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Good and Evil Are Not Equal, Even If The Abundance Of Evil Might Impress You, So Fear Allāh: The Holy Quran

By Ustādh Ali Hammuda

24 January 2019

Man, by his nature, is attracted to the impressive in quantity and size over what’s lesser. Man is also far more inclined towards the immediate as opposed to the eventual, and since these inclinations are so strong, if not managed, our choices may end up devastating both of our lives. Our perceptions do require management, and who better to do that than our very Maker Himself? He has given us the Qur’ān for that exact purpose, and one such Āyah that assists in managing such tendencies, nurturing the Muslim to not judge a matter by its quantity, popularity and glossy appearance but by its purity, is where Allāh said:

قُلْ لَا يَسْتَوِي الْخَبِيثُ وَالطَّيِّبُ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكَ كَثْرَةُ الْخَبِيثِ فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ يَا أُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

Say, ‘Good and evil are not equal, even if the abundance of evil might impress you. So fear Allāh, O people of understanding, that you may be successful.’” [1]

This is a golden principle of an Āyah that gives the Muslim a benchmark to use when judging beliefs, words, actions, trends, appearances, events, incomes and their like. The sheer size of an evil and its many supporters doesn’t make it valuable, just as the rarity of goodness and people’s ridiculing of it doesn’t make it invaluable, for good and evil are not the same, even if such a good is far smaller in size.

Even if you were offered a suitcase full of the latest iPhones, should they be fake, they wouldn’t mean anything to you, but rather, a single genuine iPhone would be, in your eyes, of greater worth. Similarly, even if you were offered a bag full of medicine that you need, should they be counterfeit, they’d be rendered useless, but rather, a single legitimate tablet would be, in your eyes, of far greater worth. Yes, even in our eyes, it’s not always about quantity and size, and to Allāh, it’s the exact same principle; even if the impure is enormous in quantity, it means nothing to Him if it isn’t pure.

Consider the following examples from our day-to-day lives in order to train ourselves in the application of this Āyah:

(1) The knower of Allāh and pursuer of the Hereafter with everything s/he has, versus those who care not are they the same?

Allāh said:

 أَفَمَنْ يَعْلَمُ أَنَّمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ الْحَقُّ كَمَنْ هُوَ أَعْمَى

Is he, then, who knows that what has been revealed to you from your Lord is the truth like him who is blind?”[2]

Allāh said:

 قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الْأَعْمَى وَالْبَصِيرُ أَمْ هَلْ تَسْتَوِي الظُّلُمَاتُ وَالنُّورُ

Say, ‘Is the blind equivalent to the seeing? Or is darkness equivalent to light?’” [3]

Allāh said:

 هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Are those who know the same as those who don’t?”[4]

Consider the confused, lost and miserable words of one of our confused contemporaries who said in a couplet of poetry:

جئت لا أعلم من أين ولكني أتيت ** ولقد أبصرت قدامي طريقا فمشيت

وسأبقى ماشيا شئت هذا ام ابيت ** كيف جئت؟ كيف ابصرت طريقي ؟ لست أدري

I have come into existence. I don’t know from where, but nevertheless I came. I have seen a path ahead of me and so I walked, and it seems that I will continue walking on this path whether I like it or not. How did I come into existence? How have I seen this path? I do not know.”[5]

Can these words of bitter doubt, inner turbulence and spiritual chaos ever be compared to those words of the Prophet Mohammad (SallAllāhu Alayhi Wasallam) and the Muslims after him, those words of confidence in Allāh, strength of heart and unshakable conviction, who’d say in the introduction of his night prayer:

اللَّهُمَّ لَكَ الحَمْدُ أَنْتَ قَيِّمُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ، وَلَكَ الحَمْدُ لَكَ مُلْكُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ، وَلَكَ الحَمْدُ أَنْتَ نُورُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ، وَلَكَ الحَمْدُ أَنْتَ مَلِكُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ، وَلَكَ الحَمْدُ أَنْتَ الحَقُّ وَوَعْدُكَ الحَقُّ، وَلِقَاؤُكَ حَقٌّ، وَقَوْلُكَ حَقٌّ، وَالجَنَّةُ حَقٌّ، وَالنَّارُ حَقٌّ، وَالنَّبِيُّونَ حَقٌّ، وَمُحَمَّدٌ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حَقٌّ، وَالسَّاعَةُ حَقٌّ، اللَّهُمَّ لَكَ أَسْلَمْتُ، وَبِكَ آمَنْتُ، وَعَلَيْكَ تَوَكَّلْتُ، وَإِلَيْكَ أَنَبْتُ، وَبِكَ خَاصَمْتُ، وَإِلَيْكَ حَاكَمْتُ، فَاغْفِرْ لِي مَا قَدَّمْتُ وَمَا أَخَّرْتُ، وَمَا أَسْرَرْتُ وَمَا أَعْلَنْتُ، أَنْتَ المُقَدِّمُ، وَأَنْتَ المُؤَخِّرُ، لاَ إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ

O Allāh! All the praises are for you, You are the Holder of the Heavens and the Earth, and whatever is in them. All the praises are for You; You have the possession of the Heavens and the Earth and whatever is in them. All the praises are for You; You are the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. And all the praises are for You; You are the King of the Heavens and the Earth; and all the praises are for You; You are the Truth and Your Promise is the truth, and to meet You is true, Your Word is the truth and Paradise is true and Hell is true and all the Prophets are true; and Muhammad is true, and the Day of Resurrection is true. O Allāh! I surrender to You; I believe in You and depend on You. I repent to You, and with Your help I argue, and I take You as a judge. Please forgive me my previous and future sins, and whatever I concealed or revealed. You are the One who sends forward some, and holds back some. None has the right to be worshipped by You.”[6]

Yes, I agree—those who don’t love Allāh and are not interested in the Hereafter are far more than those who are, their voices are louder, and their lifestyles are far more attractive, but in the Eyes of Allāh, are they the same?

(2) Income from the Permitted Versus That from The Prohibited

Are they the same? Well, consider the disparity in their effects. If one was to offer Allāh an earth full of charity on the day of reckoning that was sourced from the prohibited, it will be rejected, whilst one who offers Allāh a mere grain that was sourced from the pure and permissible, Allāh will accept it and may erase every one of his sins because of it.

The Prophet (SallAllāhu Alayhi Wasallam) said,

مَنْ تَصَدَّقَ بعَدلِ تَمْرَةٍ مِنْ كَسْبٍ طَيِّبٍ، وَلاَ يَقْبَلُ اللهُ إِلاَّ الطَّيبَ، فَإنَّ اللهَ يَقْبَلُهَا بِيَمِينِهِ، ثُمَّ يُرَبِّيهَا لِصَاحِبِهَا كَمَا يُرَبِّي أحَدُكُمْ فَلُوَّهُ حَتَّى تَكُونَ مِثْلَ الجَبَلِ

He who gives in charity the value of a date from pure earnings (“Tayyib”), and Allāh accepts only that which is pure, Allāh accepts it with His Right Hand and nurtures it for him, as one of you nurtures his baby horse, until it becomes like a mountain in size.” [7]

Complementing the Hadīth above, the Prophet (SallAllāhu Alayhi Wasallam) said:

الرِّبا وإن كثُرَ فإنَّ عاقبتَه تصيرُ إلى قُلٍّ

Even if interest is abundant, the outcome will always be a loss.” [8]

Yes, he may wear the most expensive of clothes, drive the latest cars and live in the biggest of houses, but the sensible Muslim isn’t impressed by this if it hadn’t been earned from permissible avenues, as his charity is under threat, his Du’ā is under threat, his peace of mind, wellbeing of family and safety underground are under threat. Clearly, the good and evil are not equal.

Yes, I agree with you—those who source their wealth from impermissible sources are more than those who don’t, and at times, their savings are far greater as well, but are they equal?

(3) Permitted Relationships between The Genders Versus The Prohibited

Which Of The Two Is Happier?

