Who created “evil”?

Who created “evil”?  Yusuf Estes suggests (in the YouTube video featured below) that “God created evil” because all power/life comes from Allah. He quotes the following Quranic verse to support his statement:

 

SAY: “I seek refuge with the Sustainer of the rising dawn, “from the evil of aught that He

has created, “and from the evil of the black darkness whenever it descends, (2)  “and from

the evil of all human beings bent on occult endeavours,  “and from the evil of the envious

when he envies.”

 

Translators notes:

(2) I.e., the darkness of despair, or of approaching death. In all these four verses (2-5), the term

“evil” (sharr) has not only an objective but also a subjective connotation – namely, fear of evil.

…in the light of this last verse of the last surah of the Qur’an it is also possible to conclude that the “invisible forces” from which we are told to seek refuge with God are the temptations to evil emanating from the blindness of our own hearts, from our gross appetites, and from the erroneous notions and false values that may have been handed down to us by our predecessors.

 

Yusuf Estes’s suggestion that Allah is the ultimate Creator of “evil” is inaccurate and needs to be clarified – as no Muslim would ever attribute “evil” as being one of God’s divine attributes. Elsewhere in the Quran, there is the statement that “evil” originates from the misdeeds of humanity. The nature of so-called “evil” is highly subjective, as what may be deemed “evil” in one circumstance, may be considered “good” in another. For example, evil is often equated with “pain” – however, a person who is unable to feel any pain may consider their predicament a misfortune if it results in them continually hurting themselves.

 

Quran (4:78)

Wherever you may be, death will overtake you – even though you be in towers raised high.

“Yet, when a good thing happens to them, some [people] say, “This is from God,” whereas

when evil befalls them, they say, “This is from thee [O fellowman]!” (92) Say: “All is from God.”

What, then, is amiss with these people that they are in no wise near to grasping the truth of

what they are told? (93)

 

(4:79)

Whatever good happens to thee is from God; and whatever evil befalls thee is from thyself. (94)

  

 

Translator’s note:

92 I.e., they do not realize that the evil happening may possibly be a consequence of their own actions or their own wrong choice between several courses open to them, but are prone to attribute it to the failings of others.

93 Lit., “something [which they are] told” – i.e., a truth which their own reason as well as the teachings of all the prophets should have made obvious to them.

94 There is no contradiction between this statement and the preceding one that “all is from God”.

In the world-view of the Qur’an, God is the ultimate source of all happening: consequently, all good that comes to man and all evil that befalls him flows, in the last resort, from God’s will. However, not everything that man regards as “evil fortune” is really, in its final effect, evil – for, “it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know” (2:216). Thus, many an apparent “evil” may sometimes be no more than a trial and a God-willed means of spiritual growth through suffering, and need not necessarily be the result of a wrong choice or a wrong deed on the part of the person thus afflicted. It is, therefore, obvious that the “evil” or “evil fortune” of which this verse speaks has a restricted connotation, inasmuch as it refers to evil in the moral sense of the word: that is to say, to suffering resulting from the actions or the behaviour of the person concerned, and this in accordance with the natural law of cause and effect which God has decreed for all His creation, and which the Qur’an describes as “the way of God” (sunnat Allah). For all such suffering man has only himself to blame, since “God does not wrong anyone by as much as at atom’s weight” (4:40).

 

Our ability to experience ‘evil’ or pain goes hand in hand with the heavenly gift of free-will.   When we freely choose to disobey God’s Universal Laws of nature, then we experience “evil” or the pain of our wrongdoing – in order for us to avoid doing the same wrong act again. Our existence on Earth is a test of our resolve to do ‘good’ and obey God’s commands. Everything in nature is a sign to help us to reflect and to learn.   When Allah rebukes humanity for behaving like pigs or apes – so that we become “despised and rejected”, that doesn’t mean the animal is by its very nature intrinsically “evil”, but rather, the animal is simply an example to us in how not to behave. Muslims are forbidden from harming or mistreating any animal, regardless of its perceived attributes, because animals are not capable of committing “evil” in the same way that humans are able to do – with their free-will, and higher level of intelligence. Human actions are judged “evil” or “good” primarily according to the person’s intentions. The story of Moses meeting Al-Khadir* in the Qur’an highlights the need to reserve one’s judgement because only Allah knows the future, and thus the ultimate “good” or “evil” of one’s deeds, or circumstance.

