Answering Top 10 Atheist Contentions
The article ‘Does the Belief in a God make sense?’ raised some interesting responses, both positive and negative. So I thought it would be of benefit to write on the common atheist arguments against the case of a Creator including those specific to the previous article. These answers are only my attempt at addressing questions which I have come to understand from more learned people. I would like to stress that the point isn’t simply to refute because they are ‘disbelievers’ but to examine it in the light of reason and expose their own double standards when it comes to evidence and rational thinking. Please note that many questions are related so the answers address it accordingly. So here goes:
1)‘We can’t just assume a Creator exists just like that! We need scientific evidence!’
The point to understand is that the argument for the Creator is not a scientific one but rather a rational one based upon understanding cause and effect of limited things. Science as a branch of study, is limited in its scope, is time-bound, deals only with tangible things and is not a method of enquiry that gives absolute certainties. It deals with ‘how’ the phenomena around us work rather than ‘why’ they work in first place.
More importantly, the scientific method follows the process of induction where a particular reality is observed and experimented to form theories which are then generalized i.e. moving from specific to general. So a typical scientific experiment would involve specifying a limited number of variables (e.g. does variable ‘X’ affect variable ‘Y’? or how are variables ‘X’ and ‘Y’ correlated?) to experiment which can easily be isolated from other many variables (e.g. variables ‘A, B, C, etc.) and can be repeatedly tested to observe and formulate a resulting theory. This resulting theory would then be used to make inferences and generalized across a wider setting to say the theory holds true. But the problem with this method is that a particular theory would only be limited to those variables used to construct it (i.e. variables ‘X’ and ‘Y’ and not ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’).
For example, imagine you’re conducting research on how business practices affect quality of restaurants in UK (business practices as one variable and quality of restaurants in UK as another)? This is too broad for the scientific method to pinpoint the variables and test it. Instead, each variable would have to be narrowed down to something more specific, measurable and testable such as observing ‘total quality management philosophy in the fast food industry in UK’. Each of these variables would further have to be defined as to what constitutes its definition to make the experiment easier to test. Despite all of this, there would still be room for measurement and sampling bias, research assumptions in undertaking the study (which are at the discretion of the researcher) and the reliability and validity of generalizing the findings across a wider setting – Europe or Internationally. Whatever the findings, it would be only as good as the variables used making it limited whereas other studies would have to be made to test it using different variables. It won’t be surprising to come across conflicting findings from different studies hence making the scientific method relative and not conclusive which is the crux of the matter. The same applies to evolution, it may explain some realities but the basis of its claim of being a fact is inductive which gives a value of accuracy above 0 and below 100% as it recognizes room for error and generalization.
Moreover, questions such as ‘What came before the Big Bang?’ are actually beyond the scientific method of enquiry as a judgement is required to answer what happened in the unseen past based on the limited variables observed today. This is where such knowledge becomes more philosophical and metaphysical rather than scientific as asking such question entails delving into matters of the unseen. For example, back in the 1960’s, the prevailing scientific ‘fact’ was that the universe was eternal (i.e. no beginning and no end). Then came the Big Bang theory, which was held in high esteem for explaining how the universe actually began to exist until recently, where even the Big Bang is seen as doubtful as it doesn’t help explain other observable phenomena. This has led many to posit other theories for the origins of the universe. This means that scientists can, at the very best, only make educated guesses regarding the origins of the universe which are itself prone to errors or be later refuted by a new scientific theory or study in the future. Not to mention how a scientific theory stands relative to each scientist’s limited knowledge, experience and angle causing this ‘scientific’ discourse to become speculative rather than an objective account of reality. A bit of a low blow for those who religiously claim that science will find the truth when they reject the case for the Universe being caused by a Creator.
Therefore, science has a scope and should be used in its proper areas (medicine, technology, etc.), however it has limitations to its scope which makes it irrational to use for questions which are beyond the scientific method and it certainly has no place in answering or proving the existence of an unseen omnipotent Creator that is beyond time and space.
