Who Are The Real Good And The Real Evil?
In all corners of the world, there is evil, injustice, tyranny and wrongdoing. There are a number of reasons why people are witness to these negative realities which have become part of our daily lives. From the time a person acquires consciousness, he is exposed to an outpouring of news about such terrible happenings. Hardly a day goes by without encountering stories in the papers or on the TV, of swindlers, cruel serial killers, unprotected women, children and the elderly abandoned mercilessly to hunger and cold, all harrowing reminders that immorality, corruption, conflicts of interests and degeneracy are firmly rooted in society.
The majority of people who witness such events consider them as events which befall others, and thus, as things that have no relevance to them. For this reason, they never assume responsibility for the unrest, corruption and mercilessness that affects society. For instance, it may be that an innocent and defenceless person is exploited by a wealthier one, who insults and slanders him. In such an instance, everyone would recognise that the wealthy person is guilty of unjustly mistreating the innocent person. However, often, most people prefer to remain silent. They simply say "What difference would my words make?" or "This is none of my business", and turn a blind eye to this unfairness.
Undoubtedly, such situations arouse strong feelings and move a person whose heart is not so hardened. However merely getting angry, and disapproving, or feeling distressed, will in no way prove to be a hindrance to the recurrence of these harms. For this end, those who are conscientious and wish for the good of humanity should put forth a sincere effort and in every circumstance, lend their support to others who also strive for the good.
However, in order to do so, one needs to be able to distinguish between the good and the evil. Today "goodness and evil" have become relative concepts, varying according to the society, the type of social lifestyle and interests. For example in our day, caring for stray dogs and protecting their rights is regarded as an important mark of goodness. Similarly, making a few phone calls to collect aid for a disaster-stricken territory is sufficient to be regarded as a charitable person. A person busying himself in his spare times with renovation of a school building, or meeting a few school children's needs, deems himself worthy of life-long honour and earns the respect and appreciation of the rest of society. Surely these can be considered acts of goodwill, yet, it is obvious that such feeble attempts are an insignificant contribution to the total eradication of all the wickedness that exists. As a matter of fact, these people also know that their efforts do not require great sacrifices. Some of them may even be aware that with such charity work, they can ingratiate themselves to people surrounding them, wanting to be admired for their efforts. Ultimately, another motivation for their interest in such charity work may be to ease their conscience.
However, the purpose of the "good", who are the subject of this book, is loftier and more noble. The "alliance of the good", formed by people committed unconditionally to remain among the good and offer complete support to this end, acquires immense strength and brings forth unprecedented results in the shortest possible time. Grudge, hatred, mercilessness, insincerity, lying, injustice, penetrating into the societies of the world today, can only be removed by the "alliance of the good". Only people with high morals can stop the harm such corruption brings to the world.
None of these goals should seem remote, imaginary or unattainable to the reader. As you read, you will also acknowledge that joining with the "alliance of the good" is amenable to anyone. Be they a housewife, a high school student, a tradesman, or a professor, every conscientious person living by moral principles and committed to the dissemination of such values in society is capable of associating with the good. For this end, you must set aside your prejudices, presuppositions, and the ideas of right and wrong you have acquired earlier in life. The next step will be to look around you to identify the true good and the true evil. In the process, you will have to adopt a single criterion: the Qur'an, the only guide sent to mankind by God. That is because, only God knows who are the truly good or the truly evil, and it is in the Qur'an that He provides us a detailed account of the attributes of the good and the evil.
The Good and the Evil in the Qur'an
The only reason why a man conducts himself immorally is a lack of faith in God and the Day of Judgement and a lack of fear for God. Think for a moment about all the evil on earth: injustice, jealousy, murders, grudge, hatred, mercilessness, deceit, malice, oppression... In the Qur'an, God prohibits man from exhibiting these traits and informs that people committing them will be exposed to eternal punishment in the hereafter. For this reason, it is unlikely that a God-fearing person exhibits "devilish" characteristic. One of the verses of God forbids evil as follows:
We have sent down the Book to you making all things clear and as guidance and mercy and good news for the Muslims. God commands justice and doing good and giving to relatives. And He forbids indecency and doing wrong and tyranny. He warns you so that hopefully you will pay heed. (Surat an-Nahl: 89-90)
You may hear people saying that they avoid those forms of mischief commonly practised in society though they do not believe in God and the Day of Judgement. However, it is a definite and evident fact that a person, who has never been involved in any wicked deed in his lifetime, may possibly suddenly change this attitude once changing conditions seriously challenge his interests. When his career, for which he has worked day and night, or his wealth or life are at stake, for instance, he does not hesitate to cause harm to another person. We often encounter such people in our every day lives. In business life, in fear of being fired from his job for a mistake he has made, a person may well put the blame on someone else. Alternatively, a person who as a principle never accepts bribes or does anything unlawful, may find it reasonable to take a bribe for something urgent, for instance, when he has to pay his son's hospital bills.
