By MuslimAnswers.net Team
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم
Someone asked the question: “Why does God let there be so much suffering on Earth?” Sometimes this is followed by the declaration by certain people that: “Given that there is so much suffering on the Earth, it is impossible to believe in the existence of a wise God”.
We have to say that this question is in fact very weak from a philosophical point of view. The reason for this is the anthropocentric assumption: “If God exists, then ensuring the greatest pleasure for the highest number of human beings should be His primary responsibility. Otherwise, God cannot be said to exist.”
We immediately notice that this assumption is simply unfounded. The Muslim says that the only thing necessary for the creature to be a complete being are those intrinsic dimensional characteristics he/she possesses such as length, width, etc., at any given moment. The feelings of pleasure and pain that a person experiences are merely possibilities that may or may not be present in differing quantities throughout a person’s life.
Truth be told, the very fact that pain and pleasure both exist are proofs of Allah’s Existence, since they are both within the realm of contingent possibilities, and such possibilities are always tied to the Will and Power of Allah – to bring them about or leave them in the realm of Non-Existence as He decides.
Coming back to the “anthropocentric assumption” we noted above, we see that such a supposition would be an attempt to impose obligations on Allah [of the form: “If you create humans, you better keep them free from suffering”]. However, we see that such a statement of supposed obligation cannot have any true effect, since in such a case it would reveal a weakness in Allah.
This would be so since the so-called “Creator-Creation relationship” would in fact literally be a “feedback loop” where the “created beings” and the “Creator” are conflated in their natures. The conflation occurs since (in such a hypothetical scenario) the created thoughts and opinions of humans would have a literally true, serial effect on the actions of Allah, and there would be basically no ontological difference between the creation and Allah.
Of course, in everyday parlance we say – for example – that Allah bestowed certain favors on a person due to the person’s supplication, but if we get into the deeper Islamic metaphysical view of this matter, we see that even the person’s supplication is a Creation of Allah and is totally specified and brought into being by Allah, so it is not that Allah was literally “moved by compassion/pity” due to the supplication of the person.
If it is objected that this presentation is dry and without emotion, we respond that the objection itself makes a “dry” supposition about a metaphysical truth, and we are forced to answer from this angle, whose methods and vocabulary are invariably dry and straight-forward.
Many people will be satisfied by this answer. However, others will keep pushing the issue by saying: “If God can bring about happiness for the people but instead brings about loss and suffering, then why should I worship such a malevolent creature?”
We say that this is only an extension of the initial anthropocentric assumption. In here, everyday definitions of good and bad as they are applied in human interactions are projected unto Allah, and statements are made based on this assumption. But we say that the assumption itself is totally incorrect and inapplicable to Allah, as are the maxims that may be widely taken to define moral behavior (such as the golden rule: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself”, which is impossible to be applied to Allah the Exalted, since the actions of the servants are all Creations of Allah, so how can they have a “true effect” on Allah?)
Coming to the matter of worship, we say that worship is not done merely due to the favors we have received from Him, but also to glorify Allah, that He is the only Necessary Existent who is Self-Sufficient, and that everything else, all creatures, feelings, and emotions, arise and are blotted out solely due to His Will, Power, and Act of Creation. When the insignificance of the servant dawns upon him, then he may understand that all praises are to due to Allah, since no matter what state Allah puts people into, whether of extreme happiness, extreme sadness or something in between, the insignificance of the creatures will remain intact, as will the complete Sovereignty of Allah the Exalted.