(Reflections are from imam Ghazali’s independent book, The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God)
“Where is God” is a common retort against God and religion. Evil and suffering are pandemic; their existence is inexplicable against the image of a loving, benevolent, God. If such a God exists, then evil should not.
The Ashari theology, to which Ghazali adheres, accepts evil and suffering as characteristic of the world. The theology goes so far as to say all troubles are from God. Indeed, our earthly abode was never intended to be a heaven. Heaven is not predicated on struggle.
This world is precisely the opposite. All humans are born and live in a state of struggle, which is especially hard when external and internal forces are against you. African Americans that undergird the BlackLivesMatter movement spotlight the iniquities of a discriminatory organ of the state that is meant to “serve and protect”; Syrians, for no fault of their own, are caught in a heinous war, and have seen their lives and possessions shattered. Where is God in this horror?
Likewise, where is God when the cancer sufferer writhes in pain, anguished in grief as, internally, his/her cells do battle against each other? Or when a child practically lives in the hospital because his/her organs are failing? Without doubt, the stench of unfairness prevails.
But then in the face of such tragedy, where are God’s people? Where are the activists challenging evil? Where are the scientists looking for cures for diseases?
It is not God who is absent. God is very much present through is attributes and his Names. In nature, we view a beautiful vista, a sunrise emerging from ocean floor, we see majesty of creation. In the scene is God The Majestic (Al Jalil (الجليل)). When we confront a towering mountain, we are in awe of its grandness. In sight is God The Tremendous (Al Mutakabbir (المتكبر)).
Likewise, and more symptomatically, men reflect God’s attributes. If man wishes to be the embodiment of The Distresser (Ad Dharr (الضآر)), then the world will suffer from the qualities of distress such as oppression and encroachment. On the other hand, if man wishes to be the embodiment of the Bestower (Al Wahhaab (الوهاب)), then the world will gain from the qualities chracterising bestowment, such as providing succor to the suffering.
The Prophet said “There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its remedy.” He also said “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is oppressed. People asked, ‘It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?’ The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.”
Both seeking cures and seeking justice require struggle, patience and determination…such is the world. Distress and mercy will work hand in hand during the struggle, but man through his choices and actions determines the attribute of God that will prevail.
So ask not where is God; ask where are the people of The Merciful and The Compassionate?
(To view and listen to more lectures on Imam Ghazali’s Ihya, please visit http://www.nursari.com/classes)