The only cause of evil
• Islam does not pass off all calamites as ‘trials,' but differentiates between punishments and trials. Trials are tests of character and faith; punishments are consequences of sins and transgressions.
• Islam holds sin as the only cause of evil and places the responsibility for evil and its painful consequences on human beings themselves.
• In several passages, the Qur’an makes it clear that any evil or disaster that befalls humans is because of their willful wrongdoing: "
Whatever good happens to you is from God; whatever evil befalls you is from yourself."
"Whatever affliction befalls you is because of what your hands have earned; and He (God) pardons much."
• The end of the latter verse “...and He pardons much…” expresses God’s Forbearance. Although God can instantly punish any sin, He does not. In fact, He overlooks many misdeeds that humans commit, giving a respite and a chance to repent. Otherwise, if humans were to be punished for every single daily transgression, ranging from an unkind look, word, or thought to all sorts of crimes, they would never be free from calamities.
• Serious as they are, worldly punishments in the form of disasters, epidemics, or wars are more warnings for the purpose of self-examination and correction. As the Qur’an states
“Corruption has spread on land and sea because of what the hands of people have earned, that He (God) may make them taste (experience) a part of that which they have done, so that perhaps they may return (repent and correct themselves).”
• Countless problems and miseries exist in the world — genocide, torture, racism, impunity, addiction, hunger, obesity — in the face of which it is the obligation of every human (not God) to get actively involved in resisting, eliminating, altering, and making the world a better place, in application of the numerous teachings of Islam, such as the saying of Prophet Muhammad,
“Whoever of you who sees something evil, let them change it.”
• The Qur’an defines the role of human beings as God’s vicegerents on earth. This means they have to work tirelessly for the betterment of themselves and others, and the guardianship of the earth that has been created for them. They have to impact their world for good.
• A Muslim is literally one who resigns their affairs to God, and finds peace in that resignation. Whether it is a test, punishment, or both, Muslims trust in God and do not enquire too inquisitively into His Ways. Characteristically, they end all inquiries about life and God’s Ways with the words, "God knows best." In all cases, they should take a positive attitude and reflect upon their lives to see if their actions truly line up with God’s Words.
• Reward and punishment are central to right and wrong; God’s purpose for them is to show His Justice. Islam asserts that actions will not go unchecked; every action, thought, and intention is recorded and compensated with reward and punishment — some in this life, but all in the afterlife. The Qur’an expresses it this way in 99:7-8: “Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.”