Is Evil Arbitrary or Intrinsic to The Action? Or On Moral Epistemology – Ask Shaykh YQ #200
Channel: Yasir Qadhi
Series: Yasir Qadhi - Ask Shaykh YQ
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We have a second question here, which is deep and philosophical one, and this is from sister Sophia. She asks that, do we as Muslims believe that Allah azza wa jal has forbidden evil because it is evil, or does it become evil because Allah has forbidden it? 107
Kobe, Nika. ille de Jalan, no, hey la him first.
Okay, the question once again, is that when Allah forbid something? Does he forbid it because it is evil? Or does it become evil because he has forbidden it? Okay, this is our sisters question. Now I have a feeling that our sister is taking a philosophy class. And she is wanting to ask this question from an Islamic perspective, because this question is one of the fundamental questions of Western philosophy. And Western philosophy has spent a lot of time and a lot of their great minds have spent many tomes and monographs and books and treatises on this discussion. And it is a very detailed discussion that deals with the topic of moral epistemology. How do we know what is more the right
and wrong? And this even goes back to Plato and his dialogues, Socrates, with a person by the name of euthyphro, and euthyphro,
is the person is having this dialogue with
with Plato, and there's an entire treaty's in Plato's input his writings, you can read this, if you ever want to do that. And the question is that what is what is it that pleases the gods? Again, they believed in multiple Gods is that is it pleasing? is good, pleasing to the gods? Because it is good? Or because the Gods love it, it becomes good. In other words, it's just a chicken and egg question. Okay. And it's a very interesting philosophical question. And so to make it understandable, suppose there is a tribe that has not heard anything of Allah and His Messenger, there's no revelation that has come down. This tribe is cut off from Allah's revelation for a period of time, they've never
heard of Islam.
Does this tribe is it obliged by Allah to know good from evil? If the tribe is engaged in murder, raping plunder? Are they sinful? Because they don't have the *tier? Or are they forgiven? Because they don't have the Sharia? Should they know that certain things are evil, even before the shady outcomes? Because if we say they should, this means that good and evil is independent of the Sharia? Or do they acquire knowledge of good and evil via the Sharia such that until the Shetty outcomes, they're excused because they don't know good from evil? And so this is a question that does have some practical relevance in terms of how we look at people from the Sharia has not reached. Now,
this question is one that has been discussed by our own Muslim sects and Muslim isms and Muslim theological groups since the beginning of time. And you know, if we had an advanced class, we could go into all the different groups out there. But we just want to summarize for you what some other groups have said. And so we've had certain groups that emphasize the role of the intellect and the role of the the philosophical tradition more such as the actual philosophers of Islam, and also the group called the more Tesla, the Tesla were a group that, generally speaking,
they generally speaking, they considered the mind to be the main source of human knowledge. And the more it says, Allah said, that matters are either good or bad intrinsically. And we should know something to be good and something to be evil, even before the shady outcomes. So they argue, we all know that justice is a virtue, we know it to be good. We know murder to be a vise or evil. We know that telling the truth and being honest, is good. We know that stealing people's property is evil. And so they argued that even if a civilization never heard of any revelation from Allah, even if Allah did not tell that civilization, that civilization is still obliged to no good and then to act
upon that good and they said that our intellects are qualified to judge our intellects have the capacity to know good from evil. So they argued that good is good and evil is evil, independent of Allah xojo telling us that or not, this was the martyr silly position. There's another class
group called the mercury dia, which is within the fold of Sunni Islam. And even Tamia from the authority perspective was very similar to this, but he modified it as I'm going to mention. So the mercury, the school and some segments of the authority school, especially even taymiyah. They said that
Allah azzawajal created concepts that are with intrinsic values of good and evil. But the intellect is qualified to unveil those concepts and understand whether something is good and evil. So good and evil, Allah created it within these concepts, and the mind is able to recognize good and evil, but it is the Sherry er that has the final veto. It is the Sharia that lays out the actual realities. And it might correct a mistake of the mind. So the intellect is generally collect correct, but it is not infallible. So they gave the intellect a role that is less than that of the Martha's delights, but they still gave it a role. And they said the intellect can dissertate and verify the
generalities of good and evil, as long as it applies the right methodology. This is another position and it is the position of the authority school and also the motto at the school, the shady school, they wanted to give the most prominence and the power directly to Allah subhanho wa Taala and strip really any, you know, efficacy, if you'd like to the mind. And so what they in this regard, I'm singing in this word, and they said that concepts and actions in and of themselves do not acquire Good and Evil until the Shetty comes with those descriptions. So the intellect in and of itself is not qualified to know. And that the concepts of good and evil, they are linked to what Allah says.
