Justice in Islam
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, 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.
Justice in the Qur’an
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.
You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of Allah, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to piety. Be careful of (your duty to) Allah. Allah is aware of what you do. (Al-Ma’idah 5:8)
As it is suggested in the above verse, Allah knows everything a man does. A person who fears Allah and who is aware that he will have to account for his deeds on the Day of Judgment, issues his commands in a just way in order to earn the good pleasure of Allah. He knows that all his words and thoughts will be judged on the Day of Judgment and will be rewarded accordingly.
For this reason, what one has to do to earn the good pleasure of Allah, to be saved from the torment of Hell and to attain the infinite favors 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, love and peace.
Allah 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, Allah 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 Allah. For this reason, those who believe are responsible for exercising justice in an undivided manner both to earn Allah‘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 color 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 color 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 disputes raged in many Asian and African countries simply because of racial differences.
The fact is, however, that Allah reveals in the verses of the Qur’an that one of the pieces of wisdom behind the creation of different peoples and nations is to allow them “to come to know one another” (Al-Hujurat 49:13).
Different nations or peoples, all of whom are the servants of Allah, 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 Allah‘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 Allah‘s purposeful creation, but in the sight of Allah, these variations have no ultimate importance. A believer knows that someone attains superiority only by fearing Allah and in the strength of his faith in Allah. This fact is related in the following verse:
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 Allah’s sight is the one with the most piety. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.(Al-Hujurat 49:13)
As Allah informs us in that verse, the justice ordained by Him calls for equal understanding and peaceable treatment of everyone, with no discrimination.
Perfect Exemplar of Justice
In his time, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) treated people of different races and places with the utmost justice. He severely criticized subjecting people to different treatment because of their race, and attributed such acts to the “morality of the ignorant.”
The Prophet Muhammad reminded his people that people in ignorant societies may harbour enmity towards other people because of their color 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 color, race and language, are equal. The Prophet Muhammad criticized the unbecoming practice of people of ignorant societies who assessed others according to their race and color.
He cautioned the Arab people in these words in his last address (Farewell Sermon) 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.”
Islam, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) 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 Christian, a black or an Indian.
The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Justice and Compassion in the Qur’an”.