God’s promis and threat and how human actions emanate, according to Twelve –Imam Shi’ite

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Promise and threat and position between the two stations
It is worth pondering these two phrases in order to know what they really mean. In his book al-Intisar, Abu’l-Hasan al-Khayyat says: “No one can warrant to be called a Mu’tazilite unless he believes in the five fundamentals: Oneness of God, Divine Justice, Promise and Threat, the Position between the Two station, Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil.”

Promise and threat according to Ashairites
The Ashairites say: No one from among those setting their face towards Mecca [i.e. Muslims] can be rendered an unbeliever for a sin he committed even though it be a cardinal one such as fornication/adultery. Neither is sinner of this condemned to fire, nor is an obedient monotheist sent to paradise. It is up to Allah to send them wherever He likes. If He wills it, He may chastise or forgive them. As the reports from the Messenger of God have it, Allah will extricate group of monotheists from hell fire. We have no right to maintain that it is incumbent on Allah to reward the pious and punish the transgressor. Rather it is all in His Hands. If He so wishes, He will have mercy on them and enter them into paradise or condemn them to hell fire. (Al-Ash’ari (1980): 279)

Promise and threat according to Mu’tazilite
However, the Mu’tazilite maintain: Threats shall definitely be carried out. The transgressor will be punished. No one will be exempt, that is compliance with the reports from the Creator. For when the source of reports is Allah, and especially when they are of a general nature such as, “And most surely the wicked are in burning fire (82:14), so he who has (An acronym of “Sallallahu alayhl wa’ala alihi wa sallam”, meaning “May Allah’s blessings be upon him and his Household.”) done an atom’s weight of good shall see it. And he who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it (7:99) .” It is inconceivable not to treat such reports as applicable to all who fall within such a category. (Al-Ash’ari (1980):279)

The meaning, therefore, of promise and threat is the duty of rewarding the pious as Allah has promised and the necessity of punishing the transgressors as Allah has threatened.

As for “the position between the two stations,” the first to espouse it was Wasil ibn Ata. He maintained that one who has committed a major sin is neither a believer nor an unbeliever, rather in the middle ground between faith and unbelief: Those who say prayers [ the faithful] and commit major sins are labeled as such by a number of people [ proponents of schools of thought]. The Kharijites used to charge them with unbelief and polytheism. The Murji’ites hold that they are believers. The followers of al- Hasan [al- Basri- the Ash’arites] level the charge of hypocrisy against them. Wasil, however, holds that they are godless [i.e.] neither believers, nor unbelievers or hypocrites. (Al-Sharif al- Murtada 1:114)

Promise and threat according to shi’a
The Si’ah tried to take up a position in the middle, between the Mu’tazilite and the Ash’arites. God ought to carry out His promises, but He is not forced to do so. He should carry out His promises because this is in according with justice and fairness, and to go against such principles would be repugnant. Yet He does not have to act in accordance with those principles, in the sense that he is obliged in more than a moral sense to do so.

How human actions emanate
The question of human actions and how they emanate is one of the oldest philosophical issues which has reached its peak in Islamic philosophical thought. Muslim scholars and followers of various Islamic schools of thought have multifarious views on the subject.

Ashairites view about emanating human actions
There is not much difference between the view of the Najjarites, Darurites and Ash’arites, on the one hand and the theory of the Jahmites, although the Ash’arites tried to distance themselves from being followers of predestination. They maintain that their belief in the doctrine of human predestination is as follows: “There is no creator except Allah and human deeds and misdeeds are God-given. People are therefore, incapable of effecting anyone them” (al- Ash’ari (1963), 1:291). Imam Fakhr al-Din al- Razi, an Ash’arite theologian, said, “Man’s actions are commissioned according to Allah’s decree and destiny, over which men have no choice, and here is not in existence anything other than predestination” (1924, 2: 517). In defence of the unity of creation and demonstration of the principle that “there is no creator in existence except Allah,” the Ash’arites believed in predestination.

Emanation of human actions according to Mutazilites
The Mutazilites, however, who are called the exponents of Justice and Oneness, say that we are capable of acting freely. We are creators of our actions be they good or evil, and, according to the course of action taken, we deserve reward or punishment in the next world. What led the Mutazilites to hold the view that we are independent and have power over and free will in our actions is their belief in the principle of justice. However, the claim that our actions are created by Allah goes against the grain of justice, for if Allah creates our misdeeds, and them He punishes us for them, this amounts to injustice, and Allah is not unjust. “Whoever does good, it is for his own soul, and whoever does evil. It is against it, and your Lord is not in the least unjust to men” (41:46).

Relationship between unity of actions and human action, according to Ashairites and Mutazilites
Out of their belief in the doctrine of unity of actions, al- tawhid al- af’ali, the Ash’arites say there is no creator in existence save Allah. Human beings and what actions may emanate from them are a creation of God, and they have neither choice in nor power over their actions. Justice is one of the Attributes of Allah. Thus, he is Wise in what He does and He is not capable of evil deeds and injustice. It is not bet fitting for Him to chastise us for actions in which we have no choice.

