The Fourth Meeting
Al-Mufadhdhal said, “On the fourth day, I went to my master early in the morning. I was permitted to come in. He asked me to sit down, and I did. Imam as-Sadiq (s) said,
‘From us is praising, glorification, and sanctification to the Oldest Name, the Greatest Light, the Exalted Knower, the Lord of glory and honor, the Creator of mankind, the Annihilator of the worlds and ages, the Keeper of the hidden secret, the forbidden unseen, the concealed name and the hidden knowledge. His blessings be on the announcer of His revelation and the executor of His mission, who He has sent as a bringer of good tidings and a warner, and as a summoner unto Allah by His permission, and as a lamp that gives light, that he who would perish might perish by clear proof, and he who would live might live by clear proof, so on him and his progeny be good blessings and pure greetings and on him and his progeny be peace, mercy and blessings from the ancient times until forever, and they are well-qualified for that and they deserve it.
O Mufadhdhal, I have explained to you the evidences of creation and the examples of the accurate, planned ordinance in the creation of man, animals, plants and other things that have clear lessons for him who takes lessons. Now, I will tell you about the plagues that occurred in some ages and which some ignorant people took as an excuse to deny the creation, the Creator and the intended ordinance. I shall tell about the calamities and misfortunes, death and perishment that atheists and Manicheans have denied as well as those who have claimed
that things came into existence by chance and accident. I shall refute them, may Allah destroy them for how they turn away from the truth!
Plagues and misfortunes
Some ignorant people have taken the plagues such as epidemics, jaundices, hailstorms and attacks of locusts, which occurred from time to time, as excuses to deny the Creator and the intentional ordinance in the creation. It is said, in answering such people: if there were no creator, then why would worse and more horrible events than these plagues not happen? For example, why wouldn’t the sky fall on the ground, or the ground sink, or the sun not shine at all, or rivers and springs dry up until no water could ever be found, or the wind stop blowing until everything would decay and become corrupt, or seawater flow over the earth? Then, why do these plagues, such as epidemics, locusts and the like that we have mentioned, not last for such a long time that they would invade and devastate the entire world? In fact, they take place for some time and then soon disappear. Do you not see that the world is protected and saved from the great, terrible events that if even one of them were to take place for a long time, it might cause the destruction of the world? Thus, the world is kept safe through these simple plagues so that people may be disciplined and reform themselves and take lessons. Then, after not too long, when people feel desperate, these plagues disappear; therefore, the occurrence of these plagues is as a warning, and their disappearance is as a mercy to the people.
The Manicheans say: if the world has a kind, merciful creator, then why do these calamities and misfortunes take place? They say that the life of man in this world should be free from any trouble. We say: if it is so, man, out of ingratitude and haughtiness, will do everything that fits neither the religion nor this worldly life. Quite often, you find that many people
who have been nurtured in luxury and ease forget even that they are human, or they have a Lord, or harm or misfortunes may afflict them, or they have to be merciful to the weak, help the poor, be kind to the miserable, and have pity for the weak and distressed. But when misfortunes afflict them and they taste their bitterness, they awake from their ignorance and indifference and turn back to that which they should have been doing.
Those who deny these harmful matters are like children who hate bitter drugs, become angry when prevented from harmful foods, dislike disciplines and work, like to be free for amusement and idleness and like to have anything to eat and drink. They do not know where idleness takes them. It takes them to a bad upbringing and bad habits. Harmful, yet delicious foods cause them different illnesses and diseases. Disciplines bring them reform and goodness, and bitter drugs benefit them even if they are somewhat troublesome.
