With the recent earthquake in Haiti which has devastated that country, taken an astonishing amount of victims, and left many, many lives in ruin, many people ask the questions: why does God makes us suffer so much?
With the recent earthquake in Haiti which has devastated that country, taken an astonishing amount of victims, and left many, many lives in ruin, many people ask the questions: why does God make us suffer so much? Why are there pain, natural disasters, illness, disease and so many hardships in the world? The presence of difficulties has even led some to question the very existence of God. They say that if there was a God, then why does He allow suffering to take place? And if there is a God, then He must be a cruel one.
To question the existence of hardships in the world in order to understand their causes is one thing, but to use that as a cover-up for one’s ignorance of God and as an excuse to overlook our own faults is not excusable. Nevertheless, these questions are asked and Islam answers them very convincingly:
Relative Judgment and Limited Understanding
As a general rule, when making a judgment and selecting particularities of a situation, most of us take into consideration the relationship that those matters have with us. For example, if it rains somewhere, we are not worried about its effects over the entire environment. We are only concerned with our living area. If it has a positive effect in relation to us, we say it is a divine blessing, and if it has a negative effect in relation to us, we call it a calamity, even if the entire community receives its positive effects.
At a glance and in a usual judgment, we count the sting of a snake as a problem and evil thing without being aware of the fact that its sting and poison is a means of defense for this animal. We are unaware of the fact that from this very poison, life-giving antidotes can be made which save thousands of lives. Therefore, if we do not want to be caught by mistakes, we should not look to our limited understanding and make judgments based on a matter’s relationship with us, but we should take all its dimensions into consideration and make judgments based on all its sides. Placing a finger on a small part of the big picture and making a definite judgment is illogical and far from intellect. What Islam rejects is the creation of pure evil; however, if a thing is good from several aspects and bad from one aspect, and its good aspects outweigh its bad, then there is no objection.
Humans Progress with the Help of Difficulties
Difficult and unpleasant events strengthen our will and increase our power. Just as steel is strengthened in furnaces, we become stronger in the furnaces of unpleasant events.
For instance, war is a bad thing, but at times a long and difficult war blossoms the potentials of a nation, turns division into unity, and makes up for all the nation’s slacking. Many sociologists and historians say that all modernization that has taken place in a part of the world throughout history has been after a country was attacked by a great foreign power which awoke and immobilized its hidden powers.
Certainly, every individual and every society does not react in the same way before life’s unpleasant events. Some are overtaken by despair, weakness, and bad-sightedness. As a result, they achieve a negative outcome. But those with favorable characteristics jump into action in the face of these motivating events and quickly correct their weaknesses. However, because most people in such circumstances make quick judgments, they only see the difficulties and do not see the positive and constructive effects. The Holy Qur’an states: “It happens often that you dislike something (and deem it to be unpleasant), but God has placed in it a great deal of good.” (4:19)
Hardships Can Help Us Turn Back to God
As a result of disobeying God, the human must face discomforts in life so that (s)he becomes aware of the evil results of his/her actions and turns back to God. It is here that we realize a portion of sufferings and unpleasant events are in reality blessings from God. The Qur’an says: “Corruption has appeared in the land and sea because of that which mankind has done, so that they may taste the results of some of their actions, and so they may turn back to God.” (30:41)
Unpleasant Events Serve as Warnings
We have all seen people who are surrounded by bounties become captured by arrogance and selfishness, and in such a state they forget many of the important responsibilities as human beings. Also, we have seen ease and perfect comfort in life brings a form of negligence, and carelessness takes over. If this state continues, it leads to a person’s destruction. Undoubtedly a portion of life’s undesirable events are for getting rid of arrogance and neglect.
Professional and well-experienced drivers complain about roads that are clear, smooth, and without bumps, twists and turns, and ups and downs. They describe such roads as dangerous, because constant driving on these roads makes one sleepy, and this is when the danger begins. That is why bumps and artificial warnings are built on highways in order to decrease the chances of danger.
The path of man’s life is also like this in principle. If life was without twists, turns, and bumps, and if at times bad and undesirable events did not take place, the definite results would be neglect, unawareness of God, and an end to human responsibilities.
The Qur’an states: “We have placed them in difficult, painful, and worrying circumstances so that they turn back towards God.” (6:42)
We bring many hardships upon ourselves. When analyzing the reasons and factors behind unpleasant events, we frequently make the error of confusing the oppression and injustice that is carried out by oppressive people as God’s injustice. We also assume the chaos and disorder of humanity as nature’s.
For example, at times we object: why do earthquakes inflict little damage to certain countries and place a large number of people under rubble in other places? What kind of justice is this? If afflictions are destined to be in people’s lives, then why aren’t they spread equally? Why must the sharp edge of harmful occurrences always point towards the weak?
Such comments are negligent of the fact that none of these are linked to the phenomenon of creation or to God’s justice. These are all the results of the injustice, exploitation, and abuse of humans by each other.
If certain countries were not deprived and suffered from poverty and a lack of infrastructure because of the injustice and exploitation of other countries, why should natural disasters take so many sacrifices from them and very little from others? However, when their houses are built with nothing more than a handful of mud or rocks and wood, at times simply placed on top of each other without the use of any nails, adhesive or cement, where one strong gust of wind or tremor can bring them tumbling down, then one must not expect anything better than what we are seeing in Haiti right now. What relation does this have with God’s work?
One must make such criticism about the unbalanced and ill-organized state of society. One must rise and bring an end to these social injustices. One must fight against poverty and deprivation and give the weak their rights so that such incidents do not come about. The Qur’an states: “God does not do the slightest bit of injustice to mankind, but it is mankind who is unjust to themselves.” (10:44)
These were just some reasons why hardships and unpleasant events exist in this world. Certainly there are many more reasons for them. However, never are they without a reason and wisdom.