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Seeking Justice: Understanding God’s Role in a Troubled World

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There are three questions that every human being who looks at the creation he is found in asks:

The first question: Why did God create existence? Why did God create the disbeliever knowing he would end up in Hell? Why did God create the one deprived of a father and mother knowing he would remain deprived until his death?

The second question: Why did God create humans to be different, creating black and white, rich and poor, sick and healthy, oppressed and oppressor? Isn’t this difference the cause of envy and warfare among humanity?

The third question: Why did God inflict evils upon human society where there are diseases, epidemics, wars, persecution, and injustice? Does this align with His wisdom and mercy, when one visits a children’s cancer hospital and sees children afflicted with cancer, wondering what the wisdom behind their existence is if God wills it? Does this align with His mercy and justice? And if He does not will it, why does He not prevent it or stand as a barrier against it?

These are three questions that linger in the mind of every human being, so each question has a related focus:

The first question

Why did God create this disbeliever knowing he would end up in Hell because of his disbelief, and God created that orphan deprived knowing he would remain an orphan deprived throughout his life?

The answer to this question involves two philosophical principles related to this point:

The first principle: The imperfect actor aims to complete his deficiency, and the perfect actor aims to manifest his perfection. There is a human who studies and learns with the goal of completing his deficiency and becoming a knowledgeable person; this is an imperfect actor, and his goal and aim are to complete his deficiency. As for the perfect one, his perfection compels him to manifest perfection, his perfection calls him to demonstrate his perfection and glory, the perfect actor aims to manifest his perfection. Here we come to Allah, blessed and exalted: Is Allah an imperfect actor? Is His goal in creation to complete His deficiency? Does He need the existence of this universe? Absolutely not, He is not an imperfect actor to have the goal of completing His deficiency. “O mankind, you are those in need of Allah, whereas Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy.”[1]  Because He is perfect and His goal is the manifestation of His perfection, and part of His perfection is to demonstrate His perfection. The creation of the heavens and the earth and humans are all manifestations of God’s perfection and His greatness. There is no creature that does not manifest God’s perfection and greatness. “We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness?”.[2]

The disbeliever is a manifestation of God’s perfection, the believer is a manifestation of God’s perfection, all existences are manifestations of God’s perfection, and His perfection necessitated the manifestation of His perfection because part of perfection is to demonstrate perfection. Thus, the entire existence is a manifestation of His perfection, even the disobedient and the disbeliever are manifestations of God’s perfection because, in the end, every creature possesses a characteristic of perfection which they may not be aware of and neglect, but every existence and every human has a perfection characteristic through which they are a manifestation of God’s perfection, greatness, and power, blessed and exalted.

The second principle: Knowledge is not among the causes of the known. For example, I have a child whom I enroll in school and provide with all means of education, motivation, and care so that he graduates from his school as a brilliant and outstanding student, but I already know that this child will fail and that all these means will not succeed and will not benefit him. So, I provide him with all means while knowing that he will fail and that he will not be successful. Thus, giving him all means of success, education, and excellence: Is this giving justice or injustice, is it a blessing or stinginess? Without a doubt, the father’s care for his son, even though he knows that he will fail, and providing all means of education is justice, mercy, and care. And knowing that the boy will fail does not make providing educational means a reason for his failure. Knowledge is not among the causes of the known. Allah, blessed and exalted, created the disbeliever and provided him with all means of success, gave him intellect, will, existence, blessings, and all means to invest them in being a complete and obedient human “to test which of you is best in deed”[3]. But he fails by his will and choice, choosing the path of Hell and disbelief “Whoever desires the immediate – We hasten for him therein what We will to whom We intend. Then, We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, condemned and repelled.”[4] “But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer – it is those whose effort is ever appreciated.”[5] We give to all and provide means for all “Each – We extend to these and to these from the gift of your Lord. And never has the gift of your Lord been restricted”[6].

Therefore, creating the disbeliever and Allah knowing that he will end up in Hell is not injustice, not an encouragement to disbelief, nor a reason for his disbelief, but rather his creation is to be a manifestation of the perfection of Allah Almighty. However, he chose to be blind to the attributes of perfection granted to him and to take the path of fire by his choice and will “Indeed, successful is the one who purifies it, and indeed, failed is the one who corrupts it”[7].

The second question

Why did God create humans distinctively, creating dark and white, rich and poor, sick and healthy, oppressed and oppressor? Isn’t this difference the cause of envy and warfare among humanity?

