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Last Updated: 2008/05/15
Summary of question
How do we interpret the attributes just, most compassionate and one for God?
Please explain the three attributes just, most compassionate and one when attributed to God.
Concise answer

Justice means to place everything in its appropriate place. This said, divine justice can have two types. First: takwini justice which means that every existing being including the skies and earth are based on justice (and that there is a special balance between the different parts). Second: tashri’i justice that has two types as well. The first is setting tenets and rulings, meaning that the rulings that are set by God are fair and based on justice. And the second is judging people on the Day of Judgment which is done justly.

God’s mercy means that he does good to others and grants them blessings. Consequently, the most compassionate and merciful would mean that he possesses the highest level of this quality.

God being one can have two meanings. The first is that no other creature is similar to him and the second is that he is simple (not composed of parts, even intellectual and imaginative).

Detailed Answer

A: Justice

When speaking of divine justice, it is necessary to first define justice and its different types. Justice means to place each thing in its right place. Therefore, divine justice is of two types:


1- Takwini Justice: This understanding of justice revolves around God’s creation, in the sense that every single phenomenon in this world, including the seven skies and the earth, were created based on justice and that there is a balance and harmony between their different parts. With the help of the design argument, researchers have been able to prove this concept.

In regard to this type of divine justice, God says in the Quran: “He raised the sky and set up the balance”[1]

Therefore, in order to define this type of justice, one must say: “Justice means creating a balance in the amount of existence that is granted to each being. The opposite of it would be ruining the balance, not oppression (Dhulm).” This justice is a result of God’s wisdom, power and knowledge

2- Tashri’i Justice: This type of justice can have two applications:

First: In the process of setting laws, in the sense that the rulings that God sets for us are fair and based on justice. This means that God takes into consideration the power, strength and ability of his servants and sets rulings based on them.

In the Quran, God states: “We task no soul except according to its capacity…”[2]

Second: When judging people on the Day of Judgment, he will do so based on justice and will not favor or privilege anyone over others. In the Quran, we read: “and with us is a book that speaks the truth, and they will not be wronged.”[3]

As a result, when defining this type, one must say: “Justice means to refrain from violating people’s right and negating any sort of privileging or favoring others.” The opposite of this type of justice is oppression, which means to violate people’s rights.

It is noteworthy that all Islamic sects have accepted justice as a quality of God. In this regard, Shahid Mutahhari writes: “No one (amongst Muslims) has said that God is not just. The dispute between the Mutazilites and the Asharites is in the interpretation of justice. Asharites interpret God’s justice in a way that would, from the Mutazillites point of view, be a means of denying it, not that the Asharites to do not believe in divine justice.”[4]

B: Most Merciful

The words arham and rahim are derived from rahm (Mercy). Arham means the most merciful. Rahim means one who has mercy and is compassionate. Therefore, arham al-rahimin means the most compassionate and merciful.

Raghib (author of the great Quranic dictionary, Mufradaat) says in this regard: “Rahmat is a type of kindness in which one does good to others. Sometimes it is only used to denote kindness, and other times it only denotes righteousness to others (ihsan). When applied to God, it refers to ihsan and when used for humans it refers to the kindness in the heart.”[5]

In Tafsir al-Mizan, when interpreting the phrase “بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم” Allamah Tabataba’i says: “In regard to God, mercy means blessing and doing others good.”

Tabarsi, the great Quranic commentator, has mentioned on many occasions, including in Surah Hamd and Surah Baqarah verse 157, that God’s mercy means granting others blessings. In Surah Hamd, after quoting Ibn Abbas, he says: “One cannot say that God has mercy in the sense that he sympathizes and has feelings, therefore, God’s mercy means blessing others and doing them good.”

In short, when speaking of God, mercy means blessing others and doing them good. Consequently, the most merciful would refer to one who possesses the highest level of such quality.

C: Oneness

Wahid (One) can have different meanings. During the battle of Jamal, when an Arab asked Imam Ali about God being one, he replied: “There can be four interpretations of God being one. Two of them however, do not apply to God. The first false interpretation is that He is one, as a number, [this is false] because whatever is numbered, must have second and third to it. Don’t you know that the Quran stipulates that if one believes that God is one of three (ثالث ثلاثه) he is a disbeliever? The second is when it is said that God is one of the many beings that exist, as it is said that you are a person like other people, because in this case, God has been compared to other beings.

The two correct interpretations are that there is no parallel for God and that He is simple [and comprises of no parts] in the mind and imagination.”[6]

Therefore, according to the tradition for God to be one means that He is not composed of parts or that He has no parallel.

The most common meaning of God’s oneness is that He has no parallel or like.

In Philosophy and Theology books, there are four types of oneness mentioned for God, namely:

A: Oneness of Essence (Which we explained above)

B: Oneness of Attributes: God’s attributes and His essence are one and united

C: Oneness of Actions: All actions and movements are traced back and attributed to God

D: Oneness of Worship: God is the only being entitled to be worshipped and nothing other than Him is worthy of our worship. This is because we should worship a being that is perfect, has no need to others, grants everything blessings and creates all beings. These qualities are only found in God.[7]


[1] Al-Rahman 7, “وَالسَّماءَ رَفَعَها وَ وَضَعَ الْميزان

[2] Mu’minun 62, “وَ لا نُكَلِّفُ نَفْساً اِلاّ وُسْعَها

[3] Mu’minun 62, “و لَدَيْنا كِتابٌ يَنْطِقُ بِالْحَقِّ وَهْمْ لا يُظْلَمُون

[4] Mutahhari, Morteza, Ashnayi ba Ulume Eslami, p. 157.

[5] Al-Mufradat fi Gharib al-Quran, p. 347.

[6] Shaykh Saduq, Al-Tawhid, p. 83, second edition, Jame’eye Modarresin Press, Qum, 1398 AH.

[7] Baba’i, Ahmad Ali, Bargozideye Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 5, p. 61, Daar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah, Tehran, 1383 (solar) 13th edition.


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