2) ‘The Belief in a God is just blind faith. There is nothing rational or intellectual about it. Most people who believe in God only do so because of their upbringing via their parents or society. Religion is ingrained in their minds and not through reason and thinking’
Firstly, blind belief is prevalent in many cultures/religions/worldviews including atheism. A lot of atheists have had a negative and emotional experience growing up with religion being drilled into their lives by their parents to the point that they leave on that very basis, not because they have some big intellectual defeater of God and need for revelation. Even when they say they have intellectual reasons, it is either because Christianity did not make sense or they themselves want to ‘live their life’ and avoid accountability. Not to forget cases of atheists because their parents and/or their society itself is largely atheistic and secular. Many atheists claim that Muslims for instance might belong to a different religion if they had been born into other homes and religions such as Christianity or Norse mythology. However, the blame is equally upon them as they themselves for instance haven’t read or understood Qur’an or valid Islamic sources. This includes the notorious prophet of Atheism Richard Dawkins who very childishly defends himself by saying that there is no need to read Qur’an to have an opinion of it. And those who do make it to read, do so by imposing their secular anti-religious views and principles so if the Qur’an doesn’t agree with their preconceived notions, it must be rubbish and non-sense. This is what pure bias, prejudice and blind belief looks like. Anyone with a basic understanding of market research will know that when conducting research, one cannot impose his or her definitions of society and cultural norms or in this case moral values upon another worldview or outlook to understand it.
More importantly, the basis of atheism and secularism was founded upon blind belief. Secularism, for instance was borne out of an emotional clash between the Church and the state in 18th century Europe, where any person who held a view contrary to religion was deemed heretic and was persecuted. The authority of the state was not to be questioned as it was granted by God. Therefore thinkers called for the scientific method of enquiry as the more rational method and used it to challenge the authority of the Church’s religion which they saw it as blind and based on imitation. This gave way to an emotional reaction causing two kinds of blind belief:
a) Those who ascribed to the scientific method adopted ‘scientism’ which is that science alone can find all truths. They reduced science to only material knowledge – that which can be observed and touched and have overstepped the boundaries of science itself when most of these assumptions cannot be proven scientifically. They are even Atheists today, such as Sam Harris, who have argued that science can help us find moral truths. But they forget that this is a blind faith in science in itself. Most Atheists, when asked about the origins of the universe, will simply not have any conclusive answers. But when they are presented with the case of an Infinite, Independent Creator, they would reject it without thinking and simply say that one day science will find the answers. Is this not the equivalent of an evangelical Christian arguing how Jesus is God because the spirit is within him and denying everything else except for the atheist it is the invisible spirit of science? Isn’t this like watching an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory when he would passionately hold the remote control above his head with his eyes closed and shout ‘Sci-yence!’
b) Secondly is the blind belief that organized religion should not play a role in public life. It should be divorced from the political and social sphere and should be confined to one’s own private capacity. Instead secular ethics and morals will shape public life and morality should be personal so that each person can decide morals for him/herself.
More importantly, those atheists who accept Islam believe in the Creator due to rational proofs and intellectual reasons such as Proof for God’s existence, miracle of Qur’an and the Prophethood of Muhammad (Pbuh) by studying over a prolonged period of time and examining and analyzing closely the validity of Islam’s foundations.
Islam enjoins upon every man and woman to think and reflect deeply. To atheists another ‘blind belief’ is that all religions including Islam enjoin ‘blind faith’ in their beliefs and teachings. There are several verses in various places in the Qur’an asking and urging man to reflect and contemplate his own existence and that in his surroundings.
“Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding.
Those who remember Allâh (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): “Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You! (Exalted are You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire”.
[Surah Ale-Imran: Ayah 190-191]
“Do they not think deeply (in their own selves) about themselves (how Allâh created them from nothing, and similarly He will resurrect them)?”
[Surah Ar-Room: Ayah 8]
“And they will say: “Had we but listened or used our intelligence, we would not have been among the dwellers of the blazing Fire!”
