Answered by Ustadh Mohammed Tayssir Safi
Question: Allah claims that He is Just but we cannot find God’s Justice anywhere. Just to mention some examples: Height, Skin Color, Gender discrimination, Health, Division of property between brothers & sisters, etc. Where is God’s Justice?
Answer: As-salaam ‘Alaykum,
We often struggle to understand God’s Wisdom and Providence in the world and it can lead us to confusion and even resentment. I will try and address the overall theme of your question and I hope you read the following with an open heart:
The majority of your question/objection revolves around why God chose to give certain people particular traits and not give those same traits to others. You describe this as unjust. And since God says that He is just, you seem to be claiming that this is clearly not true per the examples you have cited. However, your question makes an assumption, and understanding the mistakes underlying said assumption will answer the question/objection you have put forward.
Your mistaken assumption is that “justice,” is essentially to treat everyone absolutely equally [the same]. Therefore, any instance where someone is not given exactly what another person is given, that is unjust. But that is not what justice is. Rather, justice is to give someone their right. The opposite of justice, “injustice,” is to prevent or withhold someone’s right from them. God is totally just, He never withholds someone’s rights from them.
Below I will expand on this central point by focusing on whether God owes anyone anything, to begin with, exploring what God has promised us, as well as the fairness, justice, generosity, and bounty that He has shown all of us.
Does God Owe Us Anything?
At the outset, we must highlight that God does not owe us anything. He created us as an act of generosity and bounty from Him and we were not owed that creation. He gives us is purely an act of generosity and bounty. What proof do we have to say otherwise? If we claim we are owed something, anything, we need proof that we are owed said rights. What proof do we have? We don’t have any proof and we do not have any rights that God must fulfill.
Thus, it is important that we state that at the very beginning: principally, God does not owe us anything. So when He creates some of us tall, some short, some blonde, some with brown or black hair, some He has born into wealthy families and others not, some He tries with difficult diseases and others he has lead healthy lives… none of that can be considered unjust because there are no rights that we are owed that need to be fulfilled. Outward blessings are not given because they are owed to said individuals and those who don’t receive those blessings are not being shortchanged or dealt with unjustly.
This shouldn’t be hard to understand or grasp, we understand this same thought process in our day to day lives. Suppose you have four good friends and you decide to invite two of them over for lunch one weekend. You do the same thing a few weekends in a row. Then one weekend you decide only to invite one of the two over. If the one who had been coming over who is now not invited objects and says, “That is unfair! You are being unjust!” Wouldn’t you just say, “Wait, why? I don’t have to invite you over. My initial invitation was an act of kindness on my part, you weren’t owed it. Also, you weren’t objecting when I only invited the two of you and not the others. I don’t owe you an invitation.”
Another example would be if one had a stranger knock on their door. The stranger asks for some money and so he gives him $20. A couple of hours later another stranger knocks and also asks for money. This time he gives this second individual $10. If those two strangers somehow met up and the second individual returns and objects because he was given less, would he have a right to do so? No, of course not. He doesn’t owe either of them anything. Whether he gives them the same amount or different amounts it is totally up to him. A pure act of generosity.
I hope you can see from the examples above how wrong it is to treat all inequality in such cases as injustice. We can recognize the mistaken assumption when it comes to humans interacting with one another. It therefore should be even clearer when it comes to God.
God Has Promised Us Reward For Certain Matters
God has informed us through Prophecy that if we do certain things that we will be rewarded with particular rewards. That promising of reward is itself an act of generosity, He did not have to set up a reward system for our worship. He is deserving of worship regardless. However, He will not violate that promise. His not owing us anything He has Willed and Informed us that He will reward good deeds. Those good deeds and rewards are not a right we are owed just a bounty and generosity He has promised. How wonderfully Generous and Gentle is the Lord of the Worlds.
Here we can highlight another possible mistake in the assumption of the question posed. When did God promise us that He would have us all lead the exact same life in this world? Did He say we would all look the same? Have the same opportunities? Did Prophecy tell us that He would treat us all the same in terms of height, weight, wealth, family, etc? Since we are not owed those things principally, as a right, and He has not promised that He would treat us the same therein, then where are the oppression and injustice? God is not only being Just, He is going above and beyond in His Generosity and Bounty.
Reward For Trials and Difficulties
Every difficulty and outward trial or oppression that we go through will be taken into account in the next life. Those with a lot of wealth will not be tried like those who had no wealth. Those with health will not be tried the same way as those stricken with extreme illness. God knows what He gives and to whom and He will not oppress anyone on the Day of Judgement. This is despite the fact that He does not owe any of us anything. In theory, He could tell us that all we did get of blessings was from Him and we should just be thankful, but He will not just stop there, He will recompense us for our difficulties. These are not the actions of someone who is unjust, they are the actions of the Generous, the Wise.
The very idea of injustice or oppression only applies to cases where an individual misuses that which someone else owns or has sovereignty over. Allah is The Sovereign. Everyone and everything belongs to Him. He can do as He pleases with His creation. Yet He does not act only based on what is owed, which is nothing, rather He acts out of Generosity and Wisdom. Everything He gives us or withholds is out of generosity, bounty, and wisdom. He is the epitome of Justice, Generosity, Mercy… He has promised reward for certain deeds out of His Generosity. He will recompense us for our difficulties and take them into account out of His Generosity. None of that is because we are owed those things, it is completely out of His Generosity and Bounty. So where is the injustice in any of that? It is the pinnacle of justice, fairness, generosity, and bounty.
I leave you in Allah’s care,
[Ustadh] Mohammed Tayssir Safi
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Mohammed Tayssir Safi was born in Dubai and moved to the United States six months after he was born. He graduated from the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor in 2006 as a double major in Political Science and Middle Eastern and North African Studies. He spent the next 3 years of his life traveling the Middle East, completing the Arabic program, CASA, in Egypt, and pursuing private studies in Arabic linguistics and introductory Islamic sciences. His brief introduction to Islamic studies continued for another year at the Dar al-Mustafa Institute in Tarim, Yemen. Mohammed also teaches Arabic at the University of Michigan. Apart from classes at the University of Michigan, Mohammed studies at the hands of Muslim scholars privately in multiple sciences including linguistics, law, and theology.