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The Dilema of Evil and Pain

I have read nice news that scientists have recently managed to manufacture prosthetic limbs that can feel pain to indicate that there is a defect somewhere in the limbs added to the body.

The artificial pain-sensing skin does not only offer realistic functions, but also a potential humanoid robot with the ability to feel pain.

Artificial skin helps develop smart prosthetics covered with functional skin that reacts to pain like human limbs. This allows the wearer to know if he is touching something that could damage him.

This news brought back to my memory the question that atheists repeat which is why God created pain, and we find atheists now inventing this pain, under the pretext of warning of a defect in the prosthetic limb. Yet they complain about the existence of pain in the elaborate divine design that predicts the presence of a particular disease in the human body.

Why the pain?

Benevolence is the rule in the universe while evil is the exception. Evil in the universe is like the shaded spaces in a painting; if you come very near to the painting, you will see these parts as defects and faults; but if you draw back and take a general view of the painting as a whole, you will discover that the shades are necessary and indispensable in fulfilling an aesthetic function within the structure of the artwork.

It is not possible for us to know health if disease did not exist, health glitters as a crown on our heads that is only known when we are ill. Likewise, it is impossible to know beauty if ugliness did not exist or to know which is normal without getting acquainted with the abnormal.

People held tests to differentiate between the students through marks and degrees before they moved into a new part of life. Despite how short the exam is, it evaluates the student’s fate; the same applies with this worldly life. It is a short test for people to rank them in degrees when they face the hereafter.

Man comes out of life with his deeds only, not with anything else from his properties. Thus, people must realize that they should act in this life for the sake of rewards, and the high degrees in the hereafter.

People have forgotten the true meaning of life as they continuously complained from Corona Virus for example. God created us in a test. Pain and trouble are parts of the test. Passing the test will ease the way to eternal bliss in Paradise.

He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving. [2]

If there is no God, then where do we get this good from ?

Atheists who question why evil exists also reveal numerous fault lines in their worldview.

Questioning the existence of good is the far worthier question, for only after identifying the dominant principle can the exceptions to that principle be understood.

Then where did atheism get the criterion of good and evil from? Humans in atheism are material atoms that are subjected to cosmic determinism and they do not distinguish between good and evil. They are just like inanimate objects.

People would forever see the extraordinary laws of physics, chemistry, and biology as incoherent if they were to begin studying these sciences with the rare exceptions that deviate from these laws. Likewise, atheists can never overcome the “hurdle of evil” until they find the humility to concede that evil is the exception in a world of innumerable phenomena that are good orderly, and beautifully.

Consider the periods of sickness versus health over the average lifetime, or those impaired versus functional across the human race. Consider moments when arteries flow versus clog throughout our lives, or the decades of prosperity versus ruin for the average civilization. Think about the centuries of dormancy versus eruption of volcanoes, or the millennia of non-collision between planets. Where does all this prevalent good come from?

Energy and matter swimming in a world of chaos and coincidence could never produce a world where the default is good.

Ironically, scientific empiricism attests to the second law of thermodynamics stating that the total entropy (degree of disorder or randomness) in an isolated system with no external influence will always increase, and that this process is irreversible.

In other words, organized things will always break down and dissipate unless something from the outside pulls them together. As such, blind thermodynamic forces could never have produced anything good on their own, nor made good as widespread as it is, without the Creator organizing these seemingly random, chaotic phenomena which appears into the marvelous things like beauty, wisdom, joy, and love.

Only after establishing that the norm is good, we can hope to grasp the exception of evil.

Ibn al-Qayyim says:

Evil and pain are either benevolence and mercy, or justice and wisdom, or reform or preparation for the good that happens after it, or to prevent more difficult evil than it.

Epicurus dilemma:

In my dialogue with a Russian atheist, he asked many questions, and his questions included the troubles and pains that people suffer from (Epicurus dilemma). 

I told him:

Our view of evil and pain depend on our view of the reality of this worldly life, and the purpose of human existence in it, which differs between religious people and materialists. 

I told him: 

The materialistic perspective considers that this life has no purpose behind it.

