Reflection No. 131 on Q 4:79 – Good and Evil
مَا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ حَسَنَةٍ فَمِنَ اللَّهِ ۖ وَمَا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ سَيِّئَةٍ فَمِنْ نَفْسِكَ
Mā aswābaka min Hasanatin famimallāhi, wamā aswābaka minsayyiatin famin nafsika
Whatever good happens to you, it is from Allah, and whatever evil happens to you, it is from yourself (Sūratun Nisā’, No. 4, Āyat 79).
Questions about (the origin of) evil have always puzzled the human being. Is evil an existence in itself, as opposed to good? Or is evil an absence of good? How do human beings commit evil deeds, and who is responsible?
In the verse above, Allah tells us that whatever good we do is from Him and whatever evil we do is from ourselves. To understand that better, think of the following examples:
1) When a person hurts someone else with a weapon, he uses good abilities in the wrong way. God has granted him the ability to think, plan, put into action, use forces to defend and protect himself from danger . . . etc. All these are to be used correctly for good actions, and this would be from Allah. But when used in the wrong way, it can hurt someone. The good in his action is from Allah, but the misuse, and the resulting effect, is from him/herself.
2) A man gives a large sum of money to his son so he can buy a house. If the son buys the house and benefits from it, the good in that purchase is attributed to the father. But if the son takes the money and misuses it, such as, buying harmful things or using it for gambling, the evil in that action cannot be blamed on the father. It is the fault of the son.
3) Āghā Qarāti gives a beautiful example in Tafsīr-e Nūr. He says: When the earth rotates around the sun, the part that faces the sun gets light. The part that turns away from the sun is in darkness. The sun is always there, giving light. So we can tell the earth; whenever you are bright, it is from the sun. And whenever you are in darkness, it is from yourself (because you have turned away).
We must remind ourselves that all virtue and beauty that is there in the world is from Allah. God only wishes good for human being. It is man himself who decides to deprive himself of it (and often turns away from it!)
Sources: Aytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirazī (ed), Tafsīr Namūne;
Aghae Muhsin Qarati, Tafsīr-e Nūr;