If evil only comes from man, and not from God, then how can we explain natural disasters that kill innocent people or mental illnesses that cause one to be more aggressive towards others?

Considering something evil is relative rather than absolute. Human beings consider something evil because their judgement is limited to their immediate time and circle. What we sometimes term as evil could be reconsidered as difficult challenges that are tests for people. They nurture growth and bring out potential. A comfortable smooth life with no bumps in it would not help the human being to grow towards perfection, which is the purpose of life on earth. The worldview of Islam sees the world as an opportunity for growth and perfection, the fruits of which will be reaped in the hereafter. It looks at the human being as a soul that is housed in a body. It is the soul that will remain forever and is most important, not the body which will perish.  

Events in the world are inter related. They are links in a chain of events taking place throughout the universe. There is a connection between these events and the systems that are present on earth. Human beings also have a role to play in the way they interact with the earth and with each other.  Earthquakes for example are said to be caused by the moon’s attraction to the dry outer layers of the earth or by heat and gases within the earth. Whatever theory is true, we should take its other consequences into consideration. The earth’s internal heat affects things such as the formation of fossil resources like oil and coal inside the earth. There is an entire system running in the universe.

People who have mental illness are not responsible for their actions. But society needs to care for them appropriately. When they are treated with love and respect, the chances of them committing violence are very slim. Often, the broken systems in society lead to much of the evils committed in society. This is very evident in the increase of violence we see in today’s times.

It is important to consider the big picture when judging something as evil. Like the Quran tells us; 

you have not been given of knowledge but a little 

Holy Quran (17:85)

How is it fair for God to “test” us, make us work on our souls, and oblige us to follow religious rules when we did not ask to be born and be placed on earth?

To say that we did not ask to be created so religious obligations are unfair, is a logical fallacy. To be asked, the human being would have to be created already. A being that is not born, or created, cannot be asked about anything.

Also, think about the following points;

1) God is a being far removed from us created beings. We are not equals that we should be asked before being created. To say why He didn’t ask us is to reduce Him to our level. God is the ultimate authority. He created for a purpose, according to the infinite wisdom He possesses. He does not need to ask permission to create. The Creator does not ask the created. 

2) Creation is a manifestation and reflection of the glory of Allah. The human being has the potential to manifest His attributes best. This requires servitude and growth through challenges. 

3) The ability to choose whether you want to be created or not depends on free will and knowledge. Both would be lacking for the created being unless the Creator decided to give them to it. Free will was given for life on earth and applies to the actions the created being will perform. Knowledge is acquired through life. Without these qualities no choice can be made.

4) Existence is better than non-existence. Life is a gift and is beautiful when creation lives according to the expectations of the Creator. Being created can be viewed with gratitude and appreciation rather than as a burden that should be avoided. With the correct mindset, we can view challenges as opportunities for growth and attaining true happiness.

Is it true that when a man and a woman are getting to know each other for the purpose of marriage, the man is allowed to see the woman without the physical hijab once prior to nikah? What are the conditions for this?

When a man and woman are getting to know each other for the purpose of marriage, the man can see the woman without her hijab one time only, with the following conditions:

a) The relationship has reached a stage where marriage is intended and the man wants to see her before finalizing.

b) It is not done with the intention of seeking pleasure or doing anything wrong.

c) The man has not previously seen the girl without her hijab.

d) Only the hair, neck, hands and feet should be exposed. Exposure of other parts of the body is not allowed.

Modesty is a big part of Islamic teachings. All aspects of a close relationship between a man and woman who are non-mahram to each other must be within the boundaries of marriage. Marriage is highly recommended and many rulings facilitate and encourage marriage. This ruling is part of that outlook. It is not setting aside modesty, there are conditions still in place. No touching is allowed. A limited, conditional gaze exception is made when the intention of marriage is serious and requires this last step to finalize it.

Why does Allah (s) test us? Is it normal to want to stop being tested, or be tired of getting tested?

Almighty Allah in His wisdom makes the human being go through various tests in life. He says in the Quran:

 Do people suppose that they will be let off because they say, ‘We have faith,’ and they will not be tested? 


He also says:

 We will surely test you with a measure of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth, lives, and fruits; and give good news to the patient.


