Monday 11th of December 2023
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Fifth Lecture
More Discussion on the Philosophy behind Disasters and Evils

Since the issue of disasters and evils is a problem for most students of theology and monotheism, we shall devote more space here to this topic.

Hardships and Life’s Ups and Downs Enliven Us

It might seem difficult for some to comprehend, but gifts and blessings lose their value if they continue for a long time and do not change.

It is a proven fact that if a smooth item is placed inside a sphere with strong rays of light directed upon it, the item becomes difficult for the observer to see. This is because it is the shadows around an item that make it visible.

Blessings, in the same way, are not observable without the shadows of hardship. We would not enjoy our lives if we did not encounter any diseases at all. It is only after a night of fever and headache that we appreciate the value of health.

As a whole, a monotonous life, even the most affluent one, is both boring and morbid. It is commonly observed that some of those who have led an affluent life, is free from disturbances, consider life to be absurd and have tried either to commit suicide or complain about their lives.

You never see a talented architect construct the walls of a hall like the walls of a prison, drab and monotonous; rather, with his innovations he tries to give it spirit and joy.

Why is nature so wonderfully beautiful? Why are forests, mountains, rivers, streams and the swaying branches of the trees so interesting and so charming? One obvious reason might be the lack of monotony. The dichotomies of light and dark on the one hand and day and night on the other, which are repeatedly emphasized in the Holy Qur’¡n, are meant to eliminate monotony from human existence. This is because if the sun continuously shone from only one location in the sky, there would be no change of day and night and within a short time, everyone would suffer boredom.

Based on these pieces of information, we should accept the fact that disasters in life are partly influential in making the rest of our lives more attractive and helping us appreciate the real value of our blessings.

Self-made Hardships

Another point which should be mentioned in this final section of our discussion is the fact that most people are ignorant of the causes of unpleasant events and disasters and attribute those injustices which are actually done by other human beings to the system of creation. They thus attribute the irregularities in man’s deeds to irregularities in creation.

For instance, they complain in the following fashion: “Why should all disasters and misfortunes happen to me? Why do earthquakes cause few casualties in towns, but many more in the villages? Why should so many lives be lost in villages due to earthquakes? What sort of justice is this? If we are supposed to be exposed to all sorts of calamities, why should we not receive them equally? Why should the poor be exposed to so many disasters? Why are the poor victimized in general hospitals?”

These critics do not realize that none of these issues is related to the general scheme of creation; nor are they related to God’s justice. Rather, these are the direct and inevitable consequences of man’s injustice and exploitation of other human beings.

If villagers were not living under dire poverty due to the inequalities between them and city dwellers, they could build stronger houses to withstand earthquakes and many lives could be saved this way. But when their houses are built with clay bricks without using cement, any strong wind or weak earthquake can easily destroy them. How can these events be related to God or His justice?

We should not, find fault with God’s philosophy of creation by complaining and uttering such statements: “He has given some people all sorts of assets, but has deprived others of their basic needs. He has given some people elegant, breath-taking mansions and others caves to dwell in!”

These criticisms should be directed towards the disorganized institutions of society. These social injustices should be eradicated through our efforts. Poverty should be removed from our society through our efforts. The deprived and the miserable should be taken care of. Only through such deeds could we rid ourselves of these blatant cases of injustice.

If all people from all walks of life had proper nutrition and hygiene, they would be resistant to diseases.

However, in a society in which a just order does not exist but in which aggression and the exploitation of others prevail, there would be some who would be so affluent that they would even have veterinarians and medicines for their pets and there would be those who would lack even the right medicine for their babies. Such cases are prevalent in many societies.

Under such circumstances, it would be rational to find fault with our own deeds and not with God.

We should advise the oppressors to stop their acts of cruelty and tell the oppressed not to yield to oppression.

We should, as well, try hard to provide all members of society with the minimum means of hygiene, treatment, food, shelter, and education. Therefore, we must conclude that we should not blame the creator for our own faults and shortcomings, saying: How could God ever impose such miseries upon us? How could God ever have recommended such an unjust social order?

In contrast, God has created us free since freedom is the very key to prosperity.

However, it is we who misuse our freedom and expose others to cruelty. These cruelties ultimately manifest themselves as social disorder, irregularities and complete chaos.

Unfortunately, these blunders affect everyone and the works of some poets attest to this situation.

The Holy Qur’¡n explains this issue elegantly:

إِنَّ اللهَ لاَ يَظْلِمُ النَّاسَ شَيْئاً وَلَكِنَّ النَّاسَ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ.

Certainly, Allah does not do any injustice to men, but men are unjust to themselves. [Qur’¡n 10:44]


Why did we discuss the issue of disasters and evils in three lectures?

What is the drastic side effect of a monotonous life? Have you ever met a person who complains of his affluent life?

What do you know of the philosophy of light and darkness in the world of creation?

Are all the calamities that are prevalent in our society attributable to creation or do we also, have some role in their occurrence?

Are there appropriate ways available to us to redress social disasters? What are our responsibilities vis-à-vis the oppressed?

