July 1993, Islam

IMPORTANCE OF JUSTICE IN ISLAM

Halil Necatioglu

Islam states an essential principle in government administration: "Al-'adlu asas-ul-mulk -- The justice is the foundation of the sovereignty." In two verses of the Qur'an, Muslims are instructed to establish and keep the justice even if it is against their wishes or interests. Man is instructed to overcome his desires and make a decision against his own interests. With the words of Qur'an, "…walaw alaa anfusikum awil-walidayni wal-aqrabeen -- even if it is against your selves or parents and relatives," keep the justice and be truthful. A judge may judge himself and lose the case for the sake of justice. No such phenomenon exists in other systems or cultures.

It is well known that Qadi Khidir Chelebi ruled against Fatih Sultan Muhammad in a law suit that a Greek architect from Istanbul sued Fatih Sultan Muhammad, the conqueror of Istanbul. The judge, Khidir Chelebi, did not hesitate to rule against this Ottoman sultan. Have there been any examples of such extraordinary events and judges who could make brave decisions even against their own kings that they love and respect? If there have, it must have been due to an enlightenment and guidance through a heavenly religion, and they must have been aware that they were going to be questioned in the hereafter for their judgements. This kind of behavior comes only from those who believe in the resurrection in the hereafter and the colossal trial and judgement that follow and from those who are sure of the Day of Deen and of the trial before the Owner of the Day of Deen.

The Arabic word "deen" means "repayment." Hence, the Day of Deen is the day when man will be paid back for his deeds, good or evil, during his lifetime. The popular Arabic proverb "Kama tadeenu tudan" means "you will be treated as you treat others." The verse "Maliki yawmid-deen" (Qur'an 1:4) has been incorrectly translated as "the Owner of the Day of Religion." The proper translation should be "the Owner of the Day when men will be rewarded or punished for their deeds, actions, life styles, works and occupations."

Allah (swt) says in the chapter The Fig, "Fama yukazzibuka ba'du bid-deen. Eleysellahu bi ahkamil-hakimeen" (Qur'an 95:7-8). That is, "After all these realities, truths and proofs, what could suggest you to deny or reject the deen? Is not Allah the justest of Judges?" Here too, deen means repayment. What could make you deny that the justice would prevail? Is not Allah the best of the judges, the Supreme Judge, the Judge Whose verdict is perfect? "Ahkamil-hakimeen" should be translated as "the judge whose verdict is the most correct." Allah (swt) says in the chapter The Earthquake, "Fa man ya'mal misqale zarratin khayran yarahu; wa man ya'mal misqale zarratin sharran yarahu" (Qur'an 99:7-8). That is, "whoever has done an atom's weight of good shall see it as a reward; whoever has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it as a punishment."

Another use of the word deen as repayment in Qur'an is at the beginning of the chapter Charity, "Ara'aytalladhi yukadh-dhibu bid-deen -- Have you considered him who calls the repayment a lie?" (Qur'an 107:1).

It is clear that the laws of the society, relationships among people must rest upon justice. From the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Muslims are instructed to uphold the justice and observe the rights of people regardless of whether they are friends or foes.

During the conquest of Mecca, the key of the Ka'bah was in the hands of a non-Muslim who refused to turn it in to Muslims. Ali ibn Abu-Talib -- may Allah be pleased with him -- took the key by force and opened the Ka'bah, and they all prayed in it. Ali ibn Abu-Talib, the cousin of the Prophet (pbuh), requested that he would like to keep the key of the Ka'bah. Upon the revelation of the verse, "Innallahe ya'murukum an tu'addul-amanati ila ahlihi idha hakamtum baynan-nasi an tahkumu bil-'adl -- Allah commands you to deliver trusts back to those to whom they are due; and that when you judge between people, you judge with justice. …" (Qur'an 4:58), Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) turned to Ali ibn Abu-Talib and said, "Take this key and return to the man you took it from by force." He did not allow his cousin to keep the key but ordered him to return it. The man was surprised to see the keys returned. He realized that it was a glorious religion that would practice justice and preach a code of conduct which is based on complete submission to the Will of Allah even if it were displeasing to the individual or against his desires. He believed in Islam, followed the Prophet (pbuh) and joined the ranks of Muslims. The history of Islam has examples of such incidents where justice prevailed. Our fathers were honorable people in upholding the justice. The conduct of Khidir Chelebi was just an example.

In the history of Islam, when the armies treated people with justice, when they tied money to the grapevines for the grapes they ate from the orchards and returned the rights to the rightful owners, Allah rewarded them with victory. When they neglected the justice and added impurities to it, they suffered the consequences.

Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) said, "We give positions not to those who want them but to those we want them to have." When the justice is shaken and watered down, when the appointments in government affairs are based on injustice, the society starts to lose acquired good qualities and collapses soon. Then, the success of people and advancement of a society, attainment of Allah's pleasure, grace and blessings are all based on justice. Loss of Divine Guidance, calamities, and humiliating experiences come with injustice, aggression and wrongfulness. For this reason, I recommend that you observe the pleasure of Allah throughout your lives and that before you make a decision or utter a word, you ask yourselves: "Would this be pleasing to Allah?" for our material or spiritual salvation is in justice and truthfulness.