The Guide for the Perplexed is one of the well-known books of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon known as Maimonides. The Guide is formed as a message or a letter to one of the Maimonides’s students. The book tries to bring the Hebrew Bible theology and the Aristotelian philosophy together by explaining the opinions and the beliefs of both sides. In the book, Maimonides talks about the three causes of evil in the world. The first source of evil is the nature of matter. The second source of evil is suffering caused by other people. The third cause of suffering is self-harm that happens when people fail to know the true purpose of their life. There are five opinions about providence and they are old which means they have existed since the ancient time and the time of the prophets. The first opinion is the belief that there is no providence at all. According to the second opinion, Providence only watches over one part of the world and our purpose. The third is purpose about providence states that there are the reason and the purpose for the existence of everything. There are purpose and consequences of every existing thing. The fourth opinion is human freedom and God’s judgments. The fifth opinion is the belief of Jews. Maimonides believes that the essentials for a happy life come from having the right goal for your life. People would have a simpler life if they start to appreciate the little things they own in life. Maimonides states that people should focus more on the necessary and the essential things in life instead of chasing the unnecessary things that will make their life complicated.
People commonly believe that there is not much good in the world as there are evils. Everything that we face in our lives happens for a reason. In the Guide for the Perplexed, Maimonides explains three causes of evil in the world. The first cause of evil is the nature of matter. Matter includes the physical things that we do not necessarily need them and they make human life complicated because they do not last. Sometimes people seem to care about the unnecessary things in life that make their life more complicated. People sometimes tend to outreach for the things they want instead of the things that they really need. There is a difference between wanting something and needing it. Human beings need water, air, and food in order to live. Sometimes people are so busy with chasing the unnecessary things like money, power, fortune, reputation, and pleasure that they forget the basic needs of life. Maimonides believes that men kind are lucky because the necessary things are free like air which is the most important things for the existence of individuals. People can live without water and food, but they cannot live without air. Maimonides believed that God benefits humankind because he provides them with their basic needs. The second cause of evil that Maimonides mentions in his book is suffering by others. Sometimes people have the power to ruin other people’s life by their achievements, fortune, and reputation. People usually feel jealous of other people who have a better life and a higher status. For example, poor people feel jealous of the wealth and the money of the rich, and they wish they were rich as well. Whenever people tried to copy other people, and wish for the things that the rich one have then they will live a miserable life. Rich people also have two legs and two hands like normal people, so there is no need to feel jealous because everyone can work to be like them. The third kind of evil is caused by humans themselves. It happens when mankind is the evil, they make their own life miserable. This kind of evil is the most common one among individuals, and it is particularly of these evils that humanly complains. This type of evil includes both the suffering of the body and the suffering of the soul. This type of suffering happens when people face the inner evil that they have created inside themselves.
Maimonides talks about the five opinions about providence. The first opinion is the belief that there is no providence at all. This opinion demonstrates that all things have been created by chance, and there is no one who governs them. Maimonides says that this opinion is wrong, and it was proven to be wrong by Aristotle. “Aristotle has demonstrated that this opinion is inadmissible; that it cannot be true that all things should have been generated by chance; and that, on the contrary, there is someone who orders and govern them” (III.17.p. 464). The second opinion believes that providence only watches over one part of the things that are in the sphere. The other part governs by chance, and there is no one watching it. This opinion is the belief of Aristotle on providence. This opinion demonstrates that the purpose of providence is the heavenly species. The third opinion about providence states that there is a purpose for the existence of everything. This opinion believes that nothing happens accidentally or by a chance, and everything have been planned by God. The believers of this opinion say that some things are possible for them but for God, it is either impossible or necessary. Sometimes, God, do things that he believes are necessary. For example, some people are born blind no because God does not love them or tries to punish them. “And in this, there is no injustice, for according to them it is permissible for God to punish one who has not sinned and to reward a sinner with benefits” (III.17.p. 467). God knows better than us, and he knows what is best for us. God might take something from his individuals because he might want to reward them with a better thing. “And if we see that an excellent man who was devoted to God’s worship has been killed through torture, we should say: he has willed this” (III.17.p. 467). Everything happens to the will of God. The fourth opinion believes that for every action there is a reward and a consequence whether it is good or bad. All the demonstrations and actions of God are because of wisdom, and they are not injustice. God knows what is good and what is bad for us. He might prevent us from doing some things, but he will reward us with better things. Human abilities and capacities are limited, so we cannot always see what is in our benefits and what is not. There is always some kind of wisdom in God’s actions. God punishes those who did bad, and he will reward those who did good. Sometimes people get the rewards of their good action in the future life. God knows everything, and he is aware of everything we do. The fifth opinion is the understanding and the belief of our prophets. This opinion believes that man has absolute freedom, and he can do whatever he wants. God gives freedom to man, and he does not force him for anything. They have the choice to do good and get rewarded, or do bad and punished.
According to Aristotle, everything that happens in the world is due to chance. According to Ashariyah, everything happens by the will of governance. Maimonides concurs with Aristotle’s opinion that all the things that happen to all other individual species are because of chance and accident, but he believes that for human species it is not true. Maimonides believe that humans are watched and ordered by God. Maimonides says that God cares for humans, but not equal care. God cares more about the ones who have knowledge of the prophets, the philosophers, and the wise men. Maimonides believes that God shows love and care for humankind, but especially for those who are close to him and have knowledge. Maimonides believes that God created the world by his wills and demands, so the world is a reflection of the will of God. God set his laws for this world, and he rules by those laws. There is no logical reason for why God created the world in this way and not another. For Maimonides, knowledge is the most important thing that a man should have. He believes that people cannot please God by religious practices, they should train their mind and gain knowledge to please God and understand him. For Maimonides, there is no evil but only good in the world. There is no evil just the absence of the good. Maimonides claims that the suffering that people go through is the consequence of their actions and lack of knowledge. Maimonides believes that the species of men is the least important for God, but he also says that the world is friendly to men and God helps mankind. People suffer not because God punishes them, but because they face the evil that they have created for themselves. Not all suffering and evil are bad, sometimes they might be in our benefits, so we should not be ingratitude. God knows better than us, and he knows what is in our benefit. God knows things that we do not have the ability to realize it, and he sees everything that we cannot see.
In conclusion, The Guide for the Perplexed is one of the well-known books of Maimonides that combine the Hebrew Bible theology and the Aristotelian philosophy. There are three causes of evil in this world. The first source of evil is the nature of matter. The second source of evil is suffering caused by other people. The third cause of suffering is self-harm. Aristotle believes that everything that happens to this world and individuals is all due to chance. Maimonides supports the Aristotle’s believe, but Maimonides says that everything that happens is related to chance except individuals. God created this world the way he wanted and he rules by his wills and laws. Maimonides believes that God shows love and care for humankind, but especially for those who have the knowledge, and he believes that the only way to get closer to God is by knowledge. He also believes that there is no evil in the world, but sometimes there is lack of goodness.