There are also those who relentlessly commit acts of immorality, disturb, degrade or defraud people, use abusive language, do not value people, think only of themselves, act aggressively and maliciously, and yet help the poor now and then. In such cases, we certainly cannot consider these people to be "good". The essential attributes of a good person are righteousness, honesty, justice, and sincerity. However we should also keep in mind that a good person who is sincere can also make mistakes and have certain failings, but what makes him different is his endeavour to purify himself of these flaws, and to exhibit moral perfection as best as he can.
A person with fear of God shows good character, not only at particular times, but under all circumstances. His moral perfection is not dependent on the changing attitudes of people or of events and conditions around him, but the consideration of the heavy judgement awaiting in the hereafter, and facing an outcome from which there is no return. With these factors in mind, he cannot dare to say a word or commit anything for which he would fail to give account in the hereafter. On the contrary, he pursues the bounties he hopes to attain in the hereafter. In the Qur'an, God calls man to ponder over the Day of Judgement:
On the Day that each self finds the good it did, and the evil it did, present there in front of it, it will wish there were an age between it and then. God advises you to beware of Him. God is Ever-Gentle with His servants. (Surah Ali 'Imran: 30)
Consequently, fear of God in one's heart is a sign of being among the good. A non-God fearing person who does not observe God's limits inevitably identifies himself with the alliance of the evil. Possibly, he does not always actively participate in this wicked alliance, but, considering that conditions may develop at any time to in such a way as to prepare the appropriate ground for becoming involved in acts of wickednesss, he may, deliberately or not, side with the evil ones against the good.
God informs believers who the worst people are: "The worst of creatures in the sight of God are those who disbelieve. They will not believe." (Surat al-Anfal: 55). Therefore, someone who wants to ally with the good should definitely be with God-fearing people.
One's Behaviours Display His True Intention
In one's efforts to distinguish the good from the evil, an important point needs also to be considered: despite the fact that a great number of people say they believe in God and the Qur'an, in the way they live their lives and their attitudes, they are at variance with Qur'anic principles. In Surat al-Baqara, God reveals the real nature of those who claim to believe in God and the hereafter and yet do nothing but commit mischief:
Among the people there are some who say, 'We believe in God and the Last Day,' when they are not believers. They think they deceive God and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it. There is a sickness in their hearts and God has increased their sickness. They will have a painful punishment on account of their denial. When they are told, 'Do not cause corruption on the earth,' they say, 'We are only putting things right.' No indeed! They are the corrupters, but they are not aware of it. When they are told, 'Believe in the way that the people believe' they say, 'What! Are we to believe in the way that fools believe?' No indeed! They are the fools, but they do not know it. When they meet those who believe, they say, 'We believe.' But then when they go apart with their satans, they say, 'We are really with you. We were only mocking.' But God is mocking them, and drawing them on, as they wander blindly in their excessive insolence. Those are the people who have sold guidance for misguidance. Their trade has brought no profit; they are not guided. (Surat al-Baqara: 8-16)
As these verses also inform, such people maintain that they are rightful, honest and virtuous, and frequently condemn the immoral behaviour of others around them and warn them otherwise. However, they are actually the ones who spread mischief on earth, who do wrong secretly and deviously, who create conflict and stir up enmity among people. For this reason, in our criterion to establish the good and the evil, we should pay attention that people's acts match their words. The Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) following words explain this very well:
For instance, one would naturally raise doubts about the sincerity of a person who claims to be a Muslim if he were to wage a covert struggle against Muslims. If a person, for instance, who claims that he attaches much importance to moral values, and looks for honesty and sincerity in people, advocates indecent people known for their immorality, and presents them as respectable people who have unimpeachable attributes, then this would cast doubts on such a person's sincerity. Rather, the actual purpose of those who associate the concept of immorality with "courage", "modernism", "elitism" and "freedom" is evident. They tempt people with such terms to make them see immorality as a virtue and to indulge in degeneracy.
