The argument for the problem of evil assumes that God does not have any reason as to why evil and suffering should be permitted. This assumption is a misinterpretation of the Islamic concept of God. Although God is good, and All-Powerful, He has many other attributes as well. For example, one of His attributes is that He is the Wise. Since the very nature of God is based on wisdom, it follows that whatever He wills is in line with wisdom. The point here is that just because wisdom cannot be understood, it does not mean that is not wisdom. Such reasoning is manifested during early childhood. Many children are disciplined by their parents for something they would like to do. For example, a child may want candy which their parents are refusing to give. The child may have a tantrum because they feel their parents are unfair in not letting them enjoy the candy. However, they do not realize the wisdom behind them not being allowed to consume it at that time.
The justice of God is not defined by what humans think is good and evil. Rather what makes Him Just is that He has given everyone the resources they need to reach their own potential. Had He given everyone the same things, it would be considered injustice as not everyone is the same and everyone has different capacities in different areas. He has provided each individual with what they need so that everyone can reach their full potential, and this is considered to be justice.
Given the wisdom and justice of God, these are some possible reasons for why what is considered evil may exist.
Evil is relative
What is defined as evil is relative to one’s understanding of the world and is misunderstood due to the limitations of knowledge. When one thinks of evil it is in relation to something else.
For example, being bitten by a venomous snake has been considered dangerous. Then why would God create a harmful creature? Upon discovery, people realized that the venom snakes produce can actually be very useful in the production of certain medications. From the perspective of the snake, the venom is a self-defence mechanism and vital for its survival. Considering this information, venomous snakes no longer seem “evil.”
Similarly, everything observed in the world is relative to each individual perspective, limited to that person’s knowledge and experiences. This is a limitation each person has, that one could not possibly consider every angle of a situation or circumstance. Therefore one simply cannot judge something to be evil, doing so would be contrary to logic.
Trials in life are perceived as either good or bad. Someone may consider poverty to be a hardship but may also consider some positives in this situation. A financially troubled individual may find that they are more appreciative of life when they have less wealth than they may have been if they were more wealthy. Pondering upon one’s difficult life experiences, one may find positive outcomes to that situation—be it in the situation itself or an outcome of it later on. Subsequently, one may realize that what seems evil on the outside is not necessarily bad.
Mulla Sadra describes this idea with the following quote:
“…like fire whose perfection lies in the faculty of [producing] heat and burning and by means of which great advantages and plentiful benefits are obtained, but it happens sometimes for it to burn the house of a holy man or the garment of a prophet.
And like water whose perfection lies in [its] coldness and moisture, but it happens for it sometimes to drown the [inhabitants of] towns and to kill God’s servants. And so is the earth, the air, the rain, the cloud, etc.”Sadra, 1981, p. 69
Misfortune as a wake-up call
The misfortune people are faced with can become a reawakening, a warning for them. For example, if a loved one were involved in an accident or a health problem, one is reminded of the importance of family and relationships. Without facing difficulties in life, one would forget the greater priorities, ultimately God and the responsibilities towards Him.
Evil cannot be attributed to God
The evil in the world is attributed to humans and not to God. Issues such as poverty, murder, assault, etc. are unrelated to God’s system of creation and justice of this world. God did not create these things to be inherently part of this system. Rather, the imbalance in societal systems has caused these issues to arise. Human beings have the free will to act and unfortunately these actions can sometimes bring about harmful consequences.
Evil is non-existent
Evil is not an entity existing on its own. Rather, evil is merely the lack of good. Whenever one sees existence, non-existence is automatically implied. Hence, if good is in existence, then evil (non-existence) is as well. For example if poverty is considered evil and wealth is considered good, then poverty is simply the lack of wealth.
Given the above information, evil is essentially a lack of goodness and can be based on individual perceptions. God did not create evil or place His servants in “evil situations,” rather, He placed them in situations from which they can thrive and grow, in which they can help others, seek their own potential, and ultimately form a stronger connection with Him.
Lārī Mujtabá Mūsavī. (2000). God and His attributes: lessons on Islamic doctrine. (H. Algar, Trans.). Islamic Education Center. Retrieved from https://www.al-islam.org/god-and-his-attributes-sayyid-mujtaba-musavi-lari
Makarim Shirazi, N. (n.d.). Fifty lessons on principles of belief for youth.