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Tuesday 24th of May 2022
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FIRST LECTUREWHAT IS JUSTICE

FIRST LECTUREWHAT IS JUSTICE

First Lecture
What is Justice

Why is justice, above God’s other attributes, considered as one of the principles of religion?

What is the difference between justice and equality?

Why was Justice Selected above all other attributes?

Before anything else, it should become clear why justice was chosen as one of God’s most significant attributes and why it was selected as one of the five principles of religion.

God is All-knowing; He is Powerful; He is Just; He is the Sage; He is both All-merciful and All-compassionate; He is Eternal; He is the Creator and the Provider of Sustenance; why was justice selected out of all these other attributes and why was it assigned as one of the five principles of religion?

To answer this question, we should take the following into consideration:

Among God’s attributes, justice enjoys a significant position since most of God’s attributes go back to it. This is due to the fact that justice in its widest meaning is to put every item in its proper position. Therefore, the Sage, Provider of Sustenance, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate and the like all have their roots in justice.

The issue of the Resurrection [return to God] depends on God’s justice. The prophethood of God’s Messengers and the responsibilities of the Imams are related to God’s justice.

During the early days of Islam, a dispute arose over the issue of God’s justice:

A group of Sunnis, called Ash’arites, denied God’s justice entirely. They claimed that the issue of God’s justice or injustice was irrelevant and that all existence is in His possession and belongs to Him. Whatever He does is absolute justice. This group of Sunnis did not even believe in the concept of rational goodness and unseemliness. They used to say: Our wisdom cannot distinguish between good or bad on its own.

Another group of Sunnis, called Mu’tazilites and the Sh¢`ah, believed in God’s justice and used to say that God never engages in injustice and tyranny:

In order to distinguish between these two groups, the second group was termed the “Adliyah,” that is, those who used God’s Justice as one of their five principles of religion; the first group was called “non-Adliyah,” the Sh¢`ah were among the Adliyah.

In order to make their religion distinct from the “non-Adliyah,” The Sh¢`ah used Imamate as one other principle of religion.

Therefore, wherever the issues of Justice and Imamate are brought up, the school of Imamiyyah Shias is involved.

Since religion’s secondary principles are always a reflection of the fundamental principles of religion and since the idea of God’s justice has a tremendous effect on human society, the adoption of the principle of justice as one of the fundamental principles of religion is a means of reviving justice in human societies and encouraging the struggle against any kind of injustice and aggression.

The leadership of the prophets and Imams sets the stage for true leadership in human societies. Thus, the principle of God’s justice, which governs all human societies, is an indication of the need for justice in human encounters.

The great world of creation is based on justice and so is human society.

What is Justice?

Justice has two distinct meanings:

In its wide sense justice is taken to mean “everything in its proper position,” in other words “to be in equilibrium.”

This interpretation of justice can be discerned in the whole sphere of creation: in galaxies, inside atoms, in the structure of the human body, in plants and in living organisms.

This is the same meaning which is implied in the famous Hadith of the Messenger of God which declares:

“Through justice the skies and the earth exist.”

For example, if the attractive and repulsive forces of the earth are negated or if one of the two of them overpowers the other, the earth would either be absorbed by the sun, which would then be destroyed or it would wander free in the infinite expanse of space and be annihilated.

This sense of justice is depicted in this poem:

What is injustice? Injustice is when things are not in their proper places; what is justice? It is when trees get water; what is injustice?

Injustice is when thorns receive water.

If water is used for plants and orchards, one finds justice; however, if it is used to water thorns and weeds, injustice rules.

Another meaning for justice is “considering other people’s rights.” thus, it is unjust to deprive others of their rights or to engage in discrimination or favoritism.

It is interesting to know that justice in its two meanings applies to Allah. However, in our discussions the second meaning is more often intended.

God’s justice implies that He neither deprives anybody of his or her rights, nor does He engage in favoritism. He does not discriminate among people. He is just in the true sense of the word. In the coming lectures we will present proofs of God’s Justice.

Injustice whether it means the deprivation of rights or engaging in favoritism or discrimination, is not in harmony with God’s attributes.

God never punishes a righteous person; neither does He encourage a wrongdoer in his vicious acts; He does not punish anyone for the wrong actions committed by others. His actions are completely based on pure justice.

God uses justice with all members of society under all circumstances. Thus, the statement of the Ash’arites is false when they declare that God is just even if He sends all the prophets to Hell or even if He dispatches all the wrongdoers and criminals to paradise. A man with common sense would not utter such nonsense.

The Differences between Justice and Equality

Another significant point which should be considered here is that justice and equality are sometimes erroneously used interchangeably. This is far from the truth.

Equality is not a pre-condition for justice to occur. Priorities and preferences, too, should be considered; for instance, it is not justice to give all students in a class the same grade; neither should two workers receive the same wage. Justice is used when each student receives his grade according to his or her merits or a worker receives his wage based on his expertise.

The same is true in nature. It would not be just for a whale to have a heart the weight of one gram or for a sparrow to have a heart as heavy as one ton. It would not be just for a sturdy tree to have the root of a small tree.

It is just for any organism to receive subsistence in accordance with its merits and capabilities.


