Examples of ‘Adl (Justice) Among the People

Some examples of situations in which Allah has particularly emphasized justice (‘adl) are:

  • Justice of a ruler to his subjects (political justice)
  • Justice of a judge among the litigants (legal justice)
  • Justice of the rich and powerful in a society to those who are weak (social justice)
  • Justice of a person in his or her family (familial justice).

Let us look at each of these types in some detail.

Examples of ‘Adl Among the People—Political Justice

Scholars, of past and present, are agreed that one of the most important duties of the ruler is to treat all his subjects with justice, to do his best to protect their rights, insure their welfare, to see that justice is done to them and to judge justly between them.

Addressing His final Prophet, Allah says,

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To this, then, invite [mankind], and be steadfast as you are commanded and follow not their evil inclinations, but say, ‘I believe in whatever book Allah has sent down, and I am commanded to judge justly between you.’ [Surat Al-Shura, 42:15]

He also said:

O David! We have indeed made you a vicegerent on earth, so judge between people with justice and follow not whim lest it should lead you astray from the way of Allah. [Surat Sad, 38:26]

Allah does command that you render back your trusts to those to whom they are due; and when you judge between people that you judge with justice. Surely excellent is the teaching which He gives you! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. [Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:58]

Ibn Taymiyyah says, regarding [4:58],

This verse commands [Muslims] to make over the trusts to those entitled to them and to judge with justice. These two [acts] are indeed all that is required for a just administration and a competent and responsible rule.

Al-Mawardi writes in Al-Ahkam Al-Sultaniyya,

Of the public matters, [the ruler] must supervise things himself and get first-hand information about the general circumstances in order to improve the situation of Muslims and to safeguard the religion. He should not blindly rely on delegating others to do the job while he is preoccupied with worship or whimsical desires. This is true because [even] a trustworthy person is to be held liable if he acts treacherously and a sincere counselor is also liable if he cheats.

As for matters that [the ruler] cannot supervise himself, he can deputize qualified and competent people who are both strong and trustworthy to do the job, as Allah says,

Truly the best of men for you to employ is the [man] who is strong and trustworthy. [Surat Al-Qasas, 28:26]

Addressing the king of Egypt, Prophet Joseph, in the same vein, said—as the Quran reports the story,

Appoint me over the treasures of the land, for I am a good keeper [and] possessed of knowledge. [Surat Yusuf, 12:55]

Accordingly, he should appoint only those who enjoy both these qualities. Muslim scholars have established that Allah has made it incumbent upon the decision-makers to render any task to those who are most capable of doing it properly and efficiently. A person in authority must favor none, be they his or her relatives or friends.

Ibn Taymiyyah said,

The ruler must only appoint the best qualified and competent people to positions that tend to Muslims’ interests. The Prophet, said: Whoever is in charge of Muslims’ affairs and appoints a man when he knows that there is a more competent person to serve Muslims has indeed betrayed the trust of Allah and His Messenger.

Therefore, one must painstakingly search for those who are entitled to be in charge [over Muslims in any matter], be they rulers, deputies, governors, judges, army commanders, high-ranking and low-ranking officials, ministers and secretaries of the state, and so on. Each one of these, in their turn, must appoint only those who are competent to do their job efficiently, be they leaders of salah or Imams, Muezzins, Reciters, public-teachers, those in charge of Hajj affairs, postmen, treasurers, fort guards, and army officers.

A Muslim in authority of any kind—including the authority of a father or mother over their children—must establish justice. One must also inspect his deputies or subordinates to ensure that justice is established and that all tasks are dispensed properly. All will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment for their injustice towards others (be they Muslims or non-Muslims, and including even animals).

Umar Ibn Al-Khattab once said,

If a governor of mine has wronged someone and I heard of the incident without doing anything about the matter, I am in fact the one who has wronged him.

Imam Al-Ghazali also said once, addressing a sultan,

You should not be contented with avoiding inequity yourself. Rather, you should instruct your servants, companions, governors and deputies not to be iniquitous, for you will be held accountable [on the Day of Judgment] for their inequity as you will be held accountable for wronging yourself.

Justice, therefore, is the foundation of true and long-term political power. It is also the main reason behind peace and stability, the real guarantee to a happy life, the betterment of the general conditions and the regularity and constancy of worldly matters.

Ibn Taymiyyah said,

It has been said that Allah grants supremacy to the just government even though it may not be Muslim, and does not grant supremacy to the unjust government even though it may be non-Muslim. It has also been said that worldly existence does last with justice and disbelief and does not continue with injustice and Islam. The Prophet said in this respect: There is no sin that receives quick punishment [in this life] more than injustice and the severance of the bonds of kinship. (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)

The ruler who administers justice among his subjects—who is concerned about their welfare, safeguards their rights, gives sincere advice to them and who carries out his responsibility towards them—is bound to earn his subjects’ love and affection. His subjects will certainly take what he says into account, obey his orders, be loyal to him and be sincere in whatever they say and do when dealing with him, consider him a blessing that Allah has bestowed upon them, devote themselves wholeheartedly to serve him and protect him and strive hard to give him full support in undertaking his duty. Consequently, peace and stability in the land will undoubtedly be secured.

