Derek Kiy: Friendship, Forgiveness, and Justice

In class, we had a long discussion on the linear spectrum of justice, forgiveness, and friendship. From what we learned, justice was a base that could be supplemented by “justice plus”. This “justice plus” exists on a higher moral plane where forgiveness and friendship exist. This was then applied to international relations using the concept of the zero-point level of peace.

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The figure above shows the international relations view of inter-human relations. One of the surprises here is that “tolerance”, one of the west’s most exalted virtues is not actually peaceful; it’s a mild form of hostility. Tolerance can exist when justice does not. For example a country or countries can tolerate inequality. Despite greed and hoarding of wealth are sin as seen in Repentance:


كالذين من قبلكم كانوا اشد منكم قوة واكثر اموالا واولادا فاستمتعوا بخلاقهم فاستمتعتم بخلاقكم كما استمتع الذين من قبلكم بخلاقهم وخضتم كالذي خاضوا اولئك حبطت اعمالهم في الدنيا والاخرة واولئك هم الخاسرون

[You disbelievers are] like those before you; they were stronger than you in power and more abundant in wealth and children. They enjoyed their portion [of worldly enjoyment], and you have enjoyed your portion as those before you enjoyed their portion, and you have engaged [in vanities] like that in which they engaged. [It is] those whose deeds have become worthless in this world and in the Hereafter, and it is they who are the losers.

We humans have never existed in a peaceful world. We are working towards a planet that is tolerant with hopes that that tolerance will lead to (hopefully) friendship among peoples. As seen in the figure below, peaceful interactions encompass both justice, and “justice plus”. Within “justice plus” forgiveness eventually becomes friendship. Forgiveness is a virtue, meaning that people should, but don’t have to strive for it. In this view, friendship is a cosmic phenomenon where the divine (and paradise) exists on a moral plane of absolute friendship or companionship.

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This view paints Allah as at the summit of the moral spectrum, but has issues. Firstly, it creates a paradox where Allah exists at the top of the moral spectrum but is responsible for all things at all ends of the moral spectrum. The same god who is forgiving and grants people access to paradise is the same god that is vengeful and allows barrel bombs to be dropped on civilians. If God is solely good, he can’t be omnipotent. The logical conclusion is what we discussed in class; that god is both the forgiver and the avenger, but he is more forgiving than he is vengeful. This allows for God to be the creator of everything, but still merciful. His mercy is completely unnecessary, but given because he is good. With this, we can conclude that God exists in the realm of peace; he enacts both justice and “justice plus”. He will sentence someone to hellfire, but only if it is just. He enacts justice with righteous fury. His punishments still fall within the realm of peaceful interaction because they are the consequence of divine justice. His mercy is the result of his “justice plus”. He forgives and befriends his creation as seen in The Believers


الم تر ان الله سخر لكم ما في الارض والفلك تجري في البحر بامره ويمسك السماء ان تقع على الارض الا باذنه ان الله بالناس لرءوف رحيم

Do you not see that Allah has subjected to you whatever is on the earth and the ships which run through the sea by His command? And He restrains the sky from falling upon the earth, unless by His permission. Indeed Allah, to the people, is Kind and Merciful.

وهو الذي احياكم ثم يميتكم ثم يحييكم ان الانسان لكفور

And He is the one who gave you life; then He causes you to die and then will [again] give you life. Indeed, mankind is ungrateful

Since God is omnipotent, it seems odd to view the relationship of justice, forgiveness, and friendship as linear. It makes significantly more sense to view forgiveness and justice as the building blocks of friendship. A good friendship has both justice and forgiveness; there is a strong respect for boundaries and loyalty, but friends can and do forgive each other. The figure below exemplifies how all three sides of justice and “justice plus” feed into each other. Between each factor, there is a gradient; there are actions and thoughts that lie on the justice-forgiveness-friendship spectrum. For friendship to blossom, we must be both just and forgiving towards one another; friendship can be seen as the highest moral plane because by integrating justice and forgiveness, it creates free will to choose between the two.

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Legal systems are hampered because they must dispense justice and many people may be wronged if they must forgive. In a friendship, participants choose between justice and forgiveness. As we saw with the in-class example of the Persian woman who had her face splashed with acid. Her forgiveness of her attacker was made more meaningful because she had no barrier to justice or forgiveness.

In a friendship where we can choose to either forgive or seek reprisal, our decisions are made more impactful because we are actively avoid our alternative. As such, maintaining a friendship requires us to act like God; we are capable of peace or hostility, but we are more fiend than foe and chose to be loving and merciful. In this way, we see that friendship is the most pious way of going about human-to-human interaction.