By: Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini
Principles of Shi’ite Creed
Defective attributes are those whose presence in a person reveals his deficiency and imperfection. And God is free from any quality that presupposes shortcoming and need. To clarify this, we will examine some of these.
a. God is not material
It is obvious that any material needs some space and if God were material, it would take up some space and as we learned earlier, God is needless because the needy and the dependent could not be Creator who must be capable of meeting any need. Therefore, God is not material because materials need space.
b. God is not compounded
God is not compounded because any compound needs its components. For example, a compounded medicine or an alloyed metal which is made up of certain parts needs those components and if one of the components were missing, that medicine or metal would not be.
Similarly, if the nature of God were composed of a number of components, it would be in need of its parts and as we earlier pointed out dependence and necessity are not consistent with godhood which entails absolute abundance and needlessness.
c. God could not be seen with eyes
The quality of being seen is contingent upon certain conditions including materiality and occupation of space. Unless these conditions are met, the thing cannot be seen with eyes even with the help of equipment. Having demonstrated the fact that God is not material and neither does he occupy space, accordingly it is proven that it could not be seen with eyes. It could not be claimed that anything that could not be seen with eyes does not exist. Just as there are certain things which are invisible but nonetheless exist (like electric waves) and their existence could be found out through their effects. Thus, every being should not be necessarily seen and it could not be said that anything which is invisible does not exist.
d. God does not need anything in any way
If God’s nature were needy and dependent, there would be no distinction between Him and other creatures. That is, just as, every creature needs another thing to fulfill his needs, if God were needy, this would be true of Him as well, and He would need another god to fulfill His needs. Therefore, it should be said that, basically necessity and need are not compatible with “godhood”, because God is the one who meets all needs and anything that is needy and dependent could not fulfill others’ needs. Concerning this, the Qur’an says, “O man, you (and every creature) are in need of God and He is the only one who is absolutely needless and abundant.”
GOD IS JUST
Earlier we read that the Creator should possess all the great qualities and should be free from all shortcomings and defects. One of the great qualities of God is justness. Because anyone who exercises tyranny and oppression is either ignorant of its evil nature or deems himself needy and does so to meet his needs. For instance, someone who seizes other peoples’ properties by force is either ignorant of the viciousness of this act or he tries to fulfill his needs or eliminate his lack of wealth that he regards as a defect.
But with regard to the Creator of the world who is absolutely needless and the source of all virtues and is acquainted with the true nature of everything through His boundless knowledge, it is quite absurd to be tyrannical and oppressive. In some prayers we read, “O God! Anyone who exercises oppression is weak and impotent, and he does so to make up for his weakness. But Your Holy and Lofty Being is free from such defects.”
The reason why the Shī‘ahs regard justness as the second primary principles of their religion is that some Sunnī sects do not consider justness necessary for God. That is, they argue that if God, the Exalted, hurl His obedient and devout servants into hell, this would not be oppression and injustice. Even if it was deemed to be unfair, when done by God, it would not be regarded as evil. They have also raised some points on free will and predestination that presuppose injustice in God.
As opposed to these groups, the Shī’ahs and some other Sunnī sects have proved the quality of justness in God with irrefutable reasons and have contended that without doubt, oppression and injustice are derogatory and evil and if they were committed by God, they would continue to be so, and we all know that God will never commit any evil.
Therefore, justness occupies the second place in the primary principles of the Shī‘ahs to distinguish them from these groups of Sunnī sects. Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (A.S.) has observed, “God, the Exalted, won’t punish the innocent due to the sins committed by others and He won’t torment children due to the transgressions and sins perpetrated by their parents. God, the Exalted, can forgive sins and it is beneath God to exercise tyranny and oppression.”