(Draft Article) Twelver Shiaism and the Origin of Actions

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By MuslimAnswers.net Team

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

When it comes to debating the Twelver Shia faith, most of the People of the Truth and Approved Way (Ahl us Sunnah wal Jamaah) concentrate on the matters related to Ali’s (Radhia Allahu Anhu) supposed right to Khilaphah, the Shia claim to Imamah, and other related matters. These issues are of central importance and there is no doubt that these are areas of worthwhile discussion for the one who is well-grounded in this field.

However, there are other matters in how the Twelver Shias view Allah and His Attributes which would have been cause for deep concern even if there was no discord between us and them with respect to the matters of Khilaphah or Imamah. One of these matters relates to the origin of actions, and the Twelvers’ claim that the evil actions actually originate from the human being himself.

For example, Abu ‘l-Fath Muhammad b. `Ali al-Karajaki states in his “Mukhtasar `Aqa’id ash-Shi`a al-Imamiyya”[1]:

في توحيده سبحانه:

Regarding His tawhid, glory be to Him:

اعلم أن الواجب على المكلف: أن يعتقد:

Know that the wajib (obligatory) upon the mukallif (responsible person) is that he believes (in):

2- ويعتقد أن الله تعالى هو محدث جميعه، من أجسامه، وأعراضه، إلا أفعال العباد الواقعة منهم، فإنهم محدثوها دونه سبحانه

2 – And that he believes that Allah ta`ala, He is the originator of all of it, of its bodies and its accidents, except for the acts of the servants occurring from them, for they are their originators, not He, glory be to Him.

Also, Allamah Hilli says in “al-Bab al-Hadi `Ashar”[2]:

Men are free agents

 (2) Second, we are free agents (fa’iluna bi’l-ikhtiyar), and necessity requires this: (a) because of the necessary difference between a man’s falling from the roof and his going down from it by a ladder – otherwise our responsibility (taklif) for a thing would be impossible, and there would be no sin; (b) and because of the evil of his creating an act in us and then punishing us for it; (c) and because of tradition. 

The bolded sections stating that the acts of the creation actually originate from within the creation and are not from Allah is enough to have thrown the one who believes it outside of Islam, even if there were was nothing to argue about regarding the Qur’an, Khilaphah, Imamah or anything else.

The glaring blasphemy in this belief is that such people are claiming that Allah’s Will, Power, and Knowledge are limited and deficient, since they are saying that Allah’s Will, Power and Knowledge do not extend to every possible contingent event, but only to those events which they quantify as being “good” or “neutral”.

Also, they are taking the totally illogical position that a limited human being with limited capabilities and knowledge is the one who actually brings accidents[3] into existence from non-existence. This is a total contradiction from the Muslim viewpoint that Allah is the Creator of everything. It should be noted that Muslims are not like Deists or members of other religions who say that God only created the bodies of creatures, or only the Universe, and then all that has happened afterwards has its real causes in natural phenomena.

However, the Muslim says that Allah creates all the bodies and brings all incidents from non-existence to existence, or from existence to non-existence without exception. The Twelvers’ claim is one of essentially setting up billions of ‘gods’ besides Allah[4], and claiming that these ‘gods’ share the task of creating with Allah.

Also, they are saying that Allah’s Power to control anything in the Universe is a mere possibility, not an absolute certainty. This is because they are claiming that Allah’s Power is not related to every single contingent matter, but only to most of them, not all of them. So if it is possible for Allah not to be the Creator of certain actions, how can they logically prove that He indeed creates the other actions, namely the ones they claim are “neutral actions”? In fact, how can they ever ascertain that anything that ever occurs has any connection to Him, since in their arguments they have removed the intrinsic need for Allah’s Power of Creating to be tied to every single matter that has a beginning?

Moreover, considering the fact that there have been changes to the Divine Laws revealed by Allah to people throughout the ages, we have to consider: If something was allowed in the past (was legally good) and then became forbidden (became legally bad), did Allah’s Power, Will and Knowledge stop affecting such events after the Divine legislation changed? And if something was legislated as being forbidden and then became allowed, how did Allah’s power to Create, His Knowledge and His Will begin to be associated with such events after being disassociated from them? What type of “god” do these people worship, whose abilities and attributes can flee and come back to Him depending on what rules are legislated to the human beings, and who will always be deficient and unable to control most of the deeds of mankind?

