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Question
Hi,

I have been interested in understanding how different world religions explain the pain and suffering that is so pervasive in this world.

The way God has been introduced to us, i.e. as all knowing, omnipotent, and omnipresent, it seems impossible to believe that anyting happens independent of God's will.

I have heard number of common explanations, but none of them our completely satisfactory. So I was wondering if you could tell me more or refer me to some reading materials. Explanations I have heard are:

1. We deserve the suffering because of our sins.

2. God is testing our faith.

3. The suffering is caused by the evil in the world and not God.

4. We simply don't know, i.e. God works in mysterious ways.

I would really appreaciate your help.


Adrien


Answer
Dear Adrien,

I have found an explanation for you, but it is similar to those you have seen before:

Title of Fatwa Why Does Allah Allow Suffering and Evil in the World?
Date of Reply 27/Jul/2004
Topic Of Fatwa Muslim Belief
Country Applied Algeria
Question of Fatwa I was wondering if you could possibly help me resolve some conflicting issues. If God is All-Powerful, He must be able to prevent evil. If God is All-Good, He must want to prevent evil. But evil and suffering exist. How is it possible for God to be both All-Powerful and All-Good and still allow a world in which evil and suffering exist? I would greatly appreciate a response.

Name of Mufti Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi
Content of Reply

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear brother, in Islam, thanks for the question you posed, it's very interesting, and that is why we also try our best to furnish you with appropriate answer.

In response to your question, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County and President of the Islamic Society of North America, states:

“Indeed Allah is All-Powerful (Al-'Aziz) and He is able to do all things ('ala kull sha'in qadir). The Qur'an has mentioned this hundreds of times. It is also mentioned in the Qur'an that Allah is the Creator and He is the Best Creator. “Glory be to Allah, the best Creator.” (Al-Mu'minun: 14)

But then the question comes why do pain and sufferings exist in the world. We find sickness, old age and death. We see things that are ugly, people who are insane and foolish. There are storms, earthquakes, floods, draught and famine. We also see people commit sins, show disloyalty, unfaithfulness, greed and insincerity. We see people commit rapes, murders; they fight and make wars. We know all these and many more problems. There are evils caused by human beings and there are natural disasters. There are suffering for individuals and there are those that involve a large number of people.

But we also know that this is not the whole story. Besides all these negative things, we also see beauty, health, prosperity, life, birth, wisdom, intelligence, growth and progress. We also see goodness among people, faith, sincerity, charity, love and the spirit of sacrifice. We also see a lot of virtue and piety. It is wrong to see one side of the coin and not to see the other side. Any philosophy that concentrates on one aspect of the creation and denies or ignores the other side is partially true and partial truths are no truth at all.

It is also the fact that the element of good is more in the creation than the element of evil. We all see that there are more people who are healthy than those who are sick. There are more that eat well than those who starve.

There are more that lead decent life than those who commit crimes. Goodness is the rule and evil is the exception. Virtue is the norm and sin is the aberration. Generally trees bear fruits, the flowers bloom, the winds move smoothly.

But then the question is why does Allah allow these exceptions to the rules?

Let us ask this question to understand Allah's ways in His creation. The Qur'an tells us that good, evil and whatever happens in this world happens by Allah's Will (mashi'at Allah). Only Allah knows fully His Will. We finite beings cannot grasp fully His infinite Will and Wisdom. He runs His universe the way He deems fit. The Qur'an tells us that Allah is Wise and everything that Allah does is right, just, good and fair. We must submit and surrender to His Will. The Qur'an has not given us all the details about Allah's Will, but it has enlightened us with the guidance that is useful and sufficient for us. There are several points that we should keep in our mind to understand this issue:

1. First of all, Allah did not make this world a permanent world. This is a temporary world and everything here has a time limit. When its times comes it will die, come to an end and finish. Neither the good things of this world are forever, nor the bad things eternal. We are here for a short time and we are being tested. Those who will pass this test will find an eternal world that is perfect and permanent. Those who will fail this test shall see the evil consequences of their sins and corruption.

