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Last Updated: 2012/02/18
Summary of question
Considering the fact that there is good and evil, and beauty and ugliness in the world, how can God’s kindness be proven?
How can God’s kindness be proven? In this world, there is evil and ugliness as much as there is good and beauty. For example, we have both beautiful animals, and predators. Can we say that this world has two gods; one of good and the other of evil? How can such a theory be disproven?
Concise answer

The fact that God has created man in the best of forms and has fulfilled all of his needs both in this world and the next, and as a matter of fact, has created everything for him and put it at his disposal, is the best reason that shows he loves man. Also, he is kind to other creatures for bringing them into existence from nothingness, and fulfilling their needs as well as leading them to their perfection.

All of the evils, ugliness and inconsistencies out there have their reason and justification; if we learn of these reasons we will see that there is no conflict between these evils and God’s kindness and mercy.

Detailed Answer

When discussing God’s mercy and His other qualities, it must be kept in mind that the attributes of every being must be looked at from the perspective of the existential dimensions of that very being. For example, the kindness of a child to a suckling infant is to the extent that he doesn’t let her get near dangerous things and gives her things to eat that he himself likes.

As for the parents of the child, their kindness has a broader scope, meaning that in addition to keeping them away from dangerous things, they take care of her food and clothing, protect her from harm and dangerous sicknesses, they even have her vaccinated despite the pain she will go through and the chances of her being sick for a week and maybe even going to the hospital. The parents do this with the utmost precision, because they see it as the exact way of being kind to their baby. They know that if the child doesn’t go through this pain, she won't be able to stand against the dangers that will threaten her later. So, this short term pain and hardship will bring about long term peace and health, and everyone sees this as kindness itself, to the extent that if a mother and father don’t carry out these tasks due to the hardship it will cause their child, everyone will scold them for unkindness and cold heartedness.

The same goes for God’s kindness towards us; His mercy is even higher and transcends that of the mother and father to their child. If we see this world to be everything there is, and death to be the end of it all, some of the hardships in this world will not be justifiable and will indeed contradict kindness. On the other hand, if we see the life of man to be as expanded as the universe itself, encompassing the time before his birth, his life in this world, after death and the Barzakh, resurrection, the Day of Judgment, and Heaven and Hell, and look at God’s mercy while putting all of these different levels of man’s life into perspective, then all of these hardships and incidents will take on the color of mercy and kindness.

When we focus on creation, we see that God has provided for all the needs of every being and creature to reach its respective perfection, meaning that everything has been given the opportunity for its relative growth and perfection by God, and this signifies His love for His creation.

Also, how can we accept that God would not share His love with His creation, when He has unlimited power and knowledge, and nothing can get in the way of Him sharing it with them, because He lacks all forms of jealousy, doesn’t have fear of losing His power, nor does He lack any knowledge that might cause Him not to be able to share His mercy with creation; none of these and other factors that get in the way of Him sharing His love can be found in Him. On the contrary, through His endless power, knowledge and grace, He has created the best system of creation that yields the most good and this means maximum kindness and well-meaningness up to par with divine greatness and magnificence.

In addition, the one who has instilled the love and affection of parents towards their child in their hearts, must have that same love at a higher and more complete level to be able to endow others with it, because, as philosophers say, “One who grants another with a quality, cannot lack that same quality himself.” [1]

As for the hardships, evil, transgression, pain, depravation and death that take place in our world, they can be divided into two categories:

1- Incidents that take place as a result of people’s actions, such as the oppressions and transgressions, murders and plundering that happen.

2- Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, drought and illness.

Regarding the first group, we must say that since God has created man with free will so that he chooses between good and bad and beauty and ugliness and evil, such a system means that sometimes, out of making the wrong choice and choosing the wrong behavior, evil, ugliness, oppression and injustice take place in the society and it is clear that these unpleasant phenomena cannot be attributed to God, rather they are the acts of God’s creatures. The Quran says: “Corruption has appeared in land and sea because of the doings of the people's hands.” [2] We should remember though, that there is a hereafter, where all of our acts will be reckoned and those whose rights have been trampled and have been oppressed will be compensated for.

In regard to the second set of evil which is a result of natural causes, there are some points which should be kept in mind:

1- This world is a place of testing and very precise assessment of individuals; all comfort, hardship, happiness, tragedy, abundance and depravation, etc., are a means of trial and to distinguish between good and bad. If we keep in mind the indescribable rewards that God has promised those who succeed in this field, we will find that even the most bitter incidents of this world are indeed grace and unlimited kindness of the Lord; the more the hardship, the more the reward.

The Quran points to the abovementioned assertion in many places; it 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.” [3]

2- Hardship and problems both train individuals and awaken nations and stimulate their willpower and resolve. [4] It is because of this that hardship is in total compliance with the aim of creation and has no contradiction with God’s mercy which calls for the perfection of people.

3- Many of the hardships play a role in the spiritual development and growth of the individual. Many of those who grew up in poverty and tough circumstances ended up achieving great success, some of which helped all of humanity.

4- If ugliness wasn’t next to the beauties, the beautiful wouldn’t be beautiful, and the ugly wouldn’t be ugly. In other words, if there was no ugliness in the world, there would also be no beauty. If all people were beautiful, then no one would be beautiful! In reality, the attractiveness of the beautiful, comes from the repulsiveness of the ugly. [5]

5- Ugliness is the preliminary step to the existence of beauty and is actually what creates beauty. What is meant is that in the core of hardship lies prosperity and salvation, the same way that sometimes, it is inside beauties that hardship and ugliness develop; this is how this world is and works. [6]

If we keep all of these points in mind, we will find that the evils in this world are actually a stepping stone to very high goodness.

As for the last part of your question about the creator of evil, we must remind that evil isn't something existential that has been created, rather, it is non-existential (meaning that it is actually the absence of good, and not something that exists in and of itself). For example, physical disability isn't something independently created, rather, it is the lack or absence of a body part. This explanation of evil answers the dualistic approach that says this world has two gods, one of good and the other of evil, because it proves that this existence in this world isn't of two types of good and evil, to entail the need for two gods. [7] Thus, existence, from the perspective that it exists, is all good, and evil, from the perspective that it doesn’t exist, is evil, and it is good that is need of a creator and not non-existence; non-existence doesn’t need a creator because it doesn’t exist. This proves that this universe only has one creator.

For further reading:

1- The reason for differences, ugliness, beauty, guidance and misguidance, Question 205.

2- Natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, storms, etc.) and divine punishment, Question 5079(7760).

3- Natural disasters being divine punishment and a standard to distinguish between the two, Question 169.

4- The aim behind divine tests, Question 15795(15631).

[1] Bidayah al-Hikmah, Allamah Tabatabai, pg. 269; “ معطی الکمال غیر فاقد ”.

[2] Rum:41 “ ظهر الفساد فی البر و البحر بما کسبت ایدی الناس ”.

[3] Baqarah:155 “ و لنبلونکم بشیء من الخوف و الجوع و نقص من الاموال و الانفس و الثمرات و بشر الصابرین ”.

[4] Adle Elahi, Shahid Mutahhari, pg. 156.

[5] Adle Elahi, Shahid Mutahhari, pg. 143.

[6] Adle Elahi, Shahid Mutahhari, pg. 149.

[7] Adopted from: Adle Elahi, Shahid Mutahhari, pg. 135.

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