The Life of This World is but Chattels of Deception #13

Justice in Islam

From the Quran:

O you who believe!

Stand for justice as witnesses to God

Even be it against yourselves,

Or your parents or your kin

And whether be it against rich or poor

For God is best protector of either

And don’t follow your desires,

Lest you swerve from justice

And if you pervert it or neglect it,

God is aware of all you do.”

Quran, 4:135

The verse above is one of the best dissertations ever given on justice, according to the students and faculty of Harvard School of Law. They selected this verse from a huge pool of entries to ornate a wall at the entry hall of the law school, as it is the epitome of justice.

The reasons are obvious. First and foremost, it articulates that one has to testify to the truth even if against himself — no fifth amendment here. Withholding information, by design, is to deny the truth to be told and rights to be restored. Even in criminal cases, not testifying to something you may have committed, means a disregard for the laws that govern our behavior.

Secondly, to testify to the truth even against the rich or powerful, and at minimum not to prejudge two combatants based on their socio-economic status is critical for the well-being of society. It was reported by some Islamic references that the above verse was revealed to the prophet while two adversaries stood in front him pleading their cases. The prophet was inclined to believe the rich because it was unlikely for him to have been unfair to the poor. However, the verse reversed his preconceived state of mind.

There are several examples throughout the Quran and Islamic literature that highlight ways in which justice was applied. Here is an example:

In 640–642, while Amr Ibn Al-As was governor of Egypt, his son entered into a horse race. When the son saw a non-Muslim overtake him, he whipped his opponent and told him: “How dare you overtake me, and I am the ‘son of the two nobilities.’[1]”

The aggrieved young man shared his experience with his father who decided to travel nearly 1400 km to Medina, the capital of the Islamic Empire, and complain, in person, to the Khalifa (ruler) Omar Ibn Al-Khattab. Upon hearing his story, Omar sent for the governor to come with his son to Medina during the coming Hajj season. When they presented themselves to Omar, he gave a whip to the injured young man and ordered him to whip the ‘son of the two nobilities’ and he did to his satisfaction. Omar then asked the young man if he would like to whip the governor, who was just as guilty in Omar’s eyes, because he allowed for this injustice to occur under his watch. The young man declined, stating he had no issue with the governor.

Omar then turned to the crowd to address the crime committed by the governor and his son to make his now famous remark: “How could you enslave people when they were birthed by their mothers as free people.”

The Quran is replete with many verses commanding followers to stand for justice.

Here is one more example:

God enjoins you to return the deposits,

In your custody to their owners,

And when making judgments between people,

Judge with justice,

God’s admonitions are the best,

God is all Hearing, all Seeing.”

Quran, 4:58

Another example is one that is customarily recited at the end of all Friday lectures (Khutbas) throughout the word as a reminder and exhortation to all followers of Islam to adhere to it.

“God enjoins justice, kindness and the giving to kinsfolk

And forbids lewdness, abomination and oppression

He exhorts you so you may heed.”

Quran, 16:90

The Prophet also often reminded his followers to pursuit justice because it is the right thing to do. In one of his sayings:

“A person who does not testify to the truth is a mute devil.”

[1] ‘Two nobilities’ refers to both the father, who was the governor of the country, and the mother who was of nobilities as well.

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