Selection #2 of Governance of the Faqih, Chapter One: Chapter One: Man, Freedom, Slavery, and Law

The Necessity of Law and Order for Society

To recap what was stated: after the right to life, man has a right to freedom of thought and belief, upon which basis he is free to worship other than God. This freedom is the gift of Islam to humanity in the last fourteen centuries and it is the message of all divinely-sent prophets. At the same time, no rational person can accept a society without law and order: law is a necessity, notwithstanding the fact that it might cause the narrowing of man’s ambit and limit his freedom of action.

Allameh Tabatabai has explained the necessity for law and order in society on the basis of man’s exploitative nature. He posits that while man’s fitric nature is unitary and tauhidic [i.e. it accepts God’s sovereignty over him and is innately inclined to serve only Him], his tienic [clayish, earthly, fallen] nature tends to want to serve other masters. Due to his tienic nature {[38:71] [For,] lo, thy Sustainer said unto the angels: “Behold, I am about to create a human being out of clay}, man has a tienic streak and is tien-directed, and conversely, has a fitric streak and is fitra-directed owing to the Godly spirit that was breathed into him: [38:72] and when I have formed him fully and breathed into him of My spirit, fall you down before him in prostration!”; on the basis of his fitrah, man is a learned, wise and just creature who responded in the affirmative to the pre-eternal call, [7:172] “Am I not your Lord (Sustainer)?” , but on the basis of his tienic nature, he is domineering and usurious; and because his connection to the natural world is near and tactile {sensible}, and his connection to the fitric world is distant and tenuous, if he is left to his natural state, he will act in the direction of domination and self-advantage at others’ expense, and will never achieve satisfaction as his needs and desires are limitless and as he is powerless to satisfy them on his own, he will seek to take undue advantage and dominate everything and everyone whom he can in order to reach his elusive goal. In the state of nature, tienic man will seek to take undue advantage of all that he gets his hands on save that which he cannot dominate; he will abuse minerals and natural resources, mammals which roam the earth, birds of the skies, the fish in the sea, and even the planets and the stars if he can reach them – all these he will try to dominate, misuse and take undue and limitless advantage of: when left to his tienic nature, man is such a creature.

All of the censure directed at man in the Noble Koran is in view of this rebellious and defiant nature and its detrimental affects. If such a creature is allowed to dominate others, like Pharaoh he will claim lordship over his nation: [79:24] “I am your Lord All-Highest!”. It is obvious that a society peopled by such a creature absent law and order will be destroyed by the ensuing conflicts, chaos and decay.

Only when man lives in harmony with his fellow man can he enjoy a life free from the characteristics of vegetal and animal life. This is the case whether he willingly enters into this contract for mutual services to bring this harmony about (because living in harmony with his fellow man is part and parcel of his primary nature, in which case he would be said to be civic-natured or have a civic constitution), or alternately, that his entering into a social contract and his subsequent submission to the rule of law is not the result of his primary nature, and that the primary nature of each individual is believed to be a selfish and self-serving one which leads him always to want to dominate and take advantage of others, and that his yielding to the force of law is due to necessity and to external forces. Therefore, an order must be in force in society wherein nobody can force their will on others and dominate and oppress them, and it is only in the nurturing shade of this just order that society can begin to form and give rise to the dignity proper to each individual, and for community to take root and enable humanity to make of itself a life distinct from that of vegetal and animal life. Without order, chaos will reign on human society and destroy man’s welfare.

The Noble Koran introduces those people who lack consistency between their thought, speech and acts, and who do not act in accordance with their knowledge, and who do not feel bound by the necessities of what they know to be true and do not abide by a single consistent discourse, as people who suffer from confusion and whose souls are in turmoil: [50:5] Nay, but they [who refuse to believe in resurrection] have been wont to give the lie to this truth whenever it was proffered to them; and so they are in a state of confusion, and it is clear that these kinds of people and a society which is peopled by them and which is rife with internal contradictions and afflicted with chaos will never reach the perfection of its potential.

Order does not obtain without law, and the correct law is one in which all aspects of man’s being are taken into account and the maximization of his full potential is an integral part of its general plan; and because, when we pass beyond considerations of his material [tienic] body and selfish bent, we see that man is infused with the spirit of God and is in possession of a tauhidic fitrah [the primordial disposition originating from his submission to God’s unicity] and is fortified with an Inspired Soul (which acts as a criterion) between license and virtue, so that in addition to his instinctual drives, he is doubtless endowed with moral dimensions, and higher still, has the high faculty and capacity of faith. If a system of law only incorporates man’s natural [tienic] and physical elements and ignores his moral and belief faculties and potentials, such a system is not worthy of human society and is incapable of carrying man to his ultimate felicity.