If they ask: why has man not been made infallible against sins so that he would not then need to be afflicted with misfortunes? It is answered: how would it be if man were not praised and rewarded for the good deeds he does? If they ask: what harm will it be to man if he is not rewarded for the good deeds he does as long as he enjoys pleasures and bliss? It is said to them: make an offer to a sound, reasonable man that he should sit idly and at ease and receive whatever he wants without any effort or work, and see whether he accepts this or not. You will find that he is more delighted with the little he receives out of his own efforts than the abundance he should receive undeservingly. So is the bliss of the hereafter. It is earned by man based on his own efforts and merits. The mercy bestowed on man in this aspect is too great. If he is rewarded for his deeds in this life and shown the way to get that deservingly through his own efforts, delight and happiness with what he receives will be perfected to him. If they ask: is it
not possible that some people rely on the goodness they get even if they do not deserve it? Then what excuse is there in preventing one who wants to attain the bliss of the hereafter due to this argument? It is said to them: if this were permitted to people, they would get the utmost rabies. They would dare to commit all sins and vices and violate all forbidden limits. Who would refrain from sins or bear hardship in the way of virtues, and who would feel safe about himself, his family and his properties from people if he did not fear the punishment of the hereafter? The harm of this matter would affect people in this life before the afterlife, and so justice and wisdom would be invalidated, and it would give an excuse to criticize the divine ordinance that it is not true and it puts things in other than their suitable places.
These persons may talk about the misfortunes that afflict all people, whether good or bad, or the ones that afflict good people while bad people remain safe from them. They ask: how is this possible in the wise ordinance of the Wise Ordainer, and what is the reason behind that? It is said to them: Allah has made these misfortunes, which afflict both good and bad people, as a reform for both kinds of people. That which afflicts good people increases the blessings of their Lord on them and that makes them thank Allah and be patient, while that which afflicts bad people makes them stop their evil and refrain from sins and vices. These misfortunes also contain good for those who are not afflicted with them. As for the good people, they become delighted with the goodness and righteousness they are in and become more willing to continue on their way. But as for the bad people, they realize the mercy and kindness of their Lord to them and the safety they are in though they do not deserve it. And this leads them to be kind to people and forgive those who have done them wrong.
One may say: these misfortunes afflict people through their properties; so what about those misfortunes that afflict their
bodies and may cause them to perish, such as fire, drowning, flood, and earthquake? It is said: Allah has made goodness for both kinds of people in these calamities too. As for the good people, leaving this life relieves them from its obligations and saves them from its misfortunes; and, as for the bad people, it clarifies their burdens and sins and prevents them from committing more sins. In short, Allah the Almighty with His wisdom and power has ordained all things towards goodness and advantageousness. Just like when a tree is broken down by the wind, and a good carpenter makes from it many useful tools, so does the Wise Ordainer. He turns the misfortunes that afflict people through their properties and bodies into goodness and benefit. If someone asks: why do these misfortunes happen to people? It is said to him: it is so lest people turn to sins because of the long peacefulness they live in, and then bad people exaggerate in committing sins and good people slacken in doing good. Both these matters (exaggerating in committing sins and slackening in doing good) prevail amongst people when they live at ease and in peace, while these events that afflict them deter them and make them turn back to their reasons. If they live free from such events, they will exaggerate in transgression and disobedience just as the people of ancient ages did, until they deserved perishment through great floods and the earth was purified from them.
Death and perishment
From among what the atheists, who deny planning and ordinance in creation, criticize is death and extinction. They say that people should live forever in this life free from any plague and misfortune. It is necessary to carry the argument to its logical conclusion to see the consequences to which it leads.
Consider that if all those who had entered this world and those who will enter it remained and not a single one of them died,
do you not think that this earth would become too narrow for them? They would not have enough room for their dwellings, farms or the requirements of their living. People, although death always perishes them, compete over abodes and farms until wars break out between them and bloods are shed. Then, how would it be if they were born but did not die, in spite of their greed and hardheartedness?
If people become certain that they will not die, they will not be satisfied with anything they receive and no one will give anything to anyone who asks him. No one will forget or overlook anything that has happened to him. Yet, they will become wearied with this life and everything in it, just like one who lives long becomes wearied of his life and wishes he would die and be free from this world.
If they (the atheists) say: it should have been ordained that plagues and misfortunes would not afflict people so that they would not wish for death or yearn for it. We have already described that it would take people towards transgressions and evils which would make them corrupt in religion and life. If they (the atheists) say: people should not reproduce so that dwellings and livings would not become narrow for them. It should be said to them: then, most creatures would be prevented from entering this world and enjoying the blessings and gifts of Allah the Almighty in this life and the afterlife if only one generation, who would not reproduce, were to enter this world. And if they say: all people, who had been created and who will be created until the last day of the world, should be created in that one generation. It should be said to them: we have already said that dwellings and livelihoods would not be enough. And if people did not reproduce, the pleasure felt through kin relationships, their support in misfortunes, and the pleasure and happiness of having and upbringing children would be missed. This proves that all the claims and imaginations of the atheists – other than that which has been
ordained by the Wise Creator – are wrong and nonsensical.