2. Allah has placed a physical law and a moral law in this universe. Allah allows suffering to occur when one or more of these laws are broken. The physical law is based on cause and effect. Sickness comes if one does not take care of one's health or is exposed to infections. A car accident occurs when one is not alert, or drives in a careless manner, or if the cars are not checked, roads and freeways are not made and kept in right shape, or the traffic laws are not right or not properly enforced. Study of causes and effects is very important to facilitate safeguards. Even here we should keep in mind that Allah often saves us and He does not let us suffer from every negligence. How many times it happens that we are not careful and still we reach safely to our destinations. The way people drive in some cities, it is a miracle that more accidents do not happen and more people do not suffer. Allah says:

“(Allah) Most Gracious! It is He Who has taught the Qur'an. He has created man: He has taught him speech (and Intelligence). The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly) computed; and the herbs and the trees both (alike) bow in adoration. And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice), in order that you may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. It is He Who has spread out the earth for (His) creatures." (Ar-Rahman:1-10)

The way we exceed the measures set by Allah and violate His laws of cause and effect is incredible. It is really the mercy of Allah that we are saved. Strictly speaking, the question should not be why does Allah allow suffering, but how much Allah protects us and saves us all the time in spite of our violations and negligence. The Qur'an says:

“If Allah were to punish people according to what they deserve, He would not leave on the back of the (earth) a single living creature: but He gives them respite for a stated Term: when their Term expires, verily Allah has in His sight all His servants." (Fatir:45)

But sometimes Allah does punish people because of their violations of His laws whether they are physical or moral. The Qur'an tells us that many nations and communities were destroyed because of their sinful lifestyles:

“If they treat thy (mission) as false, so did the Peoples before them (with their Prophets), the People of Noah, and Ad and Thamud. Those of Abraham and Lut; and the Companions of the Madyan people; and Moses was rejected (in the same way). But I granted respite to the Unbelievers, and (only) after that did I punish them: but how (terrible) was My rejection (of them)! How many populations have We destroyed, which were given to wrong-doing! They tumbled down on their roofs. And how many wells are lying idle and neglected, and castles lofty and well-built?" (Al-Hajj: 42-45)

3. Suffering can also be a test and trial for some people. Allah allows some people to suffer in order to test their patience and steadfastness. Even Allah's Prophets and Messengers were made to suffer. Prophet Ayyub (Job) is mentioned in the Qur'an as a Prophet who was very patient. Good people sometimes suffer but their sufferings heal others and bring goodness to their communities. People learn lessons from their good examples. Martyrs die for their faith, soldiers give their lives for their nations and this brings liberation and freedom for their people.

4. Allah sometimes allows some people to suffer to test others, how they react to them. When you see a person who is sick, poor and needy, then you are tested by Allah. Allah is there with that suffering person to test your charity and your faith. In a very moving Hadith Qudsi (Divine Hadith) the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

“Allah will say on the Day of Judgment, ‘O son of Adam, I was sick and you did not visit Me.' He will say, ‘O my Lord, how could I visit You, when you are the Lord of the Worlds.' Allah will say, ‘Did you not know that My servant so-and-so was sick and you did not visit him? Did you not know that if you had visited him, you would have found Me there?' Allah will say, ‘O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not.' He shall say, ‘O my Lord, how could I feed you and you are the Lord of the Worlds?' And Allah will say, ‘Did you not know that My servant so-and-so was in need of food and you did not feed him? Did you not know that if you had fed him, you would have found that to have been for Me?' ‘O son of Adam, I asked you for water and you did not give Me to drink.' The man shall say, ‘O my Lord, how could I give You water, when You are the Lord of the Worlds?' Allah will say, ‘My servant so-and-so asked you for water and you did not give him to drink water. Did you not know that if you had given him to drink, you would have found that to have been for Me.' (Muslim, Hadith no. 4661)

Prophet 'Isa (Jesus), peace be upon him, is also reported to have said something similar. (See Matthew 25: 35-45)

So to summarize, we can say that sufferings occur to teach us that we must adhere to Allah's natural and moral laws. It is sometimes to punish those who violate Allah's natural or moral laws. It is to test our faith in Allah and to test our commitment to human values and charity. Whenever we encounter suffering we should ask ourselves, “Have we broken any law of Allah?” Let us study the cause of the problem and use the corrective methods. “Could it be a punishment?” Let us repent and ask forgiveness and reform our ways. “Could it be a test and trial for us?” Let us work hard to pass this test.

Believers face the sufferings with prayers, repentance and good deeds. The non-believers face the sufferings with doubts and confusions. They blame Allah or make arguments against Him.

