Why was only justice, from among all Divine Attributes, selected as one of the five pillars of religion?

In this article, I would like to make this point clear as to why the great ‘ulama consider justice, one of God’s Qualities, to be a principle among the five pillars of religion.
God is the Knower (Alim), Powerful (Qadir), Just (Adil), Wise (Hakim), Merciful (Rahman), Compassionate (Rahim), Primordial (Azali), Eternal (Abadi), Creator (Khaliq) and Sustainer (Razzaq). Why was only justice selected from among all of these and it became one of the five pillars of religion?
In response to this important question, several points should be noted:

a. Among God’s Qualities, justice is so important that many other Qualities return to it because justice in the general, extensive sense means ‘putting everything in its place’. Here, then, Hakim, Razzaq, Rahman and Rahim, and similiar Qualities, are all dependent upon it.

b. Resurrection – just as we have mentioned – is related to Divine Justice as well as the mission of the Prophet and the responsibility of the Imams.

c. At the beginning of Islam, a difference of Opinion arose over the issue of the justice of the Creator:
A group of the Sunni Muslims, who were called the Ash’arites, completely denied God’s justice. They said that justice and oppression make no sense in relation to God. He is the Ruler of the entire created universe. It belongs to Him and whatever He does is just. They did not even believe in the intellect’s good and evil. They said, “Our intellect alone cannot distinguish between good and bad, even the goodness of doing good or the evil of oppression…” and many such similar errors.

Another group of the Sunnis, who were called the Mu’tazilites, and all of the Shi’ites, believe in the principle of justice in relation to the Creator and they believe that God never commits oppression.
In order to separate out those two groups from one another, they called the second group, the Adliyah, in which justice (adl), as a principle, was the sign of the school and the first group were called ‘qhayr adliyah’ (other than justice). Shi’ites were among the ‘Adliyah.

The Shi’ites, in order to distinguish their school from that of the other Adliyah, placed imamate as one of the principles as well. Thus, wherever there is a discussion of ‘justice’ and ‘imamate’, this is in reference to the Shi’ite Imami School.

d. As the fundamentals of religion are continuous rays of the principles of religion and as the ray of justice of the Creator is extremely effective in human society, and the most important base for human society is formed by ‘social justice’, the selection or choice of the principle of justice as one of the principles of religion is a means to establish justice in human society and to struggle against any kind of oppression.
Just as the unity of Essence, Qualities of the Creator, the unity of worship of Him, the light and unity of His Oneness, a solidification of human society and the unity of Qualities are strengthened, the leadership of the prophets and imams is also inspired by the issue of ‘real leadership’ in human society. Thus, this principle of justice of the Creator, Who rules over the entire world, is the sign of the necessity for justice in all areas of human society.
The great created universe is based upon Divine Justice. Human society will also not remain without it.

Ref: Fifty Lessons of Principles of Belief for Youths; Ayt. Makarem Shirazi; Translated by: Bahador Shirazian; Published by: Ahlul Bayt World Assembly

Guidance and Error are in God’s Hands

Guidance and Error

1. Means of Guidance
A traveller has an address in his hand. He meets you and asks you to help him find the address. You have two choices before you:

First, to go with him and complete your good deed by a accompanying him to his destination and then say goodbye and leave him.

Second, indicate with your hand and giving various signs guide him towards his destination.

It is evident that in both cases, you have guided him towards his destination but there is a difference between these two; the second one is just telling which way to go and the first, is taking one to one’s destination. The Holy Qur’an and Traditions of Islam mention both ways.

On the other hand, sometimes guidance only has a legal quality to it, i.e., formed by means of laws and rules. Whereas, sometimes it has an instinctive quality, i.e., by means of facilities provided by creation like the guidance of an embryo to becoming a complete human being and both of these ways are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and the Traditions. By clarifying the means of guidance (and, naturally, the point opposite it, leading astray or error), we return to the main discussion.

We read in many of the verses of the Holy Qur’an that guidance and leading astray is God’s work. Doubtlessly, the ‘indication of the way’ comes from God. Why? Because He sent the Prophet and sent a heavenly Book to show people the way.

But ‘reaching the goal’ through coercion or force clearly does not agree with free will and choice. However, because all power and strength which is necessary to reach one’s goal is given to us by God and it is He Who gives us success upon this way, this sense of guidance is also from God. That is, preparation of the equipment and the preliminaries and providing them is at the disposal of humanity.

2. The Question of God’s Guidance
Now, an important question arises and that is that we read in many verses of the Holy Quran:

“God guides whom He wills and misleads whom He wills.” (Surah Ibrahim, 14: 4).

Some people, without considering other verses of the Holy Qur’an, and the interpretation which one verse has relative to others, immediately, upon seeing this verse, object and say, “If God guides whom He will and misleads whom He wills, what are we supposed to do in the middle?”

The important point is that the verses of the Holy Qur’an must always be studied in relation to each other in order to understand them in truth. Here we will recall several other verses about guidance and leading astray so that you can study them in relation to the above verse:

“God will establish in strength those who believe, with the Word that stands firm in this world and in the hereafter; but God will leave, to stray, those who do wrong: God does what He wills” (Surah Ibrahim, 14:27).

“Thus does God leave to stray such as transgress and live in doubt.” (Surah Al-Mu’min, 40:34).

“And those who strive in our (Cause), We will certainly guide them to Our paths: for verily God is with those who do right.” (Surah Al-Ankabut, 29: 69).

As we see, God’s will is not inexplicable. He neither gives the success of guidance to a person nor does He deny a person success. Those who undertake the jihad upon God’s Way, war with their difficulties and show strength and firmness of purpose, have been promised guidance and this is justice.

But those who create oppression and suppression and those who take steps towards extravagance, doubt, injustice and causing temptation in hearts, God takes away their possibility of guidance. Their hearts, as a result of these deeds, are darkened and they will not be able to succeed in reaching the station of wellbeing. This is how the Creator leaves the results of our deeds in our own hands and this is justice.

The Holy Qur’an and Free Will


The Holy Qur’an and Free Will

The Holy Qur’an states this issue directly and proves the free will of human beings and there are hundreds of verses which talk about free will.

All of the verses which relate to commanding virtue and preventing vice are all proof of the free will of human beings because if a person was destined to do so, commanding them to do so would make no sense.

All of the verses which speak of blame and reproach against the evil doers and praise for the good doers are proof of free will because if one was destined to do whatever one did, blame or praise would make no sense.

All of the verses which speak about the questioning on the Day of Judgement and the Judgement in that Court and then the rewards and punishments and heaven and hell are proof of free will because if one was to assume that everything was predestined then questioning, judging, rewards and punishments would all be oppressive.

Some explicit verses of the Qur’an which say that a human being is responsible for his or her deeds are:

“Every soul will be (held) in pledge for its deeds.” (Surah Muddathir, 74: 38).

“(Yet) in each individual in pledge for his deeds.” (Surah At-Tur, 52: 21).

“We showed him the Way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful (rests on his will).” (Surah Al-Insaan, 76:3).

“But you will not except as God wills…” (Surah Al-Insaan, 76:30).

The Middle Way

The Middle Way

1. The Opposite of Fatalism
Of course, opposing the belief in fatalism, which is one kind of an extreme, is the school of ‘conferring’, which is at the other extreme.

Those who accept this school believe that God created us and then put everything at our disposal and that, in general, He is not responsible for anything that we do and in this way, we are completely independent in choosing what we do.

Doubtlessly, this belief does not agree with monotheism because monotheism has taught us that God rules the entire world and nothing is beyond His control. Even our free will and free choice cannot be beyond His realm, otherwise duality or polytheism would, of necessity, result.

In other words, we cannot believe in many gods, one, the great Creator of the universe and the others, the human beings who are free to do whatever they wish, completely free and independent – even God cannot affect what they wish to do!

2. The School of the Middle Way
What is important is that we know human beings have freedom of choice and free will at the same time we know God to be the Ruler over all persons and deeds.

The fine point to recognise here is that we should not imagine that there is a contradiction between the two. The fact is that we can accept His Justice and Rule over the entire universe of existence as well as freedom and responsibility of His servants – and this is that very thing which is known as the middle way (the way which is between two extremes).

Let us clarify this with an example as the issue is a very complicated one. Let us assume that there is an electric train that is being driven by a train driver. A strong electric cable has been placed along the line of the train and the train is connected with a link to this electric cable. The electricity is passed to the locomotive in such a way that if for just one moment, the electricity to the locomotive stops, the whole train will stop. Without doubt, the train driver is free.

He can stop wherever he wants and he can move at his own speed. But in spite of all of this freedom, the person who is sending the electricity can, at any moment, make the train stop because all of the train’s power and strength is through that electric cable. The person who holds the key to the electrical cable is in charge.

When we note this example with care, we see that one can have freedom, choice and responsibility (the train driver), while one is completely at the disposal of the power of another (the electric cable operator) and these two concepts do not contradict each other.

