1. The Problem of Evil
The problem of evil genuinely stumps most ordinary believers as the response from such people, according to the author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook Alom Shaha, is that God moves in a technical mysterious way unfathomable to the mankind. You can find such weak and shallow responses from literalists who put demarcation line between reason and faith. This is like putting the believers on the brink of agnosticism and the abyss of theological confusion. It is better for a person who can’t decipher the codes of theological mysteries to keep silence so as not to re-disturb the turbulent flow of atheological questions.
Let me start with what Hamza Andreaz Tzortzis said in his book The Devine Reality: “[T]he problem of evil and suffering argument exposes a cognitive bias known as ‘egocentrism’. Such a person cannot see any perspective on a particular issue apart from their own…. They assume that since they cannot possibly fathom any good reason to justify the evil and suffering in the world, everyone else-including God-must also have the same problem.” The egocentrism described by Andreaz Tzortzis can be seen not only among atheists but some Muslims as well. There are many pseudo-scholars who think if they have no answer to any question then there would be no answer to that question everywhere around the world! So many of them will hypocritically say that they are not all-knowers but you can see the habit of all-knowing in their arrogant approaches to questioners, especially skeptics and agnostics.
Theodicy is the science with which the problem of evil and the existence of God is studied. It started and flourished after the coming of first materialist philosopher, Epicurus of the land of Athens in the civilised Greek. So many answers were given by theologians of all the three semetic religions. Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd (Islamic Theosophers) are of the opinion that there is no anything like absolute evil. Evil is a relative concept. When you kill a fowl or slaughter a ram, it’s evil to the animal you kill and pleasant to you! When a scorpion stings you, it is a hell for you and heaven for her! This means there is no absolute evil in the world. Why do you accuse God for allowing hyena to kill and eat you or bacteria to cause a flu to catch you and you’ve never think of why do you kill a hen and cut a tree? Remember, hen and banana are living things and, perhaps, conscious beings who feel as you feel.
Another perspective is an evolutionary one. Only when animals suffer, and give something out of their body in the form of pain, then another limb or a immune system can develop in their body. Man used to live in forests amidst wild creatures, only to find a knowledge of how to live separately, building mud houses, mansions and skyscrapers for protection from the fears of lions and tigers. The history of human evolution, from Neanderthals to Homo sapiens, is a history of evolutions from tribulations. This is what the Koran states, for the life to go smoothly, He created death (evil) and life (good) for Him to select the best to adapt to the environment :
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ
Life is about “tests” and “tribulations” for proper adaptation during evolution. Natural salection prefers those who adapt to the harshest conditions and natural disasters. Only when you experience poverty, you can then know the benefit of being rich. Only you know the importance of being healthy when you experience sickness. This is another natural epistemological way that makes us know the importance and benefits of many things.
The metaphysical perspective to the problem of evil in Islamic Theosophy is that God tests His servants here for them to acquire more wealth in the hereafter. The poor man who served God all his life and experienced the worst conditions of life will go to paradise in another world. If you remain patient during this short life you will be happy forever in the next life. This is for believers in God who act righteously.
2. Anthropomorphists Delusion : Is God Male?
To the question, why do we refer to God as He not She? The anthropocentric theology and anthropomorphic depiction of God are the causes of such questions. God is genderless, neither male nor female, and there is no thing whatsoever like Him. The laws of the universe are not applicable to His being. Language is so narrow that we don’t have another pronoun apart from “He”, due to the power given to a male child over centuries and across civilisations, for the omnipotent God. The function of religious language in the revealed scriptures is to use available assumptions of human thought to rationally and poetically explain religious metaphysical claims.
To paraphrise Muhammad Iqbal’s words, religious language is metaphysical in nature. It is poetic, vague and figurative. It is beyond the ordinary experienced world of space and time. When examining the matters of epistemology, we use language of common-sense because of general acceptance not because they reveal the actual meaning. This is the same way Sufists communicate at the time of ecstasy after receiving illumination that raises their intuitive knowledge.
Some concepts are incomprehensible for man. God uses what is available to convey the message to him. The concepts of hereafter, for example, God used all the available figures of speech to describe the event and finally said ((Q82:18-19)):
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ ﴿١٧﴾
“Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Day of Judgment is!”
ثُمَّ مَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ ﴿١٨﴾
“Again, what will convey unto thee what the Day of Judgment is!”
Furthermore, the time Koran was revealed to the Muhammad (saw), women were considered inferior. Even Aristotle, with all his philosophical masterpieces, considered women as necessary evil! Imagine if Koran was revealed referring God with “she” pronouns! The likes of Abu Jahl and Walid bn Mughira would not even raise their eyes to see the revelation. Women used to be useless except for sexual pleasure, and anything related to women (even figuratively) used to be considered as weak and fragile. We still have misogynists roaming our streets, speaking on our pulpits, running programs on our radio stations and play important role in bringing our society down.
3. On Unity of Being
Unity of Being (wahdatul wujud) as professed by Ibnul Arabi (qs) is entirely different from pantheism, panentheism, existential monisim or natural mysticsm. It’s one of the most complex sufi concepts that are hardly to be understood by a theologian, jurist or even a philosopher with anthropocentric or materialistic views. Its language is vague, poetic and symbolic with ultra-technical sufi terminologies.
Ibnul Arabi, a Doctor Maximus, experienced an ecstasy receiving theophonic visions and illuminations while writing his magnum opus “Futuhatul Makiyya” (please read Ibnul Arabi from primary sources not from rebuttals against him by his opponents or from ignorant sufists that don’t know what really is sufism). He (Ibnul Arabi) was, at that time, above the stage of “Intellectus adeptu” after he passed through “intellectus in habitu” as a theologian and jurist. His terminologies and symbolic language, full of Hermetic and Neo-platonic wisdoms, couldn’t be understood by a person at the stage of “intellectus materialis” and can be denied by a person at an “intellectu in actu”. We have different intellectual levels.
Explaining the concept of “Unity of Being” to inexperienced person is as tantamount as explaining the sweetness and pleasure of sexual intercourse to a boy of 7 or 8 years. He will never understand it. The boy will mistake the sweetness of sex with the sweetness of a lollipop. Explaining the concept to anybody who hasn’t experienced state of ecstasy is as tantamount as explaining Super String Theorem, General Theory of Relativity or Theory of Evolution to a primary school pupil! Language has limitations. Knowledge is beyond what is written in books. Some metaphysical concepts are extraordinary difficult to understand. Unity of Being is one of such metaphysical concepts.
However, “Wahdatul Wujud” is not as what stupid, ignorant and naive pseudo-sufis are portraying it. God is God and man is man. Man can never be God and it’s logical fallacy to claim vice versa. Whoever says that man can literally turn into God or vice versa, is ignorant unbeliever.
Mr Aliyu can be reached via twitter: @aliyussufiy