Unfortunately, that which is current in the contemporary world is systems of law and governance that are based solely on considerations of people’s deeds and physical nature and which ignore their ethical norms, systems of belief, and faith. In so far as morals and religious beliefs dampen and inhibit the natural [tienic] and transgressive instincts of man, the failure properly to accommodate these higher and vital human dimensions into systems of law perforce tears apart the ligaments that bind and order man’s action, and the life of the community now delivered to the clutches of a refractory nature, will be an animal rather than a human one: [25:44] Or dost thou think that most of them listen [to thy message] and use their reason? Nay, they are but like cattle – nay, they are even less conscious of the right way!, and it is these spiritual lacunae and the failure to take account of man as he truly is that has led to a radical inefficacy of law which is the problem of the contemporary world and which has turned it into a great dead end.

Divine Law or Human Law?

Legislation can only be just, have full efficacy and be capable of fulfilling man’s quest for happiness, when it is in accord with man’s cosmic configuration: with his fitrah, with the reason for his creation, and with the reality of and purpose for the creation of the world; it must be in harmony with the cosmic relationship between man and creation. Man is in need of the world and has a connection to it, but cannot affect it in every way, just as the world’s ambit over man is limited. This mutual relationship of cause and effect is distinct and limited, and as such, it is a law that brings about the welfare of man and which is in harmony with the three cosmic constants (above), and such a law arises neither from man, from nature, or from creation at large; for neither is man aware of the depth of the world, nor is the world self-aware, let alone its awareness of man and his relation to the world. The Lawgiver can only be that person Who created the world and man and arranged the mutual inter-relation of the two in the first place, and this is none but God, whereof it is stated in the Noble Koran: [12:40] Judgment [as to what is right and what is wrong] rests with God alone, meaning that the creation of laws that will bring felicity for man is God’s exclusive prerogative and no one but Him has this competence.

Man and the World, in their respective cosmic stations and in their creation and being have a relation of servitude toward God, and this is the reason that man must be a servant to God when it comes to legislation (as with anything else), and follow only His law, which is superior and complete . If a creature has received all his being from God and is dependent on Him in his essence, attributes, causes and effects, then as a creature, he will similarly be in need of Him in the present, future, and in perpetuity. Man in his cosmic station, like all other creature and even the angels, is a servant of God: [19:93] Not one of all [the beings] that are in the heavens or on earth appears before the Most Gracious other than as a servant; and: [17:44] The seven heavens extol His limitless glory, and the earth, and all that they contain; and there is not a single thing but extols His limitless glory and praise: but you [O men] fail to grasp the manner of their glorifying Him! Verily, He is forbearing, much-forgiving!, or: [59:24] All that is in the heavens and on earth extols His limitless glory: for He alone is almighty, truly wise!, and also: [41:11] and He [it is who] said to them and to the earth, “Come [into being], both of you, willingly or unwillingly!” – to which both responded, “We do come in obedience.” Thus, if all the heavens and the earth and whatsoever and whomsoever is in it is in His hands, [67:1] Hallowed be He in whose hand all dominion rests, since He has the power to will anything; [36:83] Limitless, then, in His glory is He in whose hand rests the mighty dominion over all things; and unto Him you all will be brought back!; [3:83] What, do they desire another religion than God’s, and to Him has surrendered whoso is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him they shall be returned? [13:15] And before God prostrate themselves, willingly or unwillingly, all [things and beings] that are in the heavens and on earth, as do their shadows in the mornings and the evenings…, then it is necessary for man to submit himself to God in his individual and social life and to be His faithful servant in the rules that govern his life, and accept and enter into the only complete and felicitous law, which is the selfsame law of God {the shari’a or Islamic sacred law}, and not to acquiesce to incomplete, ignorance- and emotion-driven synthetic laws.

Prophethood and Divine Law

Based on the above, reason dictates that the God who created the world and man and determined their inter-relationship and Who is aware of that which is best for His creatures and that which will give them true happiness, and Who is absolutely wise, would not abandon man to himself: [75:36] Does man, then, think that he is to be left to himself? but rather will send down to him the law which is most suited to him, and which indeed He has done. Thus, the recognition of God as the wise originator (of law) is sufficient proof for the reality of the apostolate and those who have not accepted prophecy therefore have not properly understood God: [6:91] For no true understanding of God have they when they say, “Never has God revealed anything unto man.”