God has given us physical power or strength and from moment to moment, it continues and if it is cut off for even a moment, and our connection with Him be cut off, we would be destroyed.

If we can do anything it is because we have strength which He has given us and it continues moment by moment and even our freedom and choice is also from Him. That is, He willed that we be free and by making use of this great Divine Kindness, one can transform one’s self.

Thus, at the same time that we have free choice and free will, we are in His grasp and we will never move beyond His realm. At the same time that we have strength and power, we are dependent upon Him and without Him, we will be destroyed. This is what “The Middle Way” means. Neither have we recognised any creature to be equal to God (which would result in polytheism) nor do we believe creatures are obliged to act according to a set destiny (which would result in oppression). We have learned this lesson from our pure Imams, peace be upon them (Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 121). Whenever they were asked, “Does anything exist between fatalism and conferring?”

They said, “Yes. More extensive than the distance between heaven and earth.”

Reasons for Belief in Free Will

Free Will

1. The Collective Conscience
Philosophers and divine scholars give different reasons for free will of the human being. The clearest reason given by the supporters of free will: The ‘universal’ or ‘collective’ conscience of human beings.

That is, no matter what we deny, we cannot deny the reality that in all human societies, including both the worshippers of God and the materialists, East and West, ancient and modern, wealthy and poor, developed or underdeveloped, of whatever culture, all without exception, agree that a law should rule human beings and that human beings are responsible before the law and people who disobey the law must be punished.

In other words, the rule of law, the responsibility of individuals before it and the punishment of those who disobey the law are things which all intelligent people agree with and it was only primitive tribes who did not officially recognise these three things.

The fact that we explain this as the general conscience of human beings of the world is the clearest proof of the existence of free will in human beings and the fact that they have free choice.

How can it be accepted that a human being be obliged in their actions and that they have no freedom of choice but are still responsible before the law? And, that when a law is broken, the person must be tried and asked why they did – or did not – commit a certain action. If proven guilt, that person is sent to prison or even, depending upon the crime, executed. This is exactly as if we were to punish stones which slide down a mountain causing a landslide on a mountain road which results in the death of one or more human beings.

It is true that a human being differs from a stone, but if we deny free will and choice in a human being, the difference between a human being and a stone will not be relevant in this instance – as both will be the victims of fate.

A stone, following the law of gravity, falls upon the roadside and a human being who murders another, is the victim of another factor of fate. Thus, the logic of those who believe in predetermination allows for no distinction to be made between a stone and a human being from the point of view of result as neither the stone nor the human acted according to their own free will. Why should the human be tried and not the stone?

We are at a crossroads. We either have to deny the existence of the common conscience of all of the people of the world and consider the courts, punishment of those who disobey the law to be ridiculous and useless and even oppressive or we have to deny the beliefs of the fatalists. Obviously the latter is preferable.

It is interesting to note that those who believe in the school of fatalism, and give reasons for their belief, when they are faced with a real life situation, they act according to free will!

For instance, if a person aggresses against them, or annoys or bothers them, they take this person to court and do not rest at ease until that person is punished.

Well, if it is really true that a person has no choice or free will, what is all of this commotion and court and trial about?
At any rate, this common conscience of the intelligent beings of the world is a living idea for the reality that human beings have accepted the existence of free will in the depths of their being and have always been loyal to that. They cannot live without the belief in free will for even one day. This belief has caused the wheels of social and individual programs to progress.

A great Iranian philosopher, Khawjeh Nasir al-din Tusi, in discussing predestination and free will says in one short sentence in his book, “Kitab Tajrubaah bih al- ‘Aqa’id:” ‘Our necessary under-standing and conscience tells us that we are responsible for all of our deeds.”

2. Justice
That which we have said above was about the contradiction between the school of predestination and the common conscience of the intelligent of the world, both from the point of view of supporters of religion and people who do not at all accept religion.

But from the point of view of religion thought, there is another sure reason for recognising the falsity of the school of fatalism. (And if fatalism were to be believed, religion as we know it, would have to be altered).

How can we reconcile the Justice of God which we proved in previous lessons with the school of fatalism? How is it possible that God oblige someone to do an evil deed? Then punish him because he did it. This does not agree with any kind of logic!

Thus, by accepting the school of fatalism, spiritual rewards, punishments, heaven and hell are meaningless as well as ‘scroll of deeds’, ‘questioning’, ‘Divine reckoning’, ‘reprimanding the evil doers in the Qur’an’, ‘encouragement and praise for those who do good’, all of these lose their meaning. Because according to the school of fatalism, neither the good doers nor the evil doers have a choice.

In addition, in religion, one of the first issues we encounter is ‘duty’ or ‘responsibility’, but does ‘duty’ or ‘responsibility’ make any sense if a person has no choice?

Can we tell a person whose hands involuntarily shake not to shake their hands? Or can we tell a person who is falling down a steep mountain to stand still? It is because of this that Imam ‘Ali, peace be upon him, says in a famous tradition (Usul al-Kafi, Vol. 1, p. 119) that the school of fatalism is a school of idol worship whose followers are members of Iblis’ party:

“These words of idol worshipping brothers, enemies of God, members of Iblis’ part.”

The Social and Political Factors for Belief in Fatalism


The truth is that the issue of predestination and free will has been misused throughout history. A series of factors have increased the belief in fatalism and the denial of free will of the human being. Among them:

1. Political Factors
Many of the despotic and selfish politicians in order to extinguish the fire of revolution among the deprived and in order to assure the continuation of their illegal rule (for every rule of regime which oppresses the people and denies people their rights is illegal from the point of view of Islam) convinced the people through all the means available to them that they have no free will, that predestination and predetermination of history holds our destiny in its hands. If one group rules and another is ruled, this is a rule of fate and the destiny of history!

It is clear how this kind of thinking can silence people and aid the policies of colonialism whereas according to our intellect and our Divine Law, destiny and fate lies in our own hands and fate and destiny in the sense of predestination and predetermination does not exist. Divine fate and destiny is determined through our action, desire, willpower, faith, effort and endeavour.

2. Psychological Factors
Lazy, indifferent and lethargic individuals exist who most often meet up with defeat in life. They never desire to admit the bitter truth that their laziness or errors have caused their defeat. Thus, in order to avoid confronting themselves with their deficiencies and developing themselves into better people, they turn to fatalism and they think that their sin is a result of coercive fate so that they find a false sense of security. They say: “What can be done? We were blackened from the beginning. It will not be whitened even with the water of Zamzam or Kawthar. We are extremely talented and make great efforts, but unfortunately, we have no luck.”

3. Social factors
Some people want to be free to be able to follow their carnal desires and commit every sin which is to their liking, at the same time, they want to somehow convince themselves that they are not sinners and they want to deceive society that they are sinless!

It is here that they turn to fatalism as their justification that we have no free will — neither to choose nor avoid these sins. But they know well that all of these are lies and even those who make such claims and raise such issues know that they are baseless but their pleasures and passing fantasies do not allow them to admit this truth. Thus, in order to build a healthy society, we must struggle against this fatalistic way of thinking. We must realize these are tools used in the hands of colonialism and exploitation and an instrument to deceitfully justify defeat and the factor which causes corruption to increase in a society.

Why Believe in Predestination?


All people, within their being, sense that they are free to make decisions. For examples, whether or not to give a loan to such and such a friend or whether or not to drink a glass of water placed before oneself. If another person commits an error in relation to this person, this second can forgive or not forgive the error. Everyone can tell between a hand which shakes because of illness or old age from a hand which one purposefully causes to shake.

In spite of the fact that the issue of free will is a general human sense, why do some people follow the school of the fatalists?

There are several important factors that can affect a human: environment, education, propaganda, social culture and without doubt, the thoughts of a person. Sometimes, even one’s economic position can provide a motive for why a human being acts a certain way.

The totality of these cause one to assume that a person does not have free will, but rather that the external and internal factors join hands and force us to make a decision and that if these factors did not exist, we would not be forced with these problems.

These are things which can be called ‘the environmental determinants,’ ‘economic determinants,’ ‘educational determinants’ and predestination are among the factors considered to be important by the school of fatalists.

But those who think this way have forgotten an important point and that is that the discussion is not about motives and defective causes, but rather the discussion is about complete causes.

In other words, no one can deny the role played by the environment, culture and economics in the thoughts and acts of a human being. The discussion is that with all of these motives, the final decision still remains with us.

Because we clearly sense that even in an erroneous system, one which rebels against God’s Commands like the monarchical system of the past – which had laid the groundwork for deviation – we were not obliged to deviate and go to the centers of corruption.

Thus, one must distinguish between and separate out defective causes from complete causes. A great many people who live in comfort or have been nurtured in a deviated culture or they inherited unsuitability, at any rate, have separated their way from that of others, and have either arisen or revolted against their environment. If every human being was supposed to be the child of his or her environmental culture and the propaganda of the times, no real or basic revolution would ever take place in the world. Everyone would have to adapt to his or her environment and never build a new one.

All of these show that the above-mentioned factors do not make one’s destiny; one’s principle or main fate is determined by one’s own will power.

