If God is Just, why is life unfair?

If God is Just, why is life so unfair?

Question – One of Allah’s names is The Just. But even though I try my best to be a good person and to be kind to people, I get hurt by others and suffer a lot of hardship in my life. Where is justice in that? Life doesn’t seem very fair to me. Why is life unfair?

-By Fadel Soliman

Answer – Is life unfair? Of course it’s unfair. Where is the justice in this world? A man can murder and steal, and still live a luxurious life, full of wealth and fame, and then eventually die without any worldly punishment. On the other hand, a man can live a peaceful life, being nothing but kind, patient, and helpful, and eventually die without any recognition or appreciation. Truly, there is no justice in this world, and the Quran even confirms that. God Almighty says regarding the day of judgment: “On This Day every soul will be recompensed for what it earned. No injustice today!” Quran 40:17

In other words, in the hereafter, there is no injustice, which implies that perhaps prior to that, in this life, there is injustice. But does that mean that God himself is unjust? No.

Worldly Life is nothing but diversion and amusement -Quran 29:64

We must look at the bigger picture. Never judge a play by its first act. True life is not just this-worldly life. In fact, true life is not this worldly life at all. The Quran  says, “And this worldly life is nothing but diversion and amusement. And indeed, the true life is in the Hereafter, if only they knew.” Quran 29:64

If only they knew that this worldly life is nothing but diversion and amusement. It’s Insignificant. All the joy in it is not genuine joy, and all the sorrow and torture in it are not genuine either. The hereafter is the real life. It’s everything and everlasting.

What happens if life stopped after death?

If life stopped right after death or before the moment of resurrection and if all there was, was this worldly life, with no judgment day, then certainly it would be truly unjust. But thank God, with the coming of the resurrection and final judgment, injustice becomes eradicated. God says about Himself in the Quran:  “He has decreed upon Himself mercy. He will surely assemble you for the Day of Resurrection, about which there is no doubt.” Quran 6:12

But what is the correlation between God being merciful and God gathering us all on the Day of Judgment? It is a sign of God’s mercy that He will gather us all on the Day of Judgment, because God Almighty is Just and he has referred to himself as “the Utterly Just”. He is the source of all justice, and as we mentioned, justice cannot prevail until everyone one of us is gathered and recompensed or punished for our deeds accordingly.

Logically, a Day of Judgment is necessary to establish complete Justice

In the Qudusi hadith, Allah says: “O MY servants, I have made oppression unlawful for myself and I have made it unlawful among you, so do not oppress one another.” [Related by Muslim]

So God Almighty has made oppression -which is one of the worst forms of injustice-unlawful for himself and for us as well. And, in doing so, He has encouraged us to stand in the face of oppressors, even if it costs us our lives. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “If the time comes when you see my people fearful of telling an oppressor that he is an oppressor’, then there is no hope for them.”

But does the injustice of this life indicate that God Himself is unjust? No!

If we witness a crime, do we blame it on the judge who will be dealing with the case in the future? Allah is “the Judge”, “the Utterly Just”. Does it make sense for people to blame the judge before he even handles the case? Allah intervenes on the Day of Judgment by retaliating against the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed, and by rewarding that patient, kind and righteous person who was never acknowledged in the worldly life, and by punishing that murdering, raping, or otherwise despicable criminal who was never punished in this life.

A key for afterlife – your efforts matter more to God, than results.

The Prophet (pbuh) has a saying that if the end of time comes upon us and someone is just about to plant a tree, then he should go ahead and plant it quickly, all the same. Atheists mock this, asking in ridicule, “What’s the point of planting something in the final moments of this world? Not only will that person not benefit from it, there aren’t even future generations to potentially benefit from it. It’s pointless.”

On the contrary, this saying demonstrates the extent of God’s justice: That, on the Day of Judgment, a person will not be judged based on the result of his or her work, but rather on the effort he or she makes, regardless. Here in this world, we are judged based on results and not on the effort we exert. And that is part of the injustice of this world: That a person does not receive any reward or thanks for his or her effort. My boss is only interested in my productivity; not my effort. He always demands, “Show me your productivity, show me your sales, show me numbers.” Allah on the other hand, neither cares about your productivity nor your sales nor your “numbers”. He cares about whether or not you made an effort. Have you tried or not? On the Day of Judgment, He will reward you for your effort, not its results. Even if you make an effort but fail or make mistakes in the process, you will still be rewarded.

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “When someone utilizes his skill of judgment and comes to a right decision, he will have a double reward, but when he uses his judgment and commits a mistake, he will have a single reward.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

So, when a person makes an effort but errs, he or she still gets rewarded.

One of the key tests is being aware that you are being tested!

Actually, one of the tests we face is the concept of being tested in itself, someone will ask God to grant him patience and endurance and to bring upon relief soon, and someone else will say God is unjust or even doesn’t exist at all, so in addition to the nature of the test itself, maybe poverty or losing a loved one, being tested is in itself a test of the strength of one’s faith

Is it fair to punish someone in Hell for eternity?

Someone may ask, “and where is the fairness if a sinner commits sins for his whole life; lets say 70 years, but then is doomed to reside in hell-fire for an eternity? Surely the punishment is not proportionate to the crime? Even if amongst those sins is disbelief in God, where’s the justice in that?

