Hazrat Ali (a.s.) says:
“Adl is that you don’t accuse Him (Allah, of things which you don’t like for yourself).”
(Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 5, p. 52, H.86)
The objections of the people regarding justice and equity of Allah is due to sheer ignorance and lack of knowledge and understanding. We state this here very clearly for our readers so that one may realize that people have attributed wrong things toward Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful without any reason or proof.
Question: Why do some people have defects from birth? If Allah is Just, then why has He created these people defective and imperfect by which they have to undergo problems and difficulties throughout their lives and are made targets of taunts, degradation and disgrace?
Answer: Firstly, it is possible that these defects and tribulations are means of examination by Allah for those defective people or their parents, relatives and friends.
Secondly, Allah warns and cautions the people through these difficulties so that He awakens the people from the sleep of negligence and makes them attentive towards Himself. In this way, a link is formed between the Creator and His servants which is a great bounty.
Thirdly, defects from birth are sometimes the result of our own deeds, because many a times we ourselves are the cause of such difficulties and problems. The people who are defective from birth are the result of human negligence. It is the duty of the parents to care and protect their health and spirituality. But due to carelessness, defective children are born. For example, having intercourse in a state of intoxication has a very dangerous effect on the foetus in the mother’s womb. Over here one question arises that what is the child’s fault in this? Dear readers, over here the child is faultless and Allah is also Pure, it is the parent’s fault who violated the law as a result of which difficulties and problems have afflicted the child. This is not the case only with children. Throughout the world, it is always the oppressed ones who have to suffer untold miseries due to the crimes of the oppressors.
Another example is that of a person who hurls a stone at you and injures your forehead. Then in this condition, it is neither your fault nor Allah’s. But it is that person’s fault who has thrown the stone at you. But it is you who are made to undergo the pain and suffering.
Another objection, that arises is – the parent’s fault was for a limited period only and temporary in nature, however the defective child has to suffer disgrace throughout his life. Regarding this, we state that within a second if you make yourself blind with a knife, then you will become blind permanently, for life. However, this mistake was the result of action that was done in a second, the effect of which lasts a lifetime.
Similarly if you throw a stone on a mirror, the mirror will be shattered into pieces permanently. Even other things are affected likewise. For instance, a friendship based on years of love and affection may breakup due to some unpleasant words or some silly misunderstanding. Similarly, enmity based on years of hostility and malice maybe resolved by a mere apology.
Another question that arises is – what if the parents are not aware of this action which has a serious effect on the foetus? The reply to this is – the effect is not due to the awareness or unawareness of the parents. For instance, if we are unaware of electricity running through a particular wire and we touch it in our state of ignorance, can we expect the laws of electricity to be suspended out of sympathy for us? If we are unaware and consume liquor thinking it to be water, we will definitely get intoxicated because intoxication is the most obvious effect of liquor, regardless of whether one consumes it wittingly or otherwise. Hence, parents’ unawareness or lack of knowledge will never avert the adverse effects of any action.
Secondly, the degradation and disgrace suffered by a defective child from birth is due to faulty training and flawed upbringing of the people, and has nothing to do with Allah. Never should we look down upon a defective or deformed child. This is what Islam teaches us.
It is necessary to remind here that Allah tests man with hardships and difficulties according to the strength, power, ability and capacity of the person. For instance, He does not threaten a blind man with punishment for not seeing. Similarly, the Almighty Allah will deal with the defective child in another way, distinct from the way He deals with other normal people. Certainly, those children who are born defective due to their parents’ faults are those who have been rendered weak, and Allah, the Almighty, will reward the oppressed ones in the Hereafter. Therefore, it is the duty of the defective people to thank Allah, when they are afflicted with hardships, and should face their afflictions with patience. They must realise that in Islam having a perfect body with good looks is not the standard of greatness, rather it is knowledge and piety.
“Allah has raised in degrees those among you who believe and who have been granted knowledge.”
For those people who make fun of defective and deformed people, we can only say, ‘O men of understanding! Has the defective man created his own self in that form, which makes you ridicule him? And if you are devoid of defects, is it because you have created your own self and made yourself defect-free? Ask yourself honestly whether you would have liked people to mock at you because of some defect in you for no fault of your own?
Keeping in view the high ethics and standards of Islam, let us behave in a manner worthy of Shias of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and lead a prosperous and happy life in this world and be redeemed from disgrace in the hereafter.
We have already mentioned earlier that whatever hardships and difficulties afflict us in our lives is due to our own doing and we are the ones responsible for it. For instance, if we do not follow the laws regarding the protection of our health, then we are bound to fall sick.
