LESSON TWENTY: DIVINE JUSTICE
In the previous lessons we have dealt with the contradictions of the two schools of thought, the Asharites and Mutazilites with reference to the issues of theology, Divine will, determinism and human volition, and also upon Divine decree and destiny.
However these two schools frequently held the two extremist positions, and have either exaggerated or underestimated these realities.
Another one of the most fundamental differences between these two groups is the issue of Divine justice and the Shi’ite understanding of this issue is in agreement with that of Mutazilites. They have been known as the ‘adliyyah vis-a-vis ashā’irah. This topic is of great importance in the field of theology, and is known to be the crux of the matter in theological issues and is even acknowledged as one of the principles of belief for the schools of Mutazilite and Shi’ite.
One must focus on the point, that the Asharites do not deny Divine justice and do not consider God as being unjust or tyrannical (God forbid), due to clear and apparent verses that establish Divine justice and deny any form of oppression from the Holy Divine realm. However the discussion centres around this issue, that the sole intellect without any explanation from Divine law (the Book and the traditions) can standardise Divine actions. Upon this basis it can demand the forbearance and accomplishment of Divine actions. For example:
Is it necessary for God the Supreme to take a believer to heaven and a polytheist to hell, or are these decisions based on revelation and cannot be applied by the sole-intellect?
The point of dispute is that very issue, which has been named as good and evil from the point of the intellect (husn wa qubh ‘aqli). The Asharites have denied this and instead came up with the idea that whatever God carries out in the transcendental realm (takwīn), it is considered as good, and on the corporal realm, whatever God orders it is considered as good, but not because it is good by itself.
However the belief of the Mutazilites and the Shi’ites, is that action without any subsistence from the corporal and transcendental world, can be distinguish by God as good and evil (husn wa qubh), and the intellect has the capacity to understand good and evil to a certain extent. This understanding results in the belief that the Holy Divine realm is remote from evil actions. However this is not in the sense that God is commanded or ordered, but means that the emanation of evil from God the Supreme is incompatible, and the emergence of any evil from God is impossible.
It is self-evidential that the investigation has provided the answers for the doubts raised by the Asharites with regards to the good and evil, from the intellectual point of view. However the current work does not have the capacity to display them. Likewise it is possible that the Mutazilites have some inadequate patterns in their belief with respect to the good and evil, which shall be investigated in its place. However the overall belief of good and evil from the intellectual point of view, is acknowledged by the Shi’ites
and has been confirmed in the Book and the traditions, and emphasised by the Infallible Imams (a).
From here on we will be explaining the perimeters of the concept of justice and then demonstrate intellectual arguments in order to prove this attribute as an attribute of action for God the Supreme. Finally we will resolve some of the most important issues dealing with this topic.
The concept of justice
The lexical meaning of justice is:
to equalise, uniformity and is commonly known as the consideration of the rights of others. Hence the definition would be ‘granting rights to one who deserves.’ Therefore, initially one must conceive an existence, which enjoys right, and then the consideration of its right will be known as justice, and the violation of it will be regarded as tyranny. However, occasionally the concept of justice can be extended and regarded in the meaning of ‘the performance of work befittingly or as to place all things in its proper place.’ According to the latter definition, justice is tantamount to wisdom and just work is wise work. Nevertheless the determination of the ‘right of the deserved-one’ and what a ‘proper place’ is, involves a vast domain of words, which is usually discussed in the philosophy of ethics and in the philosophy of rights. Naturally this work does not allow us to cover all these peripheries.
However, every mindful person understands that if a person snatches a piece of bread from an orphan’s hand without any reason or kills an innocent person for no reason, they have persecuted and oppressed, and therefore committed an evil act. Furthermore in contrast to this, if the snatched bread is taken from the tyrant and given back to the orphan, or the killer is punished, the action carried out would be considered to be wise and just. This is true even for someone who does not believe in the existence of God.
The secret behind this discernment and the force that determines the good and evil, and similar issues must be investigated within the different branches of philosophy.
It may be concluded that justice can be conceived from two concepts, which are considered as general and particular:
Consideration for the rights of others, the wise performance of work and heeding to the rights of others is an extension to this.
Therefore, the factor that is not necessary for justice is uniformity or equalisation. For example, a just teacher is not the one who encourages or reprimands students equally, whether they are hard working or lazy. A true teacher is the one who nourishes the one who deserve the nourishment. Another example could be with regards to a righteous judge who distributes the property in a feud according to the one who is entitled to that property, but not equally.
Likewise the requirement of Divine justice and wisdom is not that the Creator creates His creation uniformly or equally, for example He does not create humans with horns, wings, wool etc. However the necessity of Divine justice and wisdom is that the Creator creates the existence in such a way that it receives the utmost good and perfection and also in a way that it
fulfills the ultimate goal. Furthermore the essence of Divine justice and wisdom is that all human beings are responsible according to their capacity and are judged and rewarded with consideration of their free-will.
a. The proofs for Divine justice
As indicated earlier Divine justice is considered to be a branch of Divine wisdom.
From another point of view it is considered wisdom itself and the proof for it is also that of the Divine wisdom, which has already been established in lesson eleven.
However, we will here provide a more detailed explanation.
We know that God the Supreme possesses the ultimate level of power and volition, and can perform any work, which is possible without being under the influence of any existent. However, He will not perform everything, which is possible for Him to perform, but will act only upon that which He has desired and willed.
We also know that God’s Will cannot be absurd or uncalculated, but He desires only that which His impeccable attributes necessitate of Him. He will not create any existent without what is demanded from His ontological attributes. God the Supreme is absolute (pure) perfection and His Will is quintessentially related towards the perfection and benevolence of the creation. If the necessity of existence is the origination of evil and the imperfections in the universe, then it is considered to be one of the consequences of quintessentiality.
