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In the Name of God بسم الله
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One of the five ‘Usul al-Din (foundations of the faith) is the concept of Al-Adl (The Justice of God). Shi’a theologians differ from their Sunni counterparts in that they hold that this belief in God’s necessity to act justly is a pillar of the faith and believe it is a crucial element of al-Tawheed. Whereas the Sunni theological schools have generally argued that it impossible to delegate certain obligations upon the nature of God and that therefore it is not compulsory that Allah necessarily acts justly. This entry shall analyse what the doctrine of Al-Adl entails according to Imami theologians as well as the scriptural and rational basis of the doctrine. Al-Adl According to Shi’a Theologians Shi’a theologians have generally accepted that God in his nature must be just due to justice being one of God's attributes of beauty (Jamal). There are several Qur’an verses which allude to the necessity of God acting in accordance with justice and forbidding injustice from himself, namely: “Verily Allah does not wrong Mankind in anything” (Surah 10: 44) “Verily Allah does not wrong even the weight of an Atom” (Surah 4: 40) These verses clearly demonstrate that God in his revelation has firmly distanced himself from the ability to do wrong, namely injustice to others. Alongside these verses, the faculties of reason would not permit for the greatest conceivable Being, namely God, to be associated with injustice as it’s an attribute of imperfection and moral deficiency. As the Islamic theologian and jurist Ja’far Subhani summarised most succinctly; injustice and oppression within the realm of creation are always a consequence of the following factors: 1) Ignorance 2) Incapacity and need 3) Absolute foolishness This can be observed through the following explanations provided by Sobhani. In the first category, the individual committing the injustice is one who commits injustice due to a profound ignorance or lack of awareness about the ugliness of injustice. In the second example, the individual may be aware of the injustice they are committing, but may be unable to enact justice or are in need of the fruits of the injustice he is committing. In the third circumstance, the one who commits the injustice is both aware of the ugliness of injustice and is able to enact justice, however due to his extreme lack of wisdom, simply does not care about the moral deficiencies of acting unjustly. Given that all of the above mentioned circumstances would be blasphemous to attribute to God, it is quite clear that he is not bound by any of those constraints and therefore does not act unjustly. The Shi’a theologians have always held that good and evil can be distinguished through intellect. Whilst good encompasses acts which are associated with perfection; evil encompasses acts which highlight imperfection. Given that Allah is the greatest conceivable Being and a Being of pure perfection, it would not make rational sense that Allah would act unjustly. The some Sunni theologians on the other hand have argued that there is no intrinsic status for good and evil or justice and injustice. Rather, if Allah would choose to place all the disbelievers in heaven and place all the believers in hellfire for an eternity then this would not in any way reflect negatively on Allah. According to Sunni theologians, this would actually fall under the definition of good and justice since Allah is the higher standard through which good and evil are understood, known and perceived. Some Sunni theologians would argue that the theological position of the Shi’a is actually a deficient view of God as it means the Shi’a are holding God subject to their own moral standards, whereas since God is the greatest Being, he cannot be held accountable by anything which is lesser than himself. In response to this, Imami theologians have responded that Allah in his attributes is described as the “All-Wise” and therefore cannot commit any act which is not in its very nature good and just due to the fact that wisdom is inseparable from good actions and is contrary to committing evil. The Realm of Allah’s Justice God acts justly in the realm of creation which is described in the Qur’an verse cited below: “Our Lord is he who gave unto everything its nature, then guided it aright” (Surah 20:50) This verse clarifies that God does not jest in the realm of creation but rather creates everything in nature in the form in which he intended for it. This means that any deficiencies within a person’s character are due to the straying of that individual and not due to an inherent fault created by God within the individual. Justice in the Legislative Realm God can also be observed as being just within the realm of religious legislation where he advises mankind in how they should conduct themselves in this life, through the sending of Prophets, Imams and revelation. Yet God also legislates divine law which does not unjustly overburden the believer with obligations which are overwhelmingly difficult to follow, nor impossible for the believer to implement in his daily life. As God states in the Qur’an: “And we task not any soul beyond its capability” (Surah 23: 62) Justice in the Realm of Recompense God likewise acts in accordance with divine justice and judges each and every individual in accordance with their circumstances and deeds. He does not judge them randomly in accordance with favouritism but rather judges either rewards or punishes each individual in a manner which is just. “And we set a just balance for the day of resurrection so that no soul is wronged in anything.” (Surah 21:47) God has made clear that even in the realm reward and punishment, those who have not been fortunate enough to receive divine guidance through being taught a religious moral code via a messenger shall be exempted from punishment: “We never punish until we have sent a Messenger.” (Surah 17: 15) Conclusion Whilst the subjection of Divine Justice remains a point of contention between the Shi’a and non-Shi’a schools of theology, it is clear that according to the Qur’an and rational discourse that the greatest conceivable Being must be one which acts in accordance with justice, therefore Allah must act justly. For Imami theologians, to stipulate otherwise would be in direct contradiction with the Qur’an as well as in direct violation to rational theology.
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