Divine Justice or the Problem of Evil

If there is a Just God why, is there so much evil. There is death, war, earthquake, hunger, bitter conditions of life ........ etc. The argument then follows that either there is no God or there is a cruel God, who like a monster enjoys seeing us suffer. This question has been answered in many ways in different ages. Some of them are as follows and we shall have a brief look at them: 1. God is the Perfect Being, and justice is part of perfection. Therefore, God is Just. So whatever of injustice we see in the world, will be rectified eventually. In other words, He has no needs, and injustice is either from ignorance and fanaticism or from need, and none of these are conceivable for the Perfect Being. Imam Husayn, in the deserts of `Arafat, before being martyred by the enemy, said: "God, you are so needless that you yourself cannot benefit yourself. How hen, can we give anything to you?!"

2. Evil is necessary for the greatest good[1].

3. Man's freedom[2] is the cause of evil. This view can explain wars and social injustices, but cannot explain earthquakes, death, illness, etc. ........ 4. Evil is a negative thing.

Suffering and not Evil

Now, let us go a bit deeper in the problem. What we should say at this point is that we commit a mistake by using the term "evil.'. We should rather use: `suffering or hardship.' By doing this we have not done anything against reality or any logical necessity. In the term `evil' there is a concept of injustice hidden. We shall avoid using it, because it is a loaded word.

Limitless Desires

Now, by looking at concrete experiences and the nature of things, and also looking at our internal and external factors of life, we see that they are not set in a manner to always coincide with our desires and wishes. The limitlessness of our desires from the one hand, and the mathematical nature of the universe on the other, is the cause of our illegitimate annoyance. For example, we want to be absolute knowers; we want to possess absolute ownership of the world without being disturbed. We do not want to get sick. On the other hand, neither does our existential factors give value to these desires, nor do the natural elements abide to these wishes. And since our internal nature and the world itself do not permit our limitless desires, we raise our hands to the sky and say: "O God what an evil universe."

But, somebody who knows that the paraffin in his lamp is limited, will not moan after its extinction. One who knows that this lamp which he has lit is not safe from winds, will not scream when the wind blows it out. The system of the natural world is the same, and one who lives in it cannot come out of the currents of that system. So, we are obliged to accept that there is suffering. The question to ask is that, is it logical to say that these sufferings are against justice? (You should note that we are not talking about sufferings caused by humans: wars, torture, poverty......). The answer to the question is negative, since we have to understand the various meanings of justice. There is sentimental justice, like a mother offering all her love for her child. There is legal justice. There is also moral and philosophical justice. I will try to define the last two: Philosophical Justice: Every subject and phenomenon should travel in its appropriate line and current towards its perfection.

Moral Justice: Do not inflict any suffering on anything else. Philosophical justice means that even if the sick screams and moans, give him the bitter medicine that he needs and do the surgery which is for his good.

Spectators and Participants

Those who have been in contact with man and nature from close-up and have not been mere spectators, have never doubted the justice of God. Socrates, in the time of his prosecution, takes the cup of poison from the guard and drinks it. Since he had a great message for all men of all times, he drank the poison with no fear. If we look at the life of `Ali ibn Abi Talib, Prophet Muhammad's miracle[3] 1 and most beloved companion, we find it filled with suffering and pain. One out of many, is that he was the best in knowledge and action among his society, yet he remained silent for twenty nine years for the sake of the people's ideological unity at that time. Although he had the power to revolt and seize power, he did not and saw others rule. He accepted this psychological suffering for twenty-nine years. Later, when the people realized who he was and came to him and chose him as their leader, he ruled the society with utmost justice. A kind of justice which has made, an eastern materialist Shibli Shumayyil say about him: "The leader `Ali ibn Abi Talib, greatest of all, is the man who neither the West nor Fast, neither yesterday nor today, have seen his example”.[4]

`Ali himself has said: "If you give me all the world with everything in it, in condition that I take a husk of barley from an ant's mouth, I will not do so! "[5]

For the just[6], this world is most painful, but nevertheless, `Ali never said that this world is evil. fie always said that it is the world of suffering, be ready, be careful. He also said: "This world is the best place for one who understands it well." You might say that very well, but it does not follow that since some men like `Ali or Socrates have said and done so the problem of evil does not exist. Very well, but where did the problem of evil come from anyway? From the minds of some other people whose lives were quite more comfortable than Socrates' or `Ali's? Like Epicurus, Hume or Mill or even me and you. Looking at their biographies, none have suffered as much as the first group. The latter in comparison with the former, are really spectators of life rather than participants. So you can see how subjective and relative the problem of evil (suffering) is.

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