Is it s/he who chases a covert relationship outside of wedlock under the cover of night to spend a short-lived moment of pleasure that’s followed by excruciating guilt and piercing pain? That is because they realise—as a Muslim—that the Prophet (SallAllāhu Alayhi Wasallam) had seen the fornicators suffering inside of ovens within their graves; and having recalled Allāh’s description of fornication: “And do not approach fornication. Indeed, it is ever an abomination and is evil as a way.”[9] During their intimate moment, should someone knock on their front door, they may both leap in fear as their conscience has already been terrifying them about what they’re engaging in. Then, should she get pregnant, it’s further gloom, which, in many cases, is followed by abortion, which only compounds the gloom and furthers their sorrow.

Is this person happy?

Or is it the one who distances himself from the prohibited, finding strength in Salāh, Du’ā, Qur’ān, knowledge, the Masjid and good companionship, patiently awaiting the arrival of that righteous spouse who marries them publicly? During their wedding, families are happy, gifts are offered, smiles are exchanged, and happiness is all round. Later on, should they be intimate with one another, their consciences are at peace and their hearts are at bay, knowing that what they’re engaged in is pleasing to Allāh, not angering, as they recall the Hadīth; “and cohabiting with your spouse is considered a charity.”[10] Should someone knock on their front door during these moments, they remain unfazed in the least. Why should they be? They aren’t doing anything wrong. Then, should she become pregnant, their happiness is only furthered for the prospect of children who will be an extension of their Islamic legacy. Then, when she delivers, an ‘Aqīqa feast is arranged, and—once again—families are happy, gifts are offered, smiles are exchanged, and happiness is all round.

Which of the two are happier?

Yes, I agree with you—those who are in extra-marital relationships may be more than those who aren’t, and yes, those marriages that started off on the wrong foot may be more than those that didn’t. But are they equal?

(4) The Life Of Sin Versus The Life Of Repentance

You know who they are. Approach them and ask: “Tell me about the life of repentance. What does it feel like?” Their facial expressions of joy will suffice you from even needing to hear their words.

One predecessor of ours—Ibrahīm b. Adham—described this life by saying:

 لو يعلم الملوك وأبناء الملوك ما نحن فيه من النعيم لجالدونا عليه بالسيوف

If the kings and the sons of the kings knew of the joy that we are experiencing, they would fight us over it with their swords.” [11]

And another, said: إنه ليمر بي أوقات أقول فيها إن كان أهلُ الجنة في مثل هذا إنهم لفي عيش طيب

There are moments which my heart experiences where I say to myself: If the people of paradise are experiencing what I’m experiencing, then they’re living a good life.”[12]

Can this “good life”—as Allāh described it in the Qur’ān—be compared to its dark opposite; the life of being distant from Allāh?

Allāh said:

 وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَنْ ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنْكًا

But whosoever turns away from My Reminder then for him is a life of hardship.” [13]

Sulaymān al-Taymi said:

إن الرجل ليصيب الذنب في السر فيصبح و عليه مذلته

One commits a sin by night, and by day, its humiliating effects can be seen on his face.”[14]

Are these two lives the same?

Allāh said, in an Āyah that caused the companion Tamīm al-Dāri to once spend the entire night in tearful prayer as he recited and repeated this one verse until the morning:

أَمْ حَسِبَ الَّذِينَ اجْتَرَحُوا السَّيِّئَاتِ أَنْ نَجْعَلَهُمْ كَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ سَوَاءً مَحْيَاهُمْ وَمَمَاتُهُمْ سَاءَ مَا يَحْكُمُون

Do those who commit sins think that We shall make them like those who believe and do good works, the same in life and death? Bad is their judgment.”[15]

Yes, I agree with you—those who spend their nights in secret sin are perhaps far more than those who see those moments as opportunities to pray and cry in yearning for their Lord. But are they equal?

Using the above as examples, apply this rule to everything that Allāh has made permissible against its impermissible form.

When assessing a financial transaction, don’t limit your study to the “how much?” but extend it to the “how pure?”

When choosing friends, the priority is never “how many?” but “who from the many?”

