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In the Name of God بسم الله

A New Understanding Of The Concept Of Justice!

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As I was listening to Sayyed Hassan’s Ashoura’ ceremonial sermons, he defined Justice (ÇáÚÏÇáÉ) as the state in which “everything is in the place it should be”. This certainly seems like a vague statement considering the depth of the topic, but I knew that it was the result of substantial logical reasoning in accordance with Shi’ite Philosophy, for he wouldn’t have phrased it that way if it weren’t so. I tried to examine the proposition and its implications, and as I do everything else, I tried to relate it to other analyses I had previously dwelled over. The question I raised to begin with was “where should everything be?”, and if it were the case that everything was there, “how is this to be considered the state of Justice?”

Dealing with the first question, “where should everything be?”, one may ask whether everything should be where it is expected, given the forces acting upon it (as Newton’s Law would suggest), meaning that everything should be where it is, since if the forces that have acted upon it would cause it to be somewhere else, it would be there! This is a realist approach according to which justice is always present, since everything is where it should be. This explanation, however, indirectly implies that there is no difference between the power (ability) to influence something, and the right to do so. In other words, there is no such thing as an immoral act, because one has the right to do what he/she has the power and will to do. This explanation is completely absurd as it entails that there is no difference between “justice” and “reality”, and that there is no such thing as a “crime” or an “unjust act”. Because we do acknowledge that some acts are crimes, and therefore unjust, we must acknowledge that the state of ‘justice’ is completely different from ‘present reality’.

Another point of view from which to look at this statement is to say “everything should be where it belongs”; which is another vague way of putting it. Once again, where does everything belong, in terms of idealism (note that the word “where” is not intended to refer to the physical location of anything, but the philosophical position). The most ideal situate for any entity is “wherever it would be if the only forces that have ever acted upon it were forces that had the legitimate authority to do so at a given time!” Imagine, if any given object were not touched, moved, or even influenced (our imaginations are most capable of comprehending concepts in concrete terms) by anyone or anything that shouldn’t be touching, moving or influencing it; wouldn’t it be where it belongs?! This suggests that the reason why not all things are where they should be, is the fact that they have been acted upon by forces that do not, or did not at the time, have the legitimate authority to act upon them! Whether or not you prefer to use the notion of evil and good forces to effectively illustrate this idea, is up to you; I’d rather you not, as ‘good and evil’ will be given their own definitions based on this understanding of where everything should be.

This method of defining justice is obviously compatible with Islam, and as I was thinking about it, it reminded me of a question one of my classmates asked our religion teacher in Lebanon, and that is “Is it prohibited (ÍÑÇã) to steal from the rich and give to the poor?” The reply was that by doing this you are committing two sins, the first is stealing (regardless of whom you’re stealing from), and the second sin is that you are dealing with money that does not belong to you; meaning that regardless of how generous and kind you are with this money, you are still a force which is acting on something beyond your authority. That is the crime!

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something else to think about....what is just for one person can be unjust for another. take the death penalty for example. a life for a life might seem fair to the person who lost their loved one, but what about the family of the person who commited the crime. both families will suffer the same sense of loss, through no fault of their own.

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something else to think about....what is just for one person can be unjust for another. take the death penalty for example. a life for a life might seem fair to the person who lost their loved one, but what about the family of the person who commited the crime. both families will suffer the same sense of loss, through no fault of their own.

In the understanding of Justice that I'm proposing, it should be very clear that justice is relative to the circumstances of each case. The death penalty may or may not be just, depending on what implications it has on the restoration of the equilibrium that had been altered by the murderer! By sentencing him to death, we must have taken into consideration ALL of the consequences of this verdict, inluding the emotional damage we are causing to his family, the message we are sending to other murderers, the type of society we are promotong the establishment of, and all other consequences; and then, based on these outcomes, we can determine whether or not it would be beneficial to the restoration of the ideal equilibrium (justice) to sentence him to death!

If the damage we are causing is more significant than the positive effect we are making on the equilibrium, then we are committing an unjust act by carrying out this verdict!