Tests of Allah are different from the tests human being conduct for each other. The objective of Allah’s test is not to gain information and insight because in the universe there is nothing which is hidden from Allah. Rather it is for training and discipline purposes. The tests of Allah can be seen as challenges to rise up to, or opportunities for growth. When a gardener wants a strong tree he will start with planting a seed and make it face adversity as it grows so that it becomes strong and resilient. Similarly, the military will make its soldiers go through almost brutal exercises so they can become excellent soldiers. We see in these and other similar examples of this world that there cannot be a successful achievement without trials and hardship. 

To understand more clearly why Allah tests us, consider the following points.

1) Nurturing of Potential. Human beings have a lot of capabilities within them for virtue and nobility. These qualities can remain dormant. Tests and trials reveal these abilities and allow them to manifest and grow. For example, a person may have a lot of inner strength but this can only manifest itself when there is a barrier to overcome. How the barrier is overcome reveals the strength and can even enhance it. There is then reward and status for the strength displayed. There can be no reward and status for hidden qualities.

2) Sifting of true believers. Those who have true faith will respond to trails with patience and acceptance of His decree. Despite the pain there will be an inner peace. But those with weak or no faith will turn away from Allah and be filled with resentment and anger. The Quran says:

And among the people are those who worship Allah on the [very] fringe: if good fortune befalls him, he is content with it; but if an ordeal visits him he makes a turnabout, to become a loser in the world and the Hereafter. That is manifest loss.


3) Getting closer to Allah. When life is comfortable and easy it is easy to become heedless. But when there is pain and sorrow, a believer inclines even more towards God and seeks His help. The spirituality gained and the sweet taste of connecting with the Divine becomes a fruit of the test. It is only some people who are able to get such gains from tests.

It is human to feel discouraged sometimes and feel tired of tests in life. Tests are not easy to face, that is why they are called tests. This type of feeling can be countered through reminding oneself of the purpose of life on earth, seeking closeness to God, and also most importantly being grateful for the blessings in life. Sometimes we focus on the test only and ignore all other things that are good in our life. God cushions our difficulties with ease – Indeed with difficulty there is ease (94:5-6), but we don’t see the ease, only the difficulty. A constant reminder to be grateful, even for difficulties is a good way to strengthen oneself to face the challenges of life. The Prophet (s), when he thanked God for what he was pleased with, said اَلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ عَلَي هَذِهِ النِّعْمَةِ  Praise be to Allah for this blessing. And when something happened that distressed him he would say اَلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ عَلي كُلِّ حَال Praise be to Allah in every situation. (Hadith narrated in al-Kafi, v.2, p.97)

To conclude, a hadith of Imam Ali (a) is a powerful reminder of how to face tests:

Never say O Allah! I seek refuge from tests and trials from You, because, there is no one who is not put to trials. Rather say, O Allah! I seek refuge from You from such trials which may cause me to go astray (Nahjul Balagha, H#93).

What are some arguments for the infallibility of the Imams?

Infallibility is the abstinence from sins and disobedience of Allah (s). Belief in the Infallibility of the Prophets (s) and the Masumin (a) is part of the Shia creed. They believe that Prophets (s) and Imams (a) are Divine leaders who have the ability to commit sins, but are protected by Allah from it. With this grace bestowed upon them due to their worthiness, they do not even consider committing a sin. It is a state that is higher than taqwa or piety. It prevents the person from doing anything wrong, even a wrong thought. The necessity of infallibility is obvious. For a leader to be trusted and followed, the leader must be sinless. Otherwise, it would cause doubt in the messenger and in the message itself. The Imams (a) are Divine guides with the duty to help people stay on the path taught by the Prophet (s). Necessity of the Infallibility of the Imams (a) follows that of the Prophet (s).

The following are some arguments for the infallibility of the Imams (a):

Arguments from authoritative texts

1) Prophet Ibrahim’s (s) request for Imams (a) from his progeny and Allah’s answer. And when his Lord tested Ibrahim with certain words, and he fulfilled them, He said, ‘I am making you the Imam of mankind.’ Said he (Ibrahim), ‘And from among my descendants?’ He said, ‘My pledge does not extend to the unjust. (2:124)

2) Whoever commits a sin has committed injustice – and whoever transgresses the bounds of Allah, it is they who are the unjust. (2:229). One who commits injustice cannot be an Imam (a), as explained by the Quran – My pledge does not extend to the unjust. (2:124)

3) The verse of Ulil Amr – O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you. (4:59). This verse links obedience to the Prophet (s) with obedience to a certain group of people who have been given authority with no conditions. This would not be applicable if the people vested with authority (Imams (a)) were not sinless.

