Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil is a translation of selections from two of Ibn Qayyim’s books, Key to the Blissful Abode (Miftah dar al-sa’ada) and Remedy for Those who Question on Matters Concerning Divine Decree, Predestination, Wisdom and Causality (Shifa’ al-‘alil fī masa’il al-qada’ wa’l-qadar wa’l-hikma wa’l-ta’lil). As with all his other writings, Ibn al-Qayyim’s foremost goal is to establish the wisdom of God, the primacy of the Qur’an and Sunna, and the congruity between reason and revelation. In the present selections, Ibn al-Qayyim focuses on the application of the wisdom of God to the existence of evil.
Ibn al-Qayyim first discusses twenty-six wise purposes behind God creating humanity and settling them on Earth. His perspective is that whatever exists in this world is either purely or preponderantly good, or indirectly leads to a greater good. Ibn Qayyim then explores how the presence of evil allows the manifestation of many of God’s Beautiful Names, glorious attributes and compassionate actions; while, for humanity, the existence of evil provides the righteous with opportunities to strive against it, for Paradise can only be reached by ‘traversing a bridge of hardships and tribulations’.
The discussion of the existence of evil is followed by thirty wise purposes and secrets in God allowing people to sin. Prominent among them are that God loves repentance and loves to manifest His Attributes of forgiveness and mercy. Here, Ibn al-Qayyim also debates at length whether the punishment of Hellfire will be eternal or whether it will come to an end. He favours the latter position in accordance with the Qur’anic verse 107 of the Chapter Hud and because of God’s mercy.
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya was born in 1292 near Damascus where he obtained a classical Islamic education and specialised in jurisprudence. In 1312, he met the Hanbalite reformer Ibn Taymiyya and remained his disciple until the latter’s death in 1327. Ibn al-Qayyim died in 1350 in Damascus. Among his other works translated by the Islamic Texts Society are Medicine of the Prophet and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya The Invocation of God.
Tallal M. Zeni is a medical doctor who has studied traditional Islamic culture.