This was a short sketch of our belief in Allah. Now we come to the second Root of Religion and that is "Justice of Allah." Frankly speaking, this root of religion is the most important one to study, if anybody wants to know the real and basic difference between Sunnis and Shi'ah Ithna 'Asharis. So far as the existence and Unity of God is concerned, it comes under the First Root 'tawhid," that is, "The Unity of God." But the actions of Allah come under this second root; and here the differences are vast and manifold: Here I propose to show the differences in a few words:
i) First and foremost difference is that while certain Muslim sects hold that nothing is good or evil by itself; and only what Allah has commanded us to do, is good; what He has forbidden is evil. The Ithna 'Asharis on the other hand, believe that irrespective of religious commandments, there is real merit or demerit in different courses of action, and it is because a certain thing is good that. God commands us to do it; and because the other thing is bad that lie forbids it.
ii) Stemming from the above mentioned difference is the fact that the Shiahs believe that Allah never acts aimlessly; i.e. without any purpose or design. All His actions are based on wisdom and intelligent purpose, though we may not know them. The Sunnis on the other hand, say that there is no real demerit in acting aimlessly, and if Allah does anything without purpose, the mere act of Allah will make that action good.
iii) The Shi'ah Ithna 'Asharis say that if a person can do good to any other person and he does not do it, it is against the virtue. Likewise, they say that if Allah can do anything beneficial to His creatures and then, suppose that, He does not do it, it will be against Virtues of Allah and not commendable. Therefore, the Ithna 'Asharis say that: "It is morally incumbent upon Allah to do every act of Grace dealing with mankind."
Here is a quotation from our book of beliefs: "By Grace is understood that action on the part of Allah which would help to bring His creatures nearer to His devotion and obedience and facilitate their moral correction (which is) morally incumbent on Him i.e. GOD. Allah has commanded us to be just, while He Himself treats us with something better, namely Grace (tafaddul). Justice (al-adl), means that He requites a good act with a good reward and an evil act with a punishment. The Prophet said: 'No man ever enters Paradise by virtue of his good actions alone except by the Mercy of Allah.' " (I'tiqadatu 'l-Imamiyyah, by ash-Shaykh as-Saduq)
The Sunnis, on the other hand, do not believe that lulf i.e. Grace is incumbent on Allah. They say that even adl, i.e. Justice, is not incumbent on Allah, even if He sends good and virtuous persons to Hell, it will be quite right.
iv) Then comes the most vital difference between Ithna 'Asharis and Sunnis, i.e. the question of jabr' (compulsion) and 'ikhtiyar' (choice). The position of Sunnis in this respect, according to general belief, is that: "No act of any individual, even though it be done purely for his benefit, is independent of the will of Allah, for its existence; and there does not occur in either the physical or the extraterrestrial world the wink of an eye, the hint of a thought, or the most sudden glance, except by the decree of Allah, of His power, desire and will. This includes, evil and good, benefit and harm, success and failure, sin and righteousness, obedience and disobedience, polytheism and true belief." (al-Ghazzali).
We the Ithna 'Asharis on the other hand say that we know the difference between falling down from a roof-top and coming down by ladders. The second act is done by our power, will and intention; while the falling down is not done so. And we know that our own actions are not like falling down from a roof-top; but they are like climbing down with our own will and power. Therefore, they are our acts and they cannot be attributed to Allah.
Again we see that we are praised or blamed for some of our acts, while for other acts we are neither praised nor condemned. It means that the first category comes within our power and will; and the second is beyond our power and will. We may be advised to treat our ailments in such and such a way, but we cannot be advised to recover from the illness. It means that getting treatments is within our power; but getting recovered is not within our sphere of activities.
Therefore, we say that there are many things and aspects of life that are within our own power and will, while some are not within our power. Those things about which we can be ordered to do or not to do, for which we can be advised, for which we can be praised or blamed, all those acts are within our power and will. And as the commandments of religion come under this category, therefore, it is wrong to say that our sins or righteousness, our obedience or disobedience or polytheism or true belief, are by the decree of Allah. Therefore it has been written in the book of our creed that: "Allah possesses fore-knowledge of human actions, but does not compel mankind to act in any particular manner. When Allah will collect His servants on the Day of Resurrection, He will ask them concerning what He had enjoined on them and will not question them concerning what He had destined for them." 1.
But it does not mean that man is quite independent of Allah. In fact, the power and will to act as we like is given to us by God. Thus, Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) said: "There is no compulsion (by Allah); nor is there absolute delegation of power (from Allah to man); but the real position is between these two extremes." 2
And at what point does our ability to do things start? Imam Musa al-Kazim (p.b.u.h.) said: "A man acquires that ability when four conditions are fulfilled: 1. When there is nothing to hinder his plans; and his 2. health and 3. faculties (needed for that work) are up to the required standard; 4. and God provides him the occasion of that work. When all these conditions are fulfilled a man becomes able to act according to his own free will." When asked about an example, he said: "Let us suppose that there is a man, without any hindrance, of good health and strength; yet he cannot commit adultery unless he finds a woman. When (the 4th condition is fulfilled, and) he gets a woman, then it is up to him to choose one of the two alternatives - either he controls his evil emotions and saves himself as Joseph did; or, on the other hand, commits adultery; if he protects himself from that sin, it will not be by compulsion of Allah (as some people think), and if he commits the sin, it does mean that he was above the power of Allah (as others think)."
According to our point of view, if anybody believes in predestination, he cannot, at the same time, believe in the Day of Judgment. Because, if Allah decrees every act which is done on our hands, then it is gross injustice to inflict punishment upon us for those sins and evils and polytheism and disbelief and immoralities which were predestined by Allah Himself.