This type of thinking is also against the explicit text of the Qur’an where Ibrahim (Alayhi Salaam) tells his people:

وَاللَّهُ خَلَقَكُمْ وَمَا تَعْمَلُونَ

And Allah created you and what you do. (Quran 37:96)

Here in this Verse, Ibrahim (Alayhi Salam) tells his people that Allah created them and also creates the actions they commit. It is inconceivable that Ibrahim (Alayhi Salam) was only referring to the “good things” his people did, since there is no provision in the Verse alluding to an exception, whereas an exception would be necessary if the Twelver Shia position was correct- and this is due to the fact that most of the deeds of the idol-worshippers in Ibrahim’s (Alayhi Salaam) time would have been evil and lowly.

Also consider the Verses:

إِنَّ هَٰذِهِ تَذْكِرَةٌ ۖ فَمَنْ شَاءَ اتَّخَذَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِ سَبِيلًا

وَمَا تَشَاءُونَ إِلَّا أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا

This is an admonition: Whosoever will, let him take a (straight) Path to his Lord. But ye will not, except as Allah wills; for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom. (Quran 76:29-30)

Here the disbelievers are urged to take the path to Allah, but also reminded that they will absolutely not be able to do it except if it is Allah’s Will for them to do so. Again one has to remember that the Verse deals with the contingent intentions of the disbelievers, and it is very clear that after the revelation of this Verse, some of them came to the path of Islam while others remained as disbelievers. So the disbelievers’ future intentions are directly tied to Allah’s Will, the results of which are known through His Power and His bringing of things from non-existence into existence.

There are many other Verses in the same vein, and all of them show that there is nothing that occurs in this Universe[5] save that it occurs with the Will, Power and Knowledge of Allah, and it is Allah who really brings it into existence, and our own “creation” is only relative (in fact, it is only a linguistic connotation) and never absolute.

After the serious flaws in the thinking found in Twelver Shia Aqeedah have been shown, there may be some who say that positing that Allah creates the bad intentions and bad deeds of the human beings is an affront to His justice. They may say that the human has freewill and through this he has the ability to do evil deeds, and this is independent from Allah’s dictates. 

Our answer is as follows:

This is a rehashing of the previous arguments presented, and it shows that the questioner has not understood the enormity of saying that any thought, movement, or action occurs independent of Allah’s Will, Knowledge and Power.

Coming to the matter of freewill, that which is perceived by human beings as freewill is also a Creation from Allah, since freewill and human choice is nothing but the emergent decisions that limited beings make, and there is no way to say that these decisions have a Creator other than Allah. Otherwise the person is saying that something with a beginning has an original Creator other than Allah, which is a total logical contradiction, as then they are setting up gods besides Allah as explained previously.

If the issue comes up as to how then do we differentiate then between the man who falls of the roof and the one who goes down by a ladder, the answer is that in the first case Allah creates each and every single movement of the man who fell off of the roof, and creates the feeling of fear inside the man while he is falling down to the floor. In the second case, Allah also creates each and every single movement of the man while he is going down the ladder, but instead of a feeling of fear while falling down, Allah creates the intention of this man, and his feeling that he wants to go down the roof by means of a ladder. It has to be remembered that every single movement of the man, whether he is falling down, walking, moving up, or moving down is a Creation of Allah; it also has to be kept in mind that all the feelings and thoughts this man may have, such as hesitation about using the ladder, certainty that he wishes to use the ladder, or fear that he is falling down and could die are all Creations of Allah, and it is impossible that they have a Creator other than Him, Exalted be He. The same analysis is to be extended to every single creature and every single thought, movement and action of these creatures anywhere in the Universe.

With respect to the question of Justice, there is no compromise to His Justice, since Allah does not owe anything (in terms of pleasure, etc.) to His Creation -since He owns the entire Creation in the true sense of the word- nor does Allah have any other being towards which He is accountable. The very idea in our minds of what is just and unjust is also a creation of Allah, and if He had willed, the relationship between good and bad deeds, their reward and their punishment would have been different from what they currently are in our thinking[6].

With respect to the matter of the Twelver Shias’ belief with respect to whether Allah is the Originator of the evil deeds of the creation, one may also say:

According to the logic presented, not even the good deeds of the humans should be attributed to Allah, since in that case “Divine Justice” as imagined by the Twelvers would also be compromised (since if it said that Allah should not “simply” give them bad deeds, why should He simply give them “good deeds”?). This can be checked by looking once again at the quote provided from the Twelver Shia scholar where it says: “And that he believes that Allah ta`ala, He is the originator of all of it, of its bodies and its accidents, except for the acts of the servants occurring from them, for they are their originators, not He, glory be to Him.” Note that no distinction is made between good deeds of the human beings and their bad deeds.

