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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Why the suffering? (Part 2)

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 They inferred that the struggle between these, is in other words, survival of the fittest without a conscious being controlling it. The Holy Qur’an agrees to some extent but rejects the idea that there was no conscious Being controlling it. There was always a conscious Being – Allah the Almighty – controlling every move in this battle and that is why there was always a good result and the good end always came out victories. For how could the world not have taken the wrong step and ended if it was not being consciously guided by an All-Knowing God?  

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The struggle to better the consciousness of man was bound to have a by-product. That by-product is what we know now as earthquakes, storms, floods and other forms of natural disaster in the wider sense. There is also another side to this disease and other forms of loss which visits man as a consequence. Would we have chosen to avoid this struggle in order to escape the inevitable by-product-earthquakes, storms, floods, tsunamis and disease at the risk of bettering our consciousness and sense of enjoyment and refinement? I would think not and so would any conscious person who has some form of understanding of the need of this struggle.

Of course it remains to be answered whether God is fair to those who happen to fall victim due to no apparent fault of theirs. That is to say, those who die or are crippled as a result of these natural calamities or sickness? As said earlier, they are victims of the cycle of struggle between life and death. And so will be compensated by the Gracious God Who has set this cycle in motion and controls it. That is why He says in the Holy Qur’an:  That is because there distresses them neither thirst nor fatigue nor hunger in the way of Allah, nor do they tread a track which enrages the disbelievers, nor do they cause an enemy any injury whatsoever, but there is written down for them a good work on account of it. Surely, Allah suffers not the reward of those who do good to be lost. Al-Taubah, chapter 9: verse 120

The Holy Prophet of Islam Syedina Muhammad MustafaSAW has also said that whatever happens to a person, even the prick of a thorn will attract reward for him from Allah the Almighty.

Another important issue to consider about suffering is that it is a relative term which has to be viewed in context. The more conscious one is the more acute can he feel his suffering. If a person is not conscious of the comfort of a particular thing, its loss will cause him no suffering at all. Imagine a person from a remote area of the world who has no awareness of the existence of electricity and a person who is cultured and civilised and has access to electricity all the time. If, for some reason electricity is not available, the person who is used to it will feel a measure of discomfort. But the person from the remote area who has no access or knowledge of it will not even be moved by its absence.

 

Now, come to the question of the distribution of suffering. In the case of the suffering caused by natural disaster, it may be explained from two points of view. One: the failings of man to abide by the dictates of justice can cause a lot of suffering which actually is nothing but the consequence of his actions. The Holy Qur’an says: And the heaven He has raised high and set up a balance. Do not upset the balance.  Al-Rahman Chapter 55: Verse 8

Allah has created a perfect balance in the universe and the disruption of that balance by the action of recalcitrant man, surely causes earthquakes and floods, as a result of global warming. The protection of the environment by man is not only a religious duty but a need for survival. The present most pressing problem of the world is climate change. The emissions of the green houses in the industrialized countries is wreaking havoc in the balance that is set by our Glorious God although the poor countries bear the brunt of the force of the natural calamities, they also have a responsibility to see to it that they are not exploited by the big powers in such a way that their people will continuously be the victims of the wrath of nature as it seeks to readjust the imbalances caused by man.

The natural calamities that we are today witnessing are largely due to the fact that man has not done justice to nature or for that matter, his creator. From the above we can surmise that at least to an extent, man is responsible for some of the suffering that visits the world.

If after all this chaos, man realises that with all his knowledge and power he cannot prevent these things from happening, he then turns to God and repents. He then knows that only God can give him the protection that he needs and has been the One from the very beginning Who has been giving him whatever he wanted and has been keeping him alive. He then turns to Him and worship Him as he should.

 

 

Conclusion

 

To conclude let us divide the forms of suffering and analyse their causes and effects. It is clear that all suffering falls under two categories.

1. The suffering that is as a result of natural disaster and divine calamities.

2. The suffering that is caused by human hand

The suffering that is as a result of natural disasters and other calamities can be explained in the following ways.

 1. As stated earlier, the constant struggle between life and death, or consciousness and unconsciousness producing earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, disease and other forms of loss. This is in many ways for the benefit of man as it helps refine our lives and make us more conscious. 

2. The natural disaster which is as a form of punishment from Allah, the Almighty visiting people who have wronged themselves and Allah by upsetting the balance set by Him. This serves as a source of purification for them in particular and a lesson for the future generations.

It has already been mentioned that all those who fall victim of these natural calamities due to no fault of theirs will be rewarded and compensated by Allah here and in the hereafter.

The suffering that is caused by human hand, such as murder and other crime outcomes, are in order to give man freewill so as to make the doing of good a virtue and the avoiding of evil meritorious. This also has immense benefit for mankind as a whole and it should be studied in the wider sense and not at an individual level. It is only this way that we can truly understand that it has its uses as well. 

I would now like to end this article with an excerpt from the writings of one of the greatest scholars of all times and perhaps the greatest thinkers of our times, Hadrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad fourth successor to the founder of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community on this question. He writes: Let us remind the reader that Islam defines evil only as a shadow created by the lack of light. It is not a positive existence in itself. We can imagine a source of light (a lamp or the sun), but we cannot imagine any object as a source of darkness. The only way in which an object becomes a source of darkness is through its ability to obstruct light. Likewise, it is only the absence of goodness that constitutes evil. The grades of evil are only determined by the opacity of the obstructing medium.

Likewise, it is the awareness of possession which constitutes happiness. Any loss or threat of loss to possession constitutes pain or agony. But they must coexist in an equation of positive and negative poles. Remove one, and the other will disappear. Hence no one on earth can interfere with the creative design of pain, pleasure, goodness and evil and succeed in altering the plan of things. It is beyond the reach of human compassion to efface suffering without effacing life itself. (Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth. Page 193)

So the issue of suffering is complex and should not be viewed from only one angle but rather from the wider scheme of things in the universe. Therefore, there is no one word of phrase answer to this question. It is a question that needs deep though and analyses!

 

 

Musa Bah who writes under the nom de plume Tha Scribbler is the author of several books and an English teacher at Nusrat Senior Secondary School.

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