ÇáÓáÇã Úáíßã æÑÍãÉ Çááå

By the way, nice Ron Paul banner! I voted for him :D

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In the understanding of Justice that I'm proposing, it should be very clear that justice is relative to the circumstances of each case. The death penalty may or may not be just, depending on what implications it has on the restoration of the equilibrium that had been altered by the murderer! By sentencing him to death, we must have taken into consideration ALL of the consequences of this verdict, inluding the emotional damage we are causing to his family, the message we are sending to other murderers, the type of society we are promotong the establishment of, and all other consequences; and then, based on these outcomes, we can determine whether or not it would be beneficial to the restoration of the ideal equilibrium (justice) to sentence him to death!

If the damage we are causing is more significant than the positive effect we are making on the equilibrium, then we are committing an unjust act by carrying out this verdict!

ÇáÓáÇã Úáíßã æÑÍãÉ Çááå

By the way, nice Ron Paul banner! I voted for him :D

Hello brother

U sound like consequencialist (utilitarian). But I disagree with you. An eye for an eye rule is not there to satisfy the emotional needs of victim's family. It is a punishment for the victim and has nothing to do with the family. I give u a good story. I was pulling out one of my tooth in the dentist and the sight of dentist struggling to pull out my tooth caused my mom to faint. We call the ambulance and my mom was in the hospital for 1 day and we were very worried. at the end of te day i rather have the tooth ache than all this worry. So consequence of me pulling my tooth out was worst the before. Did i do wrong or was it the dentist fault. The truth is that it was my mom's fault for staying in the room. Why? simple, she alowed her emotions get in the way of something good happening (no more tooth ache) but ofcourse I know that emotions cant be undermine so easily. So emotions are very tricky thing since they are like opinions, they come in difference vivacities from different people and like opinion they do not need a rational basis.

A law that is based on emotions is very dangerous and can easily be corrupted and missused. Law and Justice has to be devoid of all emotions and opinions. Opinions should not be accepted on any circumstances, even opinion of an expert. What I consider justice is the enforcement (by government or non-government) of the laws and rules which are set by the governing body which has the mandate of protecting people from eachother and themselves and that is all. One of the things I like about sharia, is that unlike the laws in other religions which has the mandate of salvation, sharia has the mandate of protection of people or even environment.

I hope this was a good response to your comment

May God protect you all!

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In the understanding of Justice that I'm proposing, it should be very clear that justice is relative to the circumstances of each case. The death penalty may or may not be just, depending on what implications it has on the restoration of the equilibrium that had been altered by the murderer! By sentencing him to death, we must have taken into consideration ALL of the consequences of this verdict, inluding the emotional damage we are causing to his family, the message we are sending to other murderers, the type of society we are promotong the establishment of, and all other consequences; and then, based on these outcomes, we can determine whether or not it would be beneficial to the restoration of the ideal equilibrium (justice) to sentence him to death!

If the damage we are causing is more significant than the positive effect we are making on the equilibrium, then we are committing an unjust act by carrying out this verdict!

ÇáÓáÇã Úáíßã æÑÍãÉ Çááå

By the way, nice Ron Paul banner! I voted for him :D

In an attempt to support this idea, I would like to refer to the story of the lady who committed adultery during the rule of Omar ibn Al-Khattab. After been found guilty of this crime, provided that 4 reliable witnesses testified against her, Omar gave her the death penalty by stoning (in accordance with the basic Islamic Law). However, Amir Al-Mu'mineen, Imam Ali (as) suggested that they wait for the passing of the `3edda to determine whether or not she was impregnated during her committing the horrible crime. He claimed that it would be the same as killing an innocent self (An-nafs Al-Baree2a) to stone her with an innocent fetus in her womb, causing the death of the unborn child. He insisted that the women had to give birth before the death sentence could be carried out. The story follows that even after her giving birth, Imam Ali (as) still refused to have her stoned, since it would ruin the chances of the baby surviving... You get the point.

Amir Al-Mu'mineen (as) did NOT harbor her activity, nor did he intend to protect her from the punishment which she justly deserved; rather, he understood that the verdict is not as straight-forward as a simple-minded person may think, but in order to establish justice (and restore the ideal "equilibrium") one MUST take into consideration the consequences of the judgement, and act accordingly.

I hope to get more feedback from the brothers and sisters, and I will be posting a few more paragraphs regarding this definition of 'justice'!

