Discourse 47

Discourse 47

God wills both good and evil, but only blesses the good. His Law both commands and prohibits, but commandment is only valid when it is opposed to natural desires. If someone says, “Hungry one, eat sweetness and sugar,” that is not commandment, but a benefaction. Prohibition works in the same way. No one says, “Don’t eat stones, don’t eat thorns,” because there is no need to prohibit when there is no desire.

Therefore, for commandments and prohibition against evil to do any good, people must desire evil. And to will the existence of people who desire evil, is to will evil. But God does not approve of evil, otherwise He would not have commanded the good. This is like those who like to teach – they hope their pupils are ignorant, for they cannot teach unless their pupils need to learn. To desire a thing is to desire the need for that thing. But no teacher approves of their students’ ignorance, or why would they teach?

It is the same with doctors: they want illness to exist, since they could not display their medical skill unless people were sick. But they do not approve of illness, otherwise they would never treat it. Similarly, bakers want people to be hungry so they can ply their trade and earn a living, but they do not approve of hunger, otherwise they would not sell bread.

This is why commanders and cavalry want their king to have an opponent and an enemy. How else can they show their bravery and love for the king? The king would never muster them, having no need. But they do not approve of the king’s enemy, or they would not fight. Therefore, we should respect the evil desires within ourselves, because God loves those who are grateful and obedient to His Law, and this means nothing without the existence of those desires within us. Yet, we should not approve of those evil tendencies, but struggle hard to overcome their influence.

Hence, we can see that God wills evil in one respect, but does not will it in another. Our opponents say, “God does not will evil in any way whatever.” That is impossible. How could He will a thing and not will the need for that thing? Amongst the needs that God has created is this headstrong nature in humanity that longs to believe such foolishness as what our opponents say, thus leading people away from truth. The lessons needed by such people are all the evils that exist in this material world. Did God not will those evils? However, if God had approved those evils, He would not have issued commandments and prohibitions against them. This proves that evil is willed for the sake of something greater.

But they still say, “God wills only good, and amongst such good things is abstaining from evil. Therefore, God desires only the averting of evil.” But evil cannot be averted unless evil exists. Or they say, “God wills only faith,” but faith cannot exist except after disbelief, so disbelief is a prerequisite to faith. Therefore, willing evil is only bad when it is willed for its own sake. When evil is willed for the sake of some good, then it is good.

In the Koran it says, “In retaliation there is life for you.” Now, obviously retaliation is evil, being an attack against God’s creation. But this is a partial evil, while guarding people from the need for future killing is a complete good. To create a partial evil for the good of all is not wrong, but to partially abandon God’s will while allowing evil to succeed, is wrong indeed. This is like the mother who does not want to scold her child because of the partial evil in punishment, but the father knows he must punish to avert that evil from taking control, and to nip the trouble in the bud.

God is All-pardoning, All-forgiving and Terrible in retribution. Does He will that all these names should be true of Him? The answer must be “yes,” because He cannot be All-pardoning and All-forgiving without the existence of sin. Thus, He commands us to be forgiving and to make peace, but this commandment has no meaning without the existence of anger and war.

This is similar to Sadr al-Islam’s statement that we are commanded to earn and acquire wealth, because in the Koran it says, “And expend in the way of God.” Since it is impossible to spend money unless one has money, then this is also a commandment to acquire money. It is the same when a man calls out, “Arise and pray.” This is a charge to perform the ritual cleaning with water, and all the functions that precede prayer as well.