What is the concept of evil according to the Quran and hadiths, does it exist or not?


What is the concept of evil, does it exist or not? I have read the book ‘Divine Justice’ by Shaheed Mutahari, and in it he gives a logical answer, saying  that evil is the absence of good, but do we have any Ayaat or hadiths to back this up?


The Almighty Allah in Surat Ar-Ra’d Ayah 16 states: و الله خالق کل شیء, which means that He is the Creator of everything. Also, God says: الذی احسن کل شیء خلقه (Sajda, Ayah 7): He who made everything He has created good. The conclusion is that all that exists is good. Thus, if we say something is evil, it is the lack of a good. For instance, ailment is the lack of health, etc.

The term ‘evil’ in the Quran and the Ahadith is usually used to refer to wrong belief or practice. So, they are not meant in their philosophical sense as Shahid Motahari refers to.

Consider the following examples:

1. و من شر ما خلق : which means I seek refuge with Allah from the evil acts of His creatures, such as gossiping, murdering etc, that are the evil acts of humans.

2. The Prophet (P) said: انما الخیر ما ارید به وجه الله و عُمل علی ما امره الله، و اما ما ارید به الریاء و السمعۀ هو الشر الخالص. ) الاحتجاح 1:45):”Good is that by which God’s pleasure is sought, and which is done according to the commands of God. As for that which is done to show off or gain reputation, this is pure evil” (Al-Ihtijaj, 1:45).

3. In the famous Hadith of the host of intellect and ignorance, Kofr, oppression, and sins are referred to as evil such as:اسرع الشر عقوبۀ البغی, “The evil which is punished most quickly is oppression”.

Evil is also used in the Quran and Ahadith to refer to what we assume is evil. That is similar to what philosophers say that evil is a relative concept, not an absolute one. For example, the biting of a snake is good and a defence mechanism for itself, but for the one who is bitten, it is regarded as evil. Or we regard something evil due to its immediate discomfort, although on the long run, it provides us a lot of comfort and hence will be good. The same applies to so-called good.

The Almighty Allah states:

و عسی أن تکرهوا شیئا و هو خیر لکم وعسی ان تحبوا شیئا و هو شر لکم و الله یعلم و انتم لاتعلمون, “…and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know”(Surat al-Baqarah, 216).Also Imam Ali (a.s.) in his final will to his son says: و ما خییر بخیر بعده النار و ما شر بشر بعده الجنۀ. “There is no good in a ‘good’ thing whose consequence is Hell, and there is no evil in an ‘evil’ whose consequence is Heaven”.

Answered by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei