Examples of ‘Adl (Justice) Among the People—Justice in the Family
Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir once said,
My father gave me a gift but ‘Amrah bint Rawahah (my mother) said that she would not agree to it unless she made Allah’s messenger a witness to it. So my father went to Allah’s Messenger and said, ‘I have given a gift to my son from ‘Amrah bint Rawahah, but she ordered me to take you as a witness to it, O Allah’s Messenger!’Allah’s Messenger asked him, ‘Have you given [the like of it] to everyone of your sons?’ He replied in the negative. Allah’s Messenger then said, ‘Fear Allah and observe equity among your children.’ My father then returned and took back his gift. (Bukhari)
Another narration of the same incident reads,
Allah’s Messenger asked him, ‘Do you have other sons besides him?’ ‘Yes,’ came the reply. Allah’s Messenger then asked, ‘Have you given gifts to all of them like this?’ He said, ‘No.’ Thereupon Allah’s Messenger said ‘Then call me not as witness, for I cannot be witness to an injustice.’ (Muslim)
Allah and His Messenger require that parents be just to their children in fair and equal treatment. Parents’ authority over their children is the most basic form of authority in any society, and if it is abused, the entire society sees its ill effects. Favoritism among children—that is, showing love for one favorite child but not the others—is a great injustice that profoundly harms the children.
Injustice towards children may also mean punishing them disproportionately over minor mistakes, failing to provide them a moral and religious education while having the means to do so, or depriving them in any other way from a full Islamic life. In American society, for example, alcoholic or drug-addict parents often make their children’s childhood abusive, unfulfilled and horrific, thus causing them to become criminals and abnormal adults. No wonder intoxicants of any kind are strictly haram in Islam.
The parents’ justice towards their children attests to their own maturity, wisdom and sincerity as parents. For fairness and justice among children unites their hearts in love, strengthens the bonds of affection and mutual trust among all the members of the family. This will also cause the children in turn to show love towards the parents and to recognize the parents’ rights.
Conversely, the parents’ unfairness or favoritism when dealing with the children leads to hatred and enmity among them, as well as their disobedience to the parents. This causes family breakdowns and bad blood among the siblings, leading to loss of love, affection, selflessness and cooperation among them.
According to the Quran, a man may marry more than one wife only if he is capable of treating them equally, kindly and justly. Allah Almighty has made the ability to observe equity between one’s wives a prerequisite for polygamy; otherwise, one cannot take another wife. Allah says,
Marry of women as may be agreeable to you, two, or three, or four; however, if you fear that you will not deal justly with them, then [marry only] one or what your right hand possesses. That is the nearest [way] for you to avoid injustice. [Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:3]
If a man, however, is not going to comply with this or if he doubts his ability to do so, it is prohibited for him in his case to marry more than one wife.
The Prophet said,
When a man has two wives and he is inclined to one of them, he will come on the Day of Judgment lame. Another narration reads, He will come on the Day of Judgment with one side hanging downwards. (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah)
Absolute justice between one’s wives in everything, however, is by no means possible. One is required to observe equity in matters only within his ability to do. Emotional inclination and love is something beyond one’s ability and occurs against one’s will. That is why Allah says,
You will never be able to do perfect justice even if it is your ardent desire, so do not incline wholly to one of them [by giving her more of your time and provision] so that you leave the other in suspense (that is, neither divorced, nor married). [Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:129]
The Prophet was the most just of all people in that he treated all his wives with the utmost equity in all the apparent things that he could possibly do. He neither favored one of them more than the others, nor did he give more time to anyone of them at the expense of the others, nor would he travel with one of them without the others. However, he loved Aisha the best and she occupied a very special place in his heart.
The Messenger of Allah would divide his time between his wives equally and say, ‘O Allah, this is my division concerning what I can, so do not blame me concerning what You can and I cannot (that is, love).’ (Abu Dawud)
Summary: Justice and Peace
In any situation, whether in international affairs or in family matters, peace and safety can be ensured only if the dictates of justice are observed.
