The Philosophy of Signs and Evil

The Philosophy of Signs and Evil

From the earliest times to the present, a group of the unaware went against God’s Justice and expressed ideas that either God’s Justice did not exist or even sometimes they not only negated justice but used it as a means of proving the non-existence of God like unexpected catastrophes such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural calamities, and differences of these types which can be found among people and also calamities and evil which extend to human beings or plants and animals.

1. Relative Judgment and Limited Knowledge

Normally, all of us, in our judgments and determination of confirmations, stress the relation things have with us. For instance, we say, such and such is near us or far from us – in other words, in relation to us.

Or such and such a person is strong or weak, that is, in comparison to our physical ability or spiritual situation.

In issues relating to good and evil and calamities and natural catastrophes, people’s judgment is usually the same.

For instance, if rain falls in a region, we have nothing to do with what the total effects of the rain were. We only think about our own environment, home or pasture areas, or, at the most, our own city. If it was a positive event, we say that it was God’s Blessing and if negative, we call it a negative event.

When they destroy a building in order to build a new one, and we only share in its dust, we say that it was a bad event even if in the future a hospital will be built there which everyone can make use of and even if the rain had positive effects in other parts of the city.

In our normal judgments, we consider a snake bite to be a calamity without recognizing the fact that this very bite and poison is effective means of defense for this animal and disregarding the fact that sometimes from this very poison, a life-giving medicine is produced which saves the lives of thousands of people.

Thus, if we do not want to be misled, we must look at our own limitations and in our judgments, not only look at things in relation to ourselves but rather consider all sides of the issue and judge from all points of view.

In principles, events in the world are all linked together like a chain. The hurricane which hits our city today and a heavy downpour of rain which brings floods is one of these long links which is completely related to other links and is related also with an event which took place in the past and will take place in the future.

The conclusion or result is that putting one’s fingers on only a small part of an issue and judging it accordingly is not to have used one’s intellect and logic.

That which is worthy of creation (that which creation deserves) is complete goodness but if something, from one point of view, is evil, goodness prevails. A surgical operation is discomforting, from one point of view, and, from another, beneficial. Thus, goodness is relative.

For further development and discussion, let us look at the occurrence of an earthquake. It is true that in one area, destruction occurs but if we consider its relation to other issues, we can change our opinion.

Does an earthquake relate to the temperatures and pressure within the earth or does it relate to the attractions of the moon which continuously draw the earth towards itself and it sometimes breaks or does it relate to both? Scientists have differing views.

But whatever of these exists, the effects upon another thing must be considered. That is, we must know what effect the temperature inside the earth has in creating oil resources, which is the most important energy material in our age and also the creation of coal, etc. Thus, goodness is relative.

And also what effect the ebb and flow of the tides stemming from the pull of the moon on the oceans has upon life within the water and its creatures and often, watering a dry coast line in places where sweat water meets the oceans. This is also a relative good.

It is here that we understand what relative judgments and limited information we have when we look at issues like this as dark points which the attractions of the created world contains and however much more we look at the relationship between phenomena, we become more aware of its importance.

The Holy Qur’an tells us

“Of knowledge, it is only a little that is communicated to you.” (17:85)

2. Undesirable Events and Warnings

We have all seen people who when drowned in blessings, fall under the influence of price and selfishness and in this state or condition, many of the important human issues and duties are forgotten.

And, also, we have all seen that at the time of the calmness of the oceans of life and complete restfulness how such a state of sleep and forgetfulness is given a person, which, if it continues, will bring great misfortune to that person.

Without doubt, some of the undesirable events of life are in order to end that state of pride and to do away with this sleep and forgetfulness of life.

You have most certainly heard that experienced drivers complain about roads which are flat, level and lacking any twists or turns, ups or downs and they describe these attractive qualities as dangerous ones. Why?

Because the monotony of this road causes a driver to fall asleep and it is here that danger comes to him.

It has even been seen that some countries have created artificial ups and downs and put holes to prevent such a danger.

The path or way of life of a human being is also the same. If life does not have any ups or downs or potholes, and if undesirable events never occur, a state of forgetfulness of God and sleep will come and prevent a person from undertaking his or her duties and responsibilities.

We are not intimating that a human being must create undesirable events for himself or herself or welcome misfortune because calamities have continuously been and will continue to be.

Rather, we say that one must be attentive to a part of this philosophy which is to prevent pride and forgetfulness because these are enemies and barriers to well-being and happiness.

We repeat, this is the philosophy of a part of these undesirable events, not all of them because they have other aspects, as well, which, with the Will of God, will be mentioned in further lessons.

The Holy Qur’an tells us:

“When the suffering reached them from Us, why then did they not learn humility?”(6:42)

Think and Answer

1. What people have mentioned the issue of calamities and catastrophes in their ideology?
2. Mention some calamities and catastrophes. In your own life, have you ever met up with them?
3. What is meant by relative judging and total judgment and absolute evil and relative good?
4. Are earthquakes and hurricanes only harmful?
5. What positive effects can undesirable events have upon one’s psyche?

Proof or Reason for The Creator’s Justice

Creator’s Justice

1. Goodness and Evil

We have learned and it seems that this issue is necessary that our intellect distinguishes between good and evil to a certain extent. (This is that very thing which scholars speak about in ethical terms as ‘goodness’ and ‘evil’).

For instance, we know that justice and goodness are good and oppression and stinginess are evil. Before religion even mentions these things, it was clear to us. However, there are other issues which exist which our intelligence is not sufficient to understand and we must seek guidance from Divine leaders and the prophets.

Thus, if a group of Muslims in the name of the Asharites deny intellectual goodness and, evil and the way of distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘evil’, to think that only religion brought the issue of justice and oppression, and things like this, is completely wrong.

Because if our intellect does not have the ability to choose between good and evil, how should we know whether or not God would send His message through false prophets? But the moment we say that lying is wrong and evil, and that it is impossible that God would lie, we know that God’s Promises are always true and that He is always truthful, we would never encourage deceit and never give miracles into the hands of a deceitful person.

It is here that we can rely upon what religion and the divine Law says.

Thus, we can conclude that the belief in intellectual good and evil is from religion. (Note this with care).

Now, let us return to the proof of Divine Justice. In order to understand this, we must know what is the source of oppression.

2. Source of Oppression

The source of oppression is one of the following things:

a. Ignorance: It sometimes happens that an oppressive person does not, in truth, know what he is doing. He does not know that he is destroying someone’s rights and he is not aware of what he is doing.

b. Need: Sometimes a person is tempted to undertake a satanic act in order to attain something that another has whereas if he were self-sufficient, in such a situation, he would have no need to commit oppression.

c. Inability: Sometimes a person is not willing to have the rights of another curtailed but he does not have the power or ability to do anything about it, and without willingness, he commits oppression.

d. Selfishness, bearing grudges and seeking revenge:

Sometimes none of these qualities exist but selfishness causes one to aggress against others or the sense of seeking revenge or bearing a grudge makes that person commit oppression or the spirit of ‘exclusiveness’ and ‘monopolization’ causes injustice to others.

But noting that none of these ugly qualities and deficiencies exist in God, because He is the Knower of all things, needless of all things, has Power over all things and is kind to all, it makes no sense for Him to commit oppression. He is a Being Who is Endless, Perfect and Unlimited.

Only Goodness, Justice and Mercy can stem from such a Being.

If He punishes those who commit evil, in reality, it is the result of their deeds which causes this, just like a person who, as a result of the use of narcotics or alcohol, is afflicted with an incurable disease. The Holy Qur’an says:

“You receive but the recompense of what you have earned.” (10:52)

3. The Holy Qur’an and the Justice of the Creator

It is important to note that the Holy Qur’an greatly emphasizes this point:

“Verily God will not deal unjustly with man in aught. it is man that wrongs his own soul.” (10:44)

And in another place, it says:

“God is never unjust in the least degree.” (4:40)

“We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgment so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least.” (21:47)

Thus, note that what is meant by ‘balance’ here, is the method of weighing good and evil, not like scales of this world.

4. Invitation to Justice and Equity

We have said that the qualities of the human being must be like a ray of God’s Qualities and in human society, God’s Qualities are widespread. According to this principle, to the same extent that the Holy Qur’an stresses the Justice of the Creator, He has also stressed justice and equity in human society and the individuality of individuals.

The Holy Qur’an says that oppression and injustice will destroy society and that the fate of oppressors is of the most painful kind.

