Is suffering really meaningless or is life a test?
Often we hear the phrase regarding stealing candy from a baby, if we were truly merely just chemical bodies then we would only act solely on what benefited us individually yet we have feelings that are countering this phenomenon, why is this the case? And what has this got to do with suffering?
If we were just robot-like entities feelings regarding suffering would be non-existent, but we are not and thus we feel that there is injustice for us to cause suffering. Therefore, our conscience existing firstly is a proof of compassion; if we are to ask why there is suffering, we should also ask why is there good, blessings, mercy and bounty necessarily.
Just because there is suffering it does not mean The Creator doesn't exist, it does mean He doesn't always intervene to stop it but why?...
So why is there suffering?
Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea on account of what the hands of mankind have wrought, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, so that they may return. (to the right and straight path and thus the cessation of this evil)
When we read the above, we learn the cause of evil in the world, and when people ask why does God let it happen the reply should be why do we let it happen? We have enough wealth to wipe out poverty and enough food to feed the famine etc. So why do we not? Indeed, many people make tremendous efforts to change our state of affairs for the better, why? Who put that compassion in their hearts, and why do they make such an effort when often it necessarily means their well-being suffers?
Whenever man collectively or individually acts in a good manner it generally brings goodness into the world as;
Conversely, when mankind acts in an evil manner collectively it generally causes corruption to spread in the world, both the place of dwelling, the land and even the sea, some of this corruption is known to all such as poverty, oppression and political corruption and oil spills. Whilst some are not so obvious; this includes diseases and even ecological disasters. Some people have been led to falsely believe that The One True God (In Arabic: Allah) is responsible, that The most Kind is to blame for this; however, the purpose of this article is to prove that this is not the case at all.
We have clear examples above of suffering caused by man, some then ask why does The Almighty allow it to occur or not intervene; firstly we should ask why do we allow it to occur...
Firstly there is enough food to stop starvation and enough wealth to wipe out poverty, but why aren't we as mankind doing this?
Whilst there are individual efforts the people with the most wealth are not acting to erode this, why not?
Our purpose in life is inextricably linked to our state of affairs, and indeed Islam has the answers to such problems.
Firstly we have to distinguish two questions, one is the existence of a creator and the second as a distinct question on the problem of suffering. (For Islam's evidence for the creator refer to the article is there evidence for God)
Islam's' position regarding the creator is unique, it is, therefore, important to establish the Islamic belief before continuing to answer:
"How can there be a loving and all-powerful God if there is so much suffering in the world ?", so what is Islam's position about who God is and what is its position on the problem of suffering?
The following is our answer to such questions :
Firstly we learn from the Islamic texts that The One True God created us and created us for a most noble reason and that is to attain salvation by devoting ourselves to Him and to do noble works for Him like that of working to eradicate poverty, as this pleases Him.
Firstly we should learn who Allah is. The following are the Islamic teachings about the creator, as for one who rejects the belief in a creator based on what they suppose are scientific arguments, the purpose of this article is to deal with the question of suffering whereas there is a plethora of material available regarding supportive evidence from the field of science for Islam's veracity and truthfulness.
(As mentioned previously refer to the article is there evidence for God )
In the Qur'an and statements of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) we learn that God Almighty is the Most Merciful and Kind, we learn that He is The Most Kind, The Most Wise.
The One God of all people in Islam is indeed known The Most Merciful yet He is not described as all-merciful, as there is His supreme justice for those who wrong and oppress, in this life He is indeed merciful to all but not unrestrictedly. For example, a man who kills millions of people ( like Hitler) who would want The Creator to have mercy on such an individual?
(If the person does not change and is unrepentant then they will not obtain Allah's mercy if they die upon rejection of faith and such heinous acts. )
We also learn that Allah is not called The all-loving but The Most Loving and we can use the same example again should The Almighty love the ones who unrepentantly murder, rape, cheat and oppress?
One may ask why does He allow evil to occur and not intervene?
Again Instantly the question should arise Why do we not intervene?