So they would argue murder is not intrinsically evil, until Allah says it is evil. Once Allah says it is evil, then it becomes evil. it acquires the objective, if you like the characteristic of evil, after Allah says it, and justice is a virtue because Allah told us it is a virtue, okay. Otherwise they said, It is not the mind does not have the right to judge anything. And they say if the Divine Law wanted, it could flip it around, and it could make murder of virtue and justice a vise, because that's something that the mind is independent of. Now, as we said, there is a an area where this controversy comes into light. And that is that what will be the fate of a nation who has never heard
of the relation of Allah subhanho wa Taala. The Morteza light said that if a nation who had not heard of Allah acted unjustly and practice paganism, and murdered and raped and plundered that they will be punished even without a messenger coming to them, because their mind should have told them what is good, and they should have followed that good. The exact opposite is the Shi'ites. The school said that if revelation had not come to a nation, or the message of the prophets came in a corrupted manner, that that nation is de facto forgiven by Allah, and they're going to enter Jenna. And Mr. Murali famously wrote his book called face sort of Duffield, Bennett, Islam he was under.
And in this book, he categorize people into a number of categories. And he basically said that anybody or any group that has never heard of Islam, or that they have a distorted image of Islam, they shall automatically be forgiven, and they shall enter Jannah without any problem, okay, now, others have problematized this view insofar as it sort of privileges those that have never heard of Islam by guaranteeing them gender, and it puts it a little bit problematic upon the rest of us that we are on guaranteed gender. So this is, you know, some of the back and forth that has taken place. Now, interestingly enough, one of the main stories of the the Koran that is used in this regard by
all of the schools, and it is a story that is found in the Bible as well. And so, Christian theologians have also used the story in all of the various schools that they've discussed, is the story of Ibrahim alayhis salam, and the command to sacrifice his son, the command to sacrifice his son. Now we all know the story at a superficial level. The problem comes that the command to kill an innocent child.
Some would argue that that sounds immoral, that sounds not correct. And here we have this tension between all of these various schools. How do they understand the Abrahamic story? Because the philosophers because the you know, the people that are deeply involved in this issue of philosophy and the end the
prioritizing the role of the the intellect, they will say that How could a divine command come that tells us to kill an innocent child that is immoral, that is wrong. And they say what type of God would command this, this cannot be true. And there was one of the most famous theologians of Europe of the last century,
from, from Denmark, his name was Soren Kierkegaard, he wrote a book called fear and trembling. And this entire book, which is one of the masterpieces of Western civilization, of the history of, you know, Western philosophy, I mean, sorry, it is a manifestation of one of the masterpieces of Western philosophy of the last century, or actually to be to be more precise two centuries ago. Kierkegaard he, in this book, he attempts to explain,
attempts to explain because I think he fails what attempts to explain Abraham's tension, that How could a just and loving God, tell the servant of his to sacrifice his son, what type of God would do this, he's trying to understand and rationalize and the entire so look at the title fear and trembling, meaning Ibrahim is wondering, he's worried he's trembling. He's He's scared. And in fact, this this notion obsessed Kierkegaard he was obsessed with it, to the point of I would say that it It caused a crisis in his own faith and his own understanding of morality and his own understanding of Christianity. So according to that paradigm, it is highly problematic to posit a God that tells
you to kill a child, because that sounds immoral to that group of people. On the flip side, you have, you know, for example, the srH school, they would not find this problematic in the slightest. And they would say, if God commanded it, it becomes just whatever God commands becomes just that his definition of justice, that's the definition of virtue going back to you know, the question of Plato, what makes virtue virtue? What makes good good? Is it because Allah likes it, or God likes it, it becomes good, or because it is good, Allah likes it. Okay, so the chicken and the egg question that that, again, is being asked by all of these philosophers. Now, interestingly enough,
even taymiyah, as it were, he actually said his his position is similar to materialism, but it's not exactly the same. And now you'll understand why even taymiyah extrapolated beyond the rather simplistic boxes of the other schools, and even say me, he said that not all concepts and actions are the same. Rather, he said we can categorize actions and concepts into three categories. When it comes to the role of the mind and understanding what is good and what is evil. We can look at the world and divided into three categories. The first he said, Our most of what humanity deals with a virtue advice, and such as murder, such as honesty such as truth, just to justice these concepts,
