By Sheikh Sâmî al-Mâjid, professor at al-Imâm Islamic University, Riyadh
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah 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 Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 135]
Human life on Earth will neither prosper nor enjoy stability unless it is established upon a foundation of justice. All of the sacred scriptures call people to being just. The crux of Islamic law is the realization of justice.
Allah says: “And the word of your Lord has been accomplished in truth and justice; there is none who can change His words, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing. ” [Sûrah al-An`âm: 115]
All people instinctively crave justice for themselves and despise being oppressed. In spite of this, far too many people treat other people unjustly. Too many people fail to be offended when injustice is perpetrated against their fellow human beings.
If Muslims really understood the how important justice is to the objectives and purposes of Islam, then the first quality of religiousness that would appear in a person who has renewed his commitment to his faith would be that the person would act justly. We would only see people who were just, and who were upright and in their dealings with others.
Likewise, if the Muslims realized how heinous a crime oppression is in Islam, they would be quicker to repent for oppression than many of the lesser sins that they shed tears about.
It is a great pity that many of the people who repent for their sins and renew their commitment to Islam change everything in their lives except for their conduct towards others. They are just as unfair, as cruel, and as inconsiderate of the rights of others as they ever were. This comes as no surprise, since their understanding of Islam is focused only on the rights their Lord has over them, and is blind to the rights of their fellow human beings. As a consequence, their “uprightness” is only seen in the practices concerning their direct relationship with their Lord.
The resurrection and judgment in the Hereafter is a manifestation of divine justice. Justice starts in the Hereafter when retaliation is formally carried out between all the creatures that have been gathered after the resurrection. Even the animals will be recompensed. The hornless sheep will get its redress from the horned sheep that abused it. This justice will be fully realized when all legally accountable beings sent forward to their final destinations.
Would it be just for our Lord to let the deeds of those who engage in making things better for others and the deeds of the cruel and iniquitous simply get absorbed into the Earth after the people who carried out those deeds are placed in their graves? Would it be right that those who were good and honest find the same end as those who were treacherous and oppressive? The dictates of justice demand that there will be a judgment in the Hereafter.
There is no meaning to honor without rights. A human being who lives without rights lives without dignity. Allah has honored Adam’s descendant, so He is not pleased when they are oppressed and their rights are violated.
Justice is the most essential of human rights from which all other rights are derived. Only within the context of justice can other human rights be upheld and guaranteed. All other rights are qualified in one way or another. They all have their limits, the frontiers beyond which the exercise of those rights transgresses upon the rights of others. For instance, people do not have unbridled freedom to do whatever they like.
This is not the case with justice. It is the only right that is absolute. There are no exceptions to it. It is the right of everybody to be treated justly and everyone’s duty to be just. Justice is the right of relatives and strangers. It is the right of the rich and the poor. It is the right of friend and foe. It is the right of people who share one’s religion and of those who disbelieve in it. It is everyone’s right in times of war just as much as it is in times of peace.
Allah says: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah: 8]
He says: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah 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 Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 135]
This verse shows us that we should not be unjust to anyone, rich or poor. We often think of this in the context of the poor, since they often suffer injustice at the hands of those who have wealth and power. However, the verse is also telling us that we should not allow our sympathies for a poor person cause us to be unjust to others for the poor person’s sake. This is why Allah says: “…for Allah can best protect both.”
Justice is not necessitated by love. We do not treat people justly because we like them or are partial to them. If that were the case, there would be no need to command justice, since people are naturally just to those they favor. We need to be commanded with justice when dealing with those we have no favorable feelings towards.
Justice is necessitated by nothing other than our shared humanity. We must be just towards all human beings, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. Justice is the greatest means of ensuring human dignity and human rights. Justice is what people ask for and expect from each other, regardless of their affiliations, loyalties, affections, and prejudices.
Justice is not something that exists only in the courtroom. It is not something only judges decide. It is the way we as people should conduct ourselves with each other in the course of our daily lives. We should instill it in our children from the time they are small. It should be the first manner of conduct that our preachers and Islamic workers should call people towards. All people should be embraced by it without exception. No one is above justice. No one is excluded from it and no one is exempted from it.