And also the question can be asked if there is a God and all the good things I receive should I not be thankful to Him?
In many cases, the problems in the world are caused directly by human hands and we usually have the ability to individually or collectively resolve them.
Our problems are from our own selves, extremely often The Most Merciful intervenes yet mankind refuse to recognise it. Aren't people cured of disease? Aren't countless calamities averted by means unimagined?
How many times have we as individuals suffered from a serious worry and it is lifted from us, who lifted it from us? Is it not possible that it is Allah the Most Merciful who did so?
If you are to say there is suffering yet there is also pleasure, yet blame is for the creator and praise is for ourselves? What type of double standard reasoning is this?
Indeed this life is not merely for enjoyment alone rather that we have been created with a higher purpose and calling, to examine whom of us is best in our conduct.
The Almighty created us to see who of us are best in our actions; yet He does intervene in ways one perhaps has not considered, Islam teaches us that Allah is the one who created man and inspired him to do good, who gave him the intelligence and ability to be compassionate.
It is imperative to also understand that all injustice and oppression caused by people against each other and indeed by mankind regarding nature will be resolved on the day of reckoning.
So why is there evil?
'Hallowed is He who holds the Kingdom in His Hand, And He is
over all things All-Powerful.
(He is the one:) Who created death and life to test you,
to see which of you is best in works, and He is The Almighty, The
Most-Forgiving' The Sacred Qur'an 67:1-2
Firstly many say that they did not want to be created, Islam teaches us that we individually chose this trust, the trust being that if we fulfil what Allah asked from us that He will reward us and if we fall short then we will have to answer as to why.
“Indeed, We offered the trust to the heavens, the earth and the mountains, but they refused to bear it and were terrified of it. And (yet) man bore it. Indeed, he was an ignorant wrongdoer.” The Sacred Qur’an 33:72
We thus, learn from the Quran that The Almighty did not prefer for us to accept such an undertaking and that this was originally from our own choice.
we learn from the Quran that The Almighty did not prefer for us to accept such an undertaking and that this was originally from our own choice.
If a weatherman and a government warn about an impending flood and give clear instructions and then people pay no attention can they blame the government or the weatherman when the flood hits?
In reality, we were created and our souls were inspired with the ability to know what is right and wrong; then further given guidance and warning about what is right and wrong by revelation, then as mankind we ignore the guidance and thus evil happens as a result.
An important principle that we know exists, whether Muslim or not is our not liking something doesn't lead to its being untrue.
We are taught in Islam in a narration from the messenger sent by the Almighty Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him that we should not take on more than we can bear otherwise we end up humiliating ourselves, the relevance here is that our individual, personal suffering most often occurs after we have taken on more than we can handle, whether in good or evil and then suffer the consequences. One who does so in good deeds is one who transgresses against himself by not given his own soul its right, whilst his is not the direct meaning of the narration as previously stated evil in the earth and on sea has appeared from our own actions and who does so in vice is wronging his and usually other souls also, and who can bear the consequences of evil, if rubbish is left outside ones door and left to build up without taking it to the place where refuse is collected it will cause a foul smell, after some time the rubbish will pile up and rodents will become a part of the problem, then neighbours will be effected and even the possibility of causing disease, thus is the parable of evil and sin, if we do not clean up our own hearts and selves then we can cause destruction and suffering to our communities, as the prophet Muhammad we ask the Almighty to send peace and blessings upon Him and all prophets and messengers including Eesa (Jesus) The Prophet taught us all children of Adam, all of humanity make mistakes and the best of them are those who repent, who turn to the Almighty and ask for forgiveness, who make amends tidy their front garden and apologise to the neighbour giving financial compensation where necessary, otherwise evil will be bound to increase fester and multiply like bacteria, if one is sick they need to take the medicine unless they become more Ill, ending ultimately with the risk of death, this case likewise is crucial, in fact more so as if we are to leave the diseases we have in our souls and hearts then indeed destruction awaits us , oh Almighty you are the most kind and most merciful forgive us, guide and save us from the evil of our own souls, glory be to you we have been doing wrong.