Another point highlighted earlier was that difficulties are bounties from Allah’s side to the extent that they make us aware, and wake us from the sleep of negligence. It is a type of remembrance, which makes us attentive towards Allah. It also serves as a test and examination for the people. Let us browse through the replies to some of the important questions posed by the skeptics.
Question: Is Allah not aware of an individual’s capacity? Then why does He need to take an examination?
Answer: It is apparent that Allah does not test us to gauge our capabilities and capacity because He is aware of it and even knows what we think and how we will react. The aim of examination is to make us understand our selves. Depending on our actions we are rewarded for our good deeds and punished for our evil actions. This is because Allah does not reward or punish on the basis of His Knowledge (while the person has performed that action). It is a fact that that the difficulties and hardships are a way of examination for the people. Holy Quran states in
“And We will examine you with evil and good, an examination.”
A person behaves differently in times of difficulties and in comfort. Over here it is possible to divide people in four categories.
The first category include those people who at times of difficulties and hardships start wailing and lamenting and question the justice, wisdom, grace and laws of Allah’s creation. Quran introduces such people in the following words.
“And when affliction touches him, he is terrified.”
The second group consists of those people who when afflicted with calamities, act with patience and steadfastness. They declare with their heart and tongue – if we have lost something that was given by Allah, then He certainly possesses the power to bestow it once again. Inshallah, He will provide for us and anyhow we also will soon die one day.
“Surely we are from Allah and unto Him shall we return.”
Members of the third group are more righteous than those of the second group, since these people not only act patiently at times of difficulties (in performance of wajibaat) but they also offer thanks.
(Refer the invocation of Prostration in Ziyarat-e-Aashoora)
The fourth group includes those people who are more righteous and steadfast than the third group. These are those people, who at the times of difficulties never question the justice and grace of Allah and act with patience and fortitude. At times of ease and comfort, they search for hardships and calamities like Imam Husain (a.s.) who traveled towards Karbala.
Indeed, different types of people react differently at times of hardship and difficulties. When a child is given an onion, he takes a bite, but then immediately starts crying and wailing and throws the onion. Tears start flowing from his eyes. But in search of that same onion the child’s father goes to the market and brings home by paying a price.
The difficulties and bitterness of life are also the same. Some people run far away from tribulations while others rush towards it.
It is necessary to ponder over the following: calamities that are a result of obeying Allah’s commands (like prohibition from unlawful wealth, refraining from liquor, keeping aloof from adultery etc.) elevate our status near Allah. We should live only for Allah and should appoint only Him as the One who takes accounts of our deeds because it is necessary to give Him our account on the Day of Judgement. If we want to become such that we are able to face difficulties and hardships, then we have to counter the whisperings of Shaitaan and our base desires. If we are victorious in this battle, then the taste of hardship will be sweeter than that of honey, otherwise it will be bitter and harsh.
Let us see what should be our approach in times of difficulties and hardships. What path must one embrace to overcome difficulties and hardships? In such times, we must seek the path shown by the Holy Quran.
1) OUR VIEW AND MODE OF THOUGHT SHOULD BE RELIGIOUS
At times of afflictions we should say that we are the slaves of Allah, our existence is not permanent, we don’t have the right to demand a thing from Him. Our existence in this world and the bounties which we enjoy are bestowed by Him. Our position is no more than that of a trustee (of these bounties). This is our position and this world is transitory. We don’t have the right to ask why we have to die because this world is not our eternal abode. The hereafter is our eternal abode.
We exist today and we will be existing even after death. The only difference will be our condition. This line of reasoning provides courage and patience to confront the difficulties and calamities. This is expressed in these words:
“Surely we are from Allah and unto Him shall we return.”
(2) AWARENESS OF DIVINE LAWS:
The Holy Quran warns that people have not been created so that they may attain Paradise without troubles and affliction.
“Or do you think that you would enter the garden while yet the state of those who have passed away before you has not come upon you; distress and affliction befell them and they were shaken violently.”
This verse shows that throughout the history of mankind, the righteous have had to face difficulties and hardships. Now it is our turn. Neither are these difficulties new nor are those who are facing it.
The Holy Quran time and again tells the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) to browse through the history of nations so that we may not consider calamity as a new thing. Although the addressee in the above verses is the Holy Prophet (s.a.) but it is meant for his nation. Just as a glad tiding grants contentment to a person, the history of the previous nations is very effective in instilling a sense of patience and forbearance to the one who derives lessons from them. Of course, there is yet another thing which helps man to be patient is to know the lives of those who bore patience and to be aware of their methods of forbearance. Steadfastness was one of the important reasons for the success of the people of yore.