Criticizing the divine ordinance
A criticizer may criticize the divine ordinance from another point of view and say: is there ordinance in this world while we see that powerful persons oppress, transgress and rape, the weak are wronged and humiliated, good people are poor and afflicted with distresses, bad people are sound and wealthy, sinners and criminals are not punished immediately? If there is in fact planned ordinance in the world, affairs should happen according to analogy: good people should be blessed, bad people should be deprived, powerful people should be unable to wrong the weak, and sinners should be punished immediately. It is said in answering this: if it were so, doing good, with which man has been preferred over other creatures, would disappear. People would not do good or benevolence expecting to be rewarded and trusting in what Allah has promised in return. People would be like animals that are led by whip and fodder. No one would act due to the certainty of being rewarded or punished until people would emerge from humanity into animality. What is not seen (the unseen) would not be known and no one would act except for the present pleasures of the worldly life. Even good people would act to earn livelihood and wealth in this worldly life only and those who refrain from oppression and sins would do that just for fear of immediate punishment until all people’s deeds would be done only for the present and with no certainty of what is with Allah, and they would not deserve the reward of the hereafter or the eternal bliss in it; nevertheless, these things that the criticizer has mentioned – wealth and poverty, good health and affliction – are not contrary to his analogy, but they may happen according to that sometimes.
You may find many good persons who are granted with wealth for certain wisdom and lest people think that it is the atheists
who are provided with the means of subsistence while the pious are underprivileged and thence prefer debauchery to piety. And you find that many transgressors are punished when their transgressions and harms increase against people and against themselves, as with Pharaoh when he was punished with drowning and Nebuchadnezzar was punished with getting lost and Belbis with killing. Allah may delay the punishment of some evildoers and postpone the reward of some good doers till the afterlife for some reasons unknown to people. This does not refute the planned ordinance. Many rulers in the earth do this without annulling their ordinances. In fact, their delaying of what they delay and hastening of what they hasten are considered within their right of statesmanship and farsightedness. Since all evidences and their analogy necessitate that things have a wise creator then what prevents this Creator from managing His creation? According to their analogy, a maker does not neglect his craft except for one of three reasons: inability, ignorance or evilness; but all of these are impossible in the creation of Allah the Almighty for an unable one cannot make such great, wonderful creatures, an ignorant one does not know what is right and wise, and an evil one does not try to create and establish such things. If it is so, then definitely the creator of these creatures manages them, although much of this management cannot be understood by people. The public does not understand much of the management of rulers nor do they know its reasons because they do not know the secrets of the rulers nor what is there in their minds. If the reason behind a certain management becomes known, it will be found as right and correct. If you have a doubt regarding some drug or food, and then it becomes clear to you in two ways or three that it is cold or hot, will you not judge that it is as you have found and then remove the doubt from your mind? So what about these ignorants? Why do they not judge that this world has been created and managed
by a Wise Creator, and deny that it has been created in spite of all the evidences before them that cannot be counted? If half of the world and what it contained were somehow ambiguous, whether correct or not, it would not be a good thinking or courtesy to judge that all the world had been established out of indifference and by chance because the other half would have accurate and perfect things that would refute such hasty, untrue opinions. How is it then that whenever one searches, he finds the utmost correctness and perfection so that nothing may come to one’s mind unless it is found most right and perfect?
O Mufadhdhal, know that the name of the universe in Greek is “cosmos” which means embellishment. It has been called so by philosophers and wise people too. They called it so when they saw its perfect order and organization. They did not call it “order” or “organization” but called it “embellishment” to show that, besides its exactness and perfection, it was the utmost in beauty and splendor.