It is said to the one who bitterly retorts; " I didn't ask to be created"
A child who petulantly says I didn't ask you to have me as when they are in school failing exams or caught cheating, struggling to face a crisis or depression they blame their parents and say they never did any single thing for them, and they didn't ask for the parents to have them, is this child correct? Is this the respect you as a parent deserve?
What about all of the love, clothing food emotional turmoil?
The parents put them in school so they could have an opportunity for education are blameworthy just because the child made the choice to cheat in an exam or suffered harm due to his bad choices?
Even if the risk of failing, no never the Almighty Allah gave humanity everything even the compassion to help others and the misguided still blame Him?
Rather it like one who asks the young adult do you want to go to university, I warn you others refused to go and the risk is expensive, but if you do go and pass I will reward you but if you fail then you will be the one in debt (as you have been warned of its difficulty)
We are being tested as to whom is best in deed and most truthful, even against our own selves.
“He is the one who has created death and life, in order to test you, to determine thereby who of you are best in deed..” 67:2
“Allah does not burden any soul with more than it can bear.”
The Qur'an 2: 286
Here it is important to mention some questions that people have after having lost a loved one, especially someone at a young age to a disease like cancer, why did God Almighty let that happen?
The Almighty has allowed things to happen that do not please Him at all, in fact, many things anger Him yet He allows it to happen, this does not at all mean He is pleased by it at all, have you not seen that He allows people to worship other than Him?.
It is a fact that Islam teaches that He God Almighty dislikes taking the soul of His servant.
It may be the case that such a death led to eternal life in paradise for that person; that from such tragedies many positive outcomes can occur, how often are cures found for diseases fuelled by such a tragedy?
"But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you, and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not." The Qur'an 2:216
It is important to mention that there is a difference between the universal will of Allah meaning the decree of all that occurs whether good or bad and the legislative decree regarding that which Allah has commanded mankind to do, what He loves likes and wants us to avoid.
Yet although Allah The Almighty can stop people committing blasphemy etc. He allows it to occur through His universal will, not because He has legislated it to be allowed but He lets it happen due to His wisdom. This is the case for much evil we see in the world today.
Again, Allah Almighty has informed us that He created us to test us (67:2).
Indeed death is a calamity and it reminds us that this life is not a game. There is a purpose, whilst things happen in this life that indeed we do not like we should remember that this life is not a paradise, even if for some it may be, yet it is fleeting, they and we will all pass on from this life, sooner or later.
Doesn't life have a purpose? Or is suffering absolutely meaningless?
Some misguided people argue that due to evil and suffering there cannot be a God, however, we know that these are two different issues. We do not say that a child is suffering from malnutrition therefore he had no parents. Rather as we have outlined above that we have been created with a purpose, direction and given guidance when we stray from that guidance is when we suffer.
We should also be aware of the evil of envy and its consequences in the seen and unseen world, Islam teaches that this evil which we must supplicate God to protect us from, can even cause diseases, property loss and even death. When one is aware of this evil we realize that the root of all evil is envy and therefore can begin to understand even the most traumatic of events by the will of The Most Kind, Most Merciful.
Indeed just the example of the evils of pollution and waste, that are found on land and sea, this is a clear manifestation of what the opening quote from the Quran is referring to, that Is from our own hands. Should we not return to our purpose?
Regardless if one does not like what is upon us, suffering does not negate the reality that there is a purpose of life and that we will die Islam teaches that there is only one Almighty God to be worshipped, and praise to Allah He is the most loving, kind and wise, indeed so very merciful.
Islam did not start with prophet Muhammad but rather our father Adam, peace and blessings be upon them, from Abraham to Moses Noah and Jesus Islam teaches that they were all devoted to God alone and this in Arabic is the meaning of the word Muslim
Should we not learn more about the guidance he has sent that shows us how to avoid suffering?
Is it not possible that Islam is true?