Justice is the foundation of peace and stability of both the individual and society at large. It makes everyone in society feel that his rights are protected, that his interests are safeguarded, and that he does not have to worry about being wronged in any way.
This is why people have a natural disposition to love justice, to call for it and to praise those who administer it. When those in authority establish it, people will love them and obey them. Peace, security and stability will prevail, crimes will be thwarted—and people will be concerned with realizing and defending their public and individual interests, with building their country and with developing their property.
Al-Mawardi writes in Adab Al-Dunya wa Al-Din,
The third principle which helps improve worldly affairs is total justice which calls to harmony, prompts obedience [to those in authority], with which the country prospers, money grows, man’s progeny increases, and the ruler feels extremely safe. When Al-Hurmuzan, the Persian king, saw ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab sleeping rough without fear of being attacked or harassed, he said to him, “You have ruled with justice, and so you have felt safe and slept.”
Forsaking justice wrecks peace and security and leads to punishment in this life and the Hereafter, as the Prophet said,
O people! The nations before you were destroyed because if a noble person committed theft, they would spare him; and if a person of low rank among them committed theft, they would inflict the prescribed punishment upon him.
The punishment of those who forsake justice in this life can be seen in their differences and divisions. Forsaking justice triggers enmity and hatred, leads to trials and tribulations, causes anarchy and provides sufficient reason for revenge and requital. History, past and present, testifies to this fact. Allah says,
And We destroyed the generations before you when they did wrong. [Surat Yunus, 10:13]
Such were the towns We destroyed when they committed iniquities. And We appointed a fixed time for their destruction. [Surat Al-Kahf, 18:59]
And yonder are their houses in utter ruin because of their wrongdoing. [Surat al-Naml, 27:52]
The Prophet also said in this connection,
There is no sin that receives quicker punishment [in this life] than injustice and the severance of the bonds of kinship.
Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah reported that Allah’s Messenger said,
Be on your guard against injustice, for injustice is darkness on the Day of Resurrection, and be on your guard against miserliness for miserliness destroyed those who were before you, as it incited them to shed blood and make lawful what was unlawful for them. (Muslim)
Injustice is the root cause of various forms of crimes, which occur as a result of the feelings of hatred, enmity, insecurity and oppression that rage in the hearts of the oppressed. They feel that their society does not care about them in the least and that their rights are encroached upon. This leads them to display indifference to their society, or, to make matters worse, to cooperate with others to bring its ruin.
Conversely, members in a just society feel that their honor is protected, their rights safeguarded, and that many opportunities are available to them. This encourages them to strive hard to protect their society at all costs and to safeguard its interests.
The then Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon said in a report that he presented before the Caracas Conference in 1980, “The member states of the United Nations must work towards removing all the causes of crimes in general, the most important of which are poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, racial discrimination and social and economic inequality.” The current United Nations continues the struggle for development in peace, justice and strong institutions. [i]
A Frank Questionnaire for Myself: How Just Am I?
◦ Am I afraid of my employer, friends or family in matters of observing my commitment to Allah, while knowing that Allah holds all the keys of provisions and happiness in His hands?
If so, I am failing in being just towards my Creator and Sustainer. And what could be a greater injustice?
◦ Elections at my Islamic Center are nearing. I am determined to vote for a fellow from my clan, or my buddy, or someone of my ethnic background, or someone I can boss around and get my personal work done. Character, knowledge and ability of another candidate do not affect my opinion.
If so, I have wronged the entire community, and have incurred the wrath of Allah.
◦ Am I slacking at my work, spending my time surfing the Internet, doing family chores, or working on something, while my employer pays me to do something else?
If so, I am being dishonest towards my employer and usurping their rights.
◦ Am I reluctant to dispense my zakah, but find money to go for a vacation every now and then, go out for extravagant dinners and buy expensive gadgets?
If so, I am unjust towards the society, and usurping the rights of the poor who deserve my zakah.
◦ Do I have a favorite child, who receives most of my gifts and kisses, to the exclusion of others?
If so, I am failing to be a just parent, and sowing seeds of discord in my children.