There’s a difference between discrimination and differentiation. For example, I am a teacher with two students of equal intelligence and capability, but I prefer one over the other without justification; this is called discrimination and it is unjust. Differentiation means subjecting these two students to an exam and test, where each, through their ability and knowledge, will stand out in the exam. If one excels over the other, this is differentiation and not discrimination. Is the difference in creation regarding attributes a matter of differentiation or discrimination?

To answer this question, we say: There are intrinsic traits and there are accidental traits. Intrinsic traits arise from the specific existence (“the thingness of a thing by its specific existence”); all your traits, thingness, and humanity arise from your existence. For example, if we take the number nine, which is the number between eight and ten, and change its place to be between two and four, it no longer remains nine but becomes a number rolled between two and four, hence it becomes three. Once it is lifted from its existence, it becomes something else. Its thingness by its specific existence, so it does not become the number nine unless it is between eight and ten.

A yellow apple and a red apple, each apple has a core. The core of a yellow apple does not produce a red apple and vice versa. If we wanted the yellow core to sprout a red apple, that would not happen. This is called the congruence between cause and effect, the effect is the offspring of its cause. Thus, if we placed this core in place of that core, it would have been another apple and not the first one.

The third example we represent on humans, for instance, Abu Talib, the believer of Quraysh, this great man, his father Abd al-Muttalib, his brother Abdullah, his son Ali ibn Abi Talib, his brother Abu Lahab. If we wanted the sperm that resulted in Abu Lahab to be in Abu Talib, would Abu Talib be himself? It would not, but he would be another person. The sperm is a cause and its effect comes from it. The sperm from which Abu Lahab is born can only produce Abu Lahab, and the sperm from which Abu Talib is born can only produce Abu Talib. If we placed each in the other’s place, he would not be himself. Every existence, its thingness by its specific existence, not by another’s existence. Abu Talib from a specific existence, specific circumstances, and specific sperm, if shifted from them, he would not be Abu Talib but something else.

From here, we come to the answer: If you came from another region or from another sperm or another place, you would not be you. Your thingness arises from this specific existence in which you were created and born, and the moment you change the location, you would not be you, you become something else. Thus, the thingness of a thing arises from its specific existence. In intrinsic traits, your father met your mother, resulting in the sperm, and the moment the sperm was formed, you carried genetic traits, carried the color, shape, intelligence, region, and all these traits. If you were in another place, you would be from another sperm, and if you were from another sperm, you would not be you but another person. So, it makes no sense to ask why am I here, because this is your existence, and if you were in another place, you would not be you but another person.

The third question

Why did God inflict evils upon human society, where there are diseases, epidemics, wars, persecution, and injustice? Does this align with His wisdom and mercy, when one visits a children’s cancer hospital and sees the children afflicted with cancer, wondering what the wisdom behind their existence is if God wills it? Does this align with His mercy and justice? And if He does not will it, why does He not prevent it or stand as a barrier against it?

God created us differently so that we might complement each other, even the disbeliever was created and given traits of perfection in order to be a manifestation of his Lord’s perfection but chose the other path by his choice and will. God’s knowledge that he would choose the other path does not mean that God caused it. As long as it was his choice and will to take the other path and he had the ability to achieve what he was created for, which is to be a manifestation of perfection, this is the result of his poor will.

We have four answers to this question: a philosophical answer, a scientific answer, a mystical answer, and a faith-based educational answer.

The first answer is the philosophical answer.

Philosophers say there is no evil in the universe; all existence is good. God is pure goodness and nothing but good can come from goodness. All existence is good and there is nothing that is inherently evil. God says, “Who perfected everything He created”[8]. As for evil, it is a relative matter and not a true reality. You might consider a mosquito evil, although in itself, it is energy. If you read scientific reports about mosquitoes, you see what senses and means of knowledge and prediction they have that you wouldn’t expect. It is in itself good because it contributes to the pollination of crops and helps eliminate pests. It is in itself good, and the evil that I see is because it does not suit my body. If my body is exposed to it, I feel pain. Therefore, evil becomes a relative matter. So, what is your relation to a chicken or a sheep? Are you good or evil! A human does not consider himself evil, while a fish considers you the greatest evil because you eat it. Therefore, the matter of evil becomes a relative matter. This great creature, the human, who possesses energies, capabilities, and creativity that no one can call evil, is considered evil by the fish and the chicken because he eats and preys on them and fills his stomach with them. Therefore, evil becomes a relative ratio and not a true matter.

All existence is good and there is no evil in it. You might consider it evil, but in itself, it is good. Earthquakes and volcanoes are considered evil, but they contribute to the stability of the Earth’s crust. These earthquakes, to you who are near them, are evil, but to other parts and places of the Earth, they are considered good because they contribute to the Earth’s stability. Therefore, evil becomes a relative matter and not a true matter.