[Surah Al-Mulk: Ayah 10]
3)‘The case for a Creator is like a flying spaghetti monster or a mermaid, it’s one of those things you just can’t disprove it’
Any existence is recognized by its attributes. This could be determined either directly using our senses or inferred using cause and effect. For flying spaghetti monster to exist means it has to have closely matching attributes of yellowish spaghetti like figure which only tells us it is finite and limited. Now the question really is that is there any evidence of a flying spaghetti monster hovering in the air? Or is there any effect that we have sensed which helps us trace it back to an entity that has spaghetti like figure? No. A mermaid is no different.
Now how is a Creator different to a flying spaghetti monster or a mermaid? We can recognize that the Creator is different because firstly we are not assigning attributes of creation to it in which case there needs to be direct sense experience but we are making the point that there is a Cause for this effect (the universe) and this Cause must be a transcendental Entity. For example, how do you know that your great great great great great great great great great great grandfather existed? You don’t have any documents nor can you test it scientifically nor do you have his grave. You only know by inferring that because you exist today, he must have existed as well. You don’t know how he looked, whether he was tall or short, had blue eyes or black, had hair or not or how he was as a person, you only know that he existed.
Moreover, what is puzzling about the thought process of atheists is that they (in their overzealous dogma of ‘scientific fundamentalism’ if you like) claim to religiously stress the importance of scientific evidence for God, but at the same time say that God cannot be dis-proved. Richard Dawkins also alludes to saying that God can’t be dis-proven. It seems Dawkins’ only definition of proof is that which can be scientifically proven and then whatever that cannot be proven (something that lies outside the scope of science) becomes an example of mockery. Many things lie outside the scope of science – the most basic being our own consciousness. Can you physically see thoughts and weigh them? Can you prove thoughts exist scientifically (i.e. empirically)? No, you can’t. We know thoughts exist and are real simply because it is inferred from our different emotional and intellectual states of mind. So, the argument for Allah (the Creator) is not a scientific one and nor does it define its attributes like creation. These terms like ‘flying spaghetti monster’ are just one of the many shallow and rhetorical tools used to hype the atheist narrative at the same time acting as a way to avoid indulging in deeper discussions of the existence of Allah.
4)‘Causality only takes place within space and time. So to assume the cause of the universe is a transcendental Being i.e. one who is beyond the constraints of time and space is a logical fallacy’.
To answer this question, we can begin by asking what really is time? How do we define time? Time is a measure of the interval between a series of events taking place. As explained in the previous article, events are limited i.e. begin and end within a defined period of time. Because events are limited, the universe began. However this argument is not from logic as logic can be misleading if the premises do not follow. Here is how this assertion is formulated:
Premise 1 – All causes observed occur within space and time
Premise 2 – The Creator is the Cause of the universe existing outside space and time
Conclusion – There can’t be a cause outside this universe
The hidden assumption is that there is a contradiction between premise 1 and 2 when we can define what causality is. A cause by definition doesn’t necessarily have to mean it takes place within space and time, it merely asserts that anything finite could not have created itself but must be determined by something else. Rather, the property or attribute of creation is that it enters time and space. It would be silly to assume that this creation (i.e. the universe) created itself from nothing, the only rational explanation is that there must be a Cause outside space and time.
5)‘We can’t use our simple everyday notions of cause and effect to conclude that a Creator exists. Science changes our notions of what is common sense and discovers things what we previously believed to be false to be true. Thus we need to measure more of the universe before saying it is created and requires a cause’
Ok now this has become a very common argument posed by atheists such as Dawkins and others. In other words, we can’t use our ‘crude’ ways of thinking in our daily lives to solve the biggest question namely, ‘What is the origin of life?’ We need to rely on science as science discovers things which sometimes go against reason and so on.
Actually, science relies on human intuition including the principle of cause-and-effect to conduct and read experiments, measure readings and make conclusions out of it. For any scientist to carry out an experiment, he or she starts with a hypothesis for which the required apparatus is designed to observe the correlation between the limited set of variables to form a theory which is then generalized. The fact that a hypothesis is needed shows that previous information is needed that is built upon intuition. These include rational truths such as ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ and ‘something does not create itself’ – something we use in our everyday lives. More importantly, cause-and-effect is central to our human understanding and a necessary component of the scientific method. In using the scientific method, there is an implicit assumption that cause-and-effect exists (i.e. the experiments carried out [cause] produce a theory [effect]). This cannot be empirically proven but is simply required for science to work. Thus it is our human intuition which is the very thing atheists deny when we prove the existence of a Creator via cause-and-effect as without it, the whole scientific method falls apart as science is contingent on our human intuition. This is why the concept of a Creator can be understood by the most intellectual of people as well as the poor villager who has had no formal education or philosophical expertise.