Sixth Lecture
Determinism and Free Will

One issue related to God’s justice is the topic of determinism and free will.

The proponents of the philosophy of determinism contended that man is not free in his deeds, behavior and speech and that even the movement of his limbs and organs is performed as obligatorily as the movement of parts of a car.

This raises the question: How is this opinion compatible with the issue of God’s justice? For this very reason, the Muslim group called the Ash'arites to whom we referred previously, and who deny the concept of logical good and evil, have accepted determinism and have denied justice. By accepting determinism, one no longer has to accept the issue of justice.

To clarify this issue, we should first discuss some other topics.

The Origin of the Belief in Determinism

Every body feels deep inside himself that he has freedom of choice. For instance, he can decide to help his friends financially or not; he can drink water when he is thirsty or decide not to do so. He is free to forgive or take revenge on anybody who has wronged him.

Every one can distinguish between the shaking of the hands of a sick or old person and someone shaking their hands of their own free will. So how is it that some people accept the philosophy of determinism when everyone intuitively feels that man is free in his nature?

There are several reasons for this orientation, one of which is presented here: When one sees that the environment influences everybody, that training affects everyone, that culture and indoctrination influence man’s soul and mind, that economic factors sometimes elicit reactions in people and that the influence of heredity is inevitable, one naturally jumps to the conclusion that man cannot act freely, and that all internal and external factors influence his decisions and that these behaviors would not have been manifested had these factors not existed before hand. These states of affairs are referred to as environmental determinism, hereditary determinism and the philosophy of determinism in general.

The Basic Error of the Proponents of Determinism:

These people, however, have neglected one fundamental point: it is not the issue of “stimuli” and “minor causes;” rather, it is the issue of the ultimate cause. In other words, nobody could deny the role of the environment, culture or economic factors on human thinking and activity. The point is, despite the influence of all these stimuli, it is we who arrive at decisions in the final analysis.

This is because in an oppressive social environment, such as a tyranny, in which everybody could engage in corruption, one does not have to become corrupt. In that type of social situation, one could decide to avoid receiving bribes or not to frequent centers of corruption and decide to remain intact, healthy and whole.

Thus, environmental circumstances should be distinguished from the ultimate cause.

We have instance of individuals raised in a corrupt family environment or culture, or who have inherited something inappropriate, but who have followed the right path and have even risen up against the corrupt environment. If everybody had to be the immediate product of his own time and environment then no fundamental revolution could have been created or produced. Under such conditions, everybody would have had to adapt himself to the status quo and no one could have hoped for any improvement in the social order.

All this indicates the fact that none of the afore-mentioned factors are vital to our destiny. Rather, each one only sets the background for our activity. The main decision is arrived at by one’s own determination.

This resembles the situation when we decide to fast on a hot summer’s day. Every part of our body craves for a drop of water. However, we ignore such a desire in order to obey God’s commands. Under similar conditions, another person could yield to his wants and consequently break his fast.

We shall conclude, therefore, that beyond all stimuli, there lies a vital factor called man’s power to make decisions.

The Politico-Social Factors Involved in the Philosophy of Determinism:

The issues of free will and determinism have always been misused during man’s history. There have been a few peripheral factors that have given rise to supporting the issue of determinism and denying free will: Among them are the following:

Political Factors

To carry on with their illegitimate governments and in order to suppress the fires of revolution arising among the oppressed classes of society, most tyrants and despotic statesmen have spread the illusory thought that we are not free to decide on our own and that the hand of destiny and the determinism of history write our fate. They erroneously conclude then, that it is one’s destiny that makes a prince or a beggar.

It is obvious that such a philosophy could easily stupefy the masses and set the stage for the continuation of colonial policies. In accordance with wisdom and the Shariah however, our destiny lies in our own hands and fate, in its deterministic sense does not exist. Divines decrees depend to a large degree on our will, faith, and endeavor.

Psychological Factors

There are some losers who are unwilling to accept the fact that the real cause for their failure has been their laziness and lethargy. In order to justify their laziness, they resort to the philosophy of determinism which they blame for their laziness. In this way, they arrive at a pseudo-peaceful state of mind. They claim that they have been wretched from the very start and that nothing could alter their destiny. They pretend that they are extremely intelligent and talented but fate has not been kind to them, however.

Social Factors

Some people prefer to be free to engage in libertinism and pleasure-seeking activities. They somehow convince themselves that they are innocent and they usually deceive the society into believing that they really are innocent.

For this purpose, they resort to the philosophy of determinism in order to justify their own sensual and whimsical behavior.

However, we are well aware of the fact that all of these are lies. Even those who present these baseless excuses know that they are not telling the truth. But they are hindered from expressing the truth by their whimsical and transient desires.

Thus, in order to purify our society, we should combat the very notion of determinism, which has been a tool in the hands of colonialists in order to carry out their plans and in the hands of losers in order to justify their failures.


What is the difference between the schools of determinism and free will?

What sorts of proofs do the proponents of determinism rely on?

How would you explain the effects of environment, culture, and heredity?

What political, mental, and social factors lie behind the school of determinism?

What should our position be vis-à-vis such factors?

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