is an exhibition of peace and justice. It manifests
peace and harmony in many ways and forms: through
the removal of exploitation, injustice and mischief
and the promotion of mercy and forgiveness, assisting
the weak and the orphans, the traveler and the
helpless, by defending the oppressed and preserving
the human soul, in fostering graciousness and
kindness to family, neighbors and friends, and
by promoting mercy and forgiveness to both friends
is an essential component in the philosophy of
Islam. It pervades every aspect of life and protects
all humanity. "God commands justice, the
doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin,
and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice
and rebellion. [and] He exhorts you [repeatedly]
so that you might bear [all this] in mind.
(16:90). Some of the attributes of God is The
Just, The Judge, The Giver of Peace, The Reliever
and The Merciful.
Islam is heaven of social justice and gender equality.
Ingrained in its philosophy is the brotherhood
O humankind! We created
you from a single pair of a male and female, and
made you into nations and tribes, that you may
know and deal with each other in kindness (not
that you may despise each other). Verily the most
honored of you in the sight of God (is he who
is) the most righteous of you, and God is Knower,
you judge between people that you judge with justice. Quran 4:58.
Law and Justice
of Islam vs. Love of Christianity
An interesting discussion
was made by Karen Armstrong in her book, Muhammad,
A Biography of the Prophet, regarding the
idea of Justice of Islam and the idea of Love
of Christianity. Here is what she said:
"It is often
said that, where Christianity is a religion of
love, Islam is a religion of social justice. Loving
your neighbor is seen by Christians as the test
of true religion; the Qur'anic definition of the
religious spirit is less ambitious but arguably
'True piety is this: to believe in God, and the
Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the Prophets,
to give of one's substance, however cherished,
to kinsmen and orphans, the needy, the traveler,
beggars, and to ransom the slave, to perform the
prayer, to pay the alms (Zakah).' Qur'an,
In Principle everybody
in the umma [nation] would be treated in the same
way: if love could neither prevail nor be enforced,
justice and equality could be legislated for.
It does seem as though the Qur'anic and, later,
Islamic Holy Law (shari'a) did help the Muslims
to cultivate a deeply egalitarian spirit. Not
long after Muhammad's death, an important Bedouin
chief called Jabalah ibn al-Ayham became a Muslim.
One day a lowly member of the umma struck him
on the cheek. Islamic principle did not require
Jablah to turn the other cheek, and he fully expected
that an extremely severe punishment would be imposed
on the offender because of his high rank. Instead
he was simply told that he had permission to strike
his assailant once on the face, to avenge the
insult exactly and fairly. Jablah was so outraged
that he abandoned Islam and returned to Christianity.
It is possible to
see the egalitarian ideal of Islam as practical
way of fostering brotherly love by reducing all
men to the same social and political level."
believe in the promotion of good traits, which
are accepted by all people. This concept makes
Islam universal and does not clash with civilizations.
Here is the concept of Joining good (al-Ma'roof)
and forbidding bad (al-Munkar).
One of the Lesser Pillars
of Islam (Fardh Kifayah) is: al Amr bil Maroof
wa Annahi ahn al Munkar, commanding the doing
of what is globally-known right and forbidding
what is globally-known wrong. 'al Maroof'
is, 'Any thing known to all people as good,' and
'al Munkar' is, 'Any thing known to all people
as bad and unwanted.' Thus Islam accepts and promotes
what is known by all people to be good, such as
the safety measures at home, at the work place
and in traffic, penalizing the criminal, saying
the truth, etc., and it rejects what is known,
to all people, as bad or immoral, such as intoxication,
harming neighbor, steeling and lying. Allah said
in Chapter, 3, the family of Marry:
"Let there arise out of you a band of people
inviting to all that is good, enjoining al
Maroof, the doing of what is right
and forbidding al Munkar, the doing
of what is wrong. Quran,
Law and the
Protection of the Five Essential Elements
The Islamic law, Shari'ah is build around the
protection of five basic things: People's blood,
mind, honor, property and religion. This protection
is a transcendent. It applies to all individuals
irrespective of creed, color, national origin,
position or gender. To safeguard the five human
elements, Islam denounced violence.
God emphasizes in the Qur'an the sacredness
of the soul and condemns acts of terror and injustice.
