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Is there a contradiction between 4:78 and 4:79?

Is there a contradiction between 4:78 and 4:79?


PLEASE ANSWER THIS IS IMPORTANT! I think I found a contradiction in the Qur’an. It says on 4:78 that good and bad are both from Allah, but in the next verse it says that good is from Allah, and bad is from you. So what’s going on? I read the Muhammad Asad translation too. Is this a contradiction or is there more meaning to what is being said? If you could answer it would be much appreciated. Jazak Allah

Salaam alykum,

You have not found a contradiction, rather, the issue is understanding the underlying principles and what is being criticized in 4:78 and how it relates to 4:79.

In 4:78 the issue being discussed is the perception of those who are selective in placing where the credit goes during the good times and where the bad comes from.

In 4:78, it says: “Yet, when a good thing happens to them, some [people] say, ‘This is from God,’ whereas when evil befalls them, they say, ‘This is from thee [O fellowman]!’”

The issue here is that those who claim such a structure are inconsistent themselves in that they attribute their times of success to God’s favor upon them, and that they take bad times or failures as either 1) evidence of God’s disfavor upon them or 2) to put the responsibility for their failings upon others.

Or in the words of Muhammad Asad: “they do not realize that the evil happening may possibly be a consequence of their own actions or their own wrong choice between several courses open to them, but are prone to attribute it to the failings of others.”

So that is the central thrust of that part of 4:78, that we must realize that what is “the good” is simply a reflection of ourselves being in harmony with the command of God, and that what is bad is either from our disconnect from God’s command, but also–and this leads towards the statement that “All is from God”–it is in how we react and perceive of “the bad.”

We are tested by how we react not just by the bad times, but the good, and thus to recognize that fact is central for our perception of the world.

So why do I say that?

It is because our sins, they come from us, from our departure from the command of God. So, the claim that the good times are from God’s favor and the bad times are from either God’s disfavor or other people’s failings (to excuse our responsibility when appropriate) is what is being rejected when The Qur’an underlines that “all is from God” because–and this is important–of how we perceive of “the bad.”

The issue here is that we are very short-sighted when we perceive of “the bad.” For instance, when we look at thunder and lightning, or rain, many of us (I said many, not all) get bummed out, but the rain is important towards ensuring we can enjoy those sunny days with greenery. I stress the word “many” because I know that people like to wear big sweaters, always with tea (yay tea), books (amgawd Rumiiiiii), and probably some organic gluten-free veggie wraps, but can we just move past how cool you are that you like rain and are so “different” and just acknowledge the simple example I’m using? Thank you.

Now, I bring that up because we perceive of “the bad” as simple moments of pain, something we must “get through” but we do not learn from them, and so it is conceivable that what we define as “the bad” can also be more than just a “test” from God, but an opportunity to improve, to grow, and to flourish through our dealings, interactions, and manners during the bad times. We constantly confuse these, and so by stating that all is from God (in 4:78), this rejects the supposition that God’s favor or disfavor is what is being expressed during success or failure, because we may benefit more from a moment of failure than from a moment of success. 

Again, let us remember to look at The Qur’an as a whole and not in a segmented fashion to make sense of this concept of understanding what “the bad” means to us, as does The Qur’an not say that “it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know” [2:216]? Does The Qur’an also not state that “God does not wrong anyone by as much as at atom’s weight” [4:40]?

So when in 4:79 The Qur’an says “Whatever good happens to thee is from God; and whatever evil befalls thee is from thyself,” we cannot understand this as a simple denial of 4:78–because 4:78 is discussing (and refuting) a specific view–but also because 4:79 is directed towards the immediate actions (and the results of those actions) that reflect our relative adherence to The Command of God or not, as 4:79 ends with “And We have sent thee [O Muhammad] as an apostle unto all mankind: and none can bear witness [thereto] as God does,” which underlines the centrality of following The Message given to The Prophet as a means towards our community fulfilling the command that “you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and you believe in God.” [3:110]

In sum, 4:78 is referring to a specific perspective, and seeks to refute that perspective, to remove the idea that our success is evidence of God’s presence and our failure is evidence of God’s absence, but to reaffirm that God is ever-present, during our good and bad times, and that we may benefit and improve from either period. On the other hand, 4:79 is referring to far more immediate actions that we undertake, that if a son harms his mother (for example) this is a reflection of him contravening The Dictates of God, rather than God making the son harm his mother.

Again, 4:78 and 4:79 are two different concepts that means two different things, but it is a great question and I hope I helped in whatever small way I am capable of, insha Allah. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask me, insha Allah.

I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.

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