If a person dies that’s it, it becomes nil. With this kind of prospective people will feel the urge to obtain the maximum level of pleasure.

Therefore, when that person experiences any sort of pain, he cannot comprehend it, because they are unable to look at a bigger picture of what good could come out of a bad situation.

This person with a limited prospective will be living in life with a shallow look, and will not be able to understand the “random” situations that life puts him in. Therefore, the saying “Existence of a God is full of mercy” will not make sense to them.

God’s Will:

“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Qur’an 51:56)

Islamic Revelation provides us with many reasons for why God has allowed evil and suffering to exist. The problem of evil is not presented in Islam as a problem, but rather as an instrument in the actualization of God’s plan, which is intertwined with human experiences in this world as an experience that it is necessary for man’s spiritual development.

This experience can be applied by:

Believing in God (the Creator), that He has no partner or son. He does not incarnate in any of His creations or any idol. Also, humans need to have a direct connection with Him, not through the Trinity, priest or saint, idol, animal or anything else.

As we mentioned that God has attributes and the key to happiness in this life and in the Hereafter, is to know His attributes very well. Actually, we have to teach our children the names of God and His attributes.

The attributes of Majesty:

The Possessor, The All Mighty, The Compeller, The Restorer, The Ever-Dominating, The Magnificent, The Supreme, The All-Strong, The Capable, The Powerful, etc.

The attributes of Beauty:

The Most Gracious, The Most Generous, The Source of Goodness, The Compassionate, The Most Kind, The Pardoner, etc.

Our mission in this life is to know our Creator, so when we know only His attributes of beauty, then we don’t know Him very well.

Having hardship and suffering enables us to realize and know God’s attributes such as The Protector and The Healer for example, without the pain of illness, we would not appreciate the attribute of God being the Healer or the One who gives us health.

Knowing God in the Islamic teachings is a greater good, and worth the experience of suffering or pain as it will ensure the fulfillment of our primary purpose, which ultimately leads to Paradise.

“Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed.” (Qur’an 18:7)

The Creator established the laws of nature and the laws that govern them. It protects itself by itself when environmental corruption or imbalance appears, and it maintains this balance to reform the earth and continue living better. Therefore, what benefits people and life is what stays and remains on the earth.

When calamities occur on earth, such as diseases, volcanoes, earthquakes, and floods, God’s names and attributes are revealed, such as the Strong, the Healer, and the Protector for example, when He heals the sick or preserves the survivor, or His name, the Just, in the oppressor’s punishment and the sinner. His name, Wise, is evident as well in the trials and tests of the non-sinner, for which he is rewarded If be patient and tortured If he complained.

Therefore, the person knows the Lord’s Majesty from calamities, similar to how he knows the Attributes of Beauty from gifts. If a person only knows Divine Beauty, it is as if he did not know God, the Exalted.

The presence of calamities, evil and pain was the reason for the atheism of many contemporary materialistic philosophers

In 2007, Sir Anthony Flew, arguably the most influential atheistic philosopher of the twentieth century, published a book stating: “There is a God.” Flew stated that “the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries.

Then he said:

The presence of evil and pain in human life does not negate the existence of God, but it prompts us to reconsider the divine attributes of Him. Anthony Flew considers that these disasters have their silver lining.

The existence of evil and pain has been credited with building human civilizations throughout history, and he said that no matter how many claims there are regarding the interpretation of this dilemma, the religious interpretation remains the most acceptable and most consistent with the nature of life.

Children suffering:

Afflictions such as orphanage, homelessness, or hunger bring out many good people to the world, as well as magnificent heroes around us whose pain and suffering arouse their virtues, and enable them to make history. Even in our personal life, after each failure, we start a new beginning.

God knows that man tends to be lazy and neglect things, so sometimes he intends to wake us up.

People have many good traits which appear clearly through hardships. Trouble reveals courage, generosity, brotherhood, and selflessness, even with animals.

God shutting our way is just a sign to change our direction. So, in dealing with a problem we must realize that our problem was not these dark gloomy clouds chasing us, but it is truly our heavy eyelids that prevent us from seeing the sunlight. God periodically refreshes our lives through difficulties.