"If anyone slays a human being unless
it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading
corruption on earth it shall be as though
he had slain all mankind: whereas, if anyone saves
a life, it shall be as though he had saved the
lives of all mankind. Qur'an,
Any act of safety and prevention of harm made
for saving a human life or any of the five essential
elements is therefore considered Islamic.
prohibits intoxication, prevents social diseases
and promotes safety regulations in traffic, industrial
and public places, supports medicinal child-proof-bottling
and other mind-harming or accident-preventing
measures. This principle of safety and prevention
of harm apply to the entire ecological system
and establishes a cleaner and healthier environment
for all the creations of God. The
following article is from www.guidedones.com.
Justice means equality in law, or justice for
all. Prior to the advent of Islam, this kind of
social justice was almost unknown either in theory
or in practice. It was Islam then that established
equal justice for the first time in human history.
This fact was acknowledged by non-Muslim thinkers.
For instance, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) writes
in one of this letters.
ever any religion approached to this equality
in any appreciable manner, it is Islam and Islam
alone.' (p. 379).
contribution of Islam in this respect can be placed
under three headings: first, the formulation of
a complete ideology of human equality and justice;
second the giving of powerful incentive to adopt
this ideology; and third, the establishment of
a living example of equality and justice in all
THE CONCEPT OF EQUAL JUSTICE
ancient times the concept of human inequality, which
was prevalent everywhere, gave rise to social injustice
in every society.
example, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, regarded
certain classes of individuals as natural slaves.
Although there were other thinkers who did not
subscribe to this view, slavery continued to be
widespread in Rome and Greece, and indeed, throughout
the entire world of antiquity.
modern times, this concept has been further strengthened
by Darwin's theory of evolution, according to
which mankind was regarded as having achieved
differing levels of development, the apex being
white European civilization.
superstitious concept of racial differences, handed
down to us from ancient times, paved the way for
social discrimination. And such discrimination
found an academic basis in modern times in Darwin's
theory of evolution, which purported to show that
in the evolutionary process, some groups had made
distinctive progress while many other groups had
been left far behind. That is to say that certain
groups attained a superior level, while others
remained in a primitive condition.
to this theory of evolution, the European nations
came to regard other nations as being inferior
to them--hence the concept of 'the white man's
burden' according to which the white races considered
themselves invested with the natural right to
subjugate the rest of the world in order to civilize
it. This was the logic behind the colonialism
of modem times. These concepts, in some measure,
are still extant.
world of today can be broadly divided into two
parts--the traditional and the scientific. The
former appears undeveloped and the latter developed.
But from the standpoint of social justice, there
is no difference, because in both, beliefs which
form a permanent obstacle to social justice still
traditional world is influenced to a large extent
by believers in Karma, the theory that anyone
born today necessarily shoulders the burden of
his past deeds. As they see it, that is a law
of nature, as such, has to be submitted to unquestioningly.
A belief of this nature obviously stifles any
possible incentive for social justice. In the
light of such a belief 'injustice' simply becomes
'nature's verdict.' The human being has to suffer
in this world for his misdeeds in his previous
life cycle. Given this state of affairs, it is
just not possible for anyone to alleviate human
suffering. That being so, how can there be any
motivation to act out of a sense of justice?
scientific world is likewise under the influence
of this concept of human inequality, but for another
reason--the general acceptance gained by the theory
of evolution. The concept of the biological evolution
of life seeks to explain the differences in the
existing species, advancing the theory that in
the process of evolution some have gone forward
while others have been left behind.
instance, Darwin claims that the female of the
human species remained at a primitive stage in
the evolutionary process while 'man has ultimately
become superior to woman'. By the same token,
the blacks of Africa, the pygmies and other dwarfish
races have been 'left behind.' Because of this
theory, the scientific world cannot be sympathetic
to the supposedly backward, or under-evolved races.
theory has been advanced that if people suffer
a variety of afflictions, it is 'their own fault.'
That is to say that those who are made to feel
inferior in the treatment they receive from others
are, in fact, suffering the consequences of their
own shortcomings. It is as if they were fated
to be the victims of injustice; the perpetrators
are not, therefore, to be blamed.
the advent of Islam, all such ideas based on an
inherent inequality lost ground. In different
ways, and with great persistence Islam presented
to the world the concept that, in spite of outward
differences, all human beings are equal. All are
entitled to equal social status and equal rights.
No one is inferior or superior. Here are two references
from the Qur'an and Hadith respectively.
"Men, we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you might get to know one another. The noblest of you in Allah's sight is the most righteous of you. Allah is wise and all knowing". (49:13).
to this verse of the Qur'an, the differences of
color and race found among human beings is for
the purpose, not of discrimination, but of identification.
