What is Evil?
"Evil is nonexistent; it is the absence of good."
Bahá'ís do not believe in the existence of evil as a seperate entity:
"The intellectual realities, such as all the qualities and
admirable perfections of man, are purely good, and exist. Evil is
simply their nonexistance. So ignorance is the want of knowledge; error
is the want of guidence; forgetfulness is the want of memory; stupidity
is the want of good sense. All these things have no real existence.
Evil is Relative
Things can be evil in relation to one another but not evil in themselves:
"Nevertheless a doubt occurs to the mind - that is, scorpions and serpants are poisonous. Are they good or evil, for they are existing beings? Yes a scorpion is evil in relation to man; a serpent is evil in relation to man; but in relation to themselves they are not evil, for their poison is their weapon, and by their sting they defend themselves... it is possible that one thing in relation to another may be evil, and at the same time within the limits of its proper being it may not be evil. Then it is proved that there is no evil in existence; all that God created He created good. This evil is nothingness; so death is the absence of life. When man no longer receives life, he dies. Darkness is the absence of light: When there is no light, there is darkness. Light is an existing thing, but darkness is nonexistent. Wealth is an existing thing, but poverty is nonexisting."
Satan or the Evil One
In many of the scriptures evil has been personified as the Devil or Satan, But Bahá'ís believe that these words are used simply as symbols.
"This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan - the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside."
"The reality underlying this question is that the evil spirit,
Satan or whatever is interpreted as evil, refers to the lower nature in
man. This baser nature is symbolized in various ways... If you should
leave a man uneducated and barbarous in the wilds of Africa, would
there be any doubt about his remaining ignorant? God has never created
an evil spirit; all such ideas and nomenclature are symbols expressing
the mere human or earthly nature of man. It is an essential condition
of the soil of earth that thorns, weeds and fruitless trees may grow
from it. Relatively speaking, this is evil; it is simply the lower
state and baser product of nature.
Good and Evil Qualities
"In creation there is no evil; all is good. Certain qualities and natures innate in some men and apparently blameworthy are not so in reality. For example. from the beginning of his life you can seen in a nursing child the signs of greed, of anger and of temper. Then, it may be said, good and evil are innate in the reality of man, and this is contary to the pure goodness of nature and creation. Ths answer to this is that greed, which is to ask for something more, is a praiseworthy quality provided that it is used suitably. So if a man is greedy to aquire science and knowledge, or to become compasionate, generous and just, it is most praiseworthy. If he exercises his anger and wrath against against the bloodthirsty tyrants who are like ferocious beasts, it is very praiseworthy; but if he does not use these qualities in a right way they are blameworthy."
"The only difference between members of the human family is that of degree. Some are like children who are ignorant, and must be educated until they arrive at maturity. Some are like the sick and must be treated with tenderness and care. None are bad or evil! We must not be repelled by these poor children. We must treat them with great kindness, teaching the ignorant and tenderly nursing the sick."
"Through education we must free ourselves from these imperfections. The Prophets of God have been sent, the Holy Books have been written, so that man may be made free. Just as he is born into this world of imperfection from the womb of his earthly mother, so is he born into the world of spirit through divine education. When a man is born into the world of phenomena he finds the universe; when he is born from this world to the world of the spirit, he finds the Kingdom."
"Man has the power both to do good and to do evil; if his power
for good predominates and his inclinations to do wrong are conquered,
then man in truth may be called a saint. But if, on the contrary, he
rejects the things of God and allows his evil passions to conquer him,
then he is no better than a mere animal.
"Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep. Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed. Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore."
Published by, and copyright of, the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Warwick.
Approved by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom,
27 Rutland Gate, London, SW7 1PD.
All quotations are from the Bahá'í writings.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holders