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God and the World

 God wills both good and evil, but He only approves of the good. For God said, "I was a Hidden Treasure so I wanted to be known." Without doubt, God wills both to command and to prohibit. Commands are only proper if the act which is commanded is disliked by him who is commanded to perform it. One does not say, "Eat sweetmeats and sugar, oh hungry man!" And if one does say it, it is not called a "command" but rather "hospitality".

Likewise, it is not proper to prohibit things which man dislikes. You cannot say, "Do not eat stones and thorns!", and if you do say it, it is not called a "prohibition." Therefore commands to do good and prohibitions against evil are not proper unless there be an ego desiring evil. To will the existence of such an ego is to will evil. But God does not approve of evil, or else he would not have commanded the good.

In the same way, when a person wants to teach, he desires the ignorance of a pupil. For there can be no teaching without a pupil's ignorance; and to desire something is to desire that thing's concomitants. However, the teacher does not approve of the pupil's ignorance, or else he would not teach him. Likewise, the physician desires people to be ill, since he desires to practice medicine. For his skill in medicine cannot be manifested unless people are ill. But he does not approve of their illness, or else he would not treat them and heal them. Again the baker desires men to be hungry so that he can exercise his skill and make a living. But he does not approve of their hunger, or else he would not sell bread... Hence it is realised that God wills evil in one respect, but in other respects He does not. Our opponents say that God does not will evil in any respect whatsoever. But it is absurd that He should will a thing and not will its concomitants.

Now among the concomitants of His commands and prohibitions is this headstrong ego, which desires evil and hates the good by its very nature. Among the concomitants of this ego are all the evils in this world. Had He not willed these evils, He would not have willed the ego, then He would not have willed the commands and prohibitions that are directed at the ego. Moreover, had He approved these evils, He would not have commanded and prohibited the ego. In short, evil is willed, but not for its own sake. Then our opponents say, "If He wills every good, and if the averting of evil is good, then He wills to avert evil." But it is impossible to avert evil without the existence of evil. Or they say, "He wills faith." But faith is impossible except after unbelief. In conclusion, to will evil is only reprehensible when it is willed for its own sake. But when it is willed for the sake of the good, then it is not reprehensible."

Translation by William C. Chittick "The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi" SUNY Press, Albany, 1983, pp. 55-56. These selections by Chittick from "Fihi ma fihi" can be collated with Arberry's "Discourses of Rumi", London: John Murray, 1961, pp. 186-188; and Furuzanfar's Persian edition of "Fihi ma fihi", Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1969, pp. 179-180.

 

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