Sunday 3rd of July 2022
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What 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.


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?

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