Salam. (Note: I'm not on my laptop, which is why I can't type in Arabic)

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Hello brother

U sound like consequencialist (utilitarian). But I disagree with you. An eye for an eye rule is not there to satisfy the emotional needs of victim's family. It is a punishment for the victim and has nothing to do with the family. I give u a good story. I was pulling out one of my tooth in the dentist and the sight of dentist struggling to pull out my tooth caused my mom to faint. We call the ambulance and my mom was in the hospital for 1 day and we were very worried. at the end of te day i rather have the tooth ache than all this worry. So consequence of me pulling my tooth out was worst the before. Did i do wrong or was it the dentist fault. The truth is that it was my mom's fault for staying in the room. Why? simple, she alowed her emotions get in the way of something good happening (no more tooth ache) but ofcourse I know that emotions cant be undermine so easily. So emotions are very tricky thing since they are like opinions, they come in difference vivacities from different people and like opinion they do not need a rational basis.

A law that is based on emotions is very dangerous and can easily be corrupted and missused. Law and Justice has to be devoid of all emotions and opinions. Opinions should not be accepted on any circumstances, even opinion of an expert. What I consider justice is the enforcement (by government or non-government) of the laws and rules which are set by the governing body which has the mandate of protecting people from eachother and themselves and that is all. One of the things I like about sharia, is that unlike the laws in other religions which has the mandate of salvation, sharia has the mandate of protection of people or even environment.

I hope this was a good response to your comment

May God protect you all!

"An eye for an eye" is definitley NOT there to satisfy the emotional needs of the family of the victim, nor the family of the murderer! I completely agree that law can never be based on emotions, but what I am suggesting is that we would be justified in sentencing the criminal to death (or whatever other judgement we give him) if and only if we are promoting the restoration of the "ideal equilibrium" (ultimate justice), and to determine whether we are in fact doing so, we must take into consideration every single consequence that our verdict will have on society... Among those many many consequences, is the well-being of the family, economically, emotionally, and so on, but we are also taking into consideration, like I mentioned in the post you are referring to, the positive consequences our verdict has on justice, not on individuals. That's where my post seemed to have gone wrong. I am not a consequencialist (utilitarian) since I do not seek the achievement of the "most happiness" but rather the "most Just", even if that meant less happiness at a given point or time; but among the many things to take into consideration when determining what is 'just' MAY be the emotional impact we are leaving.

Thank you so much for pointing that out, I would have never realized that by myself!

And just to note, I quoted Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in the beginning of this thread, whom I can also quote in numerous cases saying that "we will do what is our obligation, regardless of how dire the sacrifices are!", so I didn't intend to limit the "consequences" to the emotional ones, but rather all implications!

Rarely is it the case, but if it were so, that the negativity of our carring out the verdict outweighed its benefits (to the restoration of justice, not happiness), then we would be committing an unjust act! I'm glad you commented as it brought a very critical point to my attention!

(salam)

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A few other things I thought of and would like to share:

Let’s resort once again to the idea of something’s whereabouts, and call the place where it belongs, “its ideal position”. Whenever something is in its ideal position, it has achieved a state of equilibrium, meaning that there is no conflict between the forces that influence it… When anything is in this state of equilibrium (in its ideal situate), justice is present. Imagine if everything in existence were in this equilibrium; that would be the idea of ultimate justice, a utopian model of the Universe. This perfect existence is what we yearn to achieve, as human beings.

Based on this concept, we can measure any act, statement, thought, or intent carried out by a person by analyzing what consequence it has on the “ideal equilibrium”, and can determine whether it is a just or unjust act. If an act contributes to the deviation from this equilibrium, it is an unjust act, and is thus prohibited (ãõÍÑøã). If an act does the opposite, by contributing to the reestablishment of the ideal equilibrium i.e. returning everything (or at least something) to where it belongs, it is a just act, and is therefore obligatory (æÇÌÈ). An act which has no influence on this equilibrium is neither prohibited nor obligatory (ãõÊÇÍ).