according to Ibn taymiyyah, Allah subhana wa Taala created them, and he put within them intrinsically the values of good or evil, and he blessed us with an intellect and also a pure fitrah, a pure innate conscience, the both of which, generally speaking, are capable of recognizing and sifting good from evil. So murder is evil. It is evil, Allah created the concept and it is evil. We know it to be evil, our minds and our fitrah our human personalities. Allah has gifted us the perception to know that it is evil. Okay. And then even taymiyah argued the Shetty outcomes, and it ratifies it stamps. It approves what the mind has already concluded about these actions, nobility,
honesty, chivalry, kindness, or virtues. We all know that treating an elderly person with kindness is good, we know it. We don't. It doesn't need to be taught to us. It's something that is intrinsic intellectually, and spiritually, psychologically. We know it, the Shetty outcomes. And the Shetty affirms as our profit systems and whoever is not merciful to our elders, he's not one of us. So the Shetty ratifies what the intellect and the fitrah has come to the conclusion. However, however, sometimes our minds are mistaken not because not because the mind is created wrong, but because the mind has been corrupted by the culture around us, but because we've been brainwashed by the
societies we live in. And in this case, the Sharia serves as a correcting factor to the corruption of the mind. In this case, the *ty outcomes and even if our minds don't understand, we must conform to the shady and the shady. I will always
Always Allah's revelation will always be paramount. And it will tell us whether this concept is good or evil. So the final judge is the *tier, the final rat to fire is the Shetty out of Allah subhanho wa Taala. When it comes to good and evil, this is the first thing and that is most of the concepts we deal with that the good and evil is something that is intrinsic, Allah created it in there, okay, unlike the shadows, who basically said it is no there is no value, it is intrinsic, and that the mind is capable, but the mind is fallible, and it is the Sharia that is infallible in telling good from evil. This is the first category of concepts. The second category, even taymiyah
says, are primarily the rituals and the commandments that deal with how we worship Allah. He said in this category, generally speaking, the mind plays no role in deciding what is good or bad. We don't understand we simply obey. So for example, why is it makrooh to eat with the left hand? Or maybe even how long? What is logical about that? Why is the off seven counterclockwise? Why is five fold prayers, two of them fragile? And we read out loud and forth over we resize silently. Is there any wisdom in these commandments that we can understand? Or we can try to derive them but in the end of the day, we really don't know for sure. If Allah had made the Salah four or three or six or seven,
we do it. We wouldn't know if Allah had made the top five. If Allah had put the Ramadan sorry, the the the Hajj in the month of Ramadan, let's just say if he had done that it would have happened we would have listened in this category, most of which revolves around rituals and a bar that had been Tamia says there is no intrinsic good or evil until Allah says so. So Allah says eat with the right hand it becomes an act of worship. Allah azza wa jal says, pray five times a day facestock tibula it becomes an act of worship. And if Allah did not say it, or said something else to another civilization that becomes an action of worship. So for the children of Israel, facing Jerusalem
becomes the action of worship, and for Muslims facing Mecca becomes the action of worship. And if we were to face another Tabler, intentionally knowing that, you know, we're turning away from the pillar, this might actually be a symptom of core for what it is a laws, commandments that made it good or evil. That's something that has nothing to do with one's rationality, that is the second category. And the third category Ibn taymiyyah says, The third category is that and this is specific only to the profits have been Tamia says that this is a category where Allah commands something. But the desire or the intention listen to this carefully, is not to see the command enacted, but to see
the profits put in the effort to get the command. So Allah azza wa jal does not intend for the command to actually take place for the command to be executed. Allah only wants to see the prophets tried to do them. And the wisdom here is to test the sincerity of the prophets. This category even taymiyah says the best example for this is Ibrahim alayhis salaam being told to sacrifice his son. Allah did not intend for Ibrahim to sacrifice Allah intended to test Ibrahim and that's what Allah says in the Quran. Yeah, Ibrahim or powder, sadaqa Roja or Ibrahim you have fulfilled the vision that we have given to you fulfilled it, what we had what we wanted you to do, you all fulfilled it.
