This is an edited excerpt from an interview with Sheikh Faraz Rabbani by Dr Shadee ElMasry of Safina Society. The discussion is wide-ranging, but begins with the question of good and evil in Islam. This is the fourth article in a series. You can watch the entire interview here.
SM: Now let’s bring up another subject. Everything is qadr – is destined. And these terrible temptations exist in the world. People find so much misery comes to their life because of these things. They may start asking a question. Well, is Allah doing these things? Does Allah do these evil things? How would you answer something like that?
SFR: If you consider things with just one eye, you don’t have perspective. We affirm both realities. There’s a very dramatic example. One of my dear teachers in Damascus, and a lifelong friend. A friend of his who’s a Quran teacher visited. They’re close friends. You can only do this with a close friend.
It’s an old arab house – what’s called a bait arabi – an old traditional arab house. You enter through a corridor. It ends up in an open courtyard. And the Quran teacher said to him: You know, if everything is destined then how are we responsible?
Sheikh Mumin said: I don’t know what came over me. I grabbed his glasses and threw them on the stone floor. This is the late 90s so they were actual glass glasses. They smashed. So the Quran teacher said: What did you do? Sheikh Mumin looked at him and said: Exactly. And he went to make the coffee.
Affirm both Realities
We affirm both things intuitively. Yes, everything, necessarily, only exists because Allah created them. Allah is sustaining them. And Allah exists beyond time. But we also affirm human responsibility as relates to our actions and our choices, and the actions and choices of others. So we affirm that, yes, the oppressor is created by Allah. But does not mean we just say, okay, oppression is from Allah? No.
We have a moral responsibility to respond to oppression by standing up to it as our religion tells us. Faith only works with submission. The eye of faith tells us everything is from Allah. The eye of being a servant of Allah is: whatever happens we say, okay, what does Allah expect from me?
That is how we respond. That’s the two parts of our duty.
Creator and Created
SM: It’s very important to separate between the Creator of evil and being evil. You can create something very harmful like Iblis or evil with a very wise intention. Meaning that, the end result of this is going to be something that would not have been attained without it.
The second thing is that Allah has the right to test us. We can’t forget this. He has the right to create for you the temptation or the tribulation that you find difficult. Because He has the right to test you. Paradise has a cost. If you didn’t pay the cost you would never know its value.
When the atheists come and say: Well, I never asked to exist. A lot of people say this. Bad things are happening but I never consented to exist. I never asked to exist. The first answer is: Okay, kill yourself. Or let me put a blade next to your neck and see how you’re going to react. You’re going to react in a way that proves your love of life.
That’s number one. And number two: let’s just remember who you are. Your consent isn’t required in a lot of things. These essential beliefs are so important to what you had mentioned which is the submission. You can’t attain – you cannot see the wisdom if you’re at the level of consciousness of arrogance and lack of submission.
Submission has to come first and then the wisdoms will open up for you.