Need of Religion
As you are aware, man is a social animal, every man is- dependent on millions of people for his life and its necessities. And you know that every society needs some laws to prevent injustice and preserve the rights of every member of the society. But who is the right person to make the Laws? One man? (Be he a monarch or a dictator.) No! Because he, instinctively, will look, first of all, after his own interest. A group of people? (Be it an aristocracy or democracy.) No! Because every one of them is capable of wrong judgment; and a lot of wrong decisions do not add up to a right decision. Also, it is apparent that no group of people can disengage itself from self interest.
Moreover, you will agree with me that no man or group of men is in a position to make a comprehensive law based on perfect equity and justice. So it is necessary that the laws should be made by someone who is superior to man, who has nothing to loose or gain by that law and with Whom every man has equal relation. And that one is "Allah."Hence the need of religion.
Allah can do no wrong. I do not use this phrase in the sense of "King makes no mistake."
Because "King makes no mistake" means actually that he does nothing at all; he just signs what is passed by the Parliament. So this tribute is based upon 'in-action.' But "Allah does no wrong" means that He is active and powerful but He can do no wrong. Anybody who commits wrong or injustice does so either because he does not know that it is wrong, but Allah knows every thing; or because he needs something which cannot be obtained without wrong-doing, but Allah has no need; or because he has been compelled by somebody else to commit that wrong, but Allah is Omnipotent and nobody can compel Him to do anything. So, logically it is impossible for Allah to do any wrong or commit any injustice.
We believe that Allah created man so that he may acquire those virtues that may bring him nearer to Allah in the life hereafter. Man comes in this world like a blank paper. During his life time, various designs appear upon it by the effect of his works and deeds. Virtues acquired are like beautiful designs; and the vices are like monstrous drawings.
We believe that Allah has given the man wisdom, will and power to acquire the virtues lie has shown the man the right path, and has warned him against going astray. But fie has not compelled him to do good works nor to commit vices. He has given him power to do as he wishes.
We believe that the actions of Allah are intended for the benefit of His creatures. May be, a man who is repairing his roof, feels annoyed because of heavy torrents of rain. But rain is intended for the common benefit; and even the person who at this particular time feels annoyed by it, will derive benefits from it in the long run.
Even such so-called disasters as earthquakes and floods are for common benefit. We deem it as disaster, because we do not know its ultimate purpose. We are like a man who has never seen a house being built. He comes to a city and sees earth being dug out, stones being cut and broken, trees being felled, and he just wonders why all these destructions!, In his eyes, it is destruction, because he does not know its ultimate result. But in fact, it is construction and not destruction. Likewise, we are unaware of the ultimate result of a particular earthquake or flood.
So, we say it is disaster, but if we look backwards, we see that the present good condition of the Earth is, mainly an outcome of the very so-called disaster. Geography and Geology bear testimony to these facts3.
But now arises another question. There is no denying that these acts of God, though intended for common benefit, cause inconvenience, hardship and even death to hundreds and thousands of people. Is it not injustice against those victims of those disasters? Why should they be sacrificed for the benefit of others? To understand it clearly, we should remember that death on this Earth is not the end of life. We die here to live another life which we call "Life Hereafter." Every inconvenience in this insignificant life will be rewarded for in the life hereafter. In fact, the troubles in this world, like the World itself, are not lasting; while their rewards in the form of the Grace of Allah in the life hereafter are everlasting. As we believe in the life hereafter, in the presence of Allah, we appreciate that the troubles and disasters of this world are not 'Injustice.' Instead, they are Mercy of the greatest magnitude.
It will not be out of place to mention here that most of the beliefs (mentioned under this second root of religion) are specialities of Shi'ah Ithna 'Ashari sect. Other sects in Islam differ from us in these beliefs. In the past, they gave us (together with the Mu'tazilites) the name "al'adliyyah" that is "Believers in the Justice of God." For instance, they say that human beings are not the actual doers of their acts. They believe that their actions are done by Allah Himself. Man is only an instrument to perform the actions of Allah. But even then he is responsible for those actions which were performed by Allah upon his hands. But we say that it is gross injustice to make a man commit robbery and then inflict punishment for that felony to commit which he was compelled by the Judge himself.
Now for some things which are more or less common in all the sects of Islam and which are connected with this topic. We believe that Allah does not give us any command which is beyond the limit of our power. We believe that every instinct and desire has been created in the man for some reasons. These instincts or desires should not be crushed but harnessed for the general benefit of the mankind. For instance, sexual desire has been embodied in human nature by Allah Himself. To crush that instinct will be a protest against the Creator. It should not be, and cannot be crushed but of course, its function should be regulated for the benefit of mankind. And hence the necessity of marriage.
Likewise, fear and desire are natural instincts and should be ultilized for human upliftment. A Muslim is taught not to fear anybody or anything except ALLAH, and not to desire anything in this world, but to be anxious to receive the Grace of Allah.
* Sayyid Sa'eed Akhtar Rizvi.
1- I'tiqadatu 'l-Imamiyyah
2-. I'tiqadatu 'l-Imamiyyah
3- It is only one of the causes of these natural phenomena. Sometimes, a hardship or disaster is intended as a warning to mankind or a group or individual; at other times it may be just a test to a person's spiritual virtues to see his submission to the will of Allah. It might have been, in earlier times, a punishment to the mankind for its unabated sins (like flood of Noah), but such punishments have been expressly discontinued after the advent of the Holy Prophet of Islam.