May Allah keep us on the right path, Amen!

Allah Almighty knows best.

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Sc...


There is another, somewhat similar, article here:

http://www.irfi.org/articles/articles_101_150/god__human_suffering.htm

Other explanations I have heard are:

1. That when a person suffers patiently, Allah rewards us him/her with a higher place in heaven.

2. Allah allows suffering because He wants to hear our voices. He wants us to turn to him in repentance and in prayer.

Thank your for this interesting question.

I look forward to hearing from you again.

Regards,

Hayat Anne Collins Osman

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Brief, but excellent, introduction

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An introduction for non-Muslims.

http://www.islam-guide.com/

A beginner's short course on Islam

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A comprehensive introduction
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Fundamental Beliefs of Islam: a comprehensive website

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I Want to embrace Islam but ...
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Free Islamic materials by mail

http://www.khadijasislamicresources.com/free.html

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The Islamic concept of worship -- different from any other religion.

http://www.unn.ac.uk/societies/islamic/index.htm
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The Islamic model of forgiveness
http://www.icna.org/nj/forgive.htm

---
Misconceptions about Islam
http://www.allaahuakbar.net/misconceptions/index.htm
http://www.salafipublications.com/sps/
http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/notislam/misconceptions.html
http://johnw.host.sk/articles/islam_pillars/top_ten_misconceptions_about_islam.h...

---
Women in Islam vs. the Judeao-Christian traditions.
http://www.islam.org/mosque/w_islam/intro.htm

Gender Equality in Islam by Professor Jamal Badawi-Excellent!
http://www.soundvision.com/gender/

The Spiritual Role of Women in Islam
http://www.mwlusa.org/publications/essays/spiritrole.html

Women in the Qur'an
http://www.islamzine.com/women/qur_wom.html


Famous Women in Islamic History
http://www.jannah.org/sisters/famous.html

Links about Women in Islamic History
http://www.islamicgarden.com/page1053.html


---
ISLAMIC TRADITIONS AND THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT: CONFRONTATION OR COOPERATION?
http://www.jannah.org/sisters/feminism.html

Hijab

Getting started
http://www.muhajabah.com/hjbscared.htm

http://www.islamzine.com/hijab/hijabcs.html

http://www.islam101.com/women/hijabfaq.html

Rules

http://www.fiqh.net/niqaab/conditions.htm

Covering the face

http://committed.to/niqab

Female Circumcision
http://www.islamset.com/hip/health5/female.html

Male Circumcision
http://www.ummah.org.uk/what-is-islam/misc/circum.htm


Towards Understanding Islam, a brilliant introduction.

http://www.momin.com/tui/

FAQ on Islam-excellent!

http://207.235.6.112/irf/faqonislam/index.htm

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A new site with much reliable information

http://www.islamia.com/

---
The Nature of Allah

http://www.themodernreligion.com/basic/islam_allah_nature.htm
Tawheed—The Unity of Allah: many articles

http://www.TodayIslam.com/belief.htm

---

The True Message of Jesus - Professor Bilal Phillips

http://www.meccalight.com/pages/the%20true%20message.htm

Prophet Jesus (a.s.) in the Holy Qur'an
http://wings.buffalo.edu/sa/muslim/library/jesus-say/ch8.html

http://www.islam-101.org/

The Bible Denies the Divinity of Jesus (a.s.)
http://www.islam-guide.com/ch3-10-1.htm

Links to a number of excellent articles about Prophet Jesus (a.s.)
http://www.sultan.org/

The Bible: A Closer Look by a former Christian preacher
http://www.islamtomorrow.com/bible.htm#intro

The Bible: Izhar al-Haqq (The Truth Revealed)
http://www.islam4all.com/newpage71.htm

The Name of Allah in the Arabic Bible

http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Sources/Allah/BibAllah.html




Order a Qur'an free; the history of the Qur'an

http://www.iad.org/

Order a Qur'an free:
orderfreequran@yahoo.com

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Qur'an by Email

http://www.quranbymail.com/hq/qindex.cfm
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Free online Qur'an study course
www.understandquran.com
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Qur'an Study and Memorization
http://www.qurancomplex.com/quran/display/tahfeez.asp?TabID=1&SubItemID=4&l=eng