Believing in Divine Justice, the Mutazilites resorted to the doctrine of delegation of authority or empowerment (tafwid) and said that Allah created us and imbued us with power and intellect and entrusted us with all our affairs. We are therefore completely independent in what we do, and Allah has no influence on our actions. This claim warrants the denial of the unity of creation, i.e. tawhid based on reason and tradition, al-aql wa’l – naql, and entrusts us with the commissioning of actions.

Shi’ite Point of view on relationship between unity of actions human actions
Between the Ashairites predestination and the Mutazilites’ delegation, the Imamite Shiah hold the middle between the two extremes. Theirs is called “the position between the two positions”, al-amr bayn al-amrayn. Reports indicate that the person who coined this phrase was Imam Ja’far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (d.148/765), who said, “It is neither predestination nor delegation but a positions between the two positions” ( al- Kulayni) (n. d.), Decree and Destiny section, hadith (no.13).

The following conversation between Imam al- Sadiq and a man has been related: “May I be made your ransom! Has Allah coerced his bondsmen to sin? Imam al- Sadiq replied, “Allah is more just that to make them commit misdeeds then chastise them for what they have done.” The man asked, “Has he empowered them with their actions? The Imam said, “If He had delegated it to them, He would have not confined them to enjoining good and forbidding evil.” The man further asked, “Is there a station or a poition between the two?” The man said, “Yes, wider than [the space] between the heaven and the earth.” (al-Kulayni (n.d.), Determinism and Destiny section, hadith no.11)

What is gleaned from the reports related from the Imamite Shi’ite Imams, on which the Shi’ah have a consensus, is that our actions are of our own making after Allah has infused in us the ability to commit or avoid the act. Good and evil are done by our free will, i.e. we have a choice in doing either of them or forsaking the same. Allah, the Most High, urges His servants to do good deeds and to refrain from misdeeds. Imamite philosophical and theological activity in the matters of justice, predestination, delegation, and free will was so prolific the Shi’ite thinkers wrote hundreds of books and treatises on these subjects. Among those who compiled well-known books dealing with these issues are al- Shaykh al-Mufid, Allamzh al- Hilli, Nasir al- Din al- Tusi and Sadr al- Din Shirazi. The last wrote a tractate on the subject of predestination in action.

Mulla Sadra’s Criticism of Ashairites and Mutazilites for predestination and delegation
He says in the introduction: “He, may He be exalted, is far removed from doing any evil deeds and goes about His Kingdom at will.” In this statement, he referred to “the station between the two stations.” He then discussed the views of the Mu’tazilites and Ash’airites and added:

Their claim that there are partners with Allah in the creation [of action] is unsustainable for there is no doubt that it is more preposterous than rendering idols as intercessors with Allah. Furthermore, what makes their contention untenable is the fact that what the King of king willed to be in His Kingdom is not available in it, but what He is averse to can be found in it. This is an absurd shortcoming in ruler ship and sovereignty. He is far above that.

In his refutation of the Ash’airites theory on the matter, he had this to say: There is no doubt that this contention debars one from practicing wisdom… detaches the intellect from discharging its duties, does not lend credence to the Creator, and shuts off the gateways of reasoning. Also, in what they maintained is the admissibility of the Creator being unjust so that it is quite rationally permissible that He may chastise the prophets honour the unbelievers in the Hereafter, take a wife, a son, a partner, and so, forth of scandalous deeds which stem from invalidation of wisdom and reason, and consequent to the invalidation of the latter is the incapacitation of the reports or traditions, for their authentication is done through reason. “Glory be to the Creator, and exalted be He in high exaltation above what the unjust say.”

Relationship between God and human action from Mulla Sadra’s points of view
He then discuses his philosophical and theological viewpoint in great detail and precision, substantiating it with a statement by Imam Ali, the summary of which is: There is no affair but His. By the same token there is no action save His. There is no rule but Allah’s. There is neither strength nor power except in Allah, the Sublime, the Great. It means every power comes from His Exaltedness and Greatness. He moves between the different stations and acts accordingly. Also despite His uniqueness and glorification above that of all beings, neither the earth nor the heavens are devoid of Him. As the Imam of believers in unity, Ali, said, “He is with everything but without drawing a parallel, not like anything without cessation.” Since this is case, it then follows that attributing the realization of action to man is correct in the same way that existence is attributed to him.

It follows that people are the agents of all actions emanating from them a real sense, not metaphorically. Nevertheless, their actions are also actions of God without any deficiency (Mulla Sadra’s (n. d): 371).

Thus, the question of justice an espoused by Imamites has remained untainted, respected, original and without a blemish on the doctrine of unity of creation. Our actions have two dimensions. The first is commissioning the action of our own volition. The second is the creation of that action by Allah’s Will with which He imbued us, giving the power to commission the action. Imamite Shi’ah Muslims adhere to all these matters. They, therefore, have made Divine Justice one of the five fundamentals of religion.


History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:122to124and131to134


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