Man will only reach his perfection when he sets out on the correct path, and assimilates that which is beneficial to him and eliminates that which is harmful. If a sapling has a steady source of water, a suitable climate and sufficient nutrients in its soil and is cared for by a caring gardener, it will reach its perfection and bear fruit, and this is a universal law that equally applies to man. Man is the greatest of saplings in God’s garden whom God has planted in the ground of being and nurtured: [71:17] “And God has caused you to grow out of the earth in [gradual] growth; and thereafter He will return you to it [in death].
If man is to become as a Tuba tree in stature ([14:24] [It is] like a good tree, firmly rooted, [reaching out] with its branches towards the sky), the way to achieve this is none other than this considered care and nurturing: he must see what it is that his Creator has determined to be his Water of Life, what nutrients He has prescribed, and what the necessities for and obstacles to his growth are, his “do’s and don’ts,” as it were. If he acts on this instruction, ascertains and realizes it, both recognizing its truth and accepting and acting on it, then he will be as a Tuba tree whose trunk is sturdy and well-rooted and whose branches and fruit reach out into the heavens; just as, if a person fails to do this and takes a path that leads him astray, he will become a criminal and dark-hearted, and will take on the form of the Hanzal bush, whose fruit is bitter and which turns into [37:64-5] a tree that grows in the very heart of the blazing fire [of hell], its fruit [as repulsive] as satans’ heads.

A summary of the rational proof for the necessity of prophecy that the speculative theologians have put forward is that man has a social existence and as such must relate to others of his kind, and because he cannot satisfy his needs on his own, and as there is a division of goods and labor in society, he must necessarily have dealings with his fellow man, and in order to prevent people from transgressing and infringing each other’s rights and from the ensuing chaos, there is a necessity for the establishment of law, and because of man’s imperfect knowledge and frailty, man cannot be his own lawgiver, but rather, the architect and codifier of the law must be one who is free of all defects, who is God, who has sent down His law for the benefit of humanity by way of his Apostle, the inerrent Perfect Man. But the reason offered by the late Mohammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kolayni in his noble book al-Kafi which he bases on the Noble Koran and the traditions of the Prophet and which is stronger and more all-encompassing than the proof of the theologians is that if the entirety of humanity is diminished to the point where only a single person remains, that person will be in need of divine law and guidance in order for him fully to realize his potential and reach his perfection.

Kolayni relates that Hashim ibn Hakam relates of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq that the Imam stated in response to an unbeliever’s question regarding the proof of prophethood and the mission of the prophets (which I summarize here) that: “Because God’s creatures cannot see and touch Him and have direct contact with Him, it is necessary that He have ambassadors to act as go-betweens between Creator and created in order to deliver God’s message to humanity, and to guide them as to what is good for them and sustains them (in this world and the next) and which are the arrows that fill the quiver of their perdition.”

Also, there are traditions in the books Elal ash-Sharaye’ and Behar ol-Anwar which relate explicitly the necessity of the presence of the Imams and the spiritual dignity of their individual stations as proofs of the existence of God. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq has stated that if there remained only two people on earth, of a certainty one of them would be an Imam and the last of the two to die would also be the Imam. This is so that the other cannot offer the excuse (to God on Judgment Day) that he was abandoned without a voucher and proof (of God’s existence and will).

Man is in need of God’s law because he does not know which things are good for him and which are harmful (because he does not know the difference between licit and illicit and between the beautiful and the abhorrent in their full details). Of course his reason does know the good, but the extent of this knowledge is limited and neither encompasses all necessary aspects, nor does it encompasses all cases; rather, man’s reasoned grasp of the good is general in nature, and this is not sufficient. For example, man cannot distinguish which plants, which animals, or which type of marine and desert life is suitable as food for him, what type of cover and clothing is appropriate – of this he does not have a sure knowledge on his own; it is similarly the case with thoughts and reminiscences: which are healthy and which are unhealthy; his glances and gaze; his deeds: what is appropriate and inappropriate, licit and illicit – these his reason does not fully understand, and if we grant this and grant that he has been created and placed on earth in order that he might achieve his perfection and everlasting bliss and that the fate of his eternal soul is dependent on the aforementioned principles and criteria, then it follows that he must necessarily receive the correct and complete instructions and legislation from his Lord, and this is why if a man were the first creature that God created, he would have to be a prophet, and indeed such is the case with Adam.

Therefore, no one is free of the need of divine guidance and divine law, be he a city dweller, a villager, or one who lives in the mountains or in the desert, and indeed, even a solitary hermit cannot affirm that he is free from the need of divine law; rather, he is even more exigent in this regard, for he has set out to build himself [and cannot do so without the operating manual]. That said, the necessity for law is more evident, and its absence is more sharply felt, in society, where its absence results in more harm.


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