Justice in Islam

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God Commands Us to be Just

The true justice described in the Qur’an commands man to behave justly, not discriminating between people, protecting others’ rights and not permitting violence, no matter what the circumstances, to side with the oppressed against the oppressor and to help the needy. This justice calls for the rights of both parties to be protected when reaching a decision in a dispute, assessing all aspects of an incident, setting aside all prejudices, being objective, honest, tolerant, merciful and compassionate. In the event one fails to display any of these characteristics or attaches greater importance to a particular one, then it becomes hard to exercise true justice. For instance, someone who cannot assess events in a moderate way, and who is swayed by his emotions and feelings, will fail to arrive at sound decisions and will remain under the influence of those feelings. However, someone who rules with justice needs to set all his personal feelings and views aside. He needs to treat all parties with justice when they ask for help, to side with what is right under all circumstances, and not to diverge from the path of honesty and truthfulness. A person should incorporate the values of the Qur’an into his soul in such a way that he may be able to consider the interests of other parties before his own and maintain justice, even if this harms his own interests.

O You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of God, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to faith. Heed God [alone]. God is aware of what you do. (Qur’an, 5:8)

As the above verse suggests, God knows everything a man does. A person who fears God and who is aware that he will have to account for his deeds on the Day of Judgement issues his commands in a just way in order to earn the good pleasure of God. He knows that all his words and thoughts will be judged on the Day of Judgement and will be rewarded accordingly.

For this reason, what one has to do to earn the good pleasure of God, to be saved from the torment of Hell and to attain the infinite favours of Paradise is to fully live by the Qur’an. In order to attain this morality, everyone must make personal efforts and set aside all his selfish desires and personal interests and adopt the guidance of justice, compassion, tolerance and peace. God gives a detailed description of true justice in the Qur’an and informs us that all sorts of disagreements can be solved by the maintenance of justice. In a society made up of righteous administrators and just people, it is obvious that all problems can be readily overcome. In the Qur’an, God gives a detailed description of justice and informs believers of the attitude they have to adopt in the face of incidents they encounter and of the ways to exercise justice. Such guidance is a great comfort to believers and a mercy from God. For this reason, those who believe are responsible for exercising justice in an undivided manner both to earn God’s approval and to lead their lives in peace and security.

Justice Should Be Exercised Equally Among All People, With
No Consideration of Language, Race, or Ethnicity

A close examination of developments all over the world reveals that the performance of justice varies according to place, time and people. For instance, in some societies, the colour of someone’s skin influences decisions. Even under the very same circumstances, the same decision may not apply to a white and a black man. In some societies, race is of great importance to people. In the 20th century, Hitler’s annihilation of millions of people solely because he deemed the Aryan race superior to other races is a good example of this. In our day, too, there are people being subjected to cruel and unjust treatment because of the colour of their skin or their race. In the United States and South Africa, black people were for many years treated as second-class citizens, and savage conflicts raged in many Asian and African countries simply because of racial differences.

However, God informs us in the Qur’an that the purpose in the creation of different tribes and peoples is “that they should come to know each other” (Qur’an, 49: 13). Different nations or peoples, all of whom are the servants of God, should get to know one another, that is, learn about their different cultures, languages, traditions and abilities. In brief, the purpose of the creation of different races and nations is not conflict and war but cultural richness. Such variation is a bounty of God’s creation. The fact that someone is taller than someone else or that his skin is yellow or white neither makes him superior to others nor is something to feel ashamed of. Every trait a person has is a result of God’s purposeful creation, but in the sight of God, these variations have no ultimate importance. A believer knows that someone attains superiority only by fearing God and in the strength of his faith in God. This fact is related in the following verse:

O Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in God’s sight is that one of you who best performs his duty. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Qur’an, 49:13)

As God informs us in that verse, the justice ordained by Him calls for equal, tolerant and peaceable treatment of everyone, with no discrimination.

In his time, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) treated people of different races and places with the utmost justice. He severely criticised subjecting people to different treatment because of their race, and attributed such acts to the “morality of the ignorant.”

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) reminded his people that people in ignorant societies may harbour enmity towards other people because of their colour or race, and warned all Muslims against such an attitude, which is described as “ugly” in the Qur’an.

1,400 years ago, all these primitive ideas were abolished through the Qur’an, which was sent to mankind as a mercy, and it was proclaimed that all people, regardless of their colour, race and language, are equal. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) criticized the unbecoming practice of people of ignorant societies who assessed others according to their race and colour. He cautioned the Arab people in these words in his last address to them:

An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.

