Hadith 33. Islamic Jurisdiction


Ibn ‘Abbas (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhu) said that the Messenger of Allah (SallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasalalm) said:

Were people to be given according to their claims, some would claim the wealth and blood of others. But the burden of proof is upon the claimant and the taking of an oath is upon the one who denies (the allegation).

(A hasan hadith which al-Bayhaqi and others have related. Parts of it is in Bukhari and Muslim)

 Brief Commentary

  • This is a major hadith in Islamic jurisdiction and in trying to resolve problems
  • Judging between a people is a major role of the prophets (‘alayhim assalam). It is mentioned explicitly in the Qur’an with regards to Sulayman and Dawud (‘alayhima assalam), in Surah Al-Anbiyaa’ [21:78]
  • The shari’ah came to protect the wealth, life, dignity, and honour of others. This hadith clearly indicates the role Islam plays in trying to preserve the rights of others
  • Studying the hadith in detail will give an insight into how the shari’ah protects the rights of others and upholds justice between the people
  • Understanding this hadith shows the comprehensiveness of this religion
  • This hadith shows the reality of this life and that there are wolves that seek to take people’s rights, and this life is not where everyone will live in harmony as there will always be problems
  • This hadith derives the principle “Innocent until proven guilty”, so if someone makes a claim against you, you are automatically given the benefit of the doubt until he brings evidence
  • Bringing proof was usually done by bringing witnesses, however in our time, many more things can be added to proof e.g. fingerprints, video recording, DNA

  • Conditions for a witness in a court of law:
    • Muslim (except in the case of judging between two non-Muslims, when a non-Muslim can be a witness)
    • Adult
    • Of sound mind
    • Ability to understand and recognise things and knows right from wrong
    • Moral integrity i.e. fulfils all obligations and stays away from the major sins and from things that break his integrity (defined by customs of the people)
  • Being a witness in a court of law is a communal obligation
  • It is from the major sins to lie in a court of law
  • Once the prophet (SallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) was lying down/reclining and listing the major sins e.g. being rude to parents, shirk, then he sat upright and said, “false testimony”. He repeated it so many times that the sahabah said they wished he stopped speaking [Reported by Bukhari & Muslim]
  • When it comes to Islamic punishments, the shari’ah ensures the people try everything to prevent the punishment from taking place. If there is any form of doubt, then the punishment is not implemented
  • Islamic court of law procedure:
    • Claimant makes a claim against a defendant
    • Judge goes to the defendant and asks him if the claimant is telling the truth
    • If the defendant denies, then the judge goes to the claimant and asks him for proof
    • If the claimant has no proof for his allegation, then the defendant has to swear an oath that the allegation is not true
    • If the defendant refuses to take the oath, then the Hanafis and Hanbalis say the judge takes the claimant’s claim forward, but the Shafi’ees and Malikis say if he refuses, then the claimant has to make an oath that he is telling the truth, and if he refuses, then it is ruled in favour of the defendant
  • A person may refuse to make an oath even though they are telling the truth because they do not want to bring Allah’s name in a petty matter
  • If the judge knows/feels that the defendant is guilty (due to non-definitive evidence e.g. testimony of witnesses) but he makes an oath pleading his innocence, then out of veneration of Allah’s name he is let off. We cannot let it reach a stage where Allah’s name is not venerated and people swear by Allah yet no one believes them

Benefits and Action points:

  • Islam didn’t come for spirituality only, but also came to solve man’s problems in life
  • Increase in your desire to reach Jannah where you can live a life where there are no problems and no one looking to take away your rights
  • Uphold the principle of innocent until proven guilty for it is something that is derived from the words of the Messenger of Allah (SallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam)
  • Never lie in a court of law, for giving false testimony is from the major sins
  • When it comes to making an oath, do not make an oath on the Qur’an, or by holding it, because there is no proof that the prophet (SallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) did so, but in the west, if you have to then it is acceptable inshaAllah
  • Do not swear by Allah for petty matters and try ensure that Allah’s name is venerated so that if someone swears by it, then he is to be believed