Justice in Islam

Peace cannot be maintained without justice. The latter is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity along with respect, dialogue and tolerance. Without justice, rights are denied, victims are created, anger gives way to anarchy and extremism in its different faces gains more ground. Justice is a moral and absolute rightness. It is the upholding of what is just and fair. These two last definitions can summarize for us the reasons why there are conflicts, problems, and sometimes insanity and disorder in today’s world.

Justice is the quality of being right and fair and to conduct all affairs in a just manner. In the name of justice, all human beings should be equal. Justice encompasses righteousness, goodness, probity, rightness, uprightness, fairness, justness, equity, honor, truth, honesty, and virtue. In Islam, justice (al-Adl or al-Qistt) is to give everyone their rights and what is deserved and to create an atmosphere of peace, prosperity, respect and harmony for everyone

Justice: A moral and religious duty in Islam

We read in the Qur’an,

“And the Firmament (sky) has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance of Justice in order that you may not transgress due balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance”” (55:7-9).

Allah speaks here of a “Balance”, which means the Equilibrium He has set on this earth. Once there is a transgression in this system whether in nature, the environment or between people then things go wrong and start the dysfunction of everything. Nature and climate change, diseases surge, pollution spreads and the normal behavior of the creatures fluctuates.

Allah has commanded us in His book to stick to justice and to be on its side in all cases with no exception.  It is because of justice that peace, harmony, and the welfare and wellbeing of everyone can be maintained.  Justice is not a mere civil matter, but it is in Islam a religious obligation, an act of worship, and a great proof of sincere submission and commitment to peace. Allah (swt) says:

“Allah commands justice, beneficence, and giving to kith and kin, and He forbids all indecent deeds, injustice, evil, and rebellion: He instructs you that you may receive admonition.” (16:90)

Allah (swt) orders and commands us here to be just, beneficent, and kind to our families and relatives. He also forbids us from being indecent, unjust, disobedient, selfish, and arrogant. These characteristics are necessary for every individual in order to create a strong society. A society where there is no justice, no family values, no respect for the elders and the little ones, no beneficence and volunteerism, no mercy for the needy and the hungry, and no care for the neighbor cannot last for a long time because it lacks the vital foundations.

Justice was one of the first things that Muhammad (S) preached and taught to people. It includes justice among people, justice between people and their Creator, justice towards other creatures, and even justice of individuals towards themselves.  Teaching His Messenger (S), Allah (swt) says:

“Now then, for that reason, call them to the Faith, stand steadfast as you are commanded, nor follow your vain desires; but say: “I believe in the Book which Allah has sent down; and I am commanded to judge justly between you.  God is our Lord and your Lord: For us is the responsibility for our deeds, and for you your deeds.  There is no contention between us and you.  Allah will bring us together, and to Him is our final goal.”   (42:15)

Islam honors and recognizes those who are justice lovers and makers whether they are Muslims or not. Therefore, Muslims must appreciate and value any human effort in establishing justice. There had been always a group of people who were sticking to the straight path and following the teachings and the way of the Messengers and Prophets of Allah (swt). This kind of people were mentioned and praised because of the quality of justice they had. Allah says:

“Of the people of Moses there is a section that guides and does justice in the light of truth.”(7:159)
And:

“Of those we have created are people who direct others with truth, and dispense justice therewith.”(7:181)

God mentions this in the Qur’an in order to encourage and urge the Muslims to follow the pattern of those who stick to justice.

Justice is to give every party what is deserved:

Allah commands us to give everyone his, or her, rights and to give everyone what it is deserved. Allah says:
“God commands you to render back you trusts to those whom they are due; and when you judge between people, that you judge with justice: verily how excellent is the teaching, which He gives you!  For God is He who hears and sees all things.”  (4:58)

Muslims must adopt a just attitude while settling disputes and avoid taking sides except the side of truth and justice. This is the only way to maintain equality, peace, and contentment. Islam even forbids the judge to settle disputes while being angry or in a highly emotional state. The Prophet (S) said:

A judge should not conduct a case while being angry” reported by Bukhari and Muslim.1
Islam wants to maintain and ensure justice among people and to eradicate antagonism and the cause of quarrels between them. Allah (swt) says:

“Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel Evil with what is better: then notice how someone who is separated from you because of enmity will become as though he was a bosom friend.” (41:34)

Justice: Fairness, Equity and Impartiality

We have seen above that being just means being fair and impartial and to stick to justice even if the outcome is against one’s interest. We have also seen that doing justice is compulsory because it is a religious and moral duty. A believer knows with certitude that while ruling in a case and giving a verdict he is watched by Allah (swt). Allah says:

“Not a word does he utter but there is a vigilant guardian” (50:18)

Therefore, the verdict should be given with justice because the judge is a witness to Allah. This is what Allah wants not what the desires and corrupted hearts may want. It is true and common that people tend to cover up for themselves, their relatives and their friends. Likewise, it is true and common that people indict easily their enemies. Those kinds of relations should never allow neither compassion nor spitefulness to interfere with the ruler. Yusuf Ali says, “Rather, one’s love or enmity should make him, or her, more justice loving and restraining from selfish motives. Justice searches out the innermost motives, because we are to act as in the presence of Allah, to whom all things, acts, and motives are known. Some people may be inclined to favor the rich, because they expect something from them.  Some people may be inclined to favor the poor because they are generally helpless.  Partiality in either case is wrong.  Be just, without fear or favor”.2  Allah (swt) says:

“Oh you who believe, stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor: for God can best protect both.  Follow not the lusts of your hearts, lest you swerve and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do.”  (4:135)

And He also says:
“Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for God, witnesses to fair dealing and let not the hatred of others makes you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety, and fear God.  For God is well-acquainted with all that you do.” (5:8)

In another context, He says:
“And come not nigh to the orphan’s property, except to improve it, until he, or she, attains the age of full strength. Give measure and weight with full justice; – no burden do We place on any soul, but that which it can bear; – whenever you speak, speak justly even if a near relative is concerned; and fulfill the Covenant of God: thus does He command you that you may remember.”  (6:152)

In these last verses we understand that being just according to Qur’an means to be fair, pious and God-conscious. Allah is urging the rulers and the Muslims in general to be just in everything and every matter, whether a personal, a familial, a social, a political, an economical, a financial, or a spiritual one. Justice should be established everywhere and all the time. The Muslim individual should stick to justice even when it is against his, or her, personal interest. Muslims will never be able to convince others of the perfection and validity of Shari’ah, Islamic law, as long as they are not just in their rulings, management, and in the affairs of their countries and citizens even if some of them claim applying it.3

We have seen that the cornerstones for Peace are Justice, Respect, Dialogue, and Tolerance. The Qur’an talks about these major themes and emphasizes strongly on their application and manifestation as well as all the values of Islam that are universally known to every normal human being. The religion of Islam is not a religion of darkness and deception as I heard once an evangelist preacher saying on a TV program. It is simply a religion that transforms people to better humans by enlightening their life with a message of mercy and compassion.

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