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Chapter 12: Profound Wisdom and Divine Justice

In connection with the Divine conception of the world several questions pertaining to the relation between Allah and the world, such as the transience and the eternity of the world, origin of the existing things and similar other questions are discussed in the science of divinity.

Anyhow, it is in the fitness of things that it may be mentioned here that the questions of profound wisdom of Allah and Divine justice are closely related to each other.

With reference to the question of profound Divine justice, it may be said that the existing system of the world is the most wise and judicious system. It is not only based on knowledge, consciousness and will but is also the most healthy and the best possible system. No better system is possible. The existing world is the most perfect.

Here a pertinent question arises. We observe that there are many phenomena of the world which may be described as defective, vicious, ugly or useless. Divine wisdom demands that perfectness instead of defectiveness, virtue instead of vice, beauty instead of ugliness and usefulness instead of futility should have prevailed. Genitive defects and malformations in the body of man and animals, natural calamities and misfortunes and repulsive and obnoxious scenes, all appear to be contrary to Divine wisdom. A system can be called just only if therein pain, distress and undue discrimination are not found and calamities and misfortunes do not exist. Annihilation and destruction should have no place in a just system, for it is unjust to debar a being from the enjoyment of perfect conditions after he has been brought into existence.

If the present system of the world is just, then why do all these discriminations and deprivations exist? Why is it that one is white and another is black; one is ugly and another is beautiful; one is healthy and another is sick? Why has one been created a man and another a sheep, a scorpion or an earthworm? Why has one been created a devil and another an angel? Why have all not been created alike or in some other way different from what they are? For example, why has the one who is white, handsome or healthy not been created black, ugly or sick? These and similar other questions about the world appear to be puzzling. The monotheistic conception which considers the world to be a work of Allah, the wise and the absolutely just, must answer these questions.

In view of the fact that a detailed answer to these questions require a detailed and voluminous book and furthermore, we have dealt with this subject in our book, Divine Justice of which several editions have appeared, here we content ourselves with mentioning some basic principles, the knowledge of which should facilitate the solution of this problem. After getting acquainted with these principles the reader will be able to draw his own conclusion.

(i) Principle of the self-Existence and Perfection of Allah

As Allah is absolutely self-existing and does not lack any excellence or ability, He does not do anything to achieve any object of His own or to make up any deficiency in Himself. His wisdom does not mean that he chooses the best goals and employs the best means to secure them. This sense of wisdom applies to man only and not to Allah. His wisdom means that He works to enable the existing things to reach the goal of their existence. He brings the non-existing things into existence and leads them to their inherent perfection. The questions and objections raised in this respect are partly due to the comparison of Allah to man. A person who questions as to the wisdom and the use of a particular creation, presumes that Allah like man does a thing to achieve some object and goal of His own. Most of the queries of the questioner would have automatically been answered if he had kept in mind from the beginning that what Allah does no doubt has some purpose, but Allah Himself has no aim or purpose of His own. The purpose of every creation is inherent in its own nature, to which Allah leads it.

(ii) Principle of Sequence

Existence is a Divine favour that pervades the entire universe. It has a special order. All existing things stand in an inexorable relation of precedence and posteriority and cause and effect to each other. No existing thing can move from its appointed position, nor can it occupy the place of something else. Existing things have varied grades of existence, and vastly differ from each other from the point of view of defectiveness and perfection and strength and weakness. This variation is an essential part of the grading of existence. It is no discrimination and cannot be considered to be contrary to justice or wisdom. Discrimination presupposes the existence of two beings of equal potentialities on one of which a favour is bestowed and from the other it is withheld. But where the disparity is due to any inherent deficiency, the question of discrimination does not arise.

(iii) Principle of Generality

There is another misunderstanding which is the result of man's comparing Allah with himself. A man takes a decision at a particular time, at a particular place and under particular circumstances. Suppose a man decides to build a house. In order to build it he joins together by artificial means a certain amount of bricks, mortar, cement and steel, which have no inherent link with each other. The final result is the construction of a house.

Does Allah also accomplish His work in the same way? Does His creation lie in the combining and joining together of several things, having no connection with each other?

