Allah Commands Us To Be Just
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 cir-cumstances, 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 in-stance, 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. 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 taqwa. Have taqwa of Allah. Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 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 be-lieve 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 jus-tice 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 peo-ple. 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." 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 abili-ties. 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 taqwa.Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Surat al-Hujurat, 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.
In his time, the Prophet Muhammad (saas) 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 (saas) reminded his people that people in ignorant societies may har-bour 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 (saas) 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 to them:
An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Ar-ab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over white ex-cept by piety and good action.
With these words, the Prophet Muhammad (saas) once again reminded all mankind the fact re-lated in Sura Hujurat, verse 13; that superiority among people is attainable only through fear of Allah. Islam, as the Prophet Muhammad (saas) 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. Allah decides what race a person should belong to. He shaped man in the most perfect manner. Man's duty is always to be just, loving, respectful, compassionate to and at peace with everyone.
This aside, the fact that a person is well-off or poor does not pose a hindrance to a believer's provision of justice or the way he makes his decisions. It is utterly unacceptable that someone should oppress other people just because he possesses the financial means, and hence be allowed to get away with committing a crime. However, in our day a look at some of the countries in the world reveals a mentality that favors the rights of the wealthy and treats the poor as second-class citizens. Accordingly, some wealthy people benefit more from justice and deem it as their right to be favored over the poor. Furthermore, they try to make judicial mechanisms work for their own interests. This mentality causes great injustice in societies where people do not live by religion; while some people struggle to survive in misery, others enjoy the benefits of being wealthy.
However, despite this adverse situation, it is possible to establish justice and social peace. The dominance of the values of the Qur'an and peoples' unyielding insistence on living by the values of the Qur'an can make this possible. Allah issues the following commands in the Qur'an:
… 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 af-ter 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. (Surat an-Nisa', 135)
In compliance with this command of Allah, whether a person is wealthy or poor, he who has fear of Allah, exercises absolute justice, and his attitude never changes in line with peoples' financial status. He knows that being rich or poor is a worldly state of affairs by which Allah tests man. When one dies, nothing will remain from his possessions, and only his fear of Allah will be rewarded. The attitude which pleases Allah is described in the Qur'an: being just, honest and righteous. The reward for this morality is eternal gifts in the Hereafter.
In Matters Related to Orphans, Allah Commands Definite Justice
Another example given in the Qur'an regarding the maintenance of justice relates to the management of the property of orphans. In the Qur'an, Allah commands that the property of orphans be managed in the most just manner until they grow old enough to manage it themselves. In Sura An'am, Allah commands:
And that you do not go near the property of orphans before they reach maturity – except in a good way; that you give full measure and full weight with justice... ( Surat al-An'am, 152)
In many other verses, Allah reminds people not to dissipate the assets of orphans quickly be-fore they reach maturity, and to act in a just way. Some of these verses are as follows:
Give orphans their property, and do not substitute bad things for good. Do not as-similate their property into your own. Doing that is a serious crime. (Surat an-Nisa', 2)
Keep a close check on orphans until they reach a marriageable age, then if you per-ceive that they have sound judgment hand over their property to them. Do not consume it extravagantly and precipitately before they come of age. Those who are wealthy should abstain from it altogether. Those who are poor should use it sensibly and cor-rectly. When you hand over their property to them ensure that there are witnesses on their behalf. Allah suffices as a Reckoner. (Surah an-Nisa', 6)
Do not go near the property of orphans before they reach maturity, except in a good way. Fulfil your contracts. Contracts will be asked about. (Surat al-Isra', 34)
Those who consume the property of orphans unjustly, in a manner that conflicts with these verses, and spend it unfairly are warned of a punishment which will last for all eternity. In the verse "People who consume the property of orphans wrongfully consume nothing in their bellies except fire. They will roast in a Searing Blaze." (Surat an-Nisa', 10), Allah forbids people to commit injustice. As this example also reveals, justice in the Qur'anic sense relates to all domains of life. The meticulousness one shows in performing justice, on the other hand, is an important factor that influences one's rewards in the Hereafter.
The Believer is Responsible for Exercising Justice, Even if its Consequences Work Against Him, His Parents or Rela-tives
Seeing a definition of justice, you may think how easy it is to act justly, and you might feel quite content because you have always made just decisions. However, would it still be so easy for you to act justly if the consequences of your just decision were to harm you, your parents or loved ones, either physically or spiritually? Would you still manage to be objective, just and honest when judging a loved one who had swerved from the right path?
In the face of such a question, many people vacillate. Indeed, such a decision may be very difficult for some. They may simply be more tolerant to a loved one and ignore the facts. Yet what matters is not to depart from justice, no matter what the circumstances and conditions may be, and to meticulously comply with the verse, " You who believe! Be upholders of justice, bearing witness for Allah alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives..." (Surat an-Nisa', 135) What earns peoples' trust is this unswerving commitment to justice they observe. Protecting people because of kinship or friendship creates unease and insecurity.
