Week 3- Doctrinal Implications of Divine Justice

Prompt Week 3 -Provide a clear and cogent summary of the Shi’i-Mut’azili Tenet of Divine Justice. What are it’s primary doctrinal implications? What would be the most problematic consequences of this conception of a rationally just deity?

At the very onset it can be said that Shiism and Mutazalism cannot be conflated with each other (Madelung), but they do seem to have significant resonance on common concerns . There is clearly a longterm impact of Mutazalite thought on Shia theology which seems to have evolved towards the conclusion that the fundamentals of religion are to be derived from reason alone. There are fuzzy boundaries between divergent strains within Shi’ism with regards to the Mutazali influence where Usuli Shiism in  more  in resonance with Mutazli that the Akbari school and the Baghdad Mutazalite school, which was less radical , was more in agreement  with the Shii values.

In term of Divine Justice the Shi’i outlook is not a radical departure from Mutazalite views but  there is a significantdisagreement on the intercession of the Imams, the position of waid or unconditional punishment of God. In the Mutazalite view justice and goodness exist as universal values are independent of God, as opposed to the theistic subjectivism view. So God cannot do evil even if he tries, because justice is inherent in his essence (Hourani). The Mutazalites, as  rationalizing philosphers theologians,  exalted reason and valued reason as a source of true knowledge. Mutazalism also believes in free will and does not accept the concept that all acts are predetermined.  

In this sense Shi’ism holds an intermediate position between Mutazalism and Sunni traditionalist doctrine. (Behisti & Bahonar)  Shi’ism, following Imamic traditions, also upholds that  justice begins with the assertion of one’s agency or exercise of will. However in Shiism there is no ultimate pre-destination or absolute human discretion. There is some sense of relativism in the argument about pre-determinism and the truth seems to lie between the two extremes. Human beings are responsible for their actions but free will has its limitations. Some Shi’i Mutazalites explained this as the acts of men being created by God (makhluqa), which  qualifies this act of creation as pre-estimation or fore-knowledge ,but not as production (takwin). (Madelung.) In a paradoxical way then God has ordained free will for man. Whenever man wills an action , Divine power brings into effect its punishment. Man determines his destiny by his own decisions. (Shobani )

Everything in this universe is a necessary existant and there is a  causal connection between rationality and justice, in Shi’ism. Given this human beings have a purpose in this world as rationl beings (mukallaf) to respond to God by worshipping him. The actions which proceed from humans, all take place by their own power and choice. In other words ‘he is not forced to act as he does, but he can act and he can refrain from acting’. (Hilli) If humans have no power over their own actions, then God would be ‘the most unjust of unjust beings’ because he would be willing these actions and setting human beings up for failure. However the Quran states that there is no possibility of injustice by God because God is just , justice is a divine attribute. (Sobhani)

In the Mutazallite view then God is seen as a rational being that imparts justice (Caspar) According to them all things exist according to an ‘objective moral order’, so that good and evil were intrinsic to all things. Believers are judged by their own faith and action which are independent of God’s will. Some Mutazalites have even gone as far as to say that It is better for humans to reach heaven by their own efforts rather than with God’s help. The problem with divine justice theory is that it  limits Gods power and agency over man.  Furthermore by imposing free will upon man, God is forcing humanity to be free.  In a way the free man, completely responsible for his actions, becomes set up as a creator or a rival of God. (Hourani) Obviously then God’s authority becomes constrained and its existence comes into question. This position intrinsically negates God’s omnipotence, and it also seems to ascribe to God the constraints of man which brings it into a direct opposition to the traditionally accepted concept of Tanzih, which proclaims that Allah is free of all defects and failures.

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