Men in essence are equal. What really distinguishes
one man from another is character. His superiority
can therefore be spoken of only in terms of the
degree to which a man is honorable. The truly
honorable man is one who is God-fearing and who
recognizes and fulfils the rights of God and his
the occasion of the final pilgrimage, the Prophet
delivered his last sermon while sitting on his
camel. One of the things he said is recorded in
'O people, listen carefully, your Lord is one Lord, there is no doubt about it. Your ancestor, is one ancestor, there is no doubt about it. Listen well to my words: no Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, and no non-Arab is superior to an Arab. No black is superior to a brown or red, and no red superior to any black. If there is any superiority in anyone it is due to his God--fearing qualities. Have I conveyed the message?' the Prophet asked the people. The people answered from all corners, 'Indeed so! God be witness.' Then the Prophet said: 'Let him that is present tell it unto him that is absent.' (Al-Jamili Ahkam al-Qur'an,
declaration was made by the Prophet in the final
year of his life at a time when the whole of Arabia
had been conquered. As such, it was not the declaration
of a reformer, but of a ruler of the time. His
definition of human equality was not just listened
to as a theory, but was immediately put into practice--nay,
enforced in society.
his declaration, the Prophet told the people that
just as there is one Creator of this world so
all the human beings in this world were born of
one man and woman. All human beings were thus
equal, being each other's brothers and sisters.
They might differ in respect of appearance, but
as to honor, status and the right to legal justice,
there was no difference between them.
far as human status is concerned, Islam clearly
states that if people have been placed on different
rungs of the social ladder, this is not a matter
of having been favored with or deprived of social
distinction but of their being under divine trial.
God has created man in this world in order to
goods and position (or the lack of them) are used
by God as instruments of this test. They are like
examination papers set by the Almighty. Opulence
and penury are both intended to be states in which
man is tested. He should, therefore, stop suffering
from inferiority or superiority complexes, and
should consider instead whether he is going to
pass or fail this test.
THE INCENTIVE FOR EQUAL JUSTICE
psychological and biological research on race has
clearly upheld the teachings of Islam, so that from
the academic point of view, other theories stand
biology, too, has opened a whole new field of
research in modern times.
A team of genetic experts in the USA, convinced
by the evidence they already had that all of humanity
had common ancestor, have attempted to trace that
single progenitor across the millennia. Placed
in this perspective, all differences of color,
physiognomy, physique, etc. are purely relative,
and do not necessarily constitute different racial
characteristics. All modern research points to
human beings as members of one Great Family, all
bound together by the same biological brotherhood.
(Newsweek, January 11, 1988).
well as enjoining justice, (16:90) the Qur'an
holds out the promise of reward for one's deeds.
It also informs us that a complete record is constantly
being made of human actions.
death, everyone will find himself standing in
God's court, where he will receive his just desserts.
No perpetrator of cruelty will escape God's punishment.
That time has to come when man will suffer the
consequences of his deeds. 'On that day mankind
will come, divided in terms of vice and virtue,
into groups to be shown their labors. Whoever
does an atom's weight of good shall see it and
whoever does an atom's weight of evil shall see
it also.' (99:6-8)
concept of accountability alerts man to the necessity
of being extremely punctilious in his dealings
with others. He then sees how essential it is
to be just to everyone, if he is to save his own
self. He avoids wronging others so that he may
not be punished by God. In the absence of any
concept of accountability, social justice figures
in our lives as a need felt by others, not by
ourselves. But once we recognized that there is
such a thing as accountability, social justice
becomes a prime necessity for everyone, including
ourselves. And who can neglect his own needs?
concept of accountability is such a strong check
that it restrains one not just from oppression,
but from even any semblance of it.
when the Prophet was at home with his wife, Umm
Salmah, he called the maidservant, who took some
time in coming. Seeing signs of anger on Prophet's
face, Umm Salmah went to the window and looked
outside where she saw the maid at play. When the
latter came in, the Prophet happened to have a
misvak (a stick used for cleaning the teeth) in
his hand. 'If it wasn't for the fear of retribution
on the Day of Judgement, he told the maid,
'I would have hit you with this misvak.'
ancient times the beating of slaves was considered
a natural right. But the mentality created by
Islam put a stop to this practice, whatever the
faults of the slaves. This was because the Muslims
were afraid lest they beheld accountable for this
act in the eyes of God.