The Holy Qur’an, in addition to mentioning the fate of past tribes, has often repeated this truth for people to see the result of oppression and corruption and what punishment will be given, fear that you not suffer such a fate.

The Holy Qur’an clearly states as a principle:

“God commands justice, the doing of good and liberality to family members and He forbids all shameful deeds and injustice and rebellion… “(16:90)

It should be noted that committing oppression is an ugly act, to accept oppression and suffer suppression is also wrong according to Islam and the Holy Qur’an,

“Deal not unjustly and you shall not be dealt with unjustly. “ (2:279)

In general, submission to inequity encourages oppression, increases suppression and aids oppressors.

Think and Answer

1. Can our intellect, independent of the Divine Law distinguish between good and evil?
2. What does oppression stem from? What is the intellectual proof of Gods Justice?
3. What does the Holy Qur’an say about the justice of the Creator and how does it negate oppression from Him?
4. What is a human being’s responsibility in regard to justice and oppression?
5. Is it also a sin to submit to oppression?

What is Justice?

What is Justice?

1. Why was Justice selected among all of God’s Qualities, considered to be a principle of religion?

In this study, before anything else, this point must be made 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 similar 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.

2. What is Justice?

Justice contains two varying meanings.

a. The extensive meaning of this word, just as we have said, is ‘to put everything in its place’. In other words, it is being in balance and equilibrium. This meaning or sense of justice rules over the entire created universe, in the galaxies, within an atom, in the structure of a human being’s existence and all plants and animals. This is what the famous Tradition of the Holy Prophet refers to when he says, “It is by means of justice that all of the heavens and the earth exist.”

For example, if the powers of ‘attraction’ and ‘repulsion’ of the earth lose their sense of balance and one of these two is removed or destroyed, the earth will be drawn towards the sun, set on fire and destroyed or it will leave its circuit and wander in the endless space of the universe until it is destroyed.

b. Another meaning of ‘justice’ is ‘the following of individual rights’ and the point opposite is ‘oppression’ in the sense of taking ‘the rights of someone’ and giving them exclusively to others or to take away someone’s rights arid give them to another, to discriminate in the sense that some people are given their rights and others are not.

It is clear that the second meaning is a ‘particular’ one and the first one is ‘general’. It should be noted that both meanings are truthful in relation to God, even though the second meaning will be more emphasized here.

The meaning of God’s justice is not to remove the rights of a person nor give the rights of one to another nor to discriminate between people. He is Just in all sense of the word and the reasons or proof of His Justice will be mentioned in the next lesson.

Oppression, whether it be the taking away of a person’s rights or by giving the rights of one to another, or wastage and discrimination, does not exist in the pure Essence of God. He never punishes a person who does good deeds. He never encourages a person who does evil, no one will be held responsible for the sins of another. He does not burn the wet and dry together.

Even if everyone is in error in a large society, other than one person, God separates the accounts of that one person from that of others and does not punish that person along with sinners.

And the fact that the Ash’arites said, “Even if God sends all of the prophets to hell and all of the criminals and sinners to heaven, it is not oppression,” is vain babble and baseless.
The intellect, which is never polluted with superstition and discrimination, will not listen to these ugly words.

3. The Difference between Justice and Equality

Another important point which should be pointed out in this lesson is that sometimes ‘justice’ is confused with ‘equality’ and it seems that the meaning of justice is that ‘equality should be maintained’ whereas this is not so.

Equality is not a condition for justice. Rather, rights and priorities must be considered.

As an example, justice in a classroom of students is not that they all receive equal grades and justice between two workers is not that they receive equal wages. Rather, justice is in this that each student to be graded according to his knowledge and ability and each worker to be judged according to his work and activity.

In the world of nature, also, justice in the extensive sense means just this. If the heart of a whale, which weighs one ton, be compared to the heart of a sparrow, which is perhaps not more than one gram in weight, if they were equal, there would be no justice and if the roots of a very tall tree were equal to the roots of a small plant, this is not justice and is equivalent to oppression.

Justice is that every creature receives its rights in proportion to its abilities.

Think and Answer

1. Why, among all of the Qualities of God, is Justice known to be or recognized as being one of the principles of religion?
2. Who were the Ash’arites? What do you know about their beliefs?
3. What reactions does belief in Divine Justice have in human society?
4. How many meanings does justice have? Explain them.
5. Does justice mean the same as equality?