Someone who acts in conformity with the laws of the Qur'an, however, follows the recom-mendation of Allah: "...that you are equitable when you speak—even if a near relative is concerned; and that you fulfil Allah's contract. That is what He instructs you to do, so that hopefully you will pay heed." (Surat al-An'am, 152). This conduct is the manifestation of one's strong faith in Allah and the moral perfection he displays.
In the Qur'an, one example is related from the life of the Prophet Moses (as). Allah states in the verse:
He entered the city at a time when its inhabitants were unaware and found two men fighting there—one from his party and the other from his enemy. The one from his party asked for his support against the other from his enemy. So Moses hit him, dealing him a fatal blow. He said, "This is part of satan's doing. He truly is an outright and misleading enemy." (Surat al-Qasas, 15)
In this story, the Prophet Moses (as) witnesses two men fighting, one of them from his own tribe. He sides with the one from his party and strikes the man from the other party. He does not intend to kill him, but the man dies from the blow. The Prophet Moses (as) realizes that he has erred. This is an important example clarifying the concept of justice that a believer must adopt. It also conveys to us the message that if someone is in the wrong it is unjust to support him simply because of kinship or friendship. As a matter of fact, Moses (as), a blessed prophet, in this case immediately realizes the truth and calls his action, as revealed in one verse, "satan's doing".
Indeed, the "feeling of factionalism", which the Prophet Moses (as) describes as "satan's do-ing", is one of the factors responsible for all the bloodshed throughout history. Man's obsession to prove the righteousness of his family, tribe, ethnic group, followers or his race at all cost, with no consideration of justice, has been the main source of numerous conflicts and wars.
The attitude a believer must assume in the face of such incitement is also related in the Qur'an by referring to the exemplary life of the Prophet Moses (as). When he exercised his conscience, the Prophet Moses (as) readily realized that this unfavorable feeling inspired by sa-tan was a form of cruelty, repented and took refuge in Allah. This exemplary and conscientious conduct is related in the Qur'an thus:
He said, "My Lord, I have wronged myself. Forgive me." So He forgave him. He is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful. He said, "My Lord, because of Your blessing to me, I will never be a supporter of evildoers." (Surat al-Qasas, 16-17)
Hatred Felt Towards a Community Does Not Prevent Be-lievers From Exercising Justice
Hatred and anger are the major sources of evil, and are likely to prevent people from making just decisions, thinking soundly and conducting themselves rationally. Some people can readily inflict all kinds of injustice on people for whom they feel enmity. They may accuse these people of acts they have never committed or bear false witness against them, although their innocence is known to them. Only on account of such enmity, many people may be subjected to unbearable oppression. Some people avoid bearing witness in favor of people they disagree with, although they know they are innocent, and they keep evidence which would reveal their innocence hidden. Furthermore, they take pleasure in the misery these people face, their encounters with injustice or great suffering. Their greatest worry, on the other hand, is that justice should be done and these peoples' innocence proved.
For these reasons, it is very hard for people in corrupt societies to trust one another. People worry about being harmed by someone else all the time. Having lost mutual trust, they also lose their human feelings, such as compassion, brotherhood and co-operation, and start hating one another.
However, the feelings someone holds in his heart towards a person or community should never influence a believer's decisions. No matter how immoral or hostile the person he is considering may be, the believer sets all these feelings aside and acts and makes his decisions justly and recommends that which is just. His feelings towards that person cast no shadow over his wisdom and conscience. His conscience always inspires him to comply with Allah's commands and advice, and not to abandon good manners, because this is Allah's command in the Qur'an. In Sura Ma'ida, it is related as follows:
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 faith. Heed Allah [alone]. Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 8)
As is related in the verse, displaying a just attitude is what most reflects having fear of Al-lah. A person of faith knows that he will attain the pleasure of Allah only when he acts justly. Every person who witnesses his or her good manners will trust this person, feel comfortable in their presence and trust them with any responsibility or task. Such people are treated with re-spect even by their enemies. Their attitude may even lead some people to have faith in Allah.
The best example to follow for believers in our day is also the actions of the Prophet Mu-hammad (saas) as described in the Qur'an. Similar to the Blessed Period of the first community of Islam—an age of well-being when people in general adhered to the Qur'an—in our day, too, people of different beliefs such as Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, idolaters and pagans live together. A Muslim is responsible for being understanding, forgiving, just and humane towards people, regardless of whom they may be. It is probable that in time everyone will place his faith in Allah, become a Muslim and surrender himself to Allah. A believer should always bear this fact in mind. The responsibility of a believer is to summon people to Allah's religion with a favorable, peaceful and sevgiyle attitude. The decision to follow divine guidance and have faith rests with another party. Compelling a person to have faith and forcing him to do things are against the Qur'an. Allah states the following about this:
There is no compulsion in religion. True guidance has become clearly distinct from er-ror. Anyone who rejects false deities and has belief in Allah has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara, 256)