With these words, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)once again reminded all mankind the fact related in Sura Hujurat, verse 13; that superiority among people is attainable only through fear of God. Islam, as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also stresses, completely abolishes all these primitive ideas. In an environment where the values of Islam are established, a man cannot be accused, subjected to discriminatory treatment or oppressed because he is a Jew, a black or an Indian. God decides what race a person should belong to. He shaped man in the most perfect manner. Man’s duty is always to be just, tolerant, respectful, compassionate to and at peace with everyone.

This aside, the fact that a person is well-off or poor does not pose a hindrance to a believer’s provision of justice or the way he makes his decisions. It is utterly unacceptable that someone should oppress other people just because he possesses the financial means, and hence be allowed to get away with committing a crime. However, in our day a look at some of the countries in the world reveals a mentality that favors the rights of the wealthy and treats the poor as second-class citizens. Accordingly, some wealthy people benefit more from justice and deem it as their right to be favored over the poor. Furthermore, they try to make judicial mechanisms work for their own interests. This mentality causes great injustice in societies where people do not live by religion; while some people struggle to survive in misery, others enjoy the benefits of being wealthy.

However, despite this adverse situation, it is possible to establish justice and social peace. The dominance of the values of the Qur’an and peoples’ unyielding insistence on living by the values of the Qur’an can make this possible. God issues the following commands in the Qur’an:

… Be upholders of justice, bearing witness for God alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, God is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth.… (Qur’an, 4:135)

In compliance with this command of God, whether a person is wealthy or poor, he who has fear of God exercises absolute justice, and his attitude never changes in line with peoples’ financial status. He knows that being rich or poor is a worldly state of affairs by which God tests man. When one dies, nothing will remain from his possessions, and only his fear of God will be rewarded. The attitude which pleases God is described in the Qur’an: being just, honest and righteous. The reward for this morality is eternal gifts in the hereafter.

In Matters Related to Orphans, God Commands Definite Justice

Another example given in the Qur’an regarding the maintenance of justice relates to the management of the property of orphans. In the Qur’an, God commands that the property of orphans be managed in the most just manner until they grow old enough to manage it themselves. In Sura An’am, God commands:

And that you do not go near the property of orphans before they reach maturity-except in a good way; that you give full measure and full weight with justice… (Qur’an, 6:152)

In many other verses, God reminds people not to dissipate the assets of orphans quickly before they reach maturity, and to act in a just way. Some of these verses are as follows:

Give orphans their property, and do not substitute bad things for good. Do not assimilate their property into your own. Doing that is a serious crime. (Qur’an, 4:2)

Keep a close check on orphans until they reach a marriageable age, then if you perceive that they have sound judgment hand over their property to them. Do not consume it extravagantly and precipitately before they come of age. Those who are wealthy should abstain from it altogether. Those who are poor should use it sensibly and correctly. When you hand over their property to them ensure that there are witnesses on their behalf. God suffices as a Reckoner. (Qur’an, 4:6)

Do not go near the property of orphans before they reach maturity, except in a good way. Fulfill your contracts. Contracts will be asked about. (Qur’an, 17:34)

Those who consume the property of orphans unjustly, in a manner that conflicts with these verses, and spend it unfairly are warned of a punishment which will last for all eternity. In the verse “People who consume the property of orphans wrongfully consume nothing in their bellies except fire. They will roast in a Searing Blaze.” (Qur’an, 4:10), God forbids people to commit injustice. As this example also reveals, justice in the Qur’anic sense relates to all domains of life. The meticulousness one shows in performing justice, on the other hand, is an important factor that influences one’s rewards in the hereafter.

The Believer is Responsible for Exercising Justice, Even if its Consequences Work Against Him, His Parents or Relatives

Seeing a definition of justice, you may think how easy it is to act justly, and you might feel quite content because you have always made just decisions. However, would it still be so easy for you to act justly if the consequences of your just decision were to harm you, your parents or loved ones, either physically or spiritually? Would you still manage to be objective, just and honest when judging a loved one who had swerved from the right path?

In the face of such a question, many people vacillate. Indeed, such a decision may be very difficult for some. They may simply be more tolerant to a loved one and ignore the facts. Yet what matters is not to depart from justice, no matter what the circumstances and conditions may be, and to meticulously comply with the verse, “O You who believe! Be upholders of justice, bearing witness for God alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives…” (Qur’an, 4:135) What earns peoples’ trust is this unswerving commitment to justice they observe. Protecting people because of kinship or friendship creates unease and insecurity. Observing such a disposition in leaders in particular causes great social unrest.