However this consequential evil and imperfection is predominated by perfection and good, because it is coherent with the abundant good and perfection (or because abundant good and perfection is quintessential). The abundant good will overwhelms the evil, because God the Supreme is absolute perfection.
Hence the requirement for the Divine attributes of perfection is that the universe is created in such a way, that it overall receives the utmost perfection and good, and from here the attribute of wisdom for God the Supreme is proven.
On this very basis, Divine Will is related to man’s creation when the right conditions are possible and are the source of abundant good. One of the fundamental privileges of man is volition and freewill, which without doubt is an ontological attribute. An existent that possesses this quality is considered to be more perfect compared to one who is deprived of it. However the requirement for being independent is the movement towards eternal perfection through good actions, which can also descend in the direction of eternal loss and misery through bad conduct. The aim of Divine Will is the perfection of man, and this is not possible without free-will. However this provides the possibility of deterioration due to the effect of sensual desires (hawa al- nafs), which take form because of the influences of Satan. Subsequently this deterioration is also associated with Divine Will.
Selection with awareness requires the understanding of good and evil. Hence God the Supreme has ordained for man, that which is beneficial and prohibited for him that which will lead him towards deterioration and decline. Furthermore the requirement for Divine wisdom is that
responsibility must be harmonious with the capability of the performer, because responsibility, which is impossible to perform, is absurd.
Therefore, the initial element of justice (in this particular sense) means ‘justice in the ordinance of responsibilities.’ This is proven by the reason, that if God the Supreme ordains a responsibility beyond the capacity of his servants then the performance of it would be not possible.
However ‘justice in judgement’ for the servants will be proven by focusing upon the factor of reward or chastisement provided for the action performed according to their (deserving) creditability.
Finally ‘justice in granting rewards and chastisement’ will be established by focusing upon the final purpose of creation. Man has been created in order to reach perfection or imperfection, if God rewards regardless of their work then He has not carried out His purpose.
Thus the reason for the justice of God the Supreme in the true meaning and in all aspects, is that the essential attributes of Him cause actions that are wise and just.
None of the unjust, absurd, or fatuous attributes are present (exist) in Him.
b. The resolution of certain doubts
- How can the diversity that exists in the creation, particularly in human beings be harmonious with Divine justice and wisdom?
The answer given is that the diversity in creation is existentially advantageous and necessary for the order of creation. It is consequential to the principle of ‘cause and effect.’ The assumption that creation is alike is an immature idea and if we look further we will understand that this type of idea is equal to the idea of not creating.
For example if all human beings were only men or women, there would be no birth or reproduction, resulting in the end of the human race. If all creatures were human beings then there would be nothing to consume or sustain our needs. If animals and plants were all of a single colour, we would lose the benefits and spectacular beauties that we find in creation. Appearances of different phenomena in distinctive forms are the results of conditions and these conditions are because of the movement of matter.
No-one has the right to make an objection regarding them, before his/her birth in order that He should have given it another form, or different place, or time, implying that there could be space for questioning the Divine justice.
- If divine wisdom is the cause of life for the human being, why does God destroy them?
The answer to this question is that initially the life and death of existents in this world are the outcome of the relationships of cause and effect, the principle of creation (takwīn) and also a necessary element of the order of creation. Secondly, if the living creatures do not die then the grounds for newer creation will not be there and the future generation will be deprived of God’s bounties. Thirdly, if it is assumed that all human beings were to remain alive, the earth would rapidly become a small place to live upon, and the inhabitants due to despair and hunger would wish for death.
Fourthly, the true purpose for the creation of man is that he attains eternal felicity. If they do not transfer from this world through the medium of death they will not reach this final goal.
- How can the existence of suffering and natural disasters (such as earthquakes, storms, etc) and other sociological hardships (such as war, oppression, etc) be harmonious with Divine justice?
The answer to this doubt is that natural disasters are the requirement of action and reactions of matter. As good overwhelms evil, Divine wisdom will not be contradicted. The eruption of sociological hardships and corruption in the world is due to the fact that humans are free in their action. Having a free will is the requirement of Divine wisdom and the welfare for the society is more than that of corruption. If it were not the case then there would not exist a single man on the face of the planet. Secondly, the existence of all suffering and difficulty leads man to explore and search for the hidden natural sources and results in the appearance of sciences and different discoveries. Furthermore dealing with these difficulties will improve man’s potential for advancement towards perfection. Nevertheless if suffering is acknowledged in the proper sense then there will be a greater reward in the eternal world, and compensation will be given appropriately.
- If eternal chastisement is intended for limited sins committed in this world, then how is it compatible with Divine justice?
The reply for this question is, that between the good deeds and bad deeds there is a relation of ‘causation,’ which has been disclosed to people through Divine revelation.
Likewise some of the persecutions in this world have extended circumstances such as to blind oneself or others, which can take place in an instant but the result of this remains till the end of one’s life. Similarly, great sins also have eternal effects and if a person does not arrange the means of atonement in this world (through seeking forgiveness) then the evil will remain with him forever. As with the case of blindness, which will remain permanently due to an instant abuse, it does not contradict Divine justice, in the same way eternal punishment for a great sin does not contradict Divine justice, because it is an action performed with full awareness.
Explain the fundamental difference between the issues of Divine justice.
Explain the concept of justice.
Is it the necessity of justice for everything to be the same? Why?
Explain the necessity of Divine wisdom and justice.
What is the purpose of creation?
How can the diversity in creation correspond with Divine justice and wisdom?
Give the reasons for justice.
Why does God the Supreme cause His creatures to die?
How are natural disasters and social corruptions harmonious with Divine justice?
Why do limited sins become the reason for unlimited (eternal) punishment?