Tornados, Hurricanes, Tsunamis and Earthquakes – Why God Permits Evil

As the US recovers from the devastation brought about by the unexpected Tornado, the religious and the secular factions will be out arguing the usual causes behind it. As for the political section, there is silence; this time there is no Al-Qaeda, no terrorists or the extreme far right to blame. Such events do bring about our philosophical thoughts to the surface; it gets us to think about the nature and the meaning of life and the universe. An event beyond our control causing so much devastation, killing indiscriminately, why does this happen? Some say it is a random event, the work of Mother Nature, and others say it is God sending down collective punishment. Depending on how you interpret the event, it can either bring a person to conviction in the existence of a Creator, or reaffirm his denial of a Creator, as is the current fad.

If it is the former, the trail of thought is on the basis of observing the frailty and weakness of the human species. There must be something more powerful that has ensured the survival of the human race; otherwise we could have become extinct through major calamities in the past, and there has been plenty starting from the ice age. As for those who move towards the other direction, increasing their conviction in the absence of a benevolent Creator argue: how can God permit such evil, calamitous events kills saints and sinners indiscriminately; this is the age-old question from the atheist corner. And calamitous events add credence to the argument that there is no such thing as a loving God, maybe a killer God, but is that not an oxymoron? In fact that makes the case for Devil worshipping.

However, who says calamities and hardship can be equated to evil, and that God cannot inflict hardship on his creation? Isn’t that an assumption? If we build on this premise then one can argue by inference that hardship of any kind is evil on a smaller scale, hence the pain experienced through child birth or the toil in earning a living is also evil. This creates more questions than answers; clearly this is not a consistent viewpoint.

According to Islamic theology evil is disobedience to God, it relates entirely to the way we exercise our free will and is no relation to the natural events around us. If we kill others without a just cause, then we have taken a life without a divine permit and there is retribution for this evil deed. But can the same logic be applied to God, who is the Creator and the legal owner of life. Even in the realm of the human sphere, if I build a house, it is my prerogative to burn it down as I am its legal owner. What stops me from smashing my car in the garage? Thus what law stops God from taking the life that he created in the first place?

Consequentially, the question should be why God is permitting calamites as opposed to evil. Yes, at times evil can manifest in calamities like creating a famine but at times evil can be something almost benign, like missing prayers or fasting which has no impact on others. According to the Islamic teachings, evil and calamities are two unrelated entities and should be distinct in our minds.

The atheist question also implies that since it’s wrong for God to permit calamities, he should allow us to live our lives in comfort, as God should be a loving God; in other words it should be like heaven on earth. But if we as humans do not follow this principle as we tend to oppress, torture, and kill those whom we have power over, then why do we expect God to comply? Of course because he is God, and should lead by Godly examples and rise above frail human species, fair enough, a more credible argument here.

But there is another pertinent argument here. If we accept God permits calamities, we are assuming his existence, then we also have to accept that God has full rights over his subjects; in that case what law prevents him from testing our conviction and obedience in him through such calamities? Why should he give us a comfortable life without earning it? Do we not work on earth to make a living? Another related point is, if we assume God exists by posing the question “why does God permit calamities?” then we also accept that God is not just a word but a concept, he has created everything including the human race; therefore, he can recreate them again and place them in a better place, like Heaven. Whilst our limited vision extends to no further than earthly life, why do we then assume the ones who perished are worse off than ourselves? Maybe we will be suffering at some point in the future on earth.

Next time you ask why God permits calamities; ask first, if he is God, then is he not entitled to?

Yamin Zakaria (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Published on 23/05/2013
London, UK

Last modified on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 23:09

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