It is essential to understand that the only unjust act that exists is for someone to act or behave outside of his/her authority, thereby promoting the further swaying away from the ‘ideal equilibrium’. Leaving the concept of God (Çááå) and His Law Code (ÇáÔÑíÚÉ) on the side, we are left to determine logically what each individual’s rights/authorities are, and must derive this from natural and ethical laws which no one objects to or doubts, regardless of his/her religious background. And from there, we can examine EVERY single Islamic Law (ÇáÇÍßÇã ÇáÔÑÚíÉ) and we will find that each prohibited act has a clear undesired implication on the desired equilibrium, and vice versa. Islamic law also allows you to make-up for some unjust act you have done, by countering it with a good deed, this is of course known as Kaffara (ßÝøÇÑÉ) such as providing a meal for 60 needy persons to cover up for breaking a day of fast in Ramadan. This Kaffara act is one that has the reverse effect on the equilibrium as the sin for which it is meant to cover-up!

The more interesting point is that in his book The Message of Rights, (ÑÓÇáÉ ÇáÍÞæÞ) Imam Zein Al-Abideen (ÓáÇã Çááå Úáíå) makes clear what each individual’s authorities are, in every aspect of life, including your rights over your body parts (hands, legs, eyes, ears, tongue and so on). This is in agreement with the idea that even though you have the power and ability to control your organs, does not in itself entail that you have unlimited authority over them.

This concept of justice presents a great answer (in my opinion) to the atheist argument “The Problem of Evil”. By definition, God is the Being who created all of existence (ÇáÎÇáÞ). He created matter, light, time, and everything else present in our universe, and outside of the universe. Everything is His Possession (ÇáãÇáß) and only He has unlimited authority over everything in existence. I think it’s clear where I’m going with this. God can influence anything without ever acting outside His authority, since there is no such act outside His authority. God, therefore, cannot perform an unjust act because by definition, nothing is outside His realm of authority!

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"An eye for an eye" is definitley NOT there to satisfy the emotional needs of the family of the victim, nor the family of the murderer! I completely agree that law can never be based on emotions, but what I am suggesting is that we would be justified in sentencing the criminal to death (or whatever other judgement we give him) if and only if we are promoting the restoration of the "ideal equilibrium" (ultimate justice), and to determine whether we are in fact doing so, we must take into consideration every single consequence that our verdict will have on society... Among those many many consequences, is the well-being of the family, economically, emotionally, and so on, but we are also taking into consideration, like I mentioned in the post you are referring to, the positive consequences our verdict has on justice, not on individuals. That's where my post seemed to have gone wrong. I am not a consequencialist (utilitarian) since I do not seek the achievement of the "most happiness" but rather the "most Just", even if that meant less happiness at a given point or time; but among the many things to take into consideration when determining what is 'just' MAY be the emotional impact we are leaving.

Thank you so much for pointing that out, I would have never realized that by myself!

And just to note, I quoted Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in the beginning of this thread, whom I can also quote in numerous cases saying that "we will do what is our obligation, regardless of how dire the sacrifices are!", so I didn't intend to limit the "consequences" to the emotional ones, but rather all implications!

Rarely is it the case, but if it were so, that the negativity of our carring out the verdict outweighed its benefits (to the restoration of justice, not happiness), then we would be committing an unjust act! I'm glad you commented as it brought a very critical point to my attention!

(salam)

(salam) brother

AAHHHHHHHHH!!!! history is truely dark. This idea that justice is every thing be in its right place have dark consequences and has caused some of the greatest evils ever. Sassanids dynasty in Persian implicated a version of this principle. If a man was farmer his children must be farmers as well and they have no choice what so ever in their destiny. Tokugawa shogunate in Japan implicated a different version of this principle and that made Japan into a prison island. Let us for the sake of the argument say that we actually know where every thing belongs to. And if we do put them in their place we deny them change. Since if they are in the right place being any where else would be unjust. I am a man who strongly believe there is no ultimate justice on earth. Imam Ali (as) lost a case against a Christian and failed to get back th horse seat that he had previously lost. If Ali AS loses a case, I have no hope in any law to be ultimate. And of course every era is different from the previous era and requires different laws and rules. A Justice system that is unable to change to the situation of its time would defenetely fail. one of the reason behind the great decline in Zeostarianism is that it was incapable of change.

and about bad consequences of justice. The justice body should do all it can to give a the Just rule and also prevent the bad consequences by other means. But the fear of consequences should not affect the justice itself. e.g. A man is sentence to death for murder but his immediate family has no way of providing for themselves without the man. In this case this case terrible consequence should not affect the justice and the man should be killed. But his family having no one to provide for themselves should be give pension so they can live and in future find a new source of income.

