JUSTICE IN ISLAM
BY BR. FAISAL AZAD
Justice as Allah puts it commands the believers to be fair in dealings, protect the rights of others, help the needy and oppressed, and place the trusts where they belong. Justice cannot be construed by hatred, love, or sympathy for any individual or group, whether they be rich or poor, male or female, Muslim or NonMuslim. Allah obligates us to be just because that is closer to righteousness; and that is what will lead us closer to paradise. In the Islamic tradition, Justice does not merely exist in the courtrooms or only carried out by judges, law enforcement officials, or elected representatives. For the most part, every individual can carry out justice. The Prophet (peace be upon him) informed us that we must respond to evil; either through our hands or our tongue or our hearts. Islam provides avery comprehensive definition of Justice and to clearly understand the concept, we must understand its opposite: oppression (dhulm in Arabic).
Oppression is manifested through depriving people of their rights, disregarding the plight of the weak, cheating in dealings, and misappropriating the trusts. Any type of deprivation of people’s rights or practice of wrongdoing is so abhorrent in the sight of Allah that in a famous hadith Qudsi, He SWT forbade it for Himself first and then forbade it for the believers. Allah says in the Qur’aan that oppression is worse than wrongful murder. In order to promote justice, the Prophet SA encouraged the believers to help both the oppressed and the oppressor (prevent him from oppressing others), as a method to mitigate further acts of oppression. When we, or those we love, are the victims of abhorrent, deplorable conduct, it is extremely easy and convenient to demand justice. But what if we are at fault? What if our best friends and closest relatives are the perpetrators of blatant wrongdoing and transgression?
Imagine for a moment that your friendly neighbor’s house has been robbed and vandalized by a couple of rabblerousers. The windows were smashed. Thousands of dollars worth of property were stolen. The thieves get away and the police failed to respond on time. You would want their property to be restored and the thieves to be punished. But what if the thieves were your cousins and your close friends? Allah tells us in the Qur’aan to stand irmly upon justice, even if it be against our own selves or our parents, or our kin, etc. Allah says in the Quran in Chapter 4: verse 135, “You who believe! be upholders of justice, bearing witness for Allah alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, Allah is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth. If you twist or turn away, Allah is aware of what you do.”
And again in Chapter 5: verse 8,
“…Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to taqwa…”
In short, we cannot display an advantageous value system where we seek justice only when it is to our advantage. In addition, all people instinctively crave justice for themselves anddespise being oppressed. In spite of this, far too many people treat other people unjustly. They despise being abused by the speech of others, but abuses others without hesitation and contemplation. They will cut in front of people in a long line, but consider it unacceptable when otherpeople do the same. They will make a mockery of other people as a ‘joke’ but refuses to laugh when the jokes are on them. Because justice is fairness in treatment of others; treating them the way we want to be treated. Although it sounds rudimentary, it is extremely difficult to implement.
Justice is so crucial in Islam that even if aMuslim transgresses against a NonMuslim,there should be a prescribed atonement…providing that the NonMuslim is not in war. Forexample, When Ali RA, the leader of theMuslims, saw his stolen shield in the hands of aJewish man, he brought the case to court. TheJudge, who was a Muslim, ruled in favor of theJewish man because Ali RA could not producethe necessary witnesses. Seeing this Justice, theJewish man announced his Islam. Furthermore,even to young children, we are commanded tobe just and fair because it prevents animosityand jealousy between siblings. Upon one occasion, the Messenger of Allah SA was told that a man gave a gift (of a servant) to one of his sons, but did not give to the others. Considering that fact, the Prophet SA ordered the man to take back the gift unless he can provide the same gift to all his children. In the beautiful story of Yusuf AS, the brothers of Yusuf AS became jealous of Yusuf because their father, Yaqub AS, loved him more than them. This created bitter feelings within the brothers to such an extent that all the brothers agreed in a plot to kill him.
As Muslims, we must be the bearers of Justice. We cannot neglect our responsibilities towards Allah and towards people. Our duties toward the people is to protect their rights. Every one of us is a shepherd, and we are responsible for our flocks. To reiterate the point,justice is not something that exists only in the courtroom.