So Kierkegaard and all of his fear and trembling was for no reason he didn't have to go down this entire Avenue if you had already been Tamia event. Tamia clarifies 600 years before Kierkegaard literally six centuries before kick are a bit Tamia clarifies this theological conundrum for cuckoo Kierkegaard, it's a Danish name, and that is that
Ibrahim alayhis salam was not actually tasked I eat, Allah did not intend for him to go through with the task. Rather, Allah azzawajal intended to test and it only happens to the profits, this type of test is unique to them. Any other commandment that Allah gives to the rest of mankind, we do it for the profits, sometimes Allah test them to see their commitment and dedication and to raise their ranks. By the way also, one point of interest when it comes to when it comes to them
is that Allah did not actually commend him verbally. This is a very interesting point. And Allah why them I feel that one of the reasons for this is because there is potentially potentially
this ethical problem that allows Georgia only commands you know, with his speech that which is just in that which is perfect and Allah xojo did not
See to Ibrahim or Ibrahim kill your son. Rather, Ibrahim saw a dream. And in the dream, he saw himself raising the axe and his son is lying on the ground. That's all that he saw. And Ibrahim being a prophet realized that that vision is a real vision, and it must come to pass. And so he put into process, the enactment of what he saw. And he raised the axe up. And as soon as he did that, the image of the dream was the image of what Abraham was doing. And that's when he did Abraham did not see the knife coming down in the dream. Abraham did not see the sacrifice of his son, Abraham only saw the life going up the axe going up, and as soon as the axe went up, a lot of soldiers said
to Ibrahim Ibrahim, who called the saw Dr. Roja, you have fulfilled the dream. That's exactly the scenario of the dream has taken place. Interestingly, very deep, very profound. Allah did not command Ibrahim, go kill your son, by the way, the Old Testament says this. And that's one of the things Kierkegaard once again, if you had to read the Koran, maybe he wouldn't have had this problem or the Judeo Christian because it is a problem that Judeo Christian philosophers, you know, have problematize much more. And our tradition is not founded that problematic. One of the reasons being that in the Bible, it literally says, God is saying to Abraham, go kill your son. So now you get
into the problem. Okay? Is it moral to command a father to kill his son? Right? Is that something moral? And this goes back to the question. Well, if you're following the Sharia paradigm, whatever Allah says, is moral. If you're following the more intensity paradigm, how could God say this when it would be immoral. However, we don't have to worry about this, because Allah did not verbalize Allah did not say to Ibrahim do this. Rather, as I explained, he saw the vision and the vision indeed, was enacted. Now, another interesting point that they've been taking others mentioned. And this is also the maturity stance as well, that one's sense of right and wrong. The default is that
generally it's right. But at the same time, the intellect or the mind, or your understanding of morality, could become corrupted. And that is because we are fragile creatures, and our sense of right and wrong, it can be subjective, according to our culture and society. And the best example for this is that there are for many aspects of our existence, outlying tribes or disconnected civilizations that do things that 99% of the world thinks is unethical and immoral, but there is that less than 1% that is doing it. Okay. And there are many examples. I mean, perhaps the most genic route gruesome is cannibalism that it was practiced up until the 60s 70s legally meaning the
government's allowed it in Papua New Guinea other other places, now it is banned across the globe, technically, is banned, but you know, that those small pockets were doing it up until one generation ago, you know, there's, you know, documentaries on this, or, for example, there's some, some pockets of civilizations in Nepal, some valleys of Nepal, where polyandry is practiced, one woman has multiple husbands, okay? And in reality, this is so rare and atypical, that it is simply unheard of, across the globe acceptance, small pockets, okay, because the fitrah common sense tells us that, you know, a mother, she needs to know, you know, who her husband her, so that the children of the father
are known that you do not have polyandry, polygamy was common and very common, and it's still common in many parts of the world. But polyandry is almost unheard of it goes against the common sense, but there are people that do it. So there are aspects of, and I'm sure in some, you know, civilization certain at certain times, you know, murders are going to be allowed or whatnot that are not going to be allowed and other civilizations. So the point being, that, in our understanding of right and wrong and good and evil, we do not privilege the mind to become absolutely infallible, and this is a key point, what we say is that good and evil, truth, you know, virtue vise. These are things that
are intrinsic in the concepts that are there. Allah created them within these concepts, and a pure mind and a sound intellect should be able to derive what is good and evil. But the ultimate arbiter is not the mind. It is the surety, the surety comes to confirm the true mind. But what if the mind is untrue? What if the mind is corrupted? What if our subjectivities have been changed because of our societies and cultures? In this case, we resort to the *tier and the best example that I have for their time and place