O Mufadhdhal! I wonder at those people who do not judge medicine to be faulty though they see doctors commit mistakes, but they judge the world to be neglected (with no manager) though they do not see anything neglected in it. I really wonder at the morals of those who claim to be wise but ignore morals among people and set their tongues free to abuse the Exalted Creator, glory be to Him! The wonder is at the wretched (Mani) when he pretends to have the knowledge of secrets while he is blind to the evidences of wisdom in the creation and claims that the creation is full of mistakes and the Creator is ignorant!
The oddest of all are the atheists who wanted to perceive by the senses what could not be perceived by reason, and when they failed, they denied the existence of the Creator and said: why is He not perceived by reason? It is said: He is above the position
of reason, as sight when does not see that which is above its position. When you see a stone rising in the air, you know that someone has thrown it. This knowledge comes not from the sight but out of reason, because it is reason that distinguishes and knows that a stone does not rise by itself. Do you not see how the eyesight stops at a point and does not exceed it? So does reason. It stops at a point in the cognizance of the Creator and does not exceed it, but it realizes His existence through reasoning. It is the same reason by which man realizes that there is a soul inside him though he does not see or feel it by any of the senses.
Reason and the Creator
And according to this too, we say: reason perceives the Creator in a way that necessitates man to acknowledge His existence, and it does not perceive Him in a way that necessitates man to know His qualities. If they ask: how is a weak man charged with knowing the Creator without knowing His qualities? It is said to them: people have been charged with what they can do and within their abilities, that is to believe in the Creator and to follow His orders and prohibitions, and they have not been charged with knowing His attributes. A king does not ask his subjects to know whether he is tall or short, white or brown; rather, he asks them to submit to his rule and follow his orders. Do you not think that if someone were to come to a king and say “present yourself to me so that I can know you fully; otherwise, I will not follow your orders”, he would expose himself to punishment? In the same way, he who refuses to believe in the Creator until he knows His essence will receive His wrath. And if they say: do we not describe Him when we say that He is the Mighty, the Wise, and the Generous? It is said to them: these are attributes of acknowledgment and not of description. We know that He is wise but we do not know the essence of His wisdom, and the same can be said about His other attributes. We see the heaven but we do not know its essence, and we look at the sea but we do not know where it
ends. The examples of this cannot be counted, though they fail in comparison, but they lead the reason to know the Creator. If they ask: then why do people disagree over Him? It is said: because minds fail to recognize the extent of His greatness and exceed their capacities in searching to know Him, and they want to know everything about Him while they are unable to do that or even the least of it.
One of these examples is the sun that shines all over the world and yet no one knows its reality. There are too many sayings about it, and philosophers have disagreed over how to describe it. Some of them say that it is a hollow star full of fire with a mouth agitating with flames. Some others say it is a cloud. Some say it is a glass mass that concentrates heat and then sends rays. Some say it is a fine, clear mass of congealed seawater. Others say it is many parts of fires gathered together. Some others say it is a fifth element separate from the four elements. Then they have disagreed over its shape. Some of them say it is like a flat page. Others say it is like a ball. They have also disagreed on its size. Some say it is as big as the earth. Some others say it is less, and some say it is much greater than a great island. People of geometry say it is one hundred and seventy times bigger than the earth.
The disagreement in the sayings about the sun shows that people cannot realize its reality. Minds are unable to realize the reality of the sun, which eyes clearly see and senses easily feel, then how about what is beyond the senses and hidden from the minds? If they say: why is He hidden? It is said to them: He is not hidden with a means, as one who hides from people behind doors and walls. The meaning of our saying “He is hidden” is that He is invisible to the eyes and minds because He is beyond the extent of the faculties of eyes and minds, like the case with the sun which is a creation created by Him and cannot be realized by eyes and minds. If they say: why is He so greatly beyond that? This is a wrong saying because it does not befit One Who is the Creator of everything except to be different from everything and exalted over everything. Glory be to Him the Almighty.
