continues, leads to disaster.
You have, no doubt, heard experienced drivers complain of straight, curve-free roads, which might make them drowsy and could be devastating to them.
In some countries, artificial bumps are placed on these kinds of roads to reduce danger.
Human life resembles these straight, curve less roads in many ways. If there were no bumps, such as unpleasant events, in our way, negligence would overcome us and we would forget our duties towards God and other fellow human beings.
We are not advising people to create nasty, unpleasant events for themselves. Rather, we are saying that the philosophy behind some of these events is that they could prevent us from sinking into vanity and negligence. Regarding this topic, The Holy Qur’¡n states:
…then We seized them with distress and affliction in order that they might humble themselves. [Qur’¡n 6:42]
THINK AND ANSWER
Who has brought up the question of disasters and vices in the discussion on religion?
Name some examples of disasters and calamities. Have you ever experienced any of them?
What is meant by relative judgment as opposed to all-inclusive judgment? And what is meant by “absolute evil” and “relative good” Are tornadoes and earthquakes completely negative in their effect?
What positive effects might unpleasant events have on our lives?