As we are forced to mention yet again, this would leave us with a situation where absolutely no creation of the human being’s actions can be attributed to Allah, and where the human beings would be the true “Creators” of their actions, leading to the same logically untenable position where human beings are presented as “gods” who bring into existence their own actions.

From another angle, we see that this particular doctrine from the Twelver Shias has its roots in an objection that has to do with them being obsessed as to the “why?” of Allah’s actions. And for this, the truth is that there are dozens of questions that the heretic may ask as to “Why did Allah do this or that?”, and which will also lead such heretics into blasphemy and disbelief[7].

For example, take the case of ugly and repulsive things which are there in the world. If someone sees a pig, is it incorrect for him to say “How could it be Allah who created this pig, if in the Shariah this animal is not supposed to be eaten nor even touched. Thus, the true Creator of this pig must be some other ‘god’ “.

Just in the same manner that the above is blasphemy and disbelief, so is the belief that the actions of human beings have their absolute origin in the humans themselves. In fact, the one who says this has embraced atheism, since the “deity” that he worships is totally flawed and cannot possibly exist with the characteristics that he has ascribed to this ‘god’. And since he refuses to believe in the correct Deity, the Lord of the Worlds, Allah the Exalted, then he is an atheist plain and simple, even if the says that he worships Allah.

From this we have conclusively proven that the pronouncements found in the above-mentioned Twelver Shia sources with respect to this matter have no basis either in the primary Islamic texts or according to rules of logic and reasoning. So it is up to the Twelver Shia masses to make the right decisions and dissociate themselves from the leaders who called to such wrong beliefs, in order that they may not be punished for holding on to falsehood after being shown the proofs of what constitutes correct belief.


[2] http://www.tashayyu.org/kalam/al-bab-al-hadi-ashar (Accessed on November 3, 2012). It seems to be that the name of the work itself is al-Bab al-Hadi Ashar -literally translated as the Eleventh Chapter- as per the presentation of the text on the tashayyu site, and it is not a chapter from a larger work.

[3] Accidents in this case means “incidents”, or anything with a specification such as time, color, location, etc.

[4] Since by this logic, every human being is a ‘god’ who brings incidents from non-existence into existence, and from existence causes them to become non-existent.

[5] Universe in this case means all that is created, whether in the physical Universe or in a created realm that we cannot perceive.

[6] This is because, in opposition to what many of our opponents think, there is not an intrinsically necessary relationship between actions committed by people and the recompense they are to receive in the Hereafter.  Rather, the reward and punishment is decreed by Allah without any ‘measurement mechanism’ (so there is no way in which a person would know with certainty how an action relates either to reward or punishment except through the coming of revelations. The coming of revelation and the fact that different rulings are decreed upon different people and places shows that the matter of how reward and punishment is tied to actions cannot be deduced by rational means). Not only this, but even the existence of the Heaven and Hellfire itself is not an intrinsically necessary reality, but is created by Allah solely due to His Choice and Decree.

[7] We could say that there is also a historical reason for the Twelvers to take this view. It so happened that during the time of the Ummayad dynasty, the rulers would say that their having power in the land and being able to do whatever they willed was decreed and willed by Allah. The Shia, in order to disassociate themselves from Ummayad thinking, took the exact opposite view that the deeds of people were created by themselves. Thus, for the Shias, disassociation from ‘evil people’ would also lead to disassociation from their viewpoints.

The flaw in this is that even if we suppose that the Ummayads were thoroughly evil, it does not follow that every last statement of theirs should be discarded. In fact, this would show the lack of rational consideration of matters on part of the Twelver Shia, since they took an emotionally-based view concerning this topic (i.e. total disassociation from the saying of their enemies, a sort of symbolic spiteful revenge), rather than the appropriate calm deductive thinking which is required concerning such an important topic.

 Now, it may be asked whether we truly believe that Allah decreed and willed that evil rulers would have command over the land. We say that indeed, Allah wills and brings into existence every single action in this world including the acions of the evil rulers, but it does not mean that every such created action is tied to His Pleasure and Reward in the Hereafter. The error in here is to equate the decree, will, and creation of Allah with His Pleasure and Reward in the Hereafter, while these two sets are distinct matters.



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