The Prophet said,

The best of your rulers are those whom you love and who love you, who invoke Allah’s blessings upon you and you invoke His blessings upon them. And the worst of your rulers are those whom you hate and who hate you, and whom you curse and who curse you. (Muslim)

The beloved ruler finds support from his subjects—who give him assistance with the responsibility thrust upon his shoulders. The beloved ruler is one for whom people sincerely pray, and whom they support and assist. When he appears before them, they become delighted to see him, their tongues laud him, and their hands wave at him in salutation. If he fails to meet with them for one reason or another, they excuse him, for they believe that he is only doing so because he is [occupied elsewhere] in their service. When he passes away, they pray to Allah to have mercy on him and they grieve for his loss.

If such is the case of a just ruler in this life, what Allah has prepared for him in the Hereafter is far greater and better. He will have his sins forgiven, he will be exalted by degrees of excellence and Paradise will be his reward. Allah the Almighty says,

And act justly. Verily, Allah loves the just. [Surat Al-Hujurat, 49:9]

Imam Muslim reported that the Prophet said,

Behold! The dispensers of justice will be seated on the pulpits of light beside Allah, on the right side of the Merciful, Exalted and Glorious. Either side of the Being is the ‘right side,’ both being equally meritorious. [The dispensers of justice are] those who do justice in their rule, in matters relating to their families and to those over whom they have authority. (Muslim)

The Prophet also mentioned once that Allah will give shade to seven categories of people on the Day when there will be no shade but His, and he mentioned amongst these a just ruler. (Bukhari)

He also said,

Dwellers of Paradise are three: One who wields authority and is just and fair, truthful and has been endowed with power to do good deeds, the person who is merciful and kind-hearted towards his relatives and to every pious Muslim, and one who does not stretch out his hand in spite of having a large family to support. (Muslim)

As for the unjust among us, including the ruler, however, Allah says,

Think not that Allah is unaware of what the wrongdoers do. He only gives them respite till the Day on which the eyes will fixedly stare in horror, hurrying on in fright, raising up their heads, their gaze not returning to them and their hearts empty [of hope because of extreme fear]. [Surat Ibrahim, 14:42-43]

He also says,

The day when no excuses will profit the wrongdoers, but they will [only] have the curse and the home of misery. [Surat Ghafir, 40:52]

Another verse also states,

We have prepared a painful punishment for the wrongdoers. [Surat Al-Furqan, 25:37]

Verses in this respect are many. The Prophet said in this regard,

 If a ruler who has the authority to rule Muslim subjects dies while he is deceiving them, Allah will forbid Paradise for him. (Bukhari)

He also said,

Whoever rules over ten people will come in fetters on the Day of Judgment until justice releases him;  otherwise, injustice will cause him to perish. (Ahmad)

Total justice cannot be realized without implementing the commandments of Allah, the Shariah, which provides justice at all levels. Whoever rules with anything other than the Islamic Law in fact rules with unjust laws, whether he is aware of this or not. Allah says,

Whosoever does not judge by what Allah has sent down, such are the wrongdoers. [Surat al-Ma’idah, 5:45]

In fact, they have wronged their Lord by disobeying Him and acting contrary to His commands. They have also wronged themselves by subjugating themselves to Allah’s wrath and punishment. They have also wronged other people by ruling over them with a law other than the just, perfect Law of Allah that is bound to safeguard their interests and protect their rights. Allah says,

And judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their evil inclinations, and beware of them lest they beguile you from any of that [teaching] which Allah has sent down to you. However, if they turn away, then be assured that Allah intends to smite them for some of their sins. And indeed most people are rebellious. Do they then seek the judgment of Jahiliyya? But who is better as a judge for a people who have firm faith? [Surat al-Ma’idah, 5:49-50]

The ruler has two options: either to follow the truth and justice, namely that which Allah has revealed, or to follow his own desires and inclinations—or the judgments of Jahiliyya, which go against Allah’s perfect Law.  As Allah says addressing the Prophet David,

O David, We have made you as a successor on earth; so judge between people in truth [and justice] and follow not vain desire lest it should lead you astray from the way of Allah. [Surat Sad, 38:26]

Thus, there are only two options, judging with justice or following one’s whims or ‘vain desires’; whoever rejects the former option will doubtless follow the latter, which is based on ignorance and injustice and which Allah has attributed to Jahiliyya. It is worth mentioning here that Jahiliyya by no means is limited to representing a historical period. Rather, it is a situation that exists whenever Allah’s Law is superseded by man-made laws.

Coming up, insha’Allah, in Part 3, ‘Adl as Legal Justice and Social Justice…

Originally posted 2017-05-22 08:00:43.

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