If they say: how is it possible that He is different from everything and exalted over everything? It should be said to them that the truth about things can be known in four ways: first, to see whether that thing is existent or not; second, to know what it is in its essence; third, to know how it is and what its description is; and fourth, to know why and for what cause it is. There is nothing in this existence that man can know in the Creator as it is except that he knows that He exists. If we say: how and what is He? Knowing His essence and all things about Him is beyond the bounds of possibility. Or we say: for what is He? It is not valid in the description of the Creator because He, glory be to Him, is the cause of everything, and nothing is a cause for Him. The knowledge of man that He (the Creator) is existent does not necessitate that he know what and how He is, just as his knowledge that the soul is existent does not necessitate that he know what and how it is. The same can be said about other spiritual matters. If they say: now you describe Him due to the shortage of knowledge about Him as if He is unknown. It is said to them: it is so, on the one hand, if minds want to know His essence and description; and on the other hand, He is closer than every close one when His existence is proved by satisfactory evidences. From one side, He is clear to every one, and from another side, He is so mysterious that no one can realize Him. So is reason. It is clear through its evidences whereas it is hidden in its essence.
The naturalists say that nature does nothing meaningless nor does it leave anything incomplete and claim that wisdom proves that. It is said to them: who has given nature this wisdom then, and how does it not exceed the limits of anything, which is something that minds fail to learn even after long experiments? If they prove wisdom and power to be of nature in doing such things, they will acknowledge what they have denied because these are the attributes of the Creator. But if they deny this to be of nature, then this is the creation calling out that it is the Wise Creator’s.
From the ancient nations, there were some people who denied the divine will and management in things and claimed that
things came into existence by accident and by chance. They took some signs which were unlike the usual, such as when one was born with a finger less or more or when one was born disfigured, as evidence showing that things were not under will and management but by accidents as they happened.
Aristotle refuted that by saying: that which comes into being by accident and chance is something that comes one time due to certain factors in nature making something unusual and not like the natural matters that happen in one form continually and successively.
Oh Mufadhdhal, you see the different species of animals following a regular pattern and having identical shapes. For instance, a human infant when born has two hands, two legs with five fingers or toes in each limb. But sometimes, as for one who is born unlike the usual, it is because of some reason in the womb or in the substance from which the infant grows, as it happens in some crafts when a skillful craftsman wants to be accurate in his craft but some defect in the raw material or tools affects his production. Such a thing may happen to the children of animals for the reasons we have mentioned that a child may be born with less or more or disfigured limbs, but most of them are born sound with no defect.
The defects that happen in some things because of some shortage do not mean that all the things have come by accident with no maker. So are things in nature. The saying that things have come into existence by accident and chance is totally wrong and nonsensical.
If they say: why does such a thing happen? It is said to them: to know that things are not created inevitably by nature nor by something else, as some people say, but are created with will and management by a Wise Creator Who has made nature run most of the time in certain routines and sometimes in variation because of some temporary causes, so it is concluded that nature is managed by the Creator and it needs His power to attain its purposes and complete its acts. Blessed be Allah, the Best of creators.
Oh Mufadhdhal! Take what (the knowledge) I have given you, and keep what I have presented you, and be to your Lord grateful, and to His blessings a praiser, and to His guardians an obeyer.
I have explained to you a part from the whole and a little from plenty of evidences of creation and proofs of the right management and ordinance. Think of them deeply and take a lesson.’
Al-Mufadhdhal said, ‘My master, with your assistance I acknowledge that and will inform of it Inshallah.’ He put his hand on my chest and said, ‘Keep (memorize) it by the will of Allah and do not forget, Inshallah.’ I fainted to the ground, and when I regained consciousness, he said to me, ‘How do you see yourself, Mufadhdhal?’ I said, ‘By the help and assistance of my master (Imam as-Sadiq), I am not in need of the book that I have written and the knowledge is before me as if I am reading it from my palm. Praise and thanks be to my master as he deserves.’
He said, ‘O Mufadhdhal, make your heart attentive and prepare your attention, mind and tranquility for I shall deliver to you from the knowledge of the heavens and the earth and what Allah has created in them and between them of His wonderful creatures, and all kinds of angels and their ranks and positions up until the farthest lote-tree, and of the rest of the creation from the jinn and human beings to the lowest seventh earth and what there is under the soil so that what you perceive shall be a part of many parts. You may leave if you want with the mercy and blessings of Allah. You are to us in an honorable place, and your position in the hearts of the believers is as the position of water to the thirsty. Do not ask me about what I have promised you until I myself tell you.’
Al-Mufadhdhal said, ‘I left my master with that which no one had ever left with.’”