In the Qur'an, God makes plain who the good and the evil are, as well as their attributes, lifestyles, mindset and outlook on life and other people. A person who is sincerely in pursuit of goodness should first identify the attributes of the good in the Qur'an, and accordingly, search for these features in those surrounding him. The same thing also applies in identifying the evil. Some of the attributes of the evil of which God makes clear in the Qur'an are as follows:
Some of the traits of the good of which God informs in the Qur'an are the following:
- Believes in God, the Day of Judgement, angels, the Book and the prophets
When those people who lack these attributes of believers mentioned in the Qur'an , and on the contrary, adopt wicked manners in their conduct, claim that they behave in the name of "goodness", state that they are against wrongfulness while they do wrong against people, condemn slanderers while they themselves slander other people, or claim to be innocent and honest while they are definitely fraudulent, provide clear signs of their insincerity and hypocrisy.
Consequently, someone who is committed to ally himself with the good should make a careful examination of all that happens around him, and while arriving at a decision, base his conclusions on the criteria established by the Qur'an rather than what the majority think.
The Evil Ones Follow Satan's Way
The majority of people believe Satan to be an "imaginary" being with no real existence, and merely a concept symbolising evil. However, God also created the jinn, angels and Satan, as He created man and all the other living beings on earth, though in another dimension.
The most obvious characteristics of Satan are his disobedience to God and his arrogance. These aside, from the time God created the first human being, namely Prophet Adam (as), on earth, Satan set himself to lead people astray and hinder them from the right path. This is revealed in the Qur'an as follows:
He said, 'By Your might, I will mislead all of them except for Your chosen servants among them.' (Surah Sad: 82-83)
Satan has various methods he uses to prevent people from following their conscience and from the righteous way of God. He may instil in them apprehensions or direct people to what is wrong by way of his friends. Take, for instance, a person who recently started performing his regular prayers or complying with the commandments of God. Some of his friends, who are under the influence of Satan, may ridicule this person or draw his attention to some other temptation at prayer times. If this person fails to have a strong will and commitment to his conscience, then Satan may, within a short time, make this person stop practising his prayers by way of his friends. Alternately, a person helping the poor may be called a "fool" by his immediate circle and be convinced into spending his money instead on a new car or a holiday. Satan, using the people around him, may make this person see righteous deeds as somewhat difficult to follow or even wicked, and thus prevent him from engaging in acts of goodness. At times, Satan makes one abandon one's best friends in their most difficult times, so that his own interests are not effected. In such a case, a person faces a dilemma from which he has difficulty finding a way out. Attempting to be conscientious, he feels he has to help his friend through a difficult time. On the other hand, he cannot free himself from the grip of personal financial concerns or other difficulties he would face if he decided to offer his help. When considering a course of action, a person usually assumes he is merely in the process of making certain decisions and evaluating certain options. However, the dilemma he experiences does not result merely from conflicting ideas, but rather, it is a struggle between the voice of his conscience and that of Satan.
In brief, either by directly whispering to the mind or by way of certain people, Satan infuses man with negative inspirations, hinders him from conforming to God's way and following his own conscience, from engaging in good deeds, and talking graciously or making sacrifices. Those following in the footsteps of Satan, either deliberately or unintentionally, naturally take sides with him and throughout their lives remain among the evil. In the Qur'an, God explains the influence of Satan on man as follows:
You who believe! Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. Anyone who follows in Satan's footsteps should know that he commands indecency and wrongdoing. Were it not for God's favour to you and His mercy, not one of you would ever have been purified. But God purifies whoever He wills. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat an-Nur: 21)
Satan has gained mastery over them and made them forget the remembrance of God. Such people are the party of Satan. No indeed! It is the party of Satan who are the losers. (Surat al-Mujadila: 19)
Satan carries on a similar struggle against all people, but people who have fear of God, who guard against evil, conform to their conscience, and have a strong will, are not led astray by him. Weak-willed people having no deep-rooted fear for God, however, are tempted by Satan as the verses of God inform. In the following verse, the characteristics of the people who come under the influence of Satan are related:
Shall I tell you upon whom the Satans descend? They descend on every evil liar. They give them a hearing and most of them are liars. (Surat ash-Shu'ara': 221-223)
Those under the influence of Satan and who have gone astray usually present themselves as good and charitable people. However, their attitude towards people, and the lack of love, compassion and tolerance in their hearts, reveals that Satan has absolute control over them. This is related in a verse as follows:
If someone shuts his eyes to the remembrance of the All-Merciful, We assign him a Satan who becomes his bosom friend - they debar them from the path, yet they still think they are guided. (Surat az-Zukhruf: 36-37)
How do the Evil Ones Come Together?