The second answer: The scientific answer.

The entire universe is in motion; nothing is static “And you see the mountains, thinking them rigid, while they will pass as the passing of clouds”[9]. There are incidental movements, like the movement of an electron around the atomic nucleus, and there are substantial movements, like the movement of the entire existence in the essence of itself.

The substantial movement of existence is based on the coupling of opposites. Without opposites, existence would remain stationary and not move. The movement of existence depends on the coupling between opposites. For example, every matter contains matter and antimatter, every physical existence contains matter and antimatter, a positive element and a negative element. Therefore, some scientists interpreted the blessed verse in this sense “And of everything We have created pairs”[10]. Without this coupling, nuclear power would not be generated, and without nuclear power in the universe, no celestial bodies or solar systems would move, nor would the universe proceed as it does “The sun cannot overtake the moon, nor does the night outstrip the day. Each in an orbit is swimming”[11].

Density and subtlety are opposites. There are existences of utmost subtlety like long waves, and there are existences of utmost density like neutron stars, like black holes that swallow planets if they come too close. There is a coupling between existences of utmost subtlety and those of utmost density, and without this coupling between the two opposites, the movement of existence would not proceed.

There are stars that are always expanding, and there are stars that are contracting, hence it says: “And Allah contracts and expands [provision]”[12] “And the heaven We constructed with strength, and indeed, We are [its] expander”[13]. There is expansion and there is contraction, and without this coupling between the two opposites of contraction and expansion, the course of existence would not have stabilized.

There is death and life. In every moment, thousands of cells die in a human, and thousands of cells come to life, living both death and life at every moment “He brings the living out of the dead and brings the dead out of the living. And He revives the earth after its death. And thus you will be brought out”[14]and He says, “He who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving”[15]. Thus, there is a coupling between death and life. As a result, one opposite reveals the goodness of the other; without darkness, we would not know light, without pain, we would not taste pleasure, without poverty, wealth would not have value, without heat, we would not know the meaning of cold. The entire existence is based on the coupling between opposites, and without this coupling between opposites, the movement of existence would not proceed, and the course of existence would not be orderly. This is the secret behind the existence of these opposites, which you consider evils, but in reality, they are a necessary good for the orderly course of existence.

The sun, at its core, embodies death and no one can approach it because it undergoes nuclear fusion, yet it is the source of life on Earth. This sun, which is a deadly element that swallows anything that comes close, is a source of life and good on Earth. Without it, everything on Earth would die. Thus, there is a coupling between opposites.

The third answer: The mystical answer.

Mystics, when they look at the saying of the Almighty: “Everything upon it [the earth] will perish, and there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor”[16], say the attributes of God are divided into majesty and beauty, beauty expressed as honor, and majesty as Majesty itself. Every attribute that distinguishes God from His creation is an attribute of majesty, overwhelming, mighty, compelling; these attributes distinguish Him from His creation and are thus attributes of majesty. All attributes through which He connects with His creation are considered attributes of beauty, Creator, Sustainer, Giver of Life, Taker of Life, Bestower; these are attributes of beauty “He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Perfection, the Bestower of Faith, the Overseer, the Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Superior. Exalted is Allah above whatever they associate with Him”[17], combining attributes of majesty and beauty. What is the purpose of the diversity between majesty and beauty?

The goal is to connect humans with God. A group of humans connects with God through the attribute of beauty. If you perceive God’s beauty, His blessings, His mercy, and His giving, you are drawn to Him, thus you worship Him motivated by love and gratitude “Say, [O Muhammad], ‘If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.'”[18]. And there are people who, if they see attributes of majesty such as might, dominion, and sovereignty, worship God motivated by awe, reverence, and submission. So, He made for Himself attributes of majesty so that some of His servants worship Him in awe, and He made for Himself attributes of beauty so that some of His servants worship Him in love and gratitude. Thus, servants proceed towards God in servitude either motivated by majesty or by beauty.

Evils are manifestations of the attribute of majesty. Disasters, earthquakes, epidemics, warnings, threats, all these are manifestations of His attribute of majesty. And when you look at the green earth, the spring, its flowers, and the moderate climate, these are manifestations of the attribute of beauty. Both attributes affect humans; the attribute of majesty connects humans with God through submission and reverence, and the attribute of beauty connects humans with God through love and gratitude. So, let’s assume evils exist and the philosophers’ words are not correct, evils are opposites of goods, and without the coupling between opposites, which are evils and goods, the course of existence would not be orderly. Similarly, we say in the third answer: Evils are a manifestation of the attribute of majesty, as goods are a manifestation of the attribute of beauty. Without this diversity between the two attributes, creation would not turn to God sometimes motivated by servitude, reverence, and submission, and sometimes by love and gratitude “And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me”[19].