The creation of such artificial ties and bonds is the work of a created being like man, who himself is a part of the world system and can utilize within a limited scope only the forces and the qualities of the existing things. Man does not create a thing. He only produces a motion in an already existing thing.

Even the motion produced by him is forced and not natural. In contrast, Allah is the Creator of all things and all their forces and qualities.

Man makes use of fire and electric which already exist. He makes such an arrangement that he may use them when required, and in order to save himself from their harmful effects, may put them off when not required. In contrast, Allah is the Creator of fire, electricity and all their effects and qualities. Their very existence means that they should generate heat and motion and should burn. Allah has not created them for any particular person or for any particular occasion. Fire heats the hut of a poor person, but it also burns his clothes if they fall in it, because Allah has created it with the property of burning. If we look at fire in the context of the whole system of the world, we are bound to find it useful and necessary. It is immaterial whether in the case of any particular person or in a particular instance, it is beneficial or not.

In other words, in the case of Divine wisdom the ultimate object and purpose relates to the doing, not to the doer. Allah is wise in the sense that He has created the best system to enable the existing things to achieve objects for which they have been created. His wisdom does not mean that He has arranged the best means to make up His own deficiency, to give a practical shape to His potential ability or to achieve His own evolutionary objects. Further, we must remember that the Divine acts aim at securing general and not particular purposes. Fire has been created to burn in general. It has not been created to burn any particular thing on any particular occasion. Hence from the viewpoint of Divine wisdom it is immaterial whether it is beneficial or harmful in any individual case.

(iv) For the materialization of a reality it is not enough that Allah is All-Powerful and Beneficent. In order to come into being the thing concerned must have the capacity of receiving His favour. In many cases the incapacity of some of the existing things is the cause of their being deprived of some advantages and good points.. From the viewpoint of the general system and its connection with the Self-existing Being, the secret of the appearance of certain defects like ignorance and disabilities lies in the incompetence of those having such defects.

(v) As Allah is necessarily existing in regard to His essence, so He is in regard to all His attributes. Hence it is impossible that a thing be fit for existence and the conferment of existence on it be withheld by Him.

(vi) The evils and vices either mean the non-existence of a quality, as the case is with ignorance, disability and poverty, or they are bad because they cause destruction, as is the case with earthquakes, disease-causing germs, floods, hailstorms etc. The things which cause destruction, their mischief is relative and only in reference to other things. Anything bad is not bad in itself, but it is bad for something else. The true existence of everything is its own existence. Its relative existence is only conceptual and derivative, though an integral part of its real existence.

(vii) Good and bad are not the qualities independent of each other. The evil is an integral quality of the good. The evils and vices which indicate the non-existence of a quality represent the unfitness of a thing potentially fit. As soon as it becomes practically fit, Divine favour to it is inevitable. As for the evils-which do not constitute negative qualities, their root lies invariably in the good.

(viii) There exists no pure and unadulterated evil. Non-existence is a prelude to existence and perfection. Evils are a stage of evolution. It is true that every dark cloud has a silver lining.

(ix) Laws and Norms: This world is governed by a causation system, and as has been pointed out earlier, this system is based on universal laws and norms. The Holy Qur'an expressly confirms this fact.

(x) The world besides having an unexceptionable system, is in itself one indivisible unit and constitutes one single body. Hence evils are not separable from all that is good. The evils and nonexistences not only cannot be separated from virtues and existences, but they also form one single 'manifestation'.

On the basis of these ten principles, there are only two possibilities. Either the world should exist with its peculiar system or should not exist at all. It is not possible that the world should be existing, but it should not be having its peculiar system or it should be having some other system, in which, for example, the causes may take the place of the effects and the effects may take the place of the causes. Therefore what is possible from the viewpoint of profound Divine wisdom is that either the world should exist with its entire present system or nothing should exist at all. Evidently wisdom demands that existence should have preference over non-existence.

As the things cannot exist except with all their essential and inseparable qualities, it is unimaginable to think that virtues can be separated from evils or that non-existence can be separated from existence. From this point of view also Divine wisdom can either demand the existence of evils and virtues simultaneously or their non-existence altogether. It cannot require the existence of virtues and the non-existence of evils.

Also what is possible to exist is the entire world in the form of one unit. The existence of one part of it and the nonexistence of another part of it is not feasible. Therefore from the viewpoint of Divine wisdom the question which may be considered is the existence or the non-existence of the whole of it, not of any part of it.

