The Divine Wisdom in Allowing Evil to Exist: Perspectives from Ibn Al-Qayyim
Published: December 6, 2018 • Updated: February 14, 2021
Author: Tallal Zeni
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
For more on this topic, see Faith in the Time of COVID-19
For more on the existence of evil, read Why Do People Suffer? God’s Existence & the Problem of Evil
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1 For biographical details, see Tallal Zeni (tr.), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Knowledge (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 2016), pp. ix-xvi.
2 Bakr Abū Zayd calculates Ibn al-Qayyim’s works to be ninety-eight, of which thirty are extant. See Bakr Abū Zayd, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya: ḥayātuhu āthāruhu mawāriduhu (Riyadh: Dār al-ʿĀṣima, 1995), pp. 200–309.
3 Ibn al-Qayyim refutes these three extremes in depth in his magnum opus, Madārij al-sālikīn, as well as Ṭarīq al-hijratayn.
4 Miftāḥ dār al-saʿāda is considered to be a middle work, while Shifā al-ʿalīl is a late one, according to the division of Ibn al-Qayyim’s oeuvre into early, middle and late by Holtzman. See Livnat Holtzman, ‘Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah,’ in Joseph E. Lowery and Devin Stewart (eds), Essays in Arabic Literary Biography II: 1350–1850 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009), pp. 202–203.
5 Tallal Zeni (tr.), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil, (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 2017), pp. 3-18.
6 Ibn al-Qayyim states: “Although God made Adam descend from the Garden, and subjected him and his offspring to many types of trials and tribulations, He gave them something greater than that which He denied them—this being His covenant that He promised them. He informed them that whoever holds on to [that covenant] will attain His pleasure and be honored in [Paradise]. God (Exalted is He) stated after removing [Adam] from it: We said: Go down, all of you, from hence; but verily there cometh unto you from Me a guidance; and whoso followeth My guidance, there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Miftāḥ dār al-saʿāda wa manshūr wilāyat al-ʿilm wa’l-irāda, (Mecca: Dār ʿĀlam al-Fawā’id, 2015), pp. 87-88.
7 Ibid., p. 103.
9 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Ṭarīq al-hijratayn wa bāb al-saʿādatayn, ed. Muḥammad Ajmal al-Iṣlāḥī, (Mecca: Dār ʿĀlam al-Fawā’id, 2008), pp. 274-275.
10 Ibid., p. 98.
11 Jon Hoover, Ibn Taymiyya’s Theodicy of Perpetual Optimism, (Leiden: Brill, 2007), p. 73. See also Zeni (tr.), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil, Chapter Ten.
12 See Zeni (tr.), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil, pp. 24-27.
13 Ibid., p. 98.
14 Ibid., p. 23.
15 Ibid., p. 114.
16 Ibid., p. 132.
17 Ibid., p. 193.
18 Ibn al-Qayyim, Madārij al-sālikīn, (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-ʿArabī, 1996), vol. I, p. 241.
19 Ibn al-Qayyim, Ṭarīq al-hijratayn, p. 254.
20 Zeni (tr.), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Knowledge, p. 73.
21 Bayhaqī (Sunan) 20,911; Ibn ʿAdī, vol. I, p. 211; Haythamī 601; al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī (Sharaf), pp. 47-52; Tammām 899; al-Muttaqī al-Hindī 28,918; Bidāya, vol. X, p. 337. It is ‘authentic’ according to Albānī (Mishkāt al-maṣābīḥ 248).
22 Zeni (tr.), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil, p. 261.
23 Ibid., p. 137.
24 See Zeni (tr.), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil, Chapter Fifteen, pp. 239-257 for all thirty wisdoms that Ibn al-Qayyim lists.
25 See Zeni (tr.), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil, pp. 3 and 18.
26 Ibid., p. 263.
27 Eric Ormsby, Theodicy in Islamic Thought: The Dispute over al-Ghazālī’s “Best of All Possible Worlds” (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 39. For the Arabic, see Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn (Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 2010), vol. IV, pp. 319–320. This dictum is within Book 35, which is titled ‘His Oneness and Reliance upon Him’ (al-tawḥīd wa’l-tawakkul).
28 Ibid., pp. 92–134.
29 Ibn ʿArabī’s thoughts were pervaded by monism. It is for this reason that Ibn ʿArabī states: “there cannot be a world more wonderful than the present world (laysa fi’l-imkān abdaʿ min hādha al-ʿālam), for it is in the image of the Merciful…We are His external form, while His Ipseity is the spirit which governs the form.” See Binyamin Abrahamov, Ibn al-ʿArabī’s Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam: An Annotated Translation of ‘The Bezels of Wisdom,’ (London and New York: Routledge, 2015), p. 133. Thus although Ibn ʿArabī’s conclusion is the same, it is based on completely different reasoning than Ghazālī.
30 Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī, Tashyīd al-arkān fī laysa fi’l-imkān abdaʿ mimmā kān. This is included as an appendix in Iḥyāʾ, vol. V, pp. 369–394.
31 Ormsby, Theodicy in Islamic Thought, p. 109.
32 For instance, he affirms “the complete nature of His dazzling wisdom and overwhelming omnipotence” and that the creation of “opposites is in order to manifest His dazzling wisdom, vanquishing power, accomplished will, and perfect and complete sovereignty.” See Zeni (tr.), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil, pp. 97 and 101, respectively.
33 Ibid., p. 145.
34 See Ibn al-Qayyim, Miftāḥ dār al-saʿāda, (Mecca: Dār ʿĀlim al-Fawāʾid, 2015), pp. 991–999.
35 Zeni (tr.), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil, p. 15.
36 For Taqī al-Dīn al-Subkī’s arguments, see his al-Iʿtibār bi-baqāʾ al-jannawa’l-nār in al-Durra al-maḍiyya fī’l-radd ʿalā Ibn Taymiyya (Damascus: Maṭbaʿat al-Taraqqī, 1928). Also see Jon Hoover, ‘Against Islamic Universalism,’ in Birgit Krawietz and Georges Tamer (eds), Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Law: Debating Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013), pp. 397–399.
37 Zād al-maʿād was written after both Shifāʾ al-ʿalīl and al-Ṣawāʿiq al-mursala, and was likely his last work; see Holtzman, ‘Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah,’ p. 217.
38 Ibn al-Qayyim, Zād al-maʿād fī hadī khayr al-ʿibād (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 1994), vol. I, p. 68.
39 Q.XI.107: Abiding there so long as the heavens and the earth endure save for that which thy Lord willeth. Thy Lord is doer of what He will.