When considering the options over the weekend, the question isn’t “what are people up to?” but set your eyes on “what should I be up to?”

When your resolve is now to adopt the Hijāb, cast aside the “what’s trending?” and replace it with “what’s required?”

This is a principle that nurtures the believer to observe life through the lens of the Hereafter, causing him to crave what is good and pure, even if it is little, whilst abhorring the impure even if it is colossal. What helps the Muslim develop this perception is his knowledge of the eventual fate of the “glamorous” Khabīth impure.

Allāh said:

 وَيَجْعَلَ الْخَبِيثَ بَعْضَهُ عَلَى بَعْضٍ فَيَرْكُمَهُ جَمِيعًا فَيَجْعَلَهُ فِي جَهَنَّمَ أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُون

He will put the impure, one on top of the other, heap them together, and cast them into Hell. It is they who are the losers.”[16]

However, Allāh is Shakūr (Most Appreciative), and so a person who lives his life assessing every one of his doings according to this Āyah, patiently opting for the Tayyib, good and pure every time over its Khabīth, impure form until the day he dies, will not be left empty handed. Rather, Allāh has promised such a person a series of prizes.

(1) A life that is Tayyib

Allāh said:

 مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْثَى وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً

Whoever does good, whether male or female, while he is a believer—We will surely cause him to live a happy (Tayyib) life.” [17]

High spirits, best of moods, peace of mind, clarity of purpose, purity of conscious, paradise on earth!

(2) An ending that is Tayyib

Allāh said:

 الَّذِينَ تَتَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ طَيِّبِينَ يَقُولُونَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمُ ادْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

They are the ones whom the angels take in death, being “Tayyibīn” (good and pure); the angels will say, “Peace be upon you. Enter Paradise for what you used to do.” [18]

Their souls will be claimed in a Tayyib state; a gentle extraction of the soul, confident in what awaits them and thrilled with the prospect of finally meeting their Lord.

(3) A home in Jannah that is Tayyib

Allāh said,

وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا وَمَسَاكِنَ طَيِّبَةً فِي جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ وَرِضْوَانٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

Allāh has promised the believing men and believing women gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally, and goodly mansions (Tayyiba) in gardens of perpetual residence; but the greatest bliss is Allāh’s acceptance. That is the supreme success.” [19]

In conclusion, it can at times be very difficult to see the Khabīth for what it is because of its size, popularity, glamour, accessibility and dominance in culture. Only those of understanding, wisdom and patience will be able to make the right decision and see straight through its glittery but thin outer layer, even if they’re outvoted. It isn’t easy, and perhaps this is why the Āyah ends with:

فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ يَا أُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

“… so fear Allāh, O people of understanding, that you may be successful.”


[1] Al-Qur’ān, 5:100

[2] Al-Qur’ān, 13:19

[3] Al-Qur’ān, 13:16

[4] Al-Qur’ān, 39:9

[5] Eelia Abū Maadi

[6] Al-Bukhāri, on the authority of Ibnu ‘Abbās

[7] Bukhāri and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Huraira

[8] Musnad Ahmad, on the authority of Ibnu Mas’ūd

[9] Al-Qur’ān, 17:32

[10] Muslim, on the authority of Abū Dharr

[11] Taareekh Dimashq

[12] Majmoo’u Rasaa’ili Ibni Rajab

[13] Al-Qur’ān, 20:124

[14] Al-Jawaabul Kaafi

[15] Al-Qur’ān, 45:21

[16] Al-Qur’ān, 8:37

[17] Al-Qur’ān, 16:97

[18] Al-Qur’ān, 16:32

[19] Al-Qur’ān, 9:72


Ustadh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is an educator and writer on Islam. He is of Palestinian origin but was brought up in the UK and although an architect/planner by profession, he currently works with Al-Manar (Cardiff) as the English Islamic programmes officer. Ali is known as the author of various books including 'Origins of the Mosque of Cordoba' and 'The End of Times', and continues to deliver sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country. He is a regular writer on Islamic issues to a wide audience.