Fahd Peerzada, Canada
An allegation often made against Islam is that Allah is not just. Verses from the Holy Qur’an such as, ‘then will He forgive whomsoever He pleases and punish whomsoever He pleases’ (2:285) are often cited by critics to support this objection. Conversely it is claimed that the God of the Christian faith is just. This stems from their view that God will judge harshly against His creation. For this reason, His beloved son was sent to be sacrificed and bear the sin of mankind and only through accepting Jesus can one be shown the mercy of God. (Romans 3:21-26)
The reality is, according to Islam, God is not ‘just’ – as per our worldly standards of justice. If we look around at the blessings that we have, what deeds did we partake in to earn such blessings? Our health, housing, air, food, water etc. were all granted to us without us having to earn it in any way. Such bounties which are bestowed on all people, not matter their religion or race, whether they believe in God or not; all partake of God’s bounties. The Fifth Caliph and worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) elaborates:
‘Indeed, the very first chapter of the Holy Qur’an, which Muslims believe to be the Word of God revealed to the Founder of Islam (peace be upon him), states that Allah the Almighty is the “Lord of all the worlds.” As such, Allah the Almighty is the God not only of Muslims, but is also the God of Christians, Jews and the people of all faiths and indeed the people who hold no faith and do not even believe in His existence. Thus, Allah is the ultimate Provider and Sustainer for all of mankind and He has showered his grace and mercy upon all people, no matter their caste, creed or colour.‘ (Address in Germany August 2017)
‘And if you try to count the favours of Allah, you will not be able to number them.’ (14:35)
So yes, Muslims agree that God is not only just, rather Muslims believe He is just and merciful.
But how is it possible to be just and merciful without contradiction? If God implements justice, then He cannot be merciful and if He grants with His mercy then He is not just.
The fact of the matter is that God of Islam is ‘Malik,’ He is the Master of all things. This means that God chooses when to exercise justice and when to exercise mercy.
In his book Jange Muqaddas (Ruhani Khaza’in Vol 6 pp. 206-213), the Promised Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) explains that the law of God is one that is agreeable with man’s nature, a law of understanding, making it clear and easy to follow. Yet despite this, when a person chooses to contradict the natural law, it is at such a time that God employs His attribute of justice.
One such example is found in Chapter 71 of the Holy Qur’an wherein the story of prophet Noah (as) is narrated. It illustrates his constant preaching amidst the struggle of dealing with his nation. He warned them, reminding them of the countless favours God had bestowed upon them for an extended time during which they lived comfortable lives under God’s mercy. However, when they exceeded all bounds, were ungrateful of God’s mercy and caused Noah (as) a great deal of pain, it was only then that they were punished by God’s wrath which is what they earned through His attribute of being ‘just.’
Aside from such transgressions, mercy is shown to all others, as has been seen since the beginning, in all creation. Justice demands punishment whereas mercy demands grace and forgiveness.
The Fifth Caliph and worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) expands on this point when he says:
‘Allah, the Exalted, is the Master. He forgives. This attribute of His encompasses all His other attributes. He forgives and He shows Mercy. This is His Mercy that despite the innumerable excesses and wrongs committed by man He does not hurry to punish. But, yes, it is true that because of committing excesses beyond the limit and then being obstinate, Allah, the Exalted, says that you will receive punishment. If you continuously go on committing sins and excesses and do not stop, no matter what, you will become subject to punishment. This is the law of nature and in fact this is the law that is operative in the world also. But even then Allah, the Exalted, is so Gracious, that a time will come when Hell will become empty. This is how expansive and unlimited God’s Mercy is.’ (Friday Sermon, July 18th, 2014)
If we were to believe in a God who is simply ‘just’ then not a single fault, or even the slightest of mistakes could go unpunished. If this was the case, then we as humans would see no bounties, no blessings, or anything of the sort, for it is part of human nature to err. Thus, God’s mercy takes over, and He forgives, enabling one to be forgiven upon their repentance and continue to reap the rewards of God’s bounties and blessings. Furthermore, if God were simply just, then He would not be able to reward any more than was due for a good action. However, God Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an:
‘Whoso does a good deed shall have ten times as much; but he who does an evil deed, shall have only a like reward; and they shall not be wronged.’ (6:161)
God’s mercy prevails in light of human faults and weaknesses and also prevails in light of human excellences and good deeds. Thus, the Islamic belief is that God’s mercy encompasses His wrath and is more vast than His attribute of being ‘just’
وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ
And my Mercy encompasses all things (7:157)
As explained, God can practice mercy over justice because He is Malik, the Master. He has full power over His creation. Whenever someone breaks the law of God that is considered a sin. For recompense there is punishment, but if the person repents to God, he may be shown mercy.
The Promised Messiah (as) very beautifully explains this concept.
‘Short-sighted Christians, through lack of proper reflection, are involved in the false notion that justice and mercy cannot coexist in God Almighty, inasmuch as justice demands punishment and mercy demands forbearance. They fail to consider that the justice of God Almighty is also a mercy for it is all for the benefit of mankind…There is no conflict between justice and mercy. They are like two streams that run parallel to each other in their courses without one interfering with the other. We find the same principle in operation in worldly sovereignties. An offender is punished, but those who behave well and please the government become recipients of bounties and gifts.’ [Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 13, pp. 73-74]
It is necessary to note that somone who does not receive news of God’s law also falls under the attribute of Malik,as it is not their fault for not having received the message and therefore they cannot be held accountable for their accepting or denying the law of God.
His mercy upon mankind extends beyond our comprehension. Some examples we find in the Qur’an are as such:
‘and the cattle we created it. There is in it for you warmth and benefits and from it shall you eat’ (16:6)
‘And He it is Who has subjected to you the sea that you may eat therefrom fresh flesh, and may take forth therefrom ornaments which you wear. And thou seest the ships ploughing through it, that you may thereby journey and that you may seek of His bounty and that you may be grateful.’ (16:15)
Christians claim that the God of Christianity is ‘just’ and in order to establish justice it was necessary to sacrifice His beloved son. Although justice being sought by sacrificing an innocent man for the sins of others is not a logical concept, the Christians seem to overlook certain Biblical teachings which also show that mercy is dominant over justice. For example:
‘Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.’(Luke 17:3-4)
‘But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy,and with him is plenteous redemption.’(Psalms 130:4-7)
In conclusion, it is necessary to understand that man is weak and makes mistakes. If God were simply ‘just,’ He would punish man regardless of his repentance, but a merciful God can overlook and forgive mistakes. In reality, we need a merciful God Who loves His creation like a mother loves her child. A simply ‘just’ God would always display His wrath and punishment, driving away all sense of hope and causing fear. It is mercy that gives birth to hope knowing that there is a God that loves and forgives. Thus, God cannot be limited to being ‘just’ as we perceive, but His justice and mercy go hand in hand.
About the Author: Fahd Peerzada is a graduate of the Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology in Canada