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The General Phenomenon of Prophethood

Everything in this vast universe carries with it its strict divine law which directs it and aids it to rise to the highest possible levels of fulfillment. Thus the seed, under the rule of its specific law, and within the framework of its special conditions, evolves into a tree. The sperm, likewise, in accordance with the divine law operating in it, becomes a human being. Everything, from the sun to the proton, and from the planets moving in the sun's orbit to the electrons moving in the orbit of a proton, all move according to a special plan and evolve according to a special potentiality. This all-encompassing divine order includes the universe with all its aspects and phenomena, as can be demonstrated by the argument of scientific induction. The most important phenomenon in the universe may be that of human free choice. Man is a choosing being, and that means that he is a purposive being. That is to say, man acts for a purpose which he seeks to achieve. He digs in the earth to bring forth water, cooks in order to eat tasty food and experiments with the phenomena of nature in order to` know its laws, and so forth.

Other beings in nature, in contrast, act for already set aims and not for purposes which they set for themselves and seek their fulfillment. Thus the lung, stomach and nervous system, in performing their physiological functions, perform a purposive activity. The purpose here, however, is not one which they established through their natural functions; it is rather the purpose of the All-knowing Creator.

Since man is a purposive being whose practical attitudes are closely connected with specific purposes which he comprehends and lives for; it follows that man is not determined by a strict natural law, as for example, a raindrop falling in a predetermined manner in accordance with the law of gravity. Had his circumstances been similar, man would not have been a purposive being acting in accordance-with a purpose existing in his mind. For man to be purposive, it is necessary that he be free in his actions in order that he can act according to whatever purposes may arise in his mind. The link between man's practical attitudes and his purposes, therefore, constitute the law controlling the phenomenon of choice in man.

Human purpose, moreover, does not arise haphazardly. Man bases his purposes on the requirements of his personal interests and needs. These needs are dictated by, the environment and objective circumstances which surround man. The circumstances, however, do not move man directly in the way a storm, for instance, moves the leaves of trees.' Had this been the case, it would annul man's role as a purposive being. It is therefore necessary for objective circumstances to move man, but only in that they stir him to act in accordance with his own perception of his interest within a specific practical situation. Not every interest, however, is capable of moving the individual to action. Rather, this is achieved by such interests as the individual discerns to be his own interests as well. Therefore, interests are of two kinds, short-term interests which often benefit the .purposive individual .who act strictly in self interest, and long-term interests' which benefit society. Often, however, individual interests come into direct conflict with those of society. Thus, we observe that man is often moved not by the positive values of an interest but by the special benefits which may accrue to him. We observe also that there should be an objective necessity which can assure individual motivation by group interests as a necessary condition for the preservation and progress of life in the long run.

On this basis, man has to face a conflict between the demands of the law (sunnah) of life and its preservation through an objective conduct aimed at promoting group interests. On the one hand, and individual tendencies demanding man to heed only his own individual interests and to work for his own individual benefit on the other. It was therefore necessary to find a formula capable of resolving this conflict and creating objective circumstances which call for human motivation in accordance with group interests.

Prophethood, in that it is a divine phenomenon in human life, is the law which provides the way to resolve this problem. This it does by rendering group interests and all other great interests which go beyond the short-term aspects of human life, into individual long-term interests. It achieves this by informing the individual of the continuity of his existence after death and of his final journey into the divine court of justice and recompense, where all human beings will be gathered to see their deeds.

Whosoever does an ant's weight of good shall see it, and whosoever does an ant's weight of evil shall see it.﴿ (Qur'an, 99:7-8)

In this way group interests become identical with individual interests considered in the long run.

The paradigm of this solution consists of a theory and the special educational process of man based on it. The theory is the return (ma'ad) to God on the day of resurrection; the educational process is a continuous activity of divine guidance. That it must be a divine activity because it depends on the last day that is on the unknown (al-ghayb). This activity cannot take place except through divine revelation, which is prophethood. Thus we see that prophethood and the, final return to God are two aspects of the same paradigm which provides the only solution to that general conflict in human life. This solution constitutes the phenomenon of free choice; and promotes it in the service of the true interests in human life.


* The Revealer, The Messenger, The Message. By (Martyr) Mohammad Baqir as-Sadr. Part 2. Translated by: Dr. Mahmoud M. Ayoub. Published by: World Organization for Islamic Services. P.O Box No 22445 Tehran - Iran. First Edition 1980/1400.

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