4) Hadith of the Prophet (s) – I have left among you two things, you will never go astray after me, should you hold onto them. These are two weighty things, the one which is greater than the other, is the Book of Allah, an extended rope from heaven to earth and my ‘Itra, Ahl al-Bayt (household), be aware that they will not separate till the time they meet me near the al-Hawdh (pond). 

(This hadith has been narrated in Mustadrak al-Hakim, vol. 3, p. 148; As-Sawa‘iq al-Muhriqah, Book 11, Chapter 1, p. 149. There is also a similar text in Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 1, Bab “Al-I‘tisam bi’l-Kitab wa’s-Sunnah”, p. 44; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol. 5, pp. 182, 189; and others)

Rational Arguments

1)  A leader has to be of the highest standards in that which he wants to lead. For people to trust and follow the leader, it would require that they be sinless. 

2) If an Imam makes a mistake or commits sins, he would need another person to guide him. Such a person cannot be an Imam (a) sent by Allah to guide people.

3) If an Imam (a) commits a sin the people have two choices; either they follow him in that sin or they turn away from him in that matter. Both of these choices would be wrong for them as followers of a Divinely sent Imam (a).

The Ahlulbayt (a) have been chosen by Allah (s) and given a very high status in His eyes. How do we reconcile this with the idea of His infinite justice? Is Allah (s) favouring the Ahlulbayt (a) over us?

To answer the question of why the Ahlulbayt (a) were chosen for purification and if this is in line with justice of Allah, certain aspects must be understood properly.

1) What is meant by the Justice of Allah? Justice of Allah is not separate from His wisdom. That means that all His actions, in existential and legislative matters, are in line with the highest wisdom, for the good of all His creatures. Justice of Allah also means He would not do anything wrong such as oppression. He creates each creature with its own capacity, potential, etc. and expects from it accordingly. Justice is that He does not demand from any creature more than what the creature can do. 

2) There exists different capacities and potential among the creatures. He did not create everyone the same, that is not part of the perfect system He designed. This is in line with His justice and wisdom as it is best for the functioning of this world. The differences are not a sign of injustice. Rather, it is justice because different levels of understanding and abilities are needed for society to flourish and remain like a body with different organs, each of them contributing to the overall needs of the body. 

3) The focus for success in this world and the hereafter for each person is to recognize the talent and potential given to him/her so they can use it to achieve perfection in God’s way. 

4) The different levels between the creatures are not a discrimination. It is not that some people get everything and some are overlooked. Every creature gets, according to His wisdom. Ayatullah Mutahhari explains this with the following example. If you take two containers which can hold 10 litres (L) of water and fill one with 10 L and one with 5 L, that would be discrimination. But if you have one container that can hold 10 L and you put 10 L in, and the other container can only hold 5 L and you put 5 L in, you dealt with them differently according to their capacity.  

5) People who are pure and virtuous are of two types. One are the Mukhlisin, those who have accepted the commands of Allah (s) and work hard to obey Him. They are sincere and do good deeds. It is through their efforts that they have reached a certain rank with Allah (s). They were not chosen to be like that, they became like that. There is another group that includes the Prophets and the Masumin (a), who receive extra abilities from Allah (s) and are Mukhlasin, purified by Allah (s). They also go through stages of striving for perfection and hard struggles, and earn the additional perfection and purification. This was in order for them to be worthy of carrying out the responsibility of guiding people to Allah (s). This huge responsibility is only given to those who show high levels of perfection from themselves and God adds to it. God knows who is more worthy of such a position due to His comprehensive knowledge and chooses them accordingly. He says in the Quran; And We made of them Imams to guide by Our command when they were patient, and they were certain of Our communications (32:24) and Allah (s) knows best where to place His apostleship (6:124). 

The following excerpt at the beginning Dua al-Nudba also explains it; Your vicegerents whom You have purely selected for Yourself and Your religion . . . after You had already stipulated on them to renounce all the ranks of this lowly world along with all of its embellishments and ornaments, and they accepted this stipulation. As You knew that they would fulfill this stipulation, You accepted and drew them near to You. You thus provided them with sublime mention and obvious approval, made Your angels descend to them, honoured them with Your revelations, supported them with Your knowledge, and made them the channel to You.

6) To choose certain people for certain roles in life is not injustice. Every creation, from the angels and the jinns to the humans all have a certain role to play in existence. Each is equipped with what they need to fulfill that role and will be responsible for the role they have been assigned. That is a perfect system, based on justice.