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(salam) brother

AAHHHHHHHHH!!!! history is truely dark. This idea that justice is every thing be in its right place have dark consequences and has caused some of the greatest evils ever. Sassanids dynasty in Persian implicated a version of this principle. If a man was farmer his children must be farmers as well and they have no choice what so ever in their destiny. Tokugawa shogunate in Japan implicated a different version of this principle and that made Japan into a prison island. Let us for the sake of the argument say that we actually know where every thing belongs to. And if we do put them in their place we deny them change. Since if they are in the right place being any where else would be unjust. I am a man who strongly believe there is no ultimate justice on earth. Imam Ali (as) lost a case against a Christian and failed to get back th horse seat that he had previously lost. If Ali AS loses a case, I have no hope in any law to be ultimate. And of course every era is different from the previous era and requires different laws and rules. A Justice system that is unable to change to the situation of its time would defenetely fail. one of the reason behind the great decline in Zeostarianism is that it was incapable of change.

and about bad consequences of justice. The justice body should do all it can to give a the Just rule and also prevent the bad consequences by other means. But the fear of consequences should not affect the justice itself. e.g. A man is sentence to death for murder but his immediate family has no way of providing for themselves without the man. In this case this case terrible consequence should not affect the justice and the man should be killed. But his family having no one to provide for themselves should be give pension so they can live and in future find a new source of income.

Dear Brother, (salam) to you as well,

As I strongly appreciate your reply, I am not arguing about how the justice system should be implemented, and I am not suggesting in any way that a farmer's children should be farmers. Having choices in one's own destiny is not affected by the definition of "justice" that I am putting forth, unless one choses to follow a destiny that is outside his/her realm of authority. As far as there not being ultimate justice on Earth, I am a strong believer that the most significant purpose of God's revelations to mankind is to guide us to the ultimate justice.

By the way, this story of Amir Al-Mu'mineen, Imam Ali (as) lost the case in court, but in reality he only did hat was the just thing to do, and that was to accept the verdict of the court, because doing otherwise would have caused greater problems (of people having no respect for the authority of the Legal System), than his loss of a saddle (or was it a shield?). This idea does not encourage anyone to go take that which is not where it belongs and forceully return it to its ideal place...

Anyhow, for everything to be where it belongs DOES NOT deny the possibility for change, as long as the change is being made through legitimate authority.

"The most ideal situate for any entity is “wherever it would be if the only forces that have ever acted upon it were forces that had the legitimate authority to do so at a given time!”
Forces can act upon this entity, move it, change it, push it, pull it, AS LONG AS the Forces have the right (ÇáÍÞ) to do so. Something that belongs to you, can be influenced, modified, altered, or moved by you or those whom you grant permission, but not by me... The place where something belongs is not a stationary physical location, but rather, a conceptual place in which it has not been influenced by forces that do not have the authority to influence it. Anything can grow, evolve, advance, change, develop, without objecting this criteria; but, it cannot (should not) be influenced by illegitimate forces.

The point is not knowing where something belongs, but to understand what forces have the right to influence it... That is the idea! If it has been influenced by illegitimate forces, then it may no longer be where it belongs, and it may still be where it would, had there never been any illegitimate activity, but the act of exceeding one's authorities is where the injustice is committed.

I used physical terms to illustrate a very metaphysical idea, so it is only natural that the concept be unclear...

If the consequences of an act are harmful to the restoration of justice, then the act is unjust, but not if they are harmful to individuals. Whether or not the murderer should be killed is not in itself a just verdict, even if it is the legal verdict. The idea of a "just" verdict is to be determined by the consequences it has, for it may not be the ideal sentence in itslef, and as you pointed out earlier, if the legal verdict was to punish Imam Ali (as) for filing a 'false suit' (since he had no basis to defend his arument) against the Christian, then that would be a legal sentence and not necessarily a just one! Let's make a clear distinction between 'justice' and the 'justice (legal) system'!