I know that this particular question crosses the minds of many people, not just myself. First of all, there’s a fair chance for all; he could have chosen to do good deeds during those 70 years instead, and consequently become immortalized in paradise forever.

Second of all, what is the relation between the severity of a punishment and injustice? Can’t a punishment be very mild yet unjust? For instance, if it were NOT against the law to run a red light, and you did so and then got stopped by the police, who fined you a quarter of a pound, it’s practically nothing…. You might even give him a whole pound and tell him to keep the change! But is this unjust or not? It is unjust because the law does not prohibit what you are being punished for (the initial assumption being crossing red light as not a prohibition). So there is such a thing as a mild yet unjust punishment.

On the other hand, if the law prohibits running a red light and has assigned a 5000 pound penalty for it, even though it is a severe punishment, one cannot say that it is unjust. If a police officer stops me for running a red light and makes me pay 5000 pounds, I cannot object because it’s the law; and it’s there to protect people’s lives. I can say that it is a severe punishment, yes, but I can’t say it is unfair because I had been forewarned and I made the decision, of my own free-will, to disregard the law. So there are certain sins that Allah has informed us of and warned us from falling into, and, in case we do fall into them, He has given us a chance to repent before we die. And he has warned us that if we die while persisting and insisting on committing those sins, then we will enter hell-fire. It’s a severe form of punishment, but it is entirely fair because God Almighty has forewarned us. And He has emphasized that in the Quran in chapter 17 , verse 15 by saying that He will not punish anyone unless warning them first.

“Whoever is guided is only guided for (the benefit of) his soul. And whoever errs only errs against it. And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And never would We punish until We sent a messenger.” Quran 17:15

Allah addressed Prophet Mohammad in the holy Quran, saying: “Inform My servants that it is I who am the Forgiving, the Merciful. And that My punishment is severe.” Quran 15:49-50. Therefore, there is no contradiction between Allah being merciful, and Him punishing those who transgress. In fact, the latter is necessary in order for the former to exist.

Relation between forgiveness and Punishment

Forgiveness is of no value if granted by a person who can not punish, if your boss humiliates you in the presence of all your colleagues then you look at him and tell him, I am not going to punish you, your colleagues would certainly laugh, because you do not have the authority nor the power to punish him. But if you make a mistake and then your boss tells you, “you know that I can deduct 3 days pay from your salary as a punishment but I won’t because I have decided to forgive you” then this forgiveness is valuable, if you make a really big mistake and he tells you “you know that I can fire you, but I won’t because I have decided to forgive you” then this is a more valuable forgiveness since the punishment waived is bigger. And if you do something illegal at work, and your boss tells you “you know that I can call the police and put you in jail but I won’t because I decided to forgive you” then this is definitely a much more valuable forgiveness because the punishment waived was so severe.

When Allah says in the Quran “tell My servants that it is I who am the Forgiving, the Merciful. And that My punishment is severe.” talking about the severity of His punishment is in fact talking about how valuable his forgiveness and mercy is.

If we are going on a journey that takes 5 hours by car, to spend the summer in a beautiful sea resort, we will surely not enjoy the 5 hours spent in the car. But when we reach the resort and get to enjoy the pleasures of swimming, eating from buffets, etc. we will soon forget the discomfort and boredom we experienced during the 5 hour car journey.  This life is like the 5 hours in the car. The hereafter is like the seaside resort. Focus on the destination and be patient while on the journey.

If we focus just on the 5 hour car ride; trying to make it comfortable and enjoyable by stoking up on sandwiches and drinks, but in doing so forget to plan for the destination; neglecting to book rooms in the resort where you will be spending the summer, then we have certainly been sidetracked and will be in trouble once our journey has ended. So make sure that you do not only focus on bringing ease to your life on this earth, thereby forgetting about the hereafter, as it is more important and more permanent.

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This article is a transcript of Islamophobia Season 2 Episode 7Subscribe to Islamophobia Series by Fadel Solimanbridges-foundation.org; Official website of Fadel Soliman fadelsoliman.com;

Why is life unfair | Is God unfair | where is justice in this life | why God is so unfair to me | true justice is in afterlife | God is not unfair | Islamophobia S2 Episode 7 Fadel Soliman

  • Linie Aquavit

    Life isn’t unfair; it’s just life. Is it “unfair” when a lion eats a gazelle? Is it unfair to a mosquito that you killed it for trying to get blood from you? Those are normal, everyday experiences. It’s not about fair. It’s about life just happening and unfolding randomly, just as it always has for trillions of years.

    • Muhammad Mansoor

      I can’t find words to reply. If you believe that life is fair then good for you.

      • Linie Aquavit

        I don’t think life is fair. But neither is it unfair. The whole question is wrong. It’s like asking if it’s fair for people to breathe oxygen, or is it fair that the ocean and sky look blue. Is it fair that fire is hot and ice is cold. Life can’t be described in terms of fairness. It’s just life. When bad things happen, they’re not happening TO YOU. They’re just happening, and sometimes you might happen to be involved. Life isn’t about fairness or justice. It’s just life. Once people grasp that, it makes everything so simple to deal with.