Nature of Good and Evil
Nothing, therefore, is evil in itself or good in itself but is so in relation to the purpose which it serves and the consequences which it brings about. What is sometimes regarded as evil may at other times be absolutely necessary, or absolutely good. Many of the devices that in war time serve to annihilate millions of humans and destroy man's greatest monuments may during peace furnish the greatest advantages. Dynamite, for instance, is absolutely necessary for the construction of tunnels, of railways, and for the discovery of mines and the realization of their priceless treasures. Even poison gas that hostile nations hurl at one another in the most shameful and calamitously irresponsible acts of war can be put to many advantageous uses during peacesuch as the use of chlorine gas to purify water and to detect other harmful and dangerous gases.
Men have always been tempted to think that some insects, birds, and animals are absolutely useless. Study and research have changed these prejudices by showing the good purpose each of these species serves. Indeed, some countries have even promulgated legislation for the protection of these species in appreciation of the service they render to mankind. The zoologists have observed that animals can live in peace with their environments as long as their environments do not interfere with the discharge of their natural functions and that they do not harm other creatures except in self-defense or under alien pressures.
Ethical Nature of Human Deeds
As for us humans, our deeds are likewise neither good nor evil in themselves but have value only with reference to the purpose that they serve and the consequence that they achieve. Is not homicide a crime and hence forbidden? Nonetheless, God says, "And do not kill anyone; for God has forbidden it, unless it be a case of right, and after due process of law." [Qur'an, 6 :151; 17 :33] Killing by right, therefore, is morally unassailable. God said, "In punishment, great value-indeed a whole life-may be realized, 0 Men of thought!" [Qur'an, 2:179] The executioner who kills the condemned convict, the man who kills another in self-defense, the soldier who kills in defending his homeland, and the believer who kills resisting those who would force him to abjure his faith, all these are guilty of neither disobedience nor crime when they commit homicide. They are fulfilling a divine duty imposed upon them by God and are deserving of righteous merit. What is true of homicide may also be true of many other deeds of men, as far as good and evil are concerned. The scientist who discovers a destructive force and the technologist who produces the instruments with which to deliver it, whether for the purpose of defending the homeland or for peacetime use, indeed every human operation on earth-none of these is good or evil in itself, but only in reference to the purpose it seeks to realize and the actual consequence it brings about.