Q: It is said that in Ethereal Sphere (Aalame Zarr)9 the souls chose either righteousness or wretchedness. Now if it was forced, it is injustice and if it was volluntary, and if they possessed intelligence, how did they choose it? But if they had no sense, it would be improper to hold them accountable and to punish them. Please describe the circumstances in Ethereal Sphere (Aalame Zarr).
A: Allamah Majlisi (r.a.) has, in volume 3 of Biharul Anwar , quoted many narrations related to inborn human disposition (Teenat). Aalame Zarr and about taking of the covenant. It can be summarized as follows:
The Almighty created from the loins of His Eminence, Adam, the father of humanity, his progeny so that He may bring them out on Judgment Day in the form of particles as small as tiny ants. So in the beginning also they were like tiny ants. Thereafter the Almighty Allah connected their souls to their bodies. At that time also they possessed perfect wisdom and intelligence. They also had a perfectly free will.
Then, after taking covenant from them about His being only Allah One God and about His messengers and Imams (a.s.) He asked: “Am I not your Lord?" A number of them who were the right-siders, said obediently and enthusiastically: ''Yes of course," and thus they confessed and testified to the truth. The remaining, who were left-siders, hesitatingly and with disinclination said, 'Yes'. Then God took their test by bringing before them a fire. He ordered them to enter it. The former entered and the fire became cool for them. The remaining did not obey and did not enter and this test was taken thrice.
As regards the research and meaning of Teenat, Aalame Zarr and covenant, scholars of religion have three opinions:
The first is the school of traditionists who say that these traditions are ambiguous and to understand them is beyond us and it is enough to have faith in them and we should understand that the Imams (a.s.) know their meanings.
Another school of thought is that of Shaykh Mufeed, Sayyid Murtaza and Tabarsi, author of Majmaul Bayan and other commentators of Quran and their followers. They are of the opinion that traditions about Teenat and verses and narrations relating to covenant taking are figurative, allegoric and metaphoric with reference to the details mentioned in Sharh Kafi and Bihar; especially with regard to Aalame Zar, Shaykh Mufid (r.a.) says:
"The correct report is that the Almighty Allah brought out from the loins of Adam, his progeny like tiny ants and filled up the horizon therewith. Then He divided it into three pans. Some had effulgence (Noor) without darkness (Zulmat) and they were the selected ones who were pure of sins. Some were all darkness without light and they were the infidels who never did obey. Some others had a combination of both. They are those who obey and also disobey, among the believers.
The reason behind bringing out the progeny of Adam in this manner was that the Almighty Allah intended to introduce the numerosity of Adam's progeny to him and also to show His Might and Kingdom; to amaze him by His creation and to make him understand what was to happen after him. As regards the traditional reports containing the Almighty Allah's Words:
“am I not your lord...till the end”, its reply is that they are only solitary traditions and hence not quite reliable. On the contrary he says that they are forged.
Thereafter Shaykh Mufeed referred to the holy verse:
وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنْ بَنِي آدَمَ مِنْ ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَىٰ أَنْفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ ۛ شَهِدْنَا ۛ أَنْ تَقُولُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَٰذَا غَافِلِينَ
"And when your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their backs, their descendants, and made them bear witness again.d their own souls: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes! we bear witness. Lest you should say on the day of resurrection: Surely we were heedless of this.” (Al A’raaf, 7: 172)
Shaykh Mufeed said that this divine covenant was taken from the progeny of Adam whereby they admitted that Allah is the Creator of everything and that He is the Lord nourisher of everything and everyone and that He is the Only One God.
This truth, which all of them accepted was not merely a verbal covenant and it did not relate only to the time of Adam, the father of mankind. Rather it is a covenant, which is divinely created and which has remained with every human being along with his creation. In other words, the feeling of finding and knowing God and a capability to and readiness to accept the truth of God 's oneness and uniqueness is present in the soul of everyone right from their creation and this feeling about God 's existence is there in the mind of everyone as a self-understood matter. It is a divinely created instinct.
In this way, all human beings have the spirit of belief in only one God and a natural demand to worship only Him is made in the language of creation. Likewise, the answer to this question has also been in the same language. The summary of this question and answer and the covenant is a natural agreement, the signs of which are found by everyone even today in his or her heart.
So much so that modern psychologists too have found in their latest researches that religious awareness is innate in man which every human being finds in himself automatically. It is the same natural sense that has guided people to God throughout the ages. Every intelligent man who pays attention to his divinely bestowed instinct understands that he is a creation of a Creator and he is nourished by a nourisher and sustainer.
If you put something before a three or four-year-old child, he too, before extending h is hand, looks at the one who has placed that thing before him and as a result of his natural understanding follows that everything is brought by someone. There are many things in the Holy Quran and other texts which deal with questions and answers about man's natural faculties and abilities, which are omitted here due to exigency.
The third school of thought followed by many earlier and later day scholars says that all narrations about Teenat, Aalame Zarr and covenant are correct and their apparent meanings are also correct and there is no inconsistency between them and any logic or religious rules and principles.
If someone says that as a consequent of these narrations, one can say that there is compulsion in religion, because, in Aalame Zarr whatever a man accepted was involuntary, without an alternative, we reply that:
Firstly, whatever everyone confessed in that world was by his or her choice and understanding as said earlier. Rather some have even said that the wisdom of everyone in that world was greater than it is today.
Secondly, the tenor of the reports in this regard is that matters accepted in that world were never forced whereby in this facsimile world, everything must be accepted and acted upon. Rather it is possible that there may be a change as mentioned in a tradition in which Amirul Momineen (a.s.) is reported to have said:
"The Lord of the worlds stipulated change in destiny (Bada) in the left-sided folks."
That is, those who, in that world, willingly revolted and disobeyed became the left-sided folks. If they repent and obey the messengers of God, the Lord changes their destiny and places them among the right-sided folks as such a change is very much possible. That is why it is mentioned in the supplication of the holy month of Ramadan:
"If I am to be thrown into calamities, cancel my encounter with such misfortunes and write my name in the list of those who have been blessed to be fortunate, because You have said in Your Book:
يَمْحُو اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاءُ وَيُثْبِتُ ۖ وَعِنْدَهُ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ
"Allah makes to pass away and establishes what He pleases, and with Him is the basis of' the Book." (Ar- Ra’ad, 13:39)
As regards the question about their being intelligent and how they preferred to put themselves in a loss? We say that such exclamation is out of place, because it is often seen that many wise and intelligent people, in several matters, knowingly and voluntarily do things which harm them and thereafter repent for their misdeeds. Likewise, the accursed Satan knowingly and intentionally disobeyed God's command and refused to prostrate before Adam (a.s.).
Sayyid Abdul Husayn Dastghaib