THINK AND ANSWER

Why is justice, which is one of God’s attributes, recognized as one of the principles of religion?

Who are the Ash’arites? What do you know of their beliefs?

What are the social consequences of the belief in God’s justice?

What are the two meanings of justice? Outline them.

Is justice the same as equality?


Second Lecture
The Reasons for God’s Justice

Rational Goodness and Unseemliness

It should be pointed out that our wisdom realizes the goodness and unseemliness of things to a certain degree.

For instance, we know that justice and kindness are good and admired characteristics and injustice and jealousy are bad and repulsive. We know all this without religious instruction. However, there are things we could not understand through the sciences alone; to recognize them, we need the instruction of religious leaders such as the prophets.

Thus, the Ash’arites are wrong when they deny rational goodness and unseemliness.

If our wisdom was not able to distinguish between good and bad, how would we be able to acknowledge whether or not God had given miracles to an honest individual or to a liar? But when we say lying is unseemly and is uncharacteristic of God and that His statements are always right and flawless, we know that His promises are true and that He would never support a liar, so He would not provide a liar with miracles.

That is why we can trust religion and we can conclude that the belief in rational goodness and unseemliness is the very foundation of our religion.

Now, let us return to the reasons for God’s justice. To know these facts, we should be aware of the following:

What is the Source of Injustice?

Injustice is due to one of the following:

Ignorance

Sometimes a cruel person or a tyrant does not really know what he is doing; neither does he realize that he is destroying the rights of others.

Need

At times, we wish to possess things which belong to others. Under these conditions, we might be tempted to become involve in injustice.

Incompetence and Inability;

At times, we may not be willing to deprive others of their rights but we cannot help it and unwillingly we become involved in injustice.

Selfishness and Revenge

Sometimes none of the above factors are responsible for our decision; rather our selfishness leads us to trespass over the rights of others. Our desire for revenge might be another factor for getting involved in injustice. Our egocentrism might be responsible for the wrong inflicted by us on others.

God has none of these defects due to the fact that He is All-knowing, He is in need of nothing, He has power over everything and He is kind towards everyone. It is therefore irrational to think that He could ever get involved in tyranny or injustice.

God is infinite; His perfection has no limit. One can expect nothing but benevolence, justice, kindness and affection from such a source of Divine Mercy.

When we observe that evildoers are punished, it is not God Who punishes them; rather their punishment is, in fact, the consequence of their wrong. This resembles the punishment of death which an addict receives because of his addiction and due to his use of narcotics and alcoholic beverages. The Holy Qur’¡n says:

هَلْ تُجْزَوْنَ إِلاَّ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْسِبُونَ؟

Shall you be rewarded for aught except what you did? [Qur’¡n 27:90]

The Qur’ªn and God’s Justice

It is worth mentioning that this fact is highly stressed in the sacred verses of the Holy Qur’¡n. For instance, on one occasion God says:

إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يَظْلِمُ النَّاسَ شَيْئاً وَلَكِنَّ النَّاسَ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ.

Surely, Allah does not do any injustice to men, but men are unjust to themselves. [Qur’¡n 10:44]

Still in another situation, the Holy Qur’¡n says:

إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يَظْلِمُ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ.

Surely, Allah does not do injustice the weight of an atom. [Qur’¡n 4:40]

Concerning the chastisement of the Resurrection Day, the Holy Qur’¡n states:

وَنَضَعُ الْمَوَازِينَ الْقِسْطَ لِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ فَلاَ تُظْلَمُ نَفْسٌ شَيْئاً.

And We will set up a just balance on the Day of Resurrection, so no soul shall be dealt with unjustly in the least. [Qur’¡n 21:47]

Invitation to Justice

We have already said that man’s attributes should be a reflection of God’s Attributes and that God’s Attributes should be felt among the members of any society. Based on this principle, the Holy Qur’¡n emphasizes both God’s Justice, and justice among the members of human society. The Holy Qur’¡n has repeatedly considered injustice as the very essence of corruption in human society and predicts a painful fate for cruel people.

By describing the fate of people in olden times who were destroyed due to their unjust deeds, the Holy Qur’¡n warns people against practicing injustice and cruel acts.

Using it as a principle, the Holy Qur’¡n explicitly states:

إِنَّ اللّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاء وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ.

Surely, Allah enjoins the doing of justice and doing of good to others and the giving to the kindred, and He forbids indecency, evil, and rebellion. [Qur’¡n 16:90]

It is worthwhile to mention that accepting cruelty and injustice from others is just as abominable as doing injustice to others. This is explicitly stated in verse 279 of S£rah Baqara:

لاَ تَظْلِمُونَ وَلاَ تُظْلَمُونَ.

Neither shall you make the debtor suffer loss, nor shall you be made to suffer loss. [Qur’¡n 2:279]

Submission to the unjust acts of cruel people is to encourage tyrants to engage in their devilish deeds even more.


THINK AND ANSWER

Is our intelligence or wisdom capable of distinguishing between good and bad independently and without the assistance of the Shariah?

What are the sources of injustice? What logical reasons are there for God’s justice?

What does the Holy Qur’¡n have to say about God’s justice and the negation of injustice by Him?

What is man’s duty vis-à-vis justice and injustice?

Is it considered a sin to submit to injustice?

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