Therefore, as soon as people wake up from their negligence, they realize the true meaning of their existence and they feel the urge to live for greater and more important goals. So, we can say that this ‘evil’ plants human excellency.

Through difficulties, people don’t only discover their aims, but they also live with God, for God, and by God in this life and the life after death.

Where does evil come from?

Someone once asked me: What is the difference between the evil that comes from man and the evil that comes from Allah?

I countered: Evil never comes from God! Evil is not existential matter, rather the existence is pure goodness.

“How come?” He wanted to know.

I answered: If a person, for example, beat another person until he loses his ability to move, then he has acquired the attribute of injustice, and injustice is evil.

But the presence of strength for someone who grabs a cane and uses it to hit someone else is not evil. The existence of the will that God has given to him is not evil as well.

His ability to move his hand is not evil.

The presence of the capacity of beating with the stick is not evil.All of these existential materials are good, and the attribute of evil is not acquired unless it led to harm through its misuse which is the paralysis in the previous example. Thus, based on that example, the presence of the scorpion and the snake is not evil if a person didn’t pass in front of it, causing it to bite him. As such, God Almighty is not credited with evil in His actions for those are pure goodness. The evilness is found in the effects that resulted from the misuse of this goodness by humans.

Just as we knew that the worldly life is a place of testing and affliction. This life is full of contradictions: sickness and health, evil and goodness, heat and cold, day and night, life and death, etc. Man has his own freewill to choose.

God didn’t plant evil in the human soul, but God planted the freewill to choose between evil and goodness. Man will freely choose and God will eventually judge.

And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it (7) And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness, (8) He has succeeded who purifies it, (9) And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]. [6]

And say, “The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve[7]

In addition, Satan, is every rebellious imbecile, whether from humans or Jinn.

Therefore, Lucifer himself chose the disobedience by having the freewill. As God said in the Qur’an (110:50).

(Recall) when We said to the angels, “Prostrate yourselves before ’Ādam.” So, they prostrated themselves, all of them but Lucifer (Satan). He was of the Jinn, so he rebelled against the command of your Lord. Do you still take him and his progeny as friends instead of Me, while they are enemy to you? Evil is he as substitute (of obedience to God) for wrongdoers.

He said: What about people who were born disabled?

I answered: A fifty years old disabled person once told me: ‘I now realize the underlying blessing behind the severe accident that left me crippled. Before the accident, I intended to turn to atheism.

I was too distant from God, and I insisted on immigrating so I can become an atheist.

My injury prevented me from fulfilling my wish. After thirty years of the accident, I thank God for it, and I see it as one of the greatest blessings that God has bestowed upon me. It brought me closer to Him.

I am certain that my soul was wayward enough to make me not return back to God except with such an affliction. God knows the souls of His servants even before they are born.

I said to my inquisitor: Evil is relative and not absolute; life is a test and not a rewarding place, and the reward is as great as the amount of work. So, the trials are like someone who travels a long distance in the hope of reaching his goal and his beloved.

Conclusion:

Any misfortunes that happens, God knows it, and have allowed it. God has absolute wisdom, and absolute wisdom is related to absolute good, and there is no absolute evil in existence.

The worldly life is only a moment if you compare it with eternal life, and that is, a dip in heaven can make them forget any pain or distress, as said by prophet Muhmmed.


Notes:

The Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Middle East use the word “Allah” to refer to God, which refers to The Only True God ( the Creator). The word “Allah” was mentioned in the earlier version of the Old Testament 89 times. (Refer to Genesis 2:4, Book of Daniel 6:20 Hebrew and Arabic Bible).

The reference of God to Himself as WE or US in many verses of the Qur’an denotes Grandeur and Power in Arabic. In the English language this is known as the royal WE, where a plural pronoun is used to refer to a single person holding a high office, such as a monarch. For the avoidance of doubt, the Qur’an has consistently reminded us of the SINGULAR pronoun in reference to God, when called upon by His servants.

References:

Why Religion ? A journey from memory. Faten Sabri

The delusion of atheism book. Dr.. Amr Sharif.

Japanese scientists invent prosthetic limbs that feel pain

Daily telegraph

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