Examples of ‘Adl (Justice) Among the People—Legal Justice
Islamic Law came to establish justice, as Allah says,
We sent Our messengers with manifest signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance [of right and wrong] that people may act with justice. [Surat Al-Hadid, 57:25]
Commenting on this verse, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah writes in Al-Siyasah Al-Shar‘iyyah,
The main reason behind sending the messengers and the divine books is to establish justice with regard to Allah’s rights as well as people’s rights. Then Allah says, And We sent down iron, wherein is material for violent warfare as well as for many benefits for mankind, and that Allah may distinguish those who help Him and His messengers without having seen Him. [Surat Al-Hadid, 57:25] Therefore, whoever persistently turns away from the Book will be reformed with [the force of] iron. It is for this reason that religion is backed with the Book, as well as with the sword.
From the above we can say that the judge’s task is to administer justice between people and to settle disputes by showing them the legal ruling and imposing it upon their case as the standard by which to judge. Evidence for judging between people with justice comes from the Quran and the Sunnah, but we shall restrict ourselves to the following few. Allah says,
If you judge, judge between them with justice. Surely, Allah loves those who are just. [Surat Al-Ma’idah, 5:42]
He also says,
When you judge between people, judge with justice. [Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:58]
While Allah commands us to administer justice, He forbids us to follow whims—thus dispensing with justice—responding to feelings of love and hate and considering factors of kinship or social status, as this is bound to lead to prejudice and oppression, as Allah says,
O You who believe! Be strict in observing justice, [and be] witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or [against] parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both [than you are]. Therefore, follow not whim so that you may [be able to] act equitably. And if you conceal [the truth] or evade [it], then [remember that] Allah is well aware of what you do. [Surat al-Nisa’, 4:135]
The Prophet also said,
Judges are of three types: One of them will be admitted to Paradise while the remaining two will be thrown into the Hell-Fire. The one who will be admitted to Paradise is a man who recognizes the truth and gives judgment according to it. The person who recognizes the truth but deviates from it while giving judgment will enter the Hell-Fire. The man who gives judgment regarding the disputes of people while ignorant of the case will also enter the Hell-Fire. (Abu Dawud)
He also said,
Allah is with the Judge as long as he is not tyrannical, but when he is tyrannical, He departs from him and the devil attaches himself to him. (Tirmidhi)
‘Aishah narrated that
The Quraysh became very worried about the woman from the Banu Makhzum tribe who had committed theft and said, “Nobody can speak [in favor of the lady] to Allah’s messenger and nobody dares to do that except Usamah, who is the favorite of Allah’s Messenger. When Usamah spoke to Allah’s Messenger about that matter, Allah’s messenger said, “Do you intercede [with me] regarding one of the punishments prescribed by Allah?” He then stood up and addressed the people thus, “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. By Allah, if Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, committed theft, I would have her hand cut off.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
This incident clearly shows that Islam does not favor any person, no matter who he or she may be, regardless of color, social standing, kinship and other factors that distinguish people from one another. Islamic history is full of excellent examples of just rulers and judges who administered justice among people and settled their disputes regardless of their social standing, race and religion. History records the impressive story that earns the respect of the institutions of justice throughout the world and at all times:
‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, during the time that he was caliph, stood side-by-side in court—on equal terms—with his Jewish opponent, who had stolen Ali’s shield. The judge, Shurayh, did not let his great respect for the caliph prevent him from asking him to produce evidence that the Jew had in fact stolen his shield.
When the caliph could not produce such evidence, the judge ruled in favor of the Jew and against the caliph. In admiration of Islam’s justice, the Jew publicly announced that he embraced Islam and said that the shield did in fact belong to ‘Ali and that he took it after ‘Ali had lost it at night. ‘Ali offered to give it to him as a gift upon hearing the good news of the man’s embrace of Islam.
Islamic history is full of examples showing that no one stood above Islamic Law and that all Muslims, be they rulers or ruled, were on equal footing before the law.
‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab once said,
I did not send my collectors [of zakah] so that they could strike your bodies and that they could take your property. If that is done with someone and he appeals to me [for justice], I will take retaliation on [the offending tax collector].
‘Amr ibn Al-‘Aas then asked,
If a man [i.e., governor] inflicts disciplinary punishment on some of his subjects, would you take retaliation on him too?” He said, “Yes, by Him in Whose hand my soul is, I will take retaliation on him. I saw the Messenger of Allah himself giving such retaliation.
Examples of ‘Adl (Justice) Among the People—Social Justice
Social justice is concerned with fair distribution of wealth in society. Teachings of social justice are at the heart of Islam, and measures to ensure social justice are part of faith.
Zakah, the third pillar of Islam, has been instituted and rib’a (interest) has been strictly prohibited to ensure social justice—so that wealth is not collected in the hands of the rich few while the majority of society is left with nothing. Allah explicitly states this wisdom of zakah in the Qur’an:
What Allah has bestowed on His Messenger (and taken away) from the people of the townships belongs to Allah, to His Messenger and to kindred and orphans, the needy and the wayfarer—in order that it may not (merely) make a circuit among the wealthy of you… [Surat Al-Hashr, 59:7]
Coming up, Insha’Allah, in Part 4, ‘Adl as Justice in the Family; Summary…