The fourth answer: The faith-based answer.

The existence of evils achieves very important educational effects. Evils are of two types: elective evils and coercive evils. Elective evils have been exemplified previously with an example that atheists focus on, which is their saying, “Look at the children’s cancer hospital,” where a child is born with a fatal disease, or was born healthy but soon after, as an infant, contracted a fatal disease. Is this evil from God or from the servant? Of course, it’s from the servant. If it were not for the father being ill and coming into contact with the mother, the hereditary diseases would not have been transmitted. It did not come from God Almighty. The father, by his choice and will, came into contact with her, and by his choice and will, became a reason for the transmission of chronic hereditary diseases to his child. The evil traced back to a choice made by a human.

And when the mother is healthy and the father is healthy, but this woman might have exposed herself to certain radiations and as a result, the fetus became afflicted with a fatal disease. It was her choice and will to enter and expose herself to these radiations, and as a result of this elective act, the child contracted the disease.

A child might have been born healthy, but his parents traveled with him to a polluted country, transferred him to a polluted area, or when the child fell ill, his parents administered medication with severe negative effects, making the child sick. Thus, the disease and harm arose from an elective reason attributable to his parents. Someone might say they were unaware of the harm, yet knowledge or lack thereof does not negate choice.

Someone killed another person, this person by his choice and will killed the other person. It might be said he killed him unintentionally, maybe in a car accident, inadvertently but ultimately, it was an elective process. This person went out in his car at this time by his choice, and the deceased went out at this time to the public street by his choice, so the evil traces back to a purely elective process by the human, the right of the human, from within the human, even if the human was unaware of its consequences, not that this is a coercive evil.

The second type is coercive evil, over which humans have no choice, like earthquakes, volcanoes, or the spread of epidemics. These are without an elective cause, ultimately a coercive cause, non-elective, coercive reasons beyond human choice. They have purposes:

The first purpose: to provoke human capability. When humans learn of a spreading epidemic, this knowledge provokes their capability, forcing them to invent a cure, devise preventive methods, and protect their country, region, family, and themselves in various ways. Thus, evil provoked your capacity and activated in you the ability to create and give. Evil had a practical educational effect on your behavior and life because it turned you into a productive and creative individual. If you were not afraid of evil, you would live lazily, lying on a soft pillow, but evil stirred in you the creative force, serving an educational purpose of the existence of evils.

The second purpose: evils refine human will. There’s a difference between a pampered person and one who faces hardships in life. A pampered person does not experience strong will, does not experience the strength to challenge life because he’s used to luxury and ease, whereas a person who has tasted diseases, hardships, persecution, orphanhood, and any means of weakening and deficiency refines his will, giving him an iron will and challenge “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient”[20], those who used the situation and invested the circumstances and built on the strength of will, patience, and challenge “Who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.’ Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided”[21]. And God Almighty says: “Has there [not] come upon man a period of time when he was not a thing [even] mentioned? Indeed, We created man from a sperm-drop mixture that We may try him; and We made him hearing and seeing”[22]. Humans must be tested and go through trials to strengthen their will and emotions, they must go through a period of testing and examination. It’s said in a hadith: “If Allah loves a servant, He tests him thoroughly,” and in another hadith: “If Allah loves a servant, He tests him.”

The purpose of the existence of evils is to test you, and the purpose of testing you is to strengthen your will, and the purpose of strengthening your will is to make you a person who creates life, giving, and creativity because you are strong-willed “Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full, without reckoning”[23]. Thus were the guiding Imams, blessings and peace of Allah be upon them, who experienced the hardships and bitterness of life, endured it, and became heroes and stars in the field of willpower and challenge.


[1] Fatir: 15

[2] Fussilat: 53

[3] Hud: 7

[4] Al-Isra: 18

[5] Al-Isra: 19

[6] Al-Isra: 20

[7] Ash-Shams: 9-10

[8] As-Sajda: 7

[9] An-Naml: 88

[10] Adh-Dhariyat: 49

[11] Ya-Sin: 40

[12] Al-Baqarah: 245

[13] Adh-Dhariyat: 47

[14] Ar-Rum: 19

[15] Al-Mulk: 2

[16] Ar-Rahman: 26-27

[17] Al-Hashr: 23

[18] Al-Imran: 31

[19] Al-Baqarah: 152

[20] Al-Baqarah: 155

[21] Al-Baqarah: 156-157

[22] Al-Insan: 1-2

[23] Az-Zumar: 10

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