Some of the most basic things which we take for granted in our understanding of modern science was discovered through cause-and-effect. The discovery of the force of gravity, from the apple falling on Sir Isaac Newton’s head, or the expansion of the universe by Edwin Hubble as a result of observing light waves from distant galaxies which were moving away from the Earth, are a few examples.
Atheists who say that just because we know and have seen that mobile phones are made or cars are made doesn’t necessarily follow that every limited thing may have been caused because we haven’t observed the universe being created. If that is indeed true, then tell me how do you know that your very own mobile phone was made? Have you seen it being made from your own eyes? Have you seen how the plastic was made out of oil or how silicon was made from sand that was used to construct your phone? Well if you haven’t seen it then you can’t be sure it was made and maybe it has just always existed. This is where Atheists go wrong; they are skeptical for the sake of being skeptical by denying the most basic of human intuition and then claim they are being rational and reasonable. People may have watched The Matrix but this isn’t one. But if you think we are in a matrix then you can’t get unplugged with that way of thinking.
However, atheists cite quantum mechanics as an example of why human intuition cannot be used as these experiments have found for example that an electron can be at two places at once and at that it can spin both ways at the same time. But even in such experiments, causality is not ignored rather the observation of the result of quantum mechanics (i.e. the effect) is dependent upon the apparatus used to construct the experiment (i.e. the cause). Moreover, these experiments are built upon a hypothesis which is based upon the scientist’s human intuition. So causality is the fundamental principle of science.
More importantly, if we doubt our human intuition and innate causality then the whole of science falls apart. This would mean that every law and principle of physics and biology and other sciences collapses. We no longer would affirm our knowledge in gravity nor in the expansion of the universe for example.
In fact, in an interesting documentary called ‘What came before the Big Bang?’, scientists actually have reasoned that the big bang itself cannot be the explanation of the universe. There must be something pre-existing to it which has initiated the big bang explosion. In other words they use cause and effect and human intuition to conclude that there has to be something prior to the universe which has caused it and this they have reasoned without having any ‘scientific evidence’ for the cause of the Big Bang. However, they have come to various theories such as eternal inflation, M-theory, the big crunch, and so on. In other words they are going around in circles by saying that there is an infinite chain of limited things which was addressed and refuted in the article.
6) ‘The Universe is so vast it is pretty much endless. There are various theories on how there may be an infinite number of universes and thus eternal’
This basically is saying that because the universe is so big it is probably endless and not finite. Thus the universe is more likely to have existed forever. Firstly, the concept of infinity in the physical world is irrational as it is filled with paradox. This is because anything physical or material is bound by space and time and to attribute infinity to it would imply has no space and time nor any limits which is absurd.
To give you an example, take an infinite number of your favourite box of chocolates, Ferrero Rocher (it’s my favourite). Split the box of chocolates into two…what are you left with? You’re left with an infinite amount of chocolates (infinite divided by two still equals infinity). Then consider taking nine chocolates out of one of the halves…what are you left with now? It is still an infinite number of chocolates (infinity minus nine gives you infinity). Now take one out of the nine chocolates…is it still infinite? Yes it is. Does it make sense? No.
Now apply this example to the universe consisting of billions and billions of galaxies, each galaxy including our Milky Way Galaxy consisting of billions of stars, one which has more than 9 planets orbiting it, are you now saying the nine planets including the Earth and the star Sun are infinite? As mentioned in the article, the concept of infinity would imply it is beyond space and time. This in very simple terms means that the distance between any two points on Earth would not be a finite number but an infinite one. In fact there is no ‘scientific evidence’ to confirm that infinity can exist in the real finite world. For example, have scientists actually discovered an infinite amount of atoms? Or an infinite amount of a rare element or substance? Or when was the last time you heard someone say ‘I have infinite health or infinite wealth?’ (unless you are using cheat codes in a game, but even then the game is finite!) Think about it.
