The Issue of Evil and Suffering
The Islamic Perspective
This article, based on a speech delivered at an earlier Ahmadiyya Annual Convention in Toronto, Canada, covers the reason behind suffering among innocent people, and the potential benefits that man can derive from such circumstances.
by Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad Ayaz OBE – UK
The world today presents a devastating scenario surmounted by evil and precipitated with suffering and pain. Pain and suffering affect so many people, including the innocent, the God-fearing, small children and the young and old alike, each and every day. Even I, you or the person sitting next to you may be going through a period of immense suffering – whether physical, mental or emotional.
Suffering affects us all in one way or another and there is no escape from it. But why? Why should we and others suffer? Why would the One God, who has created us out of His love and in His image let us suffer? Why did He not create a world without evil?
At first sight it is extremely difficult to comprehend or justify suffering. It may be credible to justify suffering that is truly self-inflicted or suffering as a result of punishment. But why should the innocent, young children or the God-loving suffer?
I shall attempt to help you to understand the Islamic perspective of evil and suffering.
Islam brings light and reason to suffering and in essence one can then actually realise that ‘suffering is not always suffering’.
Buddhism defines suffering (dukkha) as resulting from:
1. Torment e.g. old age,
sickness and death;
2. Absence of pleasure;
3. The necessity of giving up what one loves and what one has become attached to, because of the inescapable transitory quality of all phenomena.
It further claims that man’s selfish desire is the cause of suffering i.e. his craving for thirst (tanha). It proposes an eight-fold path to attain liberation (nirvana). Hinduism believes that all suffering is self-inflicted and justifies it with the concept of Reincarnation – lower or higher life forms based upon the conduct in the previous life. Islam rejects this concept because with His infinite powers of creation and evolvement, God does not need to recycle life and so evolves it continuously to higher levels.
The Buddhist definition is valid but the affliction must be discussed at the universal as well as human level. The question of the presence of evil is more fundamental and the rational approach presented by Islam is the best.
We live in a world of cause and effect and if we observe keenly we find that the entire universe is bound together in this system. It is because of this unchangeable principle of cause and effect that man has been able to make advances in scientific knowledge. A cause may be primary or the effect of yet another cause linking into a continuous chain. If this process comes to an end, it must be obvious that the final cause must exist by itself; it must be absolute. It is also obvious that a finite cause cannot be absolute for it will exclude some domain of process. It will not be the ending cause. Whichever cause or existence is absolute, all comprehensive and selfsubsisting, must of necessity be infinite. The Holy Qur’an declares:
Thy Lord is the final cause of all causes. (Ch.53: v.43)