Badāʾ (Arabic: بَداء) is a term in kalam. When the word is used about God, it means that God reveals to people something other than what they thought would happen. However, when bada' is used about people, it refers to their changing their decisions.
There are several verses of Qur'an concerning this notion and some of its instances. In some hadiths, belief in bada' has been said to be along with the real knowledge of tawhid (monotheism), without which God cannot be truly known. In Shiite resources of hadith, details of bada' have been talked about; for example, in al-Kafi there is a separate section about bada' including 16 hadiths.
Literal and Terminological Meanings
Bada' has two literal meanings: appearance or emergence, and occurrence of a thought or an opinion.
When someone has made a decision to do something, but before doing it he comes to know that there is a harm or threat consequent upon that act, and so he changes his mind; In such a case we say that a bada' has occurred, since the person did not know all the facts about the act in question; otherwise he would not have decided to do it. It is obvious that the change of mind arises from ignorance of the facts. Therefore it is legitimate to use the word "bada'" about human beings, but such a use is illegitimate with respect to God. Also, people might say that a bada' occurred for someone in this act to mean that the goodness of that act became obvious to him (though it was not obvious before). The word is also used in the case of omissions.
The word "bada'" is used about God without implying any change of mind out of ignorance or weakness, and thus bada' as a Shiite belief means that God reveals for people facts that were hidden from them such that they expected otherwise.
In Qur'an, there are several verses concerning the notion of bada' and its instances; for example, "Allah makes to pass away and establishes what he pleases" (Quran 13:39); in a commentary on this verse, Imam al-Sadiq (a) says: "is not it the case that Allah makes to pass away what is established, and establishes what has passed away?"
In some hadiths, belief in the proper notion of bada' is considered as a way to true knowledge of tawhid (monotheism), without which God cannot be truly known. Let us consider two such hadiths:
- The best worship for God by His servants comes with the belief in bada'.
- None of the prophets became prophets until they admitted 5 characteristics for God: bada', providence, prostration (sujud), divinity, and His obedience.
In Shiite resources, there are many hadiths from the Prophet Muhammad (s) and Imams (a) that approve bada' and take belief in bada' to be a sort of worship for God and one of the highest forms of obeisance for God.
Divine knowledge and volition, on the one hand, and human will and ignorance, on the other hand, are effective in having true knowledge of bada'. As the creation and the design of the cosmos with respect to its existence and shari'a depend on divine providence, volition, bada', and destiny, human fate also depends on his/her actions and beliefs. Some of the affairs in which bada' occurs are in the hands of human beings themselves, such as charity with which God stops some catastrophes that were to occur for those who have paid it, and relations with one's relatives that help prolong one's life, and the like.
An example might reveal the relation between bada' and the fate: the death itself is one of the affairs in which bada' does not occur, and this is why it is called indispensable, but the way one dies, the time, and the place of death are affairs in which bada' occurs, and people's actions and beliefs bring about changes in them.
In short, with respect to its time, place, situation and subject, bada' occurs in a variety of forms three of which are as follows:
- At the wedding night of a couple, one of the prophets of Israelites said to his followers that tomorrow morning the couple will be dead. To their surprise, people saw that they are alive the next day. They asked the prophet about this, and he was revealed by God that "their death was not certain; since they gave alms that night, their death was postponed."
- When people did not follow the Prophet Jonah, he cursed them and God ordained a punishment for them and told Jonah about it. When Jonah's people saw the signs of the divine punishment, they repented, and because of their repentance, God prevented the punishment.
For example, in the case of changing Muslims' qibla from Jerusalem to Ka'ba, God knew from the outset that the permanent qibla for Muslims is Ka'ba and not Jerusalem. Therefore, His command to change qibla is along with his knowledge.
In Divine Tests
As a Change of Opinion or Will
An issue that led to long theological discussions is the relation of bada' to God as a change of opinion or will, that is, God's shift from an opinion to a new one which is with some qualifications an imamiyya belief.
Such a relation without any qualifications is not, however, believed by any major Islamic sect. For such a relation is, upon analysis, in contradiction with God's identification with His knowledge, will, wisdom and other divine attributes, and leads to the belief in the incidence of knowledge and will in God. What raises the issue and encourages belief in bada' with respect to God are some religious-historical events and some Qur'anic verses about God's absolute will as to making to pass away and establish affairs and consequences of action, and also verses that call people to repent in order to change God's will concerning reward and punishment.
Admittedly people who believe in bada' never think that God's knowledge and will are incident and imperfect; rather they put the incidence or change of His will where it is not in contradiction with His eternal, absolute knowledge and will. Imams (a) constantly emphasize that bada' does not amount to an occurrence of new knowledge for God.
Kinds of Divine Knowledge and Bada' in them
There are two kinds of divine knowledge:
Opponents of Bada'
Al-Shaykh al-Mufid explicitly says that Mu'tazila opposes Imamiyya with regard to bada'. And the debates between Shiite and Mu'tazila scholars indicate that the latter attributed a wrong conception of bada' to the former, and Shiite scholars sought to reply to their misunderstandings.
It is obvious that these opponents have not fully comprehended the Shiite view of bada', since while bada' might imply ignorance in the case of human beings, it does not imply so in the case of God. Moreover, bada' is restricted to dispensable non-certain will and predestination with some qualifications. Thus opponents of bada' do not have a full understanding of divine will and predestination.
Views of Some Scholars about Bada'
Al-Shaykh al-Tusi's View
Appealing to hadiths regarding the postponement and preponement of God's promise and talking about its possibility on the condition that the interest of postponement and preponement is not renewed, and dividing the alarms or predictions of the prophets and God's friends into changeable and unchangeable, al-Shaykh al-Tusi makes an appeal to a hadith about two phases or sorts of God's knowledge and says that hadiths about the postponement or preponement or shortening or lengthening of one's life or livelihood by prayers, charity and relations with relatives or cruelty must be interpreted away. Though God knows about both (the predetermined time and its consequent change), but it is not impossible that one of these two times is known conditionally and the other unconditionally.
Al-Shaykh al-Mufid's View
According to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, belief in bada' is not based on reasoning; rather it is based on hadiths or quotations. Imamiyya's belief is that God reveals something that is not apparent to creatures; they do not say that God's view has changed or something hidden from Him has become obvious to Him.
According to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, deaths, punishments or rewards, referred to in different verses, are conditional, and bada' is a change or revision in such matters and can legitimately be ascribed to God's acts, like attributes of anger and satisfaction that are legitimately ascribed to Him.
Mulla Sadra's View
According to Sadr al-Muta'alihin (Mulla Sadra), bada' does not apply to antecedent worlds—that is, the world of immaterial spiritual reasons ('uqul mujarrada) and dominant lights (anwar qahira) for which no dispositions or potentialities are conceivable—rather it applies to the world of creation and incident objects that have dispositions and are directed at a particular purpose and might be objects of volitions. These purposes might change, and this is bada'. In fact, the theory of bada' emphasizes that everything is controlled by God; He is in a new affair moment by moment. Thus the world is directed at a perfection. Bada' might be considered as supporting human free will in determining his own fate.
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