Finally, what’s interesting is while the atheist may argue for the universe being eternal or being caused out of an infinite cycle of causality (Big Crunch-Big Bang cycle, eternal inflation, etc), they have something in common with the theists – the concept of an ‘infinite’ or ‘eternal’ as an explanation of the cosmos. Atheists believe the universe is infinite or the chain of causality is infinite. The theists, on the other hand, believe that the cause of the universe is infinite, eternal. Now choose your pick! Either the universe is infinite or either the Cause of the universe is infinite, there are no other options. The universe is not infinite as explained above, therefore it must be finite and limited and have boundaries to its existence.
7) ‘Fine, there is a cause for the universe, but it is not a transcendental or sentient Being such as the Creator or God, rather it is something physical or mechanical. Einstein’s theory of relativity (E=MC2) which states that energy can’t be created nor destroyed but changed from one form to another is one contender. This energy is infinite and thus the cause of the universe’.
If such a contention is put forward, then the questioner agrees that the universe is the sum of all limited, finite and dependent things which requires a cause external to it to bring it into existence. Now the question is what is the nature of this Cause? Can it be limited or infinite? The theory of relativity (E=MC2) is actually limited by its equation and definition. It states that energy is limited by mass (m) and speed of light (c) squared. If it is limited by definition, then how can it be infinite? It is not infinite.
Rather, there is an obsession with a centuries old tradition called mechanistic science (the view that all nature is like machines and can be explained mechanically) and materialism (the view that all reality can be explained by biology and physics alone). This forms the basis of modern scientific thinking and explains why such a high emphasis is placed on physical empirical evidence. The irony though, is that these assumptions cannot be proved scientifically.
In short, if the materialist doctrine of science is taken and that all reality can be observed only by physics and biology, then that reality is limited and finite as science is the field of enquiry that studies finite and limited things. So if hundred years from now, a new scientific theory is proposed by physicists to be the cause of the whole universe (which would only be refuted by later evidence) then that ‘Cause’ has to be limited and originated by a Cause as well. What needs to be understood is that the Cause of the universe cannot be limited and finite and hence cannot be explained by science.
8) ‘If everything has a cause then what caused the Creator?’
This is a very popular question which argues that since we have used cause-and-effect to recognize the Creator then surely we can continue it to ask ‘what created the Creator?’ This question is problematic for two reasons:
a. The Creator has to transcend all physical laws. We know that the universe simply has to have a cause because it could not have appeared out of chance.
b. We have already discussed the problem of an infinite chain of causality. If the chain of causality went on forever then nothing would exist. The argument really is that everything finite and limited has a Cause and not everything has a cause. We could always ask who created the creator which created the creator which created the creator that created the – and you find yourself going around in circles. Actually, the problem with many of the scientific theories for the universe is that after the discovery of the Big Bang model, scientists have been trying to question the physical cause for the universe. Many theories have been proposed on how there has to be a physical explanation for the cause of the big bang and some have attributed to big crunch, supernova, etc but then stumble upon it again by questioning what caused that? Ultimately it has to come down to a first cause which is free of limitations and dependencies. But some are dogmatically clinging on this cycle of constantly trying to explain the cause of the cause of the cause of the big bang. It’s just another way of cutting corners and being skeptical about the truth that we all want to hide from. Because either the universe is caused out of an infinite chain of limited things, or it is created by a Cause that is infinite – the word infinite is inescapable. Because the former dictates there is no universe, the latter holds true.