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The Qur'an and modern science

http://salam.muslimsonline.com/~islamawe/Quran/Science/

http://www.ummah.org.uk/science/default.html

www.it-is-truth.org/

http://islamicity.com/science/

http://www.islamicvoice.com/november.97/qur-scie.htm

http://www.islam101.com/science/science.html

http://www.bensys.mcmail.com/Islam.htm

http://islamiclandserver.virtualave.net/QuranScience.htm

http://www.angelfire.com/il2/islamicpage/science

http://www.quran.org.uk/ieb_quran_embryology.htm

http://www.islamicmedicine.org/amazing.htm

http://www.convertstoislam.com/Science/science.html

http://www.islamzine.com/quran/

Phonetic search of the Holy Qur'an using Roman alphabet

http://www.islamicity.com/ps/default.asp?inc=Phoneticsearch.asp

Transliteration in Roman letters

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/transliteration/

Listen to the Holy Qur'an in Arabic; verse by verse display.

http://www.ummah.org.uk/science/scientists.htm

Listen to the Holy Qur'an in Arabic with the meaning in English

http://islamway.com/english/images/quran/translations/index.htm

Qur'an Study and Memorization
http://www.qurancomplex.com/quran/display/tahfeez.asp?TabID=1&SubItemID=4&l=eng

The physics of the Day of Judgment
http://www.missionislam.com/science/physics.htm

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The Concept of History in Islam

http://www.thewaytotruth.org/history/history.html

Islam and Slavery

http://www.islamonline.net/fatwa/english/FatwaDisplay.asp?hFatwaID=54710

http://www.islamonline.net/fatwaapplication/english/display.asp?hFatwaID=20686

http://www.renaissance.com.pk/aprq12y2.html

http://www.submission.org/islam/slavery.html

http://africanhistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa040201a.htm


Companions of Prophet Muhammad
http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/history/biographies/sahaabah/biographies.html

http://www.allaahuakbar.net/sahabah/

http://www.sa7aba.net/modules.php?name=Topics

His miracles

Prophet Muhammad's Miracles -- Imam an-Nawawi
http://www.islaam.com/Article.aspx?id=596

Some of the Miracles of the Holy Prophet Muhammad
http://www.sunnah.org/history/miracles_of_Prophet.htm

Other Miracles of the Prophet Muhammad
http://www.islamanswers.net/miracles/otherMiracles.htm
http://www.islamanswers.net/Prophet/examples.htm

Prophet Muhammad's Miracles
http://www.islamweb.net/ver2/archive/article.php?lang=E&id=47402

Examples of Other Miracles
http://www.thewaytotruth.org/catindex12.html


Stories of the Prophets from Ibn Kathir
http://www.angelfire.com/on/ummiby1/index.html

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SALAT - formal prayer

SALAT - formal prayer

how to pray
http://www.jannah.com/learn/flashprayer1.html

http://www.ummah.org.uk/software/cyber/

http://www.islamway.com/english/images/prayer/contents.htm

This site gives you the words you need to say:
---
This one gives you the times:
http://www.solat.net/


Find a mosque near you!
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Ramadan and Fasting

Fasting and health
http://www.islamonline.net/iol-english/dowalia/health-21-12/health1.asp


Fitrah: Human nature
http://www.islamworld.net/fitrah.html


Fiqh

Fiqh-us-sunnah

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/law/fiqhussunnah/

The Islamic Calendar and the Moon
http://www.moonsighting.com/


Find a mosque near you!
http://www.muslim-yellowpages.com/cgi-bin/bizdb-search.cgi?bizdb-searchmosque


--
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Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime

http://www.islam.com/hajj/hajj.htm
--
--

Pork

www.eat-halal.com/articles/pork.shtml

www.eat-halal.com/articles/pork.shtml

From the health point of view, you might find this interesting:

http://www.islamset.com/hip/pork/main.html
--
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Arab-Americans

http://www.freep.com/jobspage/arabs/index.htm
--
What Is a Wahhabi?

http://www.thewahhabimyth.com/index.htm

--
Reversion Accoumts—Why and How people have reverted to Islam

http://www.lordswords.com/stories/startstories.asp

http://www.aslamt.com/research/7.html

http://islamweb.net/pls/iweb/misc1.new_muslims

http://thetruereligion.org/converts.htm

http://english.islamway.com/bindex.php?section=all_article&topicid=39

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/newmuslims/

http://www.islamonline.net/english/journey/index.shtml

http://www.islamzine.com/new-muslims/

http://www.islamweb.net/pls/iweb/misc1.new_muslims?startno=15&thelang=E

Converts around the World
http://www.themodernreligion.com/convert/convert_websites.htm

Clergy Who Have Reverted to Islam
http://www.thetruereligion.org/priests.htm#miller

Reversion videos!

http://www.lightuponlight.com/islam/modules.php?name=Downloads&d_op=viewdownload...