Someone who acts in conformity with the laws of the Qur’an, however, follows the recommendation of God: “…that you are equitable when you speak-even if a near relative is concerned; and that you fulfil God’s contract. That is what He instructs you to do, so that hopefully you will pay heed.” (Qur’an, 6:152). This conduct is the manifestation of one’s strong faith in God and the moral perfection he displays.

In the Qur’an, one example is related from the life of the Prophet Musa. The verse reads:

He entered the city at a time when its inhabitants were unaware and found two men fighting there-one from his party and the other from his enemy. The one from his party asked for his support against the other from his enemy. So Musa hit him, dealing him a fatal blow. He said, “This is part of Satan’s doing. He truly is an outright and misleading enemy.” (Qur’an, 28:15)

In this story, the Prophet Musa witnesses two men fighting, one of them from his own tribe. He sides with the one from his party and strikes the man from the other party. He does not intend to kill him, but the man dies from the blow. The Prophet Musa realises that he has erred. This is an important example clarifying the concept of justice that a believer must adopt. It also conveys to us the message that if someone is in the wrong it is unjust to support him simply because of kinship or friendship. As a matter of fact, the Prophet Musa (pbuh) in this case immediately realises the truth and calls his action “Satan’s doing”.

Indeed, the “feeling of factionalism”, which the Prophet Musa describes as “Satan’s doing”, is responsible for all the bloodshed throughout history. Man’s obsession to prove the righteousness of his family, tribe, ethnic group, followers or his race at all cost, with no consideration of justice, has been the main source of numerous conflicts and wars.

The attitude a believer must assume in the face of such incitement is also related in the Qur’an by referring to the exemplary life of the Prophet Musa (pbuh). When he exercised his conscience, the Prophet Musa readily realised that this unfavourable feeling was a form of cruelty, repented for the sin he had committed under Satan’s temptation and took refuge in God. This exemplary and conscientious conduct is related in the Qur’an thus:

He said, “My Lord, I have wronged myself. Forgive me.” So He forgave him. He is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful. He said, “My Lord, because of Your blessing to me, I will never be a supporter of evildoers.” (Qur’an, 28:16-17)

Hatred Felt Towards a Community Does Not Prevent Believers
From Exercising Justice

Hatred and anger are the major sources of evil, and are likely to prevent people from making just decisions, thinking soundly and conducting themselves rationally. Some people can readily inflict all kinds of injustice on people for whom they feel enmity. They may accuse these people of acts they have never committed or bear false witness against them, although their innocence is known to them. On account of such enmity, many people may be subjected to unbearable oppression. Some people avoid bearing witness in favour of people they disagree with, although they know they are innocent, and they keep evidence which would reveal their innocence hidden. Furthermore, they take pleasure in the misery these people face, their encounters with injustice or great suffering. Their greatest worry, on the other hand, is that justice should be done and these peoples’ innocence proved.

For these reasons, it is very hard for people in corrupt societies to trust one another. People worry about falling victim to someone else all the time. Having lost mutual trust, they also lose their human feelings, such as tolerance, compassion, brotherhood and co-operation, and start hating one another.

However, the feelings someone holds in his heart towards a person or community should never influence a believer’s decisions. No matter how immoral or hostile the person he is considering may be, the believer sets all these feelings aside and acts and makes his decisions justly and recommends that which is just. His feelings towards that person cast no shadow over his wisdom and conscience. His conscience always inspires him to comply with God’s commands and advice, and not to abandon good manners, because this is God’s command in the Qur’an. In Sura Ma’ida, it is related as follows:

O You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of God, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to faith. Heed God [alone]. God is aware of what you do. (Qur’an, 5:8)

As is related in the verse, displaying a just attitude is what most reflects having fear of God. A person of faith knows that he will attain the pleasure of God only when he acts justly. Every person who witnesses his or her good manners will trust this person, feel comfortable in their presence and trust them with any responsibility or task. Such people are treated with respect even by their enemies. Their attitude may even lead some people to have faith in God.

The best example to follow for believers in our day is also the actions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as described in the Qur’an. Similar to the Blessed Period of the first community of Islam-an age of well-being when people in general adhered to the Qur’an-in our day, too, people of different beliefs such as Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, idolaters and pagans live together. A Muslim is responsible for being tolerant, forgiving, just and humane towards people, regardless of who they may be. It is probable that in time everyone will place his faith in God, become a Muslim and surrender himself to God. A believer should always bear this fact in mind. The responsibility of a believer is to summon people to God’s religion with a favourable, peaceful and tolerant attitude. The decision to follow divine guidance and have faith rests with another party. Compelling a person to have faith and forcing him to do things are against the Qur’an. God states the following about this:

There is no compulsion in religion. True guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false deities and has belief in God has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Qur’an, 2:256)

Source: Islamology

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