While the attribution of evil to Allah is not available in the hadiths and verses, why did it become one of the principles of belief?

The Details of the Question

- It is narrated the Messenger of Allah stated the following at the end of the hadith reported from Ali ibn Abi Talib (Muslim, 771; Abu Dawud, 760; Tirmidhi 3420; Nasai 2, 130):

"I turn my face in complete devotion to One Who is the Originator of the heaven and the earth and I am not of the polytheists. Verily my prayer, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the worlds. There is no partner with Him and this is what I have been commanded (to profess and believe) and I am of the believers. O Allah, You are the King. There is no god but you. You are my Lord, and I am your servant. I wronged myself and make a confession of my sin. Forgive me. Here I am at your service, and Grace is to You and the whole of good is in your hand. Evil is not attributed to You."

- While there is no attribution to Allah in any of the words of evil and its derivatives in the Quran, we can say, "Evil is from Allah" when we list the principles of belief. When we say this, we automatically make a precarious statement saying, "It is not evil to create evil, it is evil to do it"?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

- For the relevant hadith, see Muslim, al-Musafirin, 771.

- According to what Islamic scholars state, the creator of both good and evil is Allah.  It is due to decency that evil is not attributed to Allah in the hadith. While praising Allah, it is not appropriate to attribute evil to Him. As a matter of fact, although Allah is the creator of all things, saying, "O creator of pig" is not permissible.

The scholars, who emphasize that Allah is the creator of everything and that it is a necessity of the belief of oneness, point out that the expression “evil is not attributed to You” in the hadith should be interpreted. So, they made different comments on the interpretation of hadith. It is possible to summarize them as follows:

a) No one will be close to You by doing a bad/evil deed.

b) Evil alone is not attributed to You. For example: It is not permissible to say, “O Lord of apes! O Lord of evil things!”

c) Evil does not rise to You. Only good words rise to You; righteous deeds make them rise to You.

d) Evil is not evil in terms of You/your wisdom. It is evil is in terms of creatures. (see Nawawi, Sharhu Muslim, 6/59, al-Ayni, Sharhu Sunani Abi Dawud, 3/368; Tuhfatul-Ahwadhi, Sharhu Sunanit-Tirmidhi, 9/267)

- However, there are many evidences that Allah is the creator of both good and evil. Some of them are as follows:

1) “Allah Who created you and whatever you do.” (Surah as-Saaffat, 37/96) It is stated in the verse above that Allah creates the deeds of people. Human deeds could be either good or bad.

As Ibn Taymiyyah and Sad Taftazani state, the expression of this verse rejects the understanding of Muʿtazila that attributes the creation of evil to man. (see Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 13/531)

2) As Bayhaqi points out,

a) “Whether you speak secretly or openly—He surely knows best what is hidden in the heart. How could He not know His Own creation? For He alone is the Most Subtle, All-Aware.(Surah Mulk, 67/13-14) In the verses above, it is stated that Allah knows all the secret or explicit words of people and it is emphasized that the creator of everything knows everything. Since evil is within the scope of Allah's knowledge, it must be accepted that it is Allah who creates evil too.

Moreover, what is meant in the expression of the verse " Whether you speak secretly or openly" is the words in the form of evil because people do not hesitate to reveal their good words, but they hide their bad/evil words.

Thus, it is clearly indicated in the verse that evil is also created by Allah. (see Ibn Hajar, ibid)

b) “He is the One Who created death and life in order to test which of you is best in deeds. And He is the Almighty, All-Forgiving.” (Surah al-Mulk, 67/2) It is emphasized in the verse above that it is Allah who creates death as well as life. Although death is something good for believers - in terms of its result -, it is itself evil. Allah also creates death which, which is also evil. (see Ibn Hajar, ibid)

c) He created all things and has perfect knowledge of everything.(Surah al-An’am, 6/101) In that verse, Allah praises Himself by stating that "He created everything and knows everything".

So, all of these issues with which Allah praises himself them are real. That is, Allah created everything just as He knows everything. (see Ibn Hajar, ibid)

3) Say, ‘I seek refuge in the Lord of the daybreak, from the evil of whatever He has created’ (Surah al-Falaq, 114/1-2) It is indicated in the verse above that the evils are also created by Allah.

As a matter of fact, Islamic scholars generally consider the concept of evil here as follows, “Hell, Satan/Iblis, or any evil that will happen in the world and the hereafter.“ (see Mawardi, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir,  interpretation of the relevant verse)

According to these three interpretations, the creator of evil is also Allah because Iblis/ Satan is -in a way- evil. Hell is - in a way - evil. The other interpretation is already clear. Allah has Satan and Hell.

- Members of Mutazila do not attribute evil to Allah in order to free Him from it, but on the other hand, they commit shirk (polytheism) by accepting other creators.

4) “Every soul shall taste death, and We will test you with good and evil by way of test, and to Us you will be brought back.” (Surah al-Anbiya, 21/35) It is indicated in the verse above that Allah creates evil.

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