The above principles, if digested well, are enough to remove all doubts and difficulties concerning Divine wisdom and Divine justice. We again refer our readers to our book, Divine Justice and seek their indulgence for finding it necessary to raise here the questions which are of a level higher than that of this book.

In the end, in view of the fact that the question of Divine justice has a special history and is considered by the Shiah to be one of the articles of their faith, it will not be improper to touch briefly on its history also.

History of the Principle of Justice in Islamic Culture

The Shiah believe the doctrine of justice to be an article of their faith. In the preface of the Divine Justice, we have stated that the doctrine of justice has two aspects: Divine Justice and Human Justice. Divine Justice is again divided into two parts: (i) Creational and (ii) Legislative Human Justice.

Legislative Human Justice also has two phases: (i) Individual justice and (ii) Social Justice.

The justice which is considered to be the characteristic of the Shi'ah creed and is believed by the Shi'ah to be an article of their faith is Divine justice.

It is this justice which is an integral part of the Islamic conception of the world.

Divine justice means that Allah does no injustice and in both of His creational and law-making systems acts according to what is right and fair. The reason why the principle of justice became an article of faith among the Shi'ah was that a section of the Muslims denied it in a way that was totally contrary to human freedom. They denied the working of the principle of causation in the world system as well as human affairs, and maintained that Divine destiny operated direct and not through the media of cause and effect. According to them, fire did not burn. It was Allah who burnt it. Similarly a magnet had no role in attracting iron towards it. It was Allah who attracted iron to it. Man did not perform good or bad deeds. It was Allah who accomplished them direct through the agency of human beings.

Here an important question arises: If the system of causation did not exist and man had no power of choice, why should an individual be recompensed for evil or good done by him? Why does Allah reward some people and send them to Paradise and why does He punish some others and despatches them to Hell, when He Himself performs all good and bad deeds? If the human beings have no freedom and no choice of their own, it is unjust and contrary to the indisputable principle of Divine justice to punish them for the deeds over which they have no control.

Most of the Shi'ah and a section of the Sunnis, known as the Mu'tazilah reject the theory of human compulsion and direct operation of Divine destiny in the world. They consider this view to be contrary to the principle of justice, and besides advancing arguments based on reason quote from the Holy Qur'an and the hadith in support of what they maintain. That is why they have come to be known as 'Adliyah, that is the supporters of the justice.

From the above it is evident that notwithstanding the fact that the principle of justice is a Divine principle and is related to one of the attributes of Allah, it is also a human principle, because it equally concerns human freedom and power of choice. Therefore a belief in the principle of justice on the part of the Shiah and the Mutazilah means a belief in human freedom, human responsibility and the constructive role of man.

The question which often disturbs the minds in connection with Divine justice, especially during modern times, concerns certain cases of social inequality.

It is asked how is it that some individuals are ugly, while some others are handsome; some are healthy while some others have poor health; some are well-off and influential, while some others are poor and of little consequence?

Is this inequality not contrary to the principle of Divine justice? Does not Divine justice demand that all individuals should be equal in regard to wealth, duration of life, number of children, social position, fame and popularity, and there should be no disparity among them in regard to these things? Can the disparity in respect of these things be explained by any means other than believing in Divine destiny?

The root of this question lies in not paying attention to the way the Divine destiny operates. It appears that the questioner thinks that Divine destiny works direct and not through the medium of causes, and that health, beauty, power, position, popularity and other bounties of Allah are distributed to the people at their doorsteps by a hidden hand direct from the Divine treasures.

Enough attention has not been paid to the fact that no bounties, whether material or spiritual, are distributed direct. The Divine destiny has set up a system and appointed a number of laws and norms. Whosoever wants something he should seek it through that system and according to those laws.

Another cause of misunderstanding is that due attention is not paid to the position of man as a responsible being who makes struggle to improve the condition of his life, combats the natural factors and strives against social evils and human tyranny.

If there exist inequalities in human society and if there are some who have everything at their disposal and there are others whose lot is only to struggle for their subsistence every moment, the responsibility for this situation does not lie with Divine destiny. Man, who is free is himself responsible for the inequity.

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