In Islam all important establishments and installations remain under the control of just people, whose reputation has been good and who are able and pious. In the matter of administration of justice, right from the qazi (magistrate) to the ordinary clerk and the witnesses, all should be particular in upholding justice. In all congregational prayers including Friday prayers the man who leads the prayers must be just and honest. It is necessary that the mujtahid (jurist) whom we follow, the President, the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and the man pronouncing the formula of divorce are all just and honest. In the matter of giving news only the just and honest men should he relied upon. In short Islam has laid great emphasis on justice and it is the basis on which all problems of the society, be it personal, social or economical are decided.
The Importance of Justice in Traditions
The Holy Prophet of Islam said: “A moment of justice is better than seventy years of worship in which you keep fasts and pass the nights in offering prayers and worship to Allah”. (Jami’us Sa’adat, vol. II, p. 223)
The Holy Prophet further said: “The deed of justice performed by a leader for one day for his people is better than the deeds of the man who spends fifty or hundred years amongst his family members in the worship of Allah”.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq said: “The supplication of a just leader is never refused”. (Nizamul Islam as-Siyasi, p. 71)
Imam Ali said: “Justice is the essence of the people’s welfare as well as the adherence to the Divine path”.
He further said: “Justice is life and cruelty is the death of society”. (Qisarul Jumal).
Hence, those who submit themselves before oppression are in fact as good as dead bodies.
Importance of Justice
Imam Musa Kazim in the commentary of the verse: He sends down water from the sky and enlivens the earth that was dead ….(Surah ar-Rum, 30:24) says: “The earth comes back to life by administering justice and enforcing divine laws of punishment”. (Qisarul Jumal)
Establishment of Justice is the Object of the Prophets
One of the duties and responsibilities of the Prophets of Allah that the Holy Qur’an has mentioned is the instituting of social justice. We, therefore, give below a short list of the achievements and accomplishments of the Holy Prophets:
(i) Inviting the People Towards Allah Inviting the people to worship Allah and preventing them from obeying the despots and tyrants and to remain aloof from them. The Holy Qur’an says:
To every nation We sent a Messenger (saying): ‘Worship Allah and shun the Devil’. (Surah an-Nahl, 16:36)
(ii) Giving Warnings and Bearing Good News The Holy Qur’an says:
We have sent you (Muhammad) for a genuine purpose to proclaim glad tidings and warnings. You will not be blamed for the dwellers of blazing Hell. (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:119)
(iii) Teaching and Imparting Instructions The Almighty Allah sent the Prophets towards the people so that they might give them training and tell them those things which they needed. The Holy Qur’an says:
It is He who has sent to the illiterates a Messenger from among their own people who recites to them His revelations, and purifies them. He will teach the Book to them and others who have not yet joined, and He will give them wisdom. Before this they had been in plain error.(Surah al-Jumu’ah, 62:2)
(iv) Opposing Oppressive Laws To eradicate all sorts of social taboos and customs as well as tribal prejudices and savagery based on superstitious ideas. The Holy Qur’an says:
He (the Messenger)enjoins them to do good and forbids them to do all that is unlawful, makes lawful for them all that is pure and unlawful that is filthy, removes their burdens and entanglements in which they are involved. (Surah al-A’raf, 7:157)
(v) Exposing the Futility of False and Evil Things To expose the wrong ways of the false gods and despotic rulers and disgrace them. The Holy Qur’an says:
Thus, do We explain our revelations so that the sinful ways can be plainly discerned. (Surah al-An’am, 6:55)
(vi) Establishing a Society Based on Justice The Prophets founded a society in which the people should establish justice and treat others without any consideration of caste, creed, political or economic differences. The Prophets’ main function was to inculcate in the people’s heart a firm belief in Allah and the Day of Judgement and to create in the individual and the society such moral standard and Divine thinking as would arouse in them the spirit of justice and equity towards their fellow beings. The Holy Qur’an says:
We sent Our Messengers with clear evidence (to support their truthfulness), and sent with them the Book and the Balance (criteria of right and wrong) so that people would maintain justice. We sent down iron, in which is a vital war material and which benefits the people, so that Allah would know who would help Him though unseen, and His Messengers. (Surah al-Hadid, 57:25)
Since a just society depends on spiritual as well as material power, the above-mentioned verse points out to both the powers that is the Book and the Balance. And each one of them is necessary for establishing justice. The mentioning of iron in the verse points to material strength so that the transgressor may note that if they violate justice they will be crushed with an iron hand. Thus, one of the main duties of the Holy Prophets was to establish social justice.
Imam Ali’s Argument on Equity
When the people objected to Imam Ali’s equitable distribution of wealth he replied:
(i) If the wealth had belonged to me even then I would have distributed it equally among the people but this wealth belongs to Allah and is meant for distribution among the people and therefore everybody has his right in it.
(ii) To distribute wealth among those who do not deserve it amounts to squandering the wealth. The Holy Qur’an also says.
Do not squander your wealth wastefully. The squanderers are indeed Satan’s brothers and Satan is ungrateful to his Lord. (Surah Bani Isra’il, 17:27)
(iii) The inequitable and unjust distribution of wealth results in the formation of a group of greedy persons who surround the people and extract money from them through flattery and undue praise and thus makes them ashamed in the eyes of the law of Divine Justice.
Furthermore, Imam Ali says: “Unjustifiable and undeserving donations may enhance the status of a man among his worldly surroundings but he is sadly humiliated in the eyes of Allah. One who spends his wealth in evil ways and on wrong persons, is deprived, by the Lord, of the gratitude of those over whom he had spent; these undeserving beneficiaries usually turn against him and at the time of distress and need he finds them as his worst enemies, censuring his actions and blaming him for his lavish grants”. (Sermon—129, p. 322, Peak of Eloquence)
Confiscation of Property
As and when the days passed by after the time of the Holy Prophet, people started drifting away from Islamic social justice to the extent that Caliph Uthman lavishly gave his kith and kin wealth from the public property. It was this discrimination and favourtism that aroused the anger of the people who put him to death, and thereafter swore allegiance to Imam Ali.
When the regime of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali commenced, he revolutionized the entire system, eradicated all irregularities so as to bring the affairs of the State on an even keel. As such the properties unlawfully acquired were confiscated and unjust appointments and dismissals were cancelled. Imam Ali declared: “By Allah! If I had known of this sort of public weal h, even if it was spent in paying the dower of the women or for purchasing slave girls, I would have confiscated it too”. (Vide: Peak of Eloquence, ISP, 1984)
No Distinction Between an Arab and a Non-Arab
Two women came to take their shares from Baytul Mal (Public Treasury). One of them was an Arab and the other one was a non-Arab. Imam Ali gave them equal share as usual. Those people who had not as yet comprehended the essence of Islam did not tolerate this justice and raised an objection against the Imam’s action. They complained of treating an Arab and a non-Arab on equal footing. At this the Holy Imam said: “I did not find any difference between the two”. (Wasa’ilush Shi’ah, vol. XI, p. 81)
Owing to his strict observance of equity and his treatment of people of various classes of society without any distinction, selfish people and transgressors became critical of the policies and the administration of justice initiated by Imam Ali but all their crooked tactics and criticisms could not deviate him from the path of monotheism and Divine Justice. He was one of those few blessed souls who did not mind in the last such baseless criticisms. The Holy Qur’an says:
Believers, any one of you turns back on his faith (should remember) that Allah could verily bring (in your place) another people whom He would love as they would love Him, gentle with believers, unbending with infidels, who would strive in the way of Allah unafraid of blame by any slanderer. (Surah al-Ma’ida, 5:54)
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