There is a movie I loved when I was a kid called “The Power of One”. It was a story of a white orphan boy growing up in South Africa during WWII and his fight against racism and apartheid. In the movie, there was a quote that still stuck with me even 30 years later.
“A waterfall starts but with one drop, and look what becomes of that.”– PK, The Power of One
Oftentimes when we see the problems in the world it seems like there is no way we can make an impact to help fix the situation. The problems appear so large that any possible influence we may have seems almost negligible. Most optimists will argue that the impact one can make should not be discredited no matter how small. A popular story for this argument is the following:
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…” I made a difference for that one.”
While it is nice to consider that no good deed, no matter how small, should be discounted, I think this viewpoint misses the bigger picture; that our actions have an astronomically larger impact on society and possibly the entire human population than we perceive.
Consider that the people of Lot were destined for Hell, yet because of the righteousness of Lot and his family, minus his wife, the entire community was given a respite until the people became so completely hopeless that they had no chance of ever turning righteous. This means that the righteousness of Lot and his family was the single thread that kept that community from utter annihilation up until that point.
The people had no clue that they were allowed to persist in their ways simply because there was a sole family in their community that was maintaining righteousness, but once that individual family left then the whole place was destroyed.
Satan Respited Because of Righteous Humans
Even Satan for all his transgressions was given a respite till the Day of Judgment because of the righteous few among the human population. If there were no righteous humans, there would be no test or the Day of Judgment. So solely because of the righteous few Satan was allowed a respite, yet rather than using this respite to repent and reform, he used his respite only to go further down the rabbit hole of disbelief.
[7:11] We created you, then we shaped you, then we said to the angels, “Fall prostrate before Adam.” They fell prostrate, except Iblees (Satan); he was not with the prostrators. The Test Begins [7:12] He said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I ordered you?” He said, “I am better than he; You created me from fire, and created him from mud.” [7:13] He said, “Therefore, you must go down, for you are not to be arrogant here. Get out; you are debased.” [7:14] He said, “Grant me a respite, until the Day of Resurrection.” [7:15] He said, “You are granted a respite.”
The Parable of the Weeds
In the Bible, Matthew 13:24-30 we read about the following parable of the weeds. This parable sheds light on why evil is allowed to persist and if it wasn’t for the righteous, the evil people would have been already in Hell.
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
The Human Experiment
When God was introducing the human being to the angels their initial response was that there was nothing redeemable about these people. In effect indicating that they believed that every human should be banished from God’s presence and should be put in Hell. Yet God knew that there were some good people in this population who deserved redemption.
[35:45] If GOD punished the people for their sins, He would not leave a single creature on earth. But He respites them for a predetermined interim. Once their interim is fulfilled, then GOD is Seer of His servants.
وَلَوْ يُؤَاخِذُ اللَّهُ النَّاسَ بِمَا كَسَبُوا مَا تَرَكَ عَلَىٰ ظَهْرِهَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ وَلَٰكِنْ يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى فَإِذَا جَاءَ أَجَلُهُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِعِبَادِهِ بَصِيرًا
This informs us that if it wasn’t for the few good apples who saw the error of their ways and repented and reformed the entire human population would be in Hell and there would be no need for any creatures to be on Earth.
This means, that as long as humans are living in this world there is the possibility of redemption.
[35:37] They will scream therein, “Our Lord, if you get us out of here, we will work righteousness, instead of the works we used to do.” Did we not give you a life-long chance, with continuous reminders for those who would take heed? Did you not receive the warner? Therefore, taste (the consequences). The transgressors will have no one to help them.
وَهُمْ يَصْطَرِخُونَ فِيهَا رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا نَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا غَيْرَ الَّذِي كُنَّا نَعْمَلُ أَوَلَمْ نُعَمِّرْكُمْ مَا يَتَذَكَّرُ فِيهِ مَنْ تَذَكَّرَ وَجَاءَكُمُ النَّذِيرُ فَذُوقُوا فَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ نَصِيرٍ
Pharoah was one of the most sinful people to ever walk on this Earth, but despite the atrocities he committed there was a possibility that he might take heed and reform.
[20:43] “Go to Pharaoh, for he transgressed. [20:44] “Speak to him nicely; he may take heed, or become reverent.”
When Aaron and Moses were sent to Pharaoh and his people, the entire population was given a chance to repent and reform. Because there were some good people in the population the whole community was given a respite for the sake of the select few potential believers.
[26:10] Recall that your Lord called Moses: “Go to the transgressing people. [26:11] “Pharaoh’s people; perhaps they reform.“
We see one of the Egyptians among Pharoah’s people who took heed of the message of Aaron and Moses.
[40:28] A believing man among Pharaoh’s people, who was concealing his belief, said, “How can you kill a man just for saying, ‘My Lord is GOD,’ and he has shown you clear proofs from your Lord? If he is a liar, that is his problem, and if he is truthful, you benefit from his promises. Surely, GOD does not guide any transgressor, liar. [40:29] “O my people, today you have kingship and the upperhand. But who will help us against GOD’s judgment, should it come to us?” Pharaoh said, “You are to follow only what I see fit; I will guide you only in the right path.”
This shows that there are believers who may be in darkness and by God’s leave the messenger is able to pull them out of the darkness into the light. For the sake of one believer the entire population is given a chance for redemption.
[65:11] a messenger who recites to you GOD’s revelations, clearly, to lead those who believe and work righteousness out of the darkness into the light. Anyone who believes in GOD and leads a righteous life, He will admit him into gardens with flowing streams; they abide therein forever. GOD will generously reward him.
رَسُولًا يَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ مُبَيِّنَاتٍ لِيُخْرِجَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ وَمَنْ يُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ وَيَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا يُدْخِلْهُ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا قَدْ أَحْسَنَ اللَّهُ لَهُ رِزْقًا
Even though Pharoah did not believe, the believing Egyptian among Pharoah’s people did believe. That it was as if all of the Egyptians were able to be spared in order for one person to get the message and take heed.
The Children of Israel
Moses and Aaron in addition to being sent to the people of Pharoah were also sent to the Children of Israel. And we see that when the Children of Israel were being put to the test that all but two dropped out when they were commanded to enter the gate to the promised land. This shows that all the multitude of the Children of Israel were given the numerous blessings and miracles because of only the few who truly believed.
[5:20] Recall that Moses said to his people, “O my people, remember GOD’s blessings upon you: He appointed prophets from among you, made you kings, and granted you what He never granted any other people. [5:21] “O my people, enter the holy land that GOD has decreed for you, and do not rebel, lest you become losers.” [5:22] They said, “O Moses, there are powerful people in it, and we will not enter it, unless they get out of it. If they get out, we are entering.” [5:23] Two men who were reverent and blessed by GOD said, “Just enter the gate. If you just enter it, you will surely prevail. You must trust in GOD, if you are believers.” [5:24] They said, “O Moses, we will never enter it, so long as they are in it. Therefore, go—you and your Lord —and fight. We are sitting right here.” [5:25] He said, “My Lord, I can only control myself and my brother. So allow us to part company with the wicked people.” [5:26] He said, “Henceforth, it is forbidden them for forty years, during which they will roam the earth aimlessly. Do not grieve over such wicked people.”
It is simply because of the few good people in a society that the wicked are allowed to continue to persist.
The Weak and Strong Anthropic Principle
In cosmology, there is an argument known as the anthropic principle. This idea deals with the statistical improbability of a universe originating suitable for life. This argument comes in two primary forms known as the weak anthropic principle (WAP), which claims that the universe’s ostensible fine-tuning is a result of selection bias e.g. survivorship bias. That people are just amazed at the fine-tuning of the universe because we are here, but if we weren’t here then there would be nothing to marvel at. The other form of this argument is the strong anthropic principle (SAP), which claims that the universe was specifically created in such a way with the objective of creating intelligent life.
So either you believe that the humans were just the chance byproduct of the universe, or that humans were the target outcome of the universe. I discussed where on this argument I stand in a previous article, but to recap, I believe that God created the universe for the sake of testing the human being. First God decided the outcome He wanted, then put the things in motion to obtain that outcome.
[7:32] Say, “Who prohibited the nice things GOD has created for His creatures, and the good provisions?” Say, “Such provisions are to be enjoyed in this life by those who believe. Moreover, the good provisions will be exclusively theirs on the Day of Resurrection.” We thus explain the revelations for people who know.
قُلْ مَنْ حَرَّمَ زِينَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي أَخْرَجَ لِعِبَادِهِ وَالطَّيِّبَاتِ مِنَ الرِّزْقِ قُلْ هِيَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا خَالِصَةً يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ
The Moral Strong Anthropic Principle
My argument here takes the strong anthropic principle one step further. God did not create the universe only for the sustainment of humans and creatures, but specifically for those individuals who deserve to be redeemed. That if we remove the righteous from society, that the society will be wiped out.
[21:111] “For all that I know, this world is a test for you, and a temporary enjoyment.”
(١١١) وَإِنْ أَدْرِي لَعَلَّهُ فِتْنَةٌ لَكُمْ وَمَتَاعٌ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ
So if you are the only righteous one in an entire community and you fail in maintaining your righteousness you might have been the last strand holding society together and thus cause the entire society to crumble.
[14:28] Have you noted those who responded to GOD’s blessings by disbelieving, and thus brought disaster upon their own families?
(٢٨) أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ بَدَّلُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ كُفْرًا وَأَحَلُّوا قَوْمَهُمْ دَارَ الْبَوَارِ
The Weight of the World
So next time you are considering the impact of your righteousness realize that your righteousness may be the only thing holding society from the brink of collapse.
[8:73] Those who disbelieved are allies of one another. Unless you keep these commandments, there will be chaos on earth, and terrible corruption.
(٧٣) وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ إِلَّا تَفْعَلُوهُ تَكُنْ فِتْنَةٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَفَسَادٌ كَبِيرٌ