*Al-Khadir or Al-Khidr, meaning “the Green One”. Apparently this is an epithet rather than a name, implying (according to popular legend) that his wisdom was ever-fresh (“green”) and imperishable: a notion which bears out the assumption that we have here an allegaric figure symbolizing the utmost depth of mystic insight accessible to man.

 

Quran 5:60

Say: “Shall I tell you who, in the sight of God, deserves a yet worse retribution than these?

They whom God has rejected and whom He has condemned, and whom He has turned into

apes and swine because they worshipped the powers of evil: (77) these are yet worse in station,

and farther astray from the right path [than the mockers]. (78)

 

(5:61)

For, when they come unto you, they say, “We do believe”: whereas, in fact, they come with

the resolve to deny the truth, and depart in the same state. (79) But God is fully aware of all that

they would conceal. (5:62) And thou canst see many of them vie with one another in sinning

and tyrannical conduct and in their swallowing of all that is evil. (5:63) Why do not their men

of God and their rabbis (80) forbid them to make sinful assertions and to swallow all that is evil?

Vile indeed is what they contrive!

 

Translator’s note:

77 Contrary to many of the commentators who take this reference to “apes and swine” in a

literal sense, the famous tabi’i Mujahid explains it as a metaphorical description (mathal)

of the moral degradation which such sinners undergo: they become wildly unpredictable like

apes, and as abandoned to the pursuit of lusts as swine (Manor VI, 448). This interpretation

has also been quoted by Tabari in his commentary on 2:65. – As regards the expression

“powers of evil” (at-,taghut), see surah 2, note 250.

…the statement in the ninety-ninth surah (Az-Zalzalah) that on Resurrection Day “he who shall have done an atom’s weight of good, shall behold it; and he who shall have done an atom’s weight of evil, shall behold it” – indicating the ineluctable{unavoidable} afterlife consequences of, and the responsibility for, all that man consciously does in this world; or the divine declaration (in 38:27), “We have not created heaven and earth and all that is between them without meaning and purpose (batilan), as is the surmise of those who are bent on denying the truth.”

 

…According to almost all the commentators, God’s “condemnation” (ghadab, lit., “wrath”) is

synonymous with the evil consequences which man brings upon himself by wilfully rejecting

God’s guidance (i.e with impulses which run counter to truth and morality) and acting contrary to His injunctions.

 

Quran 2:218

 

Verily, they who have attained to faith, and they who have forsaken the domain of evil and

are striving hard in God’s cause – these it is who may look forward to God’s grace: for God is

much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

 

Quran 4:76

 

Those who have attained to faith fight in the cause of God, whereas those who are bent on

denying the truth fight in the cause of the powers of evil. Fight, then, against those friends of

Satan: verily, Satan’s guile is weak indeed! (90)

 

Translators note:

 

(90) Thus the Qur’an implies that “evil” is not an independent, esoteric factor of life,

but rather a result of man’s succumbing to the temptations arising from his own moral

weakness and thereby “denying the truth”. In other words, the “power” of the negative

principle symbolized by Satan has no intrinsic reality (“Satan’s guile is weak indeed”):

it becomes real only through man’s wilfully choosing a wrong course of action.

 

[Source: The Message of the Qur’an – Translated and explained by Mohammad Asad]

 

YouTube video by “Merciful Servant” Channel: “Why did Allah create Evil?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqt3CphPebY

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