(3) ATTENTION TOWARDS ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY
One should be inclined towards Allah with such faith and certainty that He hears us, sees our actions and solves our problems. If man believes with total certitude in the above things then he will never lend his ears to the absurd talks of the people. He will move towards Allah, disregarding all other things. As in the story of Hazrat Nuh (a.s.), Allah orders him,
“And make the ark before Our eyes and (according to) Our revelation and do not speak to Me in respect of those who are unjust; surely they shall be drowned.”
When Hazrat Nuh (a.s.) started constructing the ark, the unbelievers passing by him began mocking him and would taunt him by saying – your prophethood was not successful so now you have taken up carpentry. The courage with which Hazrat Nuh (a.s.) faced the taunts was due to the words of Allah that – He is watching, everything you do. The consequence of the unbelievers will be that they will be drowned.
(4) FOCUS ON REWARD AND PUNISHMENT:
The fourth thing that reinforces the spirit of steadfastness is by focusing on the reward and punishment of all our deeds, no matter how insignificant.
“Then whoever does an atom weight of a good deed shall see it and whoever does an atom weight of evil, shall see it.”
(Zilzal: 7 – 8)
Performing the obligatory acts and commands of Allah involves difficulties and hardships. Patience on hardships becomes the cause of success in this world, and reaps excellent rewards in the hereafter. For instance, if a student understands that even by studying little he gains a lot, then he will work harder and will gain more.
Then we must be careful in our deeds and should realise that even the most insignificant of good deeds attracts rewards and the most insignificant of evil deeds will lead to chastisement. Then we must realise that Allah always watches and will account for all our deeds one day.
(5) SEEKING HELP THROUGH NAMAZ, SUPPLICATIONS AND PATIENCE.
The fifth factor, which inspires man for steadfastness is seeking help through one’s prayers (salaat), excessive fasting and supplications. Hence, Allah says
“And seek help through patience and prayers.”
Our daily prayers serve to strengthen our relationship with the Creator, our Sustainer, our Master, Allah. In traditions it is said that Hazrat Ali (a.s.) used to be engaged in prayers at times of difficulties and hardships. Prayers would deliver him from his worries as it is namaaz, which makes the worshipper nearer to his Master and gives him satisfaction and tranquility.
Question: Islam says that the aim of man’s creation is to worship Allah, as declared in the Holy Quran,
‘I did not create Jinns and humans except that they should worship Me.’
Question: Then why has Allah created Shaitan, whose creation goes against this aim? Is the existence of Shaitan in accordance with the justice, wisdom and will of Allah?
Answer: Whatever Allah had bestowed upon Shaitan – existence, capability, ability etc., had initially benefited him. For according to the narration of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) he worshipped Allah for thousands of years before disobeying His command for Adam’s (a.s.) prostration. But a far greater sin than the disobedience was his refusal and stubbornness in seeking Allah’s forgiveness. He was very proud and haughty, and belittled the commands of Allah. He declared to Allah – I am created from fire, while Adam is created from earth. Fire is superior to earth, so how can I prostrate in front of him? Therefore, it would not be wrong to state that Shaitan’s revolt and disobedience was due to his own pride, and not due to Allah, the Exalted.
The whisperings of Shaitan do not compel anyone to sin. Also, these whisperings are only an encouragement and do not nullify the function of our desires and intention, which play the most important role in Allah’s disobedience.
In other words, Shaitan’s whispering is but a catalyst in Allah’s disobedience while the most crucial role in this disobedience is still played by our intention and desire.
Secondly, this question would have been valid if there was only Shaitan’s whispering, with nothing to counter his invitation towards Allah’s disobedience. But how can we ignore the fact that Allah has sent 1,24,000 Prophets (a.s.) who invite man towards Allah’s obedience, and help man counter Shaitan’s whisperings. Indeed, it is not that Shaitan is pulling us towards himself, rather it is we who pull Shaitan towards ourselves. Rest assured that till the time we are not inclined towards Shaitan, he cannot misguide us as the Holy Quran states:
“Surely he (Shaitan) has no authority over those who believe and rely on their Lord. His authority is only over those who befriend him and those who associate others with Him.”
(Nahl: 99, 100)
Although Shaitan cannot force us to sin, it does not mean that he can not even incite man to sin. It only means that that those who are steadfast in their faith can ward off Shaitan’s whisperings, and do not fall prey to his deceit, as they are under Allah’s protection, who safeguards them from his evil.
Shaitan is the one who could have exploited his capabilities and proximity near Allah, to achieve the loftiest of positions among worshippers. But his conceit and pride proved to be his undoing. Thereafter he swore to deviate the children of Adam (a.s.). However, Allah did not give him the power of coercion to sin. Moreover, we must always remember that, Allah forbid, even if we do sin, the door of repentance is open for those who are deceived by Shaitan. Keeping all these points in view, it would not be appropriate to say that it is against Allah’s justice that He created Shaitan.