We live in is the aspects of sexuality and morality that is being changed in our times what defines a marriage and the genders and, you know, same sex issues and all of this, that if you look at it, cultural mores have changed radically in the last 20 years, and especially in the last 10 years, and now we're even changing the concept of gender. And we do have a clash between what our society say is morally correct. And what the Sharia says. And classic case of tension, the movement understands that the mind is fallible, and the mind can be corrupted. And it is very, very easy for a person born in a civilization where everybody is practicing an evil, that this person accepts an evil to be
good or doesn't recognize it as evil. And this is where our mind is tested. And we have to respect the *tier and follow the *tier. And understand our minds are fallible, and the *tier is in fallible. And the last point here that what about those people that have never heard of the *ty are they're disconnected from the *ty? What is to be said of them? Because once again, we get into this conundrum that, will they be punished or not? Because if we say they are punished, there does seem to be an element of unfairness like okay, if the mind can be corrupted, and everybody is accountable in that island, then why should Allah punish them when there's no Shetty out? But then
if we say that there's no reason, you know that the mind is independent, and the mind has no say, then they're going to be completely forgiven. And so why give that to them, they're going to be forgiven. So once again, even taymiyah comes to the rescue. And he says that we have to separate knowledge of right and wrong from accountability of right and wrong. This is a very brilliant move up in Tamia, we separate the knowledge from the accountability. And he says, knowledge is yes, able to be derived from the mind. Yes. And even in those civilizations, you will always find people who stand up and say, No, we shouldn't do that. Just like in the forest. People said, we shouldn't kill
these babies that are born we shouldn't kill them. Just like in the forest. There were people who said we're not going to practice idolatry. I am sure that in those civilizations where cannibalism was practiced in those tribes, there must have been righteous people who stood up and said, No, it is unethical and immoral to eat other human beings, because there's always going to be right people. So knowledge of right and wrong, you will find it in some people, but accountability will not happen until the *ty outcomes Allah will not punish an entire nation or an entire tribe until the Shetty outcomes. Walmart Guna why the Bina had never I thought Rasulullah Allah says in the Quran, we are
not going to punish anyone until the prophets come. Now this does not mean they're automatically forgiven. It means in this world, they will not be punished. As for the next world event, Timmy argued, there's going to be a separate test and a separate trial for them. That's something separate on the Day of Judgment. So a civilization that has never heard of Islam. They're cut off from the revelation from Allah. Technically, they are obliged to act in a moral manner. And they should live upright lives, and they should not be guilty of murder and plundering and whatnot, they should know this from their minds. At the same time, in Allah's mercy, he shall not destroy them in this world,
and he will not punish them in this dunya until the messengers have come, because it is the messengers that established the evidence. And it is the messengers that raised the bar. And it is the messengers that convey the definitive revelation from Allah subhanho wa Taala. If they don't hear the messengers, their minds should tell them right from wrong, but Allah will not hold them accountable in this world, and they will be accountable on the Day of Judgment. So I hope that that answers your question. So to summarize the way that this world has been created, there are intrinsic values that are embedded in actions and in ideas. There are it is evil, murder is evil, right?
Telling the truth is good. It's intrinsic in there. And Allah blessed us with both a mind and a pure conscience and the mind and conscience work in tandem. And they should know the broad realities of good and evil, but they're not going to know the details of worship and rituals, that's not going to happen. And sometimes some exceptional things can happen where for certain commandments, like Abraham is commanded to sacrifice his son, where we might not understand because the goal is not the actual commandment, but the effort to put into the commandment. So yes, good and evil are intrinsic and the mind has the capability but not infallible, fallible capability and it is the Sherry or that
comes to then affirm the correctness of the fallible mind is
If it is correct, it's going to match up. If it is incorrect, the fallible mind will submit to the infallible *tier in his understanding of virtue. And in Allah's infinite mercy, he shall not punish a nation that did not understand virtue, just because they went to straight until the *tier. And revelation has come. I hope that that answers the question in a manner that you understand. And this topic is indeed a very, very deep and theological and philosophical one that one can spend a lot more time about, but I hope inshallah, in this there was sufficient benefit for you. And this brings us to the conclusion of today's q&a. charlo We'll see you next week. zachman
look at Santa Monica rahmatullah wa barakato.