Hawzah News Agency (Qom, Iran) - All Muslims are at one over the issue of divine justice; but there is a certain difference of opinion regarding the question of what the justice of God actually means.
All Muslims believe that God is just and that justice is one of the divine attributes of Beauty (jamal). The basis of this belief is the Qur’anic negation of any possibility of injustice on the part of God, referring to Him as being ‘upright in justice’. As it is said:
Verily, God wrongeth not even the weight of an atom. (Sura al-Nisa,IV:40)
Verily, God wrongeth not mankind in anything ... (Sura Yunus, X:44)
God bears witness, [as do also] the angels and the men of knowledge, upright in justice, that there is no God save Him. (Sura Al ‘Imran,III:18)
In addition to the evidence provided by these verses, the intellect can discern the justice of God with utmost clarity. For justice is an attribute of perfection (kamal), while injustice is an attribute of imperfection; and the human intellect perceives that God possesses all possible perfections, and that He is exalted beyond any possibility of imperfection or deficiency, both as regards His Essence and His actions.
In principle, injustice and oppression are always consequences of one of the following factors: (a) ignorance—the one who acts unjustly is unaware of the ugliness of injustice; (b) incapacity and need—either the agent of injustice is aware of the ugliness of injustice, but is unable to enact justice, or else he is in need of the fruits of his injustice; (c) unscrupulousness through foolishness—the agent is both aware of the ugliness of injustice, and he is able to enact justice, but since he lacks wisdom, he has no scruples about committing unjust acts.
It is clear that none of these factors can have anything to do with the divine nature, all of God’s actions being just and wise. The following hadith corroborates this: Shaykh Saduq relates that a Jew came to the Prophet [Muhammad] asking various questions, some of which related to the question of divine justice. In explaining why God does not commit injustice, the Prophet said:
‘[It is] because God knows the ugliness of injustice and is not in any need of it.’ Theologians of the ‘adliyya school have seized upon this key hadith in the debate over the question of divine justice.
Given the verses cited above, and many others of similar import in the Quran, all Muslims are at one over the issue of divine justice; but there is a certain difference of opinion regarding the question of what the justice of God actually means. Muslims have opted for one of the two following positions :
1. The human intellect distinguishes between evil and good actions, understanding the latter to indicate the perfection of the agent, and the former the imperfection of the agent. Since God, by nature, possesses all ontological perfections, it follows that His acts must be perfect and pleasing, His most holy nature being devoid of all kind of evil. It is necessary to mention here that the intellect can never, as it were, issue an ‘order’ as regards God, saying that God ‘must’ be just; rather, the task of the intellect is to disclose the true reality of God’s actions. In other words, taking due account of the absolute perfection of the divine Essence, devoid as It is of any possibility of imperfection, the intellect discloses the fact that His actions also partake of ultimate perfection, and are likewise devoid of any deficiency. Consequently, God deals justly in His relations with mankind. Verses from the Quran are adduced as evidence corroborating and stressing that which man can perceive, and in Islamic theology this approach goes by the name of ‘the intelligibility of good and evil’ (husn wa qubh ‘aqli); the adherents of this approach are referred to as the ‘adliyya, the forerunners of whom were the scholars of the Imami school
2. There is another perspective, contrasting with this one, according to which the human intellect is incapable of discriminating between good and evil actions, even in a general way. It is asserted that the distinction between good and evil can only be made on the basis of divine revelation: that it is God who commands us to do good and God who forbids us from doing evil. According to this perspective, if God were to consign sinless souls to Hell and sinners to Paradise, this would constitute perfect goodness and justice! If God is described as ‘Just’, it is only because He has been given this attribute by revelation.
Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, Doctrines of Shii Islam, A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices, Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi, published by I.B.Tauris Publishers, London • New york 2003