Question: Thousands of people are affected in this world due to misfortunes, calamities, death, destruction, earthquakes, storm, battles, wars and oppression, many of who die, leaving behind aggrieved families, widows and orphans without any support and succour. What is the cause for such calamities and disasters? If Allah is responsible for such problems, then how can we call Him Just and if it is Shaitan, then how has Allah permitted Him to wreak havoc on His creatures?
Moreover, it also means that Allah does not enjoy total control over the universe and God forbid, Shaitan is a partner in His affairs.
Answer: (1) Social calamities (wars, oppressions, poverty and hunger that are the direct result of man’s deeds) should be distinguished from natural calamities (earthquakes, storm, etc.). As far as social calamities are concerned, man himself is responsible for them, and Allah cannot be held liable for such misfortunes. Allah says:
“Mischief became manifest in the earth and the seas for what the hands of man has earned.”
On the basis of Quranic verses and traditions of Imams (a.s.), it is only man’s deeds that are the causes of calamities and misfortunes from the world of creation that descend down upon him. Allah says:
“And whatever calamities befall you, then it is what your hands have earned although He (Allah) forgives most of them.”
(2) These misfortunes and calamities on one hand are warnings from Allah’s side, and on the other hand have many benefits, viz.
(a) Misfortunes and calamities are tests for a believer and become the cause of forgiveness for his sins. They act as warnings and punishment for unbelievers. They are the cause for elevation in the Prophets’ (a.s.) status.
(b) Misfortunes and calamities take a person nearer to Allah. They are a means to remember Allah and unveil the curtain of his innate nature (fitrat).
(c) Adversities are a cause of building one’s character. Had the human society been free of calamities and disasters, man would never have discovered so many branches of knowledge and science to prevent these misfortunes. The reason of man’s amazing progress and successes are these very calamities and disasters. Allah, the Almighty says:
“And certainly We will test them with fear and hunger and scarcity of wealth and lives and fruits. And give good news to the patient ones.”
Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) declares,
“Misfortunes are warnings for the unjust, test for the believers and the cause of elevation for the Prophets.”
(Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 76, p. 135)
Allah states the reason of numerous calamities, which descended on Bani Israel in the following words:
“And We seized them with chastisement so that they may return.”
(d) When calamities and disasters descend in general, they engulf innocent children and even virtuous and pious individuals. Then these people are involved in difficulties through no fault of their own. However, we must bear in mind that in Qiyamat the virtuous and pious will get recompensed for their difficulties and hardships, while the unbelievers and infidels will be subjected to chastisement in lieu of the comforts that they enjoyed in this world.
In short, the religion of Islam does not consider calamities to be the exclusive work of either Shaitan or Allah.
Question: If reward and punishment are the demands of justice and everybody will be rewarded/punished according to their deeds, then under such circumstances intercession is against justice as the sinful person deserves to be thrown in hell because of his deeds.
Answer: According to the principles of justice, it is necessary to reward the good doers but to punish the evil doer is not obligatory. If Allah punishes the evil doer than it will be in line with His justice, but if He forgives him, then it will be on account of His grace and mercy. Grace is superior to justice and not the other way round. This is exactly why we find the following sentence in the supplication of Imam Sajjad (a.s.):
“O Allah! Account us with Your grace and not with Your justice!”
Question: It is expected from a just person that he behaves with equity and justice with each and every one. And in Allah’s case, this expectation increases infinitely. But we see that humans are not treated justly, there are wide disparities and differences in capability, capacity, commonsense, memory, height, features, wealth, family, fame and reputation, etc. Justice demands that all men should get everything in equal measure.
Answer: The creatures do not have any right upon Allah because these creatures have not come into existence on their own, but Allah has brought them into existence, while it was not necessary for Him to do so. For instance, take a rich man who passes by a queue of beggars and gives the first beggar one rupee, one hundred rupees to the second one and gives one thousand rupees to the third one, but does not give anything to the fourth beggar. Then as per the principles of justice the wealthy man has not done injustice with anyone. He has given to some beggars on account of his grace and he has deprived the rest because he was under no obligation to grant them anything in the first place.
Besides, it is found in traditions that Allah will recompense the people for the shortfall of this world in the hereafter.
Allah has planned the system of this world based on disparities in faculties. Disparities are essential in every system. If there are no disparities and everyone has the same faculties, then the system will become predictable and will never highlight the exceptional talents of the individuals living in the system. For instance, if all the parts of a watch are the same then it will never function. Similarly if all the people were the same in capability, capacity, appearance i.e. they were perfectly equal from all aspects, then how would this world function?