For instance, if we were to decide to fast on a very hot summer day, despite our body needing water, we would be doing so in order to obey God’s commands while denying our own needs. It is possible, on the other hand, that others follow their body’s request for water and not fast. Thus, all motives which cause one’s destiny exist within the human being’s free will.

Nurtured Through Facing Difficulties

Nurtured Through Facing Difficulties

We again repeat that we should not create difficulties for ourselves, but, at the same time, it often happens that difficulties increase our willpower just as iron is strengthened when placed in hot smelting pots. In the smelting pot of difficulties, we become experienced and more persevering.

War is basically not good but sometimes a difficult and long war causes the abilities of a nation to blossom and transforms dispersion into unity and progress. A famous Arab historian says:

“The blossoming of civilization has appeared throughout history in various parts of the world. It followed a country being attacked by a powerful foreign country, being awakened and mobilizing their forces.”

Of course, reactions to difficulties are not uniform among all people and all societies. One group falls into despair, weakness and pessimism and reaches a negative conclusion but there are individuals who have the right attitude when faced by these difficulties and are stimulated and mobilized by them. But because in such situations, many people judge by what appears on the surface, they only see the bitterness and difficulties and ignore the positive and constructive effects.

If you study the life of geniuses of the world, you will see that almost all of them suffered difficulties and great misfortunes. There are fewer people who are raised in comfort and luxury who have shown themselves to be geniuses and who have arisen to a high position. A good commander of an army is a person who has seen a difficult and long battle. Economic geniuses are people who have fallen into difficulties in the economic market. Great politicians are those who have passed through hard and difficult political struggles. In summary, we can say that the difficulties and anguishes which human beings bear, improves them.

The Holy Qur’an says:

“It may be that you dislike a thing and God brings about through it a great deal of good.” (Surah An-Nisa, 4:19).

Turning Back to God through Facing Difficulties

Turning Back to God

In the previous discussion, we have seen that our being has a goal or purpose. Our eyes are for a purpose; our ears are for a purpose; our hearts, brain and nerves each have been created for a purpose. Even our finger tips have a philosophy behind them. Thus, how is it possible that our total being be without a purpose?

One should look at one’s sins and transgressions in this light as well. In facing difficulties in following God’s Commands, one becomes familiar with one’s ugly and evil deeds and will turn back to God. It is here that a part of the difficulties and unforeseen events are, in reality, Divine blessings. The Holy Qur’an says:

“Corruption has appeared on land and sea because of (the need) that the hands of men have earned, that (God) may give them a taste of some of their deeds: in order that they may turn back (from evil).” (Surah Ar-Room, 30:41).

Hence, it is far from logic and intellectual reasoning to consider painful events as confirmations of evil or to interpret them as calamities that are considered to be in opposition to Divine Justice. Indeed painful events may lead us to become better human beings.

Value of Life through Facing Difficulties


Perhaps it is difficult for some people to understand that if life were only filled with blessings, it would lose its value.

It has been proven today that if you place an object in the middle of a room and you give it a strong, uniform light from all directions and the object and the room are both completely smooth, we will not be able to see the object due to lack of contrast between light and shadow. When shadows are placed next to light, the dimension of the form is made clear.

The value of the gifts of life as well as the weak and strong shadows of difficulties cannot be seen. If throughout life, there was no such thing as sickness, the pleasure of health would never be sensed. The dawn that brings relief following a night of high fever brings about the realization of what a jewel good health is.

In general, a uniform kind of life, even the most comfortable kind of life is tiresome, spiritless and deathlike. It has often been seen that individuals, because of a comfortable life, empty of any kind of difficulties, find it so boring that they attempt to commit suicide or else they continuously complain about their life.

You will find no architect with taste who will design the walls of a large room to be totally smooth and uniform. Rather, he carves the rooms and adds texture.

Why is the world of nature so beautiful? Why is the view of jungles which fill the sides of mountains and streams with twist and turns among the small and large trees so interesting and attractive? One reason is the lack of uniformity.

The order of light and darkness and the coming and going of day and night which the Holy Qur’an emphasizes in various verses, has a great effect upon ending any kind of a tiresome life for human beings. Why? Because if the sun were continuously in one place in the sky and uniformly gave light to the earth, if its position never changed and night would never come, in a short period of time, all human beings would get tired.

It is because of this that we must accept that at least most of the problems caused by unforeseen events give a spirit to life, making it sweet and bearable. It gives more value and meaning to the blessings we have and gives the human being the possibility to benefit from the gifts to the greatest extent possible.