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Sources of Evil

islam101
10/26/2011
922 views

 

The Holy Qur’an tells us that when an immoral act is committed, human nature and his natural morals are not the basic motivators of such an act, rather his wrong brought up and training, his unsuitable environment, compulsions arising from the society and artificially created social norms, bad company and erratic and wrong use of one's natural desires and passions aroused by social environment. These and many other external factors lead to immoral acts and improper behaviour. But when one's natural faculties come into play, remaining within the bounds of priority and free of any slip or wrong-doing, such an act falls within the definition of good morals. Imam Ghazali says that it is against human nature and disposition to be attracted towards evil and blamable actions. An example of such an inclination is like the example of some young children falling into the habit of eating clay superstitiously. On the other hand, human being's inclination towards the Love of God, His worship and His Gnosis is as natural as his inclination towards eating good and pure things, because this is in complete accord with his nature and disposition and the very desire of his heart. And what is the heart? It is an inspired command of God, and the inclination of the heart towards the dictates of his passions is imposed upon it from outside his person. (Ahya al-Alum by Imam Ghazali 3:63).

 

When it is said that a human being is by nature good and virtuous, the question arises, are not defensive and negative emotions to be found in human nature? Emotions that gives us the capability of dispute and through which some of our fellow beings are hurt? At times a frightful scenario can develop in human society, a scenario full of greed, hate, jealousy and anger. If the natural emotions of humans are good and virtuous, then why are we endowed with these negative states and why are these troubles and hurts part of human destiny. In the light of the Qur’anic teachings the answer is that though it cannot be denied that such defensive faculties are also to be found in human beings, faculties that lead him into myriads of calamities, hardships and defilement, it does not prove that human being is sinful and a sinner by nature. These negative emotions have a use and have been vouchsafed to us for our defensive needs and for safeguarding our right to self-determination. A human being needs such emotions as much as he needs finer emotions like sympathy and forbearance. The fact of the matter is that all the faculties found in a human personality, if used properly, are good morals in themselves. If at any time we see a defect in these or a slip is noticed, it is due to our misuse of these faculties. The capability of good morals has been endowed in our nature and this capability can safeguard against slip-ups through will power and training.

 

Lack of knowledge is another cause of evil. That is why a great emphasis is laid by the Holy Qur’an and by the Holy Prophet on acquiring knowledge and wisdom. We read: "Verily, Allah undertakes to accept the repentance of only those who do evil through lack of knowledge, then repent soon after. Such are the person towards whom Allah turns with mercy. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise." (4:17)

 

It is important here to note in this verse those attributes of All­ah - the All-Knowing and the All-Wise, which are relevant to the contents mentioned here.

 

The Holy Qur’an tells us that everything in this universe exerts an influence on its environment and also accepts influence from its environment. Every action is followed by a reaction. We know how a person’s health is influenced by changes in weather, by his food, his dress, and his home. The Holy Qur’an goes even further and does not limit the influence of physical environments on the human body alone. It also tells that this influence affects even the morals of a person. Thus the commandments it gives about the material world, such as its laws about food, dress, the principles of government, the economic order etc. are not only meant to keep the physical, social and economical side in order, but also to uplift our moral conditions. Thus for example the use of unclean and unlawful food (pork, alcohol) will badly affect our moral conditions. The wisdom underlying the prohibition of certain foods by the Holy Qur’an is that by using them, one is prederived of certain high moral qualities as such foods produce bad moral qualities. Writing about the effect of food on morals Imam Ghazali said, "The child's wet-nurse should be very religious, pious and used to eating lawful things, for a milk that comes out of unlawful food would not have any good or blessing in it. Since, she is involved in the upbringing of the child from the very beginning, this wholesome milk would permeate the child's every fibre and in the long run he would be naturally inclined towards the unlawful and unclean things." (Ahya-al-Alum 3:77).

 

To safeguard the newborn from any evil influence and to impress upon him the highest form of puritanic sound effects the Holy Prophet used to recite the Adz­an (Call for Prayer) in the right ear and the Iqamah (prayer service readiness call) in the left ear of a new born child. If we look closely at the wordings of these two calls we notice that these consist of sentences calling one to highest type of purification. Scientific research has shown that the first sense to become operational after birth is the hearing, and that is why Islam has impressed this very faculty with a highest purifying sound.

 

Imam Ghazali in his book Ahya-al-Alum says, "When one grows up a whole world of observation and perception is opened before him by nature, and the Laws of Nature begin to unfold themselves one by one before him. A reservoir of information of diverse types accumulates and is built up gradually in his mind, and this reservoir itself becomes a source of training for him and his fellow-beings. Most people observe events unintentionally and pass over them summarily and think that their memory has not preserved these in its store-house, but in fact, these observations and scenes find their way into our consciousness silently and imperceptibly, and that is why the Holy Qur’an has drawn our attention to observation of natural phenomena and working of nature both in the sky and the earth, for this also affects human conduct and morals."

 

Another source of evil are the bad companies with persons of low moral standards. That is why we are told: "O You who believe! Keep your duty to Allah and be with the truthful." (9:119)

 

This companionship with the truthful can be diverse in ways. Practically, by developing friendship with the pious, attending gatherings of such persons, studying the writings of the pious and reading their biographies.

 

Mental and physical illness can also be the cause of certain immoral deeds, to offset which Islam has drawn our attention to many aspects of physical and mental hygiene. "And purify your clothes (and the thoughts). And idol-worship, (spare no pains to) exterminate it and shun all uncleanliness." (74:4-5)

 

The pollution of the environment can be another source of evil. To rectify this kind of uncleanness, the Holy Qur’an has taught us: "And guard against an affliction which surely will afflict not only those of you in particular who have acted unjustly (but it will involve others also who are inclined towards them); and know that Allah is Severe in requiting." (8:25)

 

National calamities, when they strike, do not spare even those members of the community who may be quite innocent. Greed, prejudice, grudge, black-marketing, hoarding, adulteration, carelessness, irresponsibility, deception, theft, immodesty, dissembling, show, self-seeking, rumor-mongering, calumny, mischief-making; all these are un-Islamic traits. The Holy Qur’an through its teachings and the Holy Prophet through his practical demonstration have completely fulfilled this need.






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