Justice in Relation to Man: Avoiding Sin
Recently, I was reading an interesting article concerning God’s Divine justice (link here) by the late scholar Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari. The article has been translated by Dr. Hamid Algar, a notable professor, and thus captured my interest as I was familiar with his translations. Among other issues, the article deals with the issue of why God must be just and raises quite a few interesting premises to provide evidence for this claim. This post however, concerns itself not with God’s justice, rather, with man’s own justice unto himself. There is one particular passage within the article that details the reason as to why God is just. This same passage can be inferred from to derive meaning pertinent to man’s own justice unto himself and is quoted below.
“…Justice is the basis of God’s acts, both in the ordering of the universe and in the establishing of laws. Just as human acts can be weighed according to the criteria of good and bad, the acts of the Creator are also subject to the same criteria. Since the logic of reason determines that justice is inherently praiseworthy and injustice inherently reprehensible, an object of worship whose characteristics include infinite intelligence and spirit, will never undertake an act that reason regards as impermissible.”
The preceding passage brings to light many interesting if not enlightening points. First of all, it establishes that the entirety of God’s acts and laws are based upon the foundation of justice. These acts and laws are subject to the criteria of good and bad. The passage also establishes that through reason, it is determined that justice is inherently praiseworthy as opposed to injustice. Therefore, since God is infinitely intelligent, He would never undertake a deed that defies reason as unjust.
Now, that summarizes the passage, however there is much more to be gleaned through inferring certain ideas. To begin with, the main point of the above passage is that God would never commit injustice as that would go against reason. Therefore, reason inherently recognizes justice as a righteous value. Now, human beings also have the faculty of reason; that is, a human is also an intelligent being. Therefore, it can be inferred here that if humans developed the capacity to reason then they would surely refrain from committing injustice. Just as a reasonable human does not touch fire because reason says it would bring about pain, one would refrain from injustice because reason determines that it is reprehensible by nature.
Therefore, it has been ascertained that a reasonable human would not commit injustice as such an act would defy reason. At this point, it becomes necessary to recognize what injustice is. At first, one may believe that injustice has to do with infringing upon the rights of others, which is correct to an extent. However, injustice has a broader scope then that, it also applies to one’s own self. One can commit injustice against his own body and soul through committing sin, and there are numerous proofs to attest for this statement.
Ayatullah Dastaghaib Shirazi has written in his book, Greater Sins:
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has said,
“There is no man who does not have a white spot in his heart. When he commits a sin a black spot emerges from this spot. If he repents, the blackness goes away but if he sinks in sin and continues to sin the blackness keeps on increasing till it surrounds the whiteness of the heart completely. When the white spot is totally covered by the blackness, the owner of this heart will never revert towards goodness.
This tradition establishes the fact that committing sin affects one’s soul negatively. Sins commit injustice by blemishing the divine soul which has been bestowed upon humans by God. Many verses from the Qur’an attest to this as well.
So each We punished for his sin; of them was he on whom We sent down a violent storm, and of them was he whom the rumbling overtook, and of them was he whom We made to be swallowed up by the earth, and of them was he whom We drowned; and it did not beseem Allah that He should be unjust to them, but they were unjust to their own souls. (29:40)
And We gave you the shade of clouds and sent down to you Manna and quails, saying: “Eat of the good things We have provided for you:” (But they rebelled); to us they did no harm, but they harmed their own souls.(2:57)
And those who when they commit an indecency or do injustice to their souls, remember Allah…(3:135)
Therefore, injustice is not a term that merely applies to one’s conduct towards others, rather it applies to one’s own self and soul. As aforementioned, a reasonable human does not commit injustice. Therefore, a reasonable human will not commit sin as reason dictates that sin causes the soul to be negatively affected. Overall, the conclusion that an intellectual being will not commit sin can be summarized within the words of the sixth Imam.
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq has stated in a hadith when talking to Hisham ibn an-Hakam,
“To disobey a prohibition is enough proof of one’s ignorance.”
(Al-Kafi, Kitāb al-‘aql wa al-jahl, V.1, Ch.1, H 12)
Before concluding this post, there is one final, very interesting point that I would like to make. It concerns the following verse…
And when his Lord tried Ibrahim with certain words, he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you an Imam (leader) of men. Ibrahim said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said He.(2:124)
This verse is of extreme interest and its subject matter runs in tangent with the previous discussion. Here, Allah appoints Prophet Ibrahim as a leader and he says that no one who is unjust will be appointed as a divine leader or Imam. Now, this falls in line with the previous discussion as to be unjust not only pertains to infringing upon the rights of another, but also, committing sin. Therefore, one who commits sin cannot be appointed as a divine leader or Imam. This is why the infallibles such as the Prophets and the Imams must be ma’sum, that is they cannot have committed sin. For in order to be a divine leader, one cannot be unjust. Therefore, the Imams and Prophets cannot commit sin because as affirmed earlier, sin is a form of injustice.
Of course, now the discussion has shifted to a much larger topic, infallibility, and these words have merely grazed the ocean in terms of content. If God wills, this subject will be touched upon in a future post.