Prophet once came across Abu Masood Ansari beating
his slave. "You should know, Abu Masood ",
he said, 'that God has more power over you than
you have over this slave.' Abu Masood trembled
hearing these words of the Prophet. 'Messenger
of God,' he said, "I am freeing this slave
for God's sake," 'If you had not acted thus,
the flames of Hell would have engulfed you,"
the Prophet told him.
incident shows that Islam, by obliterating outward
differences, brings all men on the same footing.
Abu Masood had at first considered himself to
be on a different footing from his slave in a
purely material sense where he was respectable
and powerful, the slave was lowly and weak. But
when the Prophet reminded him that in the eyes
of God he stood on exactly the same ground as
his slave, he immediately humbled himself.
differences in standing bring about social injustice.
When these differences are obliterated, social
inequality will, of necessity, disappear.
is undeniable that all incidents of oppression
and social injustice are the result of inequality
between man and man. Some are powerful, others
are weak. Some are rich, others are poor. Now
what happens is that the powerful and the wealthy
come to regard themselves as being superior to
the weak and the poor. They imagine they can oppress
others with impunity, their elevated positions
being enough to safeguard them from any attempt
Islam tells us that every man's fate is the concern
of God. All moral issues are finally to be judged
in the divine court. God being infinitely more
powerful than all of the powerful men in the world.
He will pronounce His verdict and enforce it with
absolute justice towards one and all. At that
time no mortal creature will be able to escape
this way, human affairs are no longer matters
to be settled amongst men. They become matters
to be settled between man and God. On the one
side stands God, and on the other side stands
all of humanity.
when faced with God, no one is powerful. Everyone
feels himself in the same state of humility as
he had supposed was the state of other human beings
'weaker than himself'.
this consciousness is created in a man, he dare
not, whatever the circumstances, be unjust to
others. This undoubtedly gives him the greatest
incentive to bring about social justice.
an atheistic society where people do not believe
in God, such a check is not possible. Where there
is no belief in God, human affairs must be settled
between man and man. And in that situation there
can be no conviction that all men are equal, for
the differences between them will remain all too
obvious. In the absence of a divine overlord,
such differences can never be leveled out, and
if their effects are to be negated, it can only
be done by taking matters between man and man
and turning them into matters between man and
God. Everyone should have the conviction that
there is a God above all men, that all issues
must finally be settled by Him, and that no one
may challenge His verdict.
are other religions besides Islam which have the
concept of God. But, owing to human interpolations
in their scriptures, their particular concept
of God has, for all practical purposes, become
ineffective. For instance, in Christianity, God's
son atoned for the sins of humanity by his crucifixion.
In Judaism salvation is granted in advance to
its adherents as their birthright. In Hinduism,
the monistic concept of God serves no practical
terms of Islamic Monotheism, God is a separate
being, and all human beings are His creatures
and His servants. Such a belief arouses in man
the feeling of humility.
to the Hindu concept, God in Islam is the sole
supreme Being: man has no part in that divinity.
Hinduism, man is a part of God--a concept which
produces the opposite feeling of superiority.
While Islamic monotheism awakens in man the consciousness
of his being God's servant, Hinduism encourages
man to say, 'I am God.' The former creates the
psychology of humility, unlike the latter which
fosters pride. When the members of a society are
flawed by pride, it is well-nigh impossible to
bring about an atmosphere of social justice.
AN EXAMPLE OF EQUAL JUSTICE
third great contribution to social justice was the
example it itself set in according to the same honor
and respect to all human beings, whether they were
weak or strong, kings or commoners, be it in family
circles, social life, positions of power or in the
government, by the same token, no one could escape
punishment for his sins.
history of Islam abounds in examples of justice
for all. Here only a few incidents are mentioned
In ancient times, it was unthinkable for a girl
of noble birth or even of any free person, to
be married to a slave. The Prophet, wishing to
break with this tradition, decided to arrange
a marriage between his own first cousin, Zaynab
bint Jahash (d. 20 AH), who belonged to the Banu
Hashim, the most respectable clan of the Quraysh
tribe, and Zayd ibn Haritha, a black slave. This
most extraordinary event served as an important
example of Islamic justice.
The Ka'aba, the most holy place of worship, was
considered sacrosanct in all its parts. Therefore,
when the call to prayer had to be made from its
roof, it was only a person of noble birth who
could ascend it. A man of lowly birth performing
this religious duty was not be countenanced. After
the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet broke with
this tradition by asking a black slave, Bilal
ibn Rubah to go up on to the roof of the Ka'aba
and give the call to prayer (Azan).
was a unique event, not only in Arab history but
also in world history of ancient times. Had Islam
not become dominant, people would certainly have