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Is Evil from Satan, Ourselves or Allah?
Moiz Amjad


In one of his writings1, Mr Katz has stated that the various statements in the Qur’ān regarding the origin of the Calamity are mutually contradictory. Mr Katz’s opinion is based on the following verses of the Qur’ān: 4:78; 4:79; 38:41.

Wherever you are death will find you out even if you are in towers built up strong and high! If some good befalls them they say: ‘This is from Allah’; but if evil, they say: ‘This is from you’ [O Prophet]. Say: ‘All things are from Allah’. But what has come to these people that they fail to understand a single fact? (4:78)

Whatever good, [O man!] happens to you, is from Allah; But whatever evil happens to you, is from your [own] soul. And We have sent you as a Messenger to [instruct] mankind. And enough is Allah for a witness. (4:79)

Commemorate our Servant Job. Behold he cried to his Lord: ‘The Evil One has afflicted me with distress and suffering!’ (38:41)

From the first verse, Mr Katz has understood that according to the Qur’ān the source of both good as well as evil happenings in human life is Allah. From the second verse, Mr. Katz has perceived that, contrary to the first verse, it says that all good happenings in human life are from Allah but all evil happenings are from man himself. From the third verse Mr. Katz has construed that according to the Qur’ān the source of evil happenings in man’s life is the devil or Satan. Comparing the first two verses, Mr Katz writes:

Evil things are without doubt a subset of ‘all things’, and if ‘all things are from Allah’, then the evil things are from Allah as well, and the author of the Qur’ān can’t pass the guilt on and blame others as done in verse 79.

It is interesting that Muhammad would contradict himself within two consecutive verses and then write three verses later that discrepancy is a sign that it is not from God.

But this topic isn’t over with just yet.

And then, comparing all three verses, Mr. Katz writes:

Now we have a third party joining the contest for responsibility. Is evil from ourselves? Is it from Satan? Or is it from Allah?

Any two of them contradict each other, but in particular do the first two (4:79, 38:41) contradict the third (4:78) as Allah claimed all things are from Himself.

In my opinion, if the verses are seen in the correct perspective, particularly with reference to their context, their style, their words and their source the apparent contradiction pointed out by Mr Katz shall automatically stand resolved.

In this article, I shall present my view regarding the meaning of the referred verses.

Let us first take a look at 4: 78 and 4:79 in their complete context.

These verses are actually an answer to one of the objections raised by the hypocrites. 4:77 clearly shows that the group being referred to here is that of the hypocrites. It says that till the time that Allah had not allowed the Muslims to fight the non-believers, the hypocrites would brag about their bravery and would pretend about their sincerity with the Prophet (sws). They would keep pressing the Prophet (sws) to declare war against the non-believers. But as soon as Allah allowed the Muslims to fight the non-believers, they lost heart and because of their cowardice wanted to flee from fighting. The reason for this behaviour was that these people did not believe in the Hereafter, and therefore wanted to flee from death. While the truth is that the everlasting pleasures of the Hereafter are much better than the temporary pleasures of this life. Moreover, their fleeing from fighting in Allah’s way because of the fear of death will not save them from their death. When their appointed time comes, death shall most certainly overtake them, even if they hide themselves in strong and lofty towers. These people would criticise the Prophet (sws). Whenever the Muslims were victorious, these people would say that this victory was from Allah and whenever the Muslims suffered a loss, they would say that it was because of the poor planning of the Prophet (sws). They should have remembered that be it a victory or a defeat, everything is from Allah. Nothing can happen without the permission of Allah. Their victories were purely through Allah’s blessings and Allah inflicted on them defeats because of their own weaknesses and mistakes.

As should be quite clear from the above explanation, the two verses cited by Mr Katz refer to two different things. The first one (4:78) refers to the source of all happenings with reference to the battles that the Muslims fought against the non-believers, while the second verse (4:79) tells us the law according to which Allah apportions victories and defeats among the believers and the non-believers. This verse tells us that the successes and victories of the Muslims are only through Allah’s blessings. If He had not allowed such a happening, they would never have been able to get them on their own. On the other hand, when the Muslims suffered a loss or were defeated, Allah allowed such (apparently evil) happening to befall the Muslims because of their own mistakes and weaknesses. Thus the real message in these verses is Allah’s law regarding the distribution of victories and defeats among the two groups. If the believers were victorious, it was primarily due to the blessing and help of God. Whereas, if they were defeated, it was primarily because of their own moral weaknesses and mistakes (and, as has been stated in 3:179, to remove from among them the insincere individuals that were present in them).

Now let us have a look at the third verse (38:41). Before giving my opinion regarding this verse, I would like my readers to understand that that according to the Qur’ān, the life of this world is a time of test and trial for all individuals. Sometimes an individual is tested with good and comfortable times to see whether he remains thankful to his Lord or not. At other times, an individual is tested with bad and difficult times to see whether he remains steadfast in serving his Lord or not. Thus whatever good or bad times come our way, they are a test from Allah. In other words, the ultimate source of all good or desirable happenings as well as all (apparently) bad and undesirable happenings is the Almighty.

Besides this, another fact which should also be kept in mind is that the Almighty during the course of this period of trial and test has given the satanic forces a chance to lure man into evil deeds. Sometimes because of Satan’s attacks, man may be driven into doing evil. After such evil deeds, the Almighty, to cleanse his servant, may put him in some hard times. In such situations, although the ultimate source of such difficult times is the Almighty, it would not be wrong to say that man is himself responsible for such times (because he himself -- with his free will -- opted to give in to the luring of Satan). Moreover, because man is lured into the wrong action by Satan, due to which he has to face the consequences, therefore it would not be wrong to ascribe such bad times to Satan.

With these clarifications in mind, let us now have a look at the cited verse. This verse, as should be clear from its contents, is with particular reference to Job (sws) (Qur’ān: Ayyūb). It refers to God’s trial of Job (sws). There is only a passing reference to this incident in the Qur’ān; details of the event are not given in the Qur’ān. Some of the important details given in the Bible are reproduced below. The referred book introduces Job in the following words:

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking: ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular custom.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan: ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the LORD: ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’ Then the LORD said to Satan: ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ The LORD said to Satan: ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’ Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:1-13)

After this, according to the Bible, Satan attacked Job (sws) by destroying his belongings. His children were killed, his oxen, donkeys and camels were stolen, his sheep destroyed, many of his servants were slaughtered. Even at this catastrophe Job (sws), according to the Bible, fell to the ground in worship and called out to his Lord:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised. (Job 1:21)

The Bible further states:

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:22)

At this point, the Bible says:

On another day, the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan: ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the LORD: ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’ Then the LORD said to Satan: ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.’ ‘Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ The LORD said to Satan: ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him: ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ He replied: ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:1-10)

The Qur’ān, as has been stated earlier, does not give the details of the sufferings of Job (sws), but as is pretty obvious from the details given from the excerpts of the Bible, these sufferings were inflicted on Job (sws) by Satan. Although Satan inflicted these sufferings on Job (sws) with the permission of God, which means that it would not have been wrong if Job (sws) had ascribed these sufferings as a test from God Himself.

If seen in the perspective of this explanation, I am sure that any reader with a neutral mind shall see that there exists no contradiction between the three referred verses of the Qur’ān. All comments that may point out any logical or linguistic inconsistencies in my interpretation of the referred Qur’ānic verses are most welcome and shall be highly appreciated.


Courtesy: Understanding Islam (





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