Jews Who Have Reverted to Islam

http://jews-for-allah.org/
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Free Books about Islam

Free books, mostly by mail.
http://sultan.org/books/

Downloads
www.muhaddith.org/ downloads_free_islamic_software_books.html

www.islaam.com/books/

www.al-sunnah.com/

List of sites for free books to order and to download

http://www.islamic-knowledge.com/Download.htm

http://www.internetmuslim.com/Dawah_Center/

Free books about Islam for New Zealanders

http://www.nzmuslim.net/modules.php?name=FreeBooks
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Islam and Buddhism links
http://www.geocities.com/IslamAwareness/Buddhism/

Islam and Buddhism
http://www.geocities.com/IslamAwareness/Buddhism/gautam.html

Muhammad (pbuh) in Buddhist Scriptures/
http://www.geocities.com/IslamAwareness/Buddhism/scriptures.html

Buddhism and the Bible
http://www.geocities.com/IslamAwareness/Buddhism/bible.html

A page with related links
http://www.salaf.indiaaccess.com/buddhism/index.htm

A Thai scientist accepts Islam
http://www.islamway.com/eng/html/article.php?sid=34

Invitation to Hindus
http://saif_w.tripod.com/interfaith/hinduism.htm

Concept of God in Hinduism
http://saif_w.tripod.com/interfaith/general/god/inhinduism.htm

Comparative religion
http://www.themodernreligion.com/comparative.html#other

Race in Islam
http://www.al-sunnah.com/colors.htm

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International Islamic News Agency
http://www.islamicnews.org/english/index.html

==


Islamic Economics

A comprehensive collection of articles:

http://www.wponline.org/vil/Articles/economics/default.htm

Other sources.

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/economics/nbank1.html

http://www.minaret.org/austrian.htm

Nasheed: Islamic songs

www.lightuponlight.com/islam/modules.php?name=Web_Links&l_op=MostPopular

http://www.haneen.com.eg/islam/STAGE_POOL.sHTM

http://www.islamicworld.htmlplanet.com/iaudio/iesongs/amies.htm


http://www.muhajabah.com/music.htm


Links / URLs   
Some valuable resources.

Following external websites provide very valuable information about Islam. We might not necessarily agree with the views expressed on every site.

1. http://www.islam.org
Islam & The Global Muslim eCommunity - Informative site about Islam and Muslims in text, audio and video.

2. http://www.islam-guide.com
A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, Muslims, & the Quran

3. http://www.latinodawah.org
To educate Latinos and others about the Legacy of Islam in Spain, Latin America and provide free information about Islam

4. http://www.jews-for-allah.org
Jews for Allah exist to make the Messiahship of Jesus and Salvation of Allah an unavoidable issue to Jews

5. http://www.islaminfo.com

6. http://www.iad.org

7. http://www.beconvinced.com

8. http://thetruereligion.org

9. http://www.viewislam.com

10. http://www.irf.net

11. http://www.islam101.com

12. http://www.discoverislam.com   

13. http://www.talkislam.org   

14. http://www.islam-usa.com/index.html   

15. http://www.soundvision.com   

16. http://www.MuslimHeritage.com   

17. http://www.islam-qa.com   

18. http://www.messageonline.org

19. http://www.alhambraproductions.com  

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Hayat Anne Collins Osman

Expertise

I can answer questions about Islamic belief and practice, accepting Islam, fiqh and fatwa, women`s issues, and marriage and family matters. I will not address questions regarding political issues.

Experience

I have taught Islamic Studies for nine years, in the US and in Saudi Arabia. I have published articles about Islam in the Minaret of California, the Saudi Gazette, and online.

I have lectured about Islam at Islamic gatherings, churches, and hospitals.


I have answered questions about Islam at allexperts.com and elsewhere on the World Wide Web for eight years.
--Please visit my little website.--
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