What is most troubling for the atheists/agnostics/skeptics is that their views are purely naturalistic and empirical. They assume this infinite cause resembles us and then find it absurd how this cause can be infinite. The case is that we cannot from our limited human mind rationalize how the Creator exists in the infinite realm. The limited mind cannot understand the nature of the unlimited Cause. All we can know and reason is that this cause must be infinite, unlimited and independent. If it has limitations or dependent on something else to maintain its existence, then only we can as the question what is this cause dependent upon? If it is not self-sufficient and independent and thus it is not the creator. Take the Christian view of Jesus as god, was he born? Yes. Did he require food and drink to sustain himself? Yes. Was he crucified and put to death? Yes. Then all of these show he was not unlimited and independent but rather limited by life and death and dependent upon food and drink. Islamic view rather separates the creation from the Creator, limited from the unlimited and dependent from the independent.
The same holds true for atheists where they would attribute the cause of this universe to a limited and finite event such as Big Crunch, eternal inflation or some other theory. Anything that is limited, began to exist and hence cannot have any ability to cause life or death.
Finally, when it comes to the issue of the universe having a cause, the atheist distinguishes it from everyday reality and says it is different and that it probably has no cause, but when we say that the Creator of the universe is different to creation, the atheist likens the two by asking who created God? Or that God must be complex or God cannot create us to worship Him because he assumes God is like us humans. The atheist thought process if full of double standards and delusions.
9)‘Hang on, how do we know the Creator is one and not many?’
We know that there is only one Creator and not many by understanding the concept of finite and limited. We know that the universe is finite, limited and dependent upon a Cause. This cause must be infinite, unlimited and Independent. Now if perhaps there were indeed other creators, say ten, none would have absolute omnipotence and authority. You may think why should that be a problem? This is a problem because if each creator had a shared control over the universe, then no one creator can exercise absolute power and omnipotence thereby making each limited and restricted. If it is restricted then it is not truly independent and thus dependent on others.
To use a popular example (all the marvel fanboys who grew up watching/reading X-MEN or Thor from Asgard will understand this one). Thor, in these comics, has the power to control lightning through his special hammer. Whereas Storm, from the X-men, has the power to control weather which includes lightning, thunder, snow, hail and so on. But now who has absolute power over lightning? Thor or Storm? Does Storm have power of regenerative healing? No as that belongs to Wolverine.
Now for the DC fanboys, Is Superman unlimited in power? No, a small green glowing rock is enough to show he is limited. What about Green Lantern? Just take off his ring, and he’s useless. This is why Batman is great, he embraces his limitedness and prepares accordingly.
This means that pagan mythologies such as the Ancient Greeks or Norse mythology which believed in various gods and goddesses, each having power in a specific area is irrational as each so-called ‘god’ would be finite giving it a limited amount of power. The Cause of the creator can only be one as only one can be truly infinite, unlimited and independent from its creation. Rather, if there were indeed many limited creators (i.e. one for fire, one for water, one for land, etc.) there would have been chaos and disunity in the universe instead of complete harmony and order.
Allah (The Creator) in the Qur’an says:
“If there were, in the heavens and the earth, other gods besides God, there would have been confusion in both! but glory to God, the Lord of the Throne: (High is He) above what they attribute to Him!
[Surah Al-Anbiyaa: Ayah 22]
“Say: If there had been (other) gods with Him, as they say,- behold, they would certainly have sought out a way to the Lord of the Throne! Glory to Him! He is high above all that they say! Exalted and Great (beyond measure)!
[Surah Al-Israa: Ayah 42-43]
“No son (or offspring) did Allâh beget, nor is there any ilâh (god) along with Him. (If there had been many gods), then each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have tried to overcome others! Glorified is Allâh above all that they attribute to Him!”
[Surah Al-Muminoon: Ayah 91]
10) ‘The problem of evil in the world shows how a Creator who is good and loving cannot exist. If He allows evil to exist then he is not God, and if he is purely good and loving and cannot stop evil then he is not All-Powerful, either way he doesn’t exist’.
This question is an emotional question rather than an intellectual one and resonates deeply with those who have gone through immense emotional, mental or physical pain whether one has witnessed the death of their loved one, or how unjustly they have been oppressed or dealt by people or how something like losing a job or wealth has made them depressed. In all cases, it does not meet or fulfill the expectations and attributes of an All-Mighty, Merciful and Loving God because ‘surely if God is all-powerful and loving surely He had the power and capability to intervene and make things right before the events which led to my pain and suffering’.