ÇáÓáÇã Úáíßã æÑÍãÉ Çááå æÈÑßÇÊå

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(salam) brother

By no mean I believe try to say you accept what you write. you might do or not. I am sorry when i read your post i read them as comments. I used the REPLY option with the intention of commenting on you comments. So i am sorry for a any misunderstanding. and regarding the Imam Ali AS story my goal was to show that even thou the Judge certainly knew that Imam would never lie, he gave the saddle or shield (I have heard both) to the Christian. For justice to be done there is the need of the proof. It would be unjust of me to harass a man who has be harassing my sister if all I have is the word of my sister. The reason I said this story is that I believe that ultimate justice is always with God since he is all knowing.

For the historical application of the principle you mention. I did not meant to say these are the only version. Of coarse there are other applicable version of this principle. the one i quoted were the deep right and extreme. But I acknowledge what you say.

I also would like to ask what do you think of legitimate authority? Who can it be? and whether the is a principle regarding the legitimate authority?

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(salam) brother

By no mean I believe try to say you accept what you write. you might do or not. I am sorry when i read your post i read them as comments. I used the REPLY option with the intention of commenting on you comments. So i am sorry for a any misunderstanding. and regarding the Imam Ali AS story my goal was to show that even thou the Judge certainly knew that Imam would never lie, he gave the saddle or shield (I have heard both) to the Christian. For justice to be done there is the need of the proof. It would be unjust of me to harass a man who has be harassing my sister if all I have is the word of my sister. The reason I said this story is that I believe that ultimate justice is always with God since he is all knowing.

For the historical application of the principle you mention. I did not meant to say these are the only version. Of coarse there are other applicable version of this principle. the one i quoted were the deep right and extreme. But I acknowledge what you say.

I also would like to ask what do you think of legitimate authority? Who can it be? and whether the is a principle regarding the legitimate authority?

ÈÓã Çááå ÇáÑÍãä ÇáÑÍíã

No need for apologies, I wasn't offended by anything you had posted, in fact I enjoyed reading what you had to share! And I must apologize if I gave you a different impression. Anyhow, back to the topic:

For justice to be done there is the need of the proof
, I completely agree ONLY if you are referring to the "justice system" (ÇáäÙÇã ÇáÞÖÇÆí), which is the legal system system through which we are enforcing/implementing justice.

But the philosophical concept of 'justice' itself is different, and is hence irrelevant of evidence.

I would like to emphasize the distinction between "justice" meaning the idea of an ideal state in which nothing is out of place, and everyone is given the rights they are entitled to. Now, in order to achieve such a state we are definitely in need of a legal system, and an enforcement system in order to apply this idea of justice to the lives of those within society. But before we go on to discuss how to enforce justice, let's understand what really is "just" and what is "unjust".

My idea of "just" is an act which promotes "justice", and vice versa. So to determine whether an act is or is not "just" we can simply examine the consequences it has (on Justice, not on individuals), and from there we can decide. And in my opinion, as a Shi'ite seeker of knowledge, Islamic Laws (ÇáÇÍßÇã ÇáÔÑÚíÉ) do not contradict this idea.

Now, there is a gap in this idea, and that is we cannot really examine all of the short-run and long-run consequences an act may have on "Justice" (ÇáÚÏÇáÉ), simply because we are limited in knowledge, and are doomed to making the wrong decisions at some points. But on second thought, if it is the case that Islamic Laws are meant to promote the establishment of ultimate justice, then our limited knowledge is no longer a problem since all we have to do is follow what the All-Knowing (ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì) has advised us.

Historically, there have been many different applications of similar concepts of justice, but all of them have been lacking and, most importantly, corrupted by greed and man's thirst for power.

As for the legitimate authority, this is another thing that we ignorant humans cannot determine alone, without the help of the the All-Knowing (ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì) and those who safeguard the true meaning of His Book, i.e. the Prophets and Imams (as). "The Message of Rights" as literally translated from its orginal title (ÑÓÇáÉ ÇáÍÞæÞ) by Imam Ali Bin Hussein (ÓáÇã Çááå Úáíå), in which he informs us what our legitimate rights are, should leave no doubt in our hearts of what each person's rights and, hence, obligations are.

Can the idea of legitimate authority (for lack of a better term) be deductively extruded from absolute truths? I think it could, and I will be thinking about this for the next few days, I guess...

Thanx for sharing your thoughts brother(s).

ÇáÓáÇã Úáíßã æÑÍãÉ Çááå æÈÑßÇÊå

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