For the evil ones to unite and carry out activities against believers, they first have to find each other. They do not require any effort for this purpose. The alliance emerges spontaneously, and in the normal course of daily life. The appropriate ground has already been laid by Satan through various methods and tactics.
Everything, from the people who would ally against the good to the timing or the type of plots hatched are all predetermined. Never is a call made for this unification. The call is already inspired by Satan in the hearts of those "who carry discord in their hearts". Thus, without effort, they come together, hatch plots and plan their evil actions. In daily life, they hear the call of disbelievers and identify themselves with the evil. The grudge they feel towards the believers and the vehement hatred overflowing their heart are the source of this unification. God gives an account of the grudge disbelievers nurse in their hearts against the believers and warns them thus:
You who believe! Do not take any outside yourselves as intimates. They will do anything to harm you. They love what causes you distress. Hatred has appeared out of their mouths, but what their breasts hide is far worse. We have made the Signs clear to you if you use your intellect. There you are, loving them when they do not love you, even though you believe in all the Books. When they meet you, they say, 'We believe.' But when they leave they bite their fingers out of rage against you. Say, 'Die in your rage.' God knows what your hearts contain. (Surah Ali 'Imran: 118-119)
While establishing their unification, they look for certain traits in a person; he has to turn away from God's religion, turn a blind eye to wickedness, readily commit evil acts, all the while, not feeling any pangs of conscience. The presence of a person who lives by the moral values of the Qur'an upsets the evil ones greatly. Hearing a single word reminding them of good character, righteousness, or honesty, is intolerable since such words would evoke the voice of their conscience which they never wish to hear. That is the reason why the wicked only enjoy the company of the wicked. They are made happy by the presence of the wicked. They greatly wish for the strengthening of their evil union since they know a strong alliance of the good would harm them. For instance, a thief enjoys the company of thieves. Alternatively, homosexuals all speak the same language. No matter where they are, they find each other and are rarely apart from one another. That is because they are never despised for their wickedness among their own, but rather, are encouraged by people sharing the same values. A person who slanders innocent people only feels at ease when he is surrounded with slanderers like himself. He listens to their views, boasts about his "accomplishments" and asks for their advice. In return, his companions tell him about their own immorality, the cruelty they have committed and the slandering they have done.
So, what is meant by the alliance of the evil is this attraction of the wicked to one another. If there is anyone around who questions their wicked deeds, it terribly annoys them. That is why they never want to see such person around, and why the evil ones only enjoy the company of one another.
The Evil Avoid Being With The Good and Feel Enmity Towards Them
We have stressed many times that the evil ones behave under the inspiration of Satan. Whether they admit this fact or not, you can recognize the influence of Satan in their words, attitudes and decisions. That is why their attitude towards the good is the same as Satan's. Even before the wicked were created, Satan had rejected the company of the good and waged an unrelenting struggle against them. God makes this posture of Satan clear in the following verses:
Then the angels prostrated all together, every one of them – except Iblis. He disdained to be one of the prostrators. He said, 'Iblis, what is it that prevents you being among the prostrators? 'He said, 'I will not prostrate to a human being whom You have created out of dried clay formed from fetid black mud.' (Surat al-Hijr: 30-33)
At a closer look, we also see that the essential characteristics of evil people today is also an insistence on avoiding the good, an obnoxious attitude towards them, arrogance, disobedience and rebellion. On top of all that, Satan is firmly committed to averting people from goodness and what is beautiful, and to leading them astray.
All of these indicate that those who strive together against goodness and try to eradicate the faith people have in God and the Hereafter, and moral values like sacrifice and loyalty, share the same common traits. However, it is impossible for these people to attain success; both in this world and beyond. God will pay them back what they deserve. That is because God is the friend and protector of His true servants:
God is the Protector of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light. But those who are disbelievers have false gods as protectors. They take them from the light into the darkness. Those are the Companions of the Fire remaining in it timelessly, for ever. (Surat al-Baqara: 257)
1. Imam an-Nawawi, The Complete Forty Hadith, p. 5