Firstly there is a hidden assumption that God is just good (Loving, Merciful, Compassionate) and All-Powerful so if God’s actions do not represent these 2 attributes, then He is not God. But there are other attributes for God. In Islam, Allah is depicted as ‘The Wise’, ‘The All-Knowing’ and ‘The Just’ and so on. This obviously means that God has wisdom and knowledge of why a certain seemingly ‘tragic’ event may have good and benefit. More importantly, we human beings impose our limited definitions of what is good and bad upon God. So for example, someone loses a job and feels depressed only to find that a better job awaits him in the future.
Secondly, such painful experiences and events do not disprove the existence of a Creator, but it rather proves that there is a Cause behind such events and incidents. The question that should be asked however is ‘Why does a Creator allow such things to happen?’
Thirdly, the reality of suffering trials and difficulties is part of the overall purpose of life which is to test each person how best remains conscious of God in both ease and difficulty. Allah (The Creator) mentions in the Qur’an:
“Who created death and life that He might try you as to which of you is better in deed. He is the Most Mighty, the Most Forgiving”
(Surah Al Mulk: Ayah 2)
“If We ever favour man with Our Mercy, and then take it away from him, he becomes utterly desperate, totally ungrateful. And if We let him taste favour after harm has touched him, he says: ‘All my ills are gone’, and he suddenly becomes exultant and boastful”
(Surah Al-Hud: Ayah 9-10)
The purpose and wisdom dictates that God is known through tests and suffering because man by nature is not self sufficient but dependent upon his creator. In view of our purpose, an event is only ‘bad’ if it distances you away from God and ‘good’ is what makes you closer to God.
The best way to understand pain and suffering is to look at those whom Allah refers to as the most righteous of people, His Prophets and Messengers. When we read the Qur’an, we find that Prophet Ayub (Job peace be upon him) lost all his wealth, his children and his health to the point he became afflicted with leprosy for a number of years, Prophet Yusuf (Joseph peace be upon him) was separated from his family at a young age and later imprisoned unjustly for some years for a crime he did not commit, Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham peace be upon him) was catapulted into a large fire by his own people and Prophet Zakarriyah (Zacharias peace be upon him) was tested with no offspring until Allah favored him with a son.
The most severe of tests and trials were given to the last Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) who experienced the death of his two newborn sons, his wife Khadijah, his uncle Abu Talib and some of his daughters during his lifetime. He was further pelted with stones by the people of Taif to the point he bled profusely when they rejected his call and further witnessed the ongoing persecution and torture of his companions. He was also tested emotionally by hearing the various slanders and lies of the polytheists, attributing to him false names such as a madman, a soothsayer and a magician when he was neither, yet he still remained God conscious and patient and put his trust in Him.
The concept of trials and suffering is a spiritual purification for the believer which allows him to enter Paradise more easily. Ibn Qayyim (may Allah have mercy upon him), a famous classical scholar regarding hardships and trials quoted the following:
“The ibtilaa’ (testing) of the believer is like medicine for him. It cures him from illness. Had the illness remained it would destroy him or diminish his reward and level (in the hereafter). The tests and the trials extract these illnesses from him and prepare him for the perfect reward and the highest of degrees (in the life to come).”
“The divine decree related to the believer is always a bounty, even if it is in the form of withholding (something that is desired), and it is a blessing, even if it appears to be a trial, and an affliction that has befallen him is in reality a cure, even though it appears to be a disease!”
So to conclude, trials and hardships are blessings in disguise and are hidden opportunities for a person’s own spiritual development and furthermore a means for one to draw closer to his/her Creator as it purifies him/her from the ephemeral attachments of this world and from one’s own whims and desires. The pain, agony and loss helps us experience happiness, tranquility and our gains, all of which are a pathway to Allah’s mercy and forgiveness.
There are more questions which were not included in this post which have to do with a moral standpoint. A brief way of answering such questions is to to define what good and bad really is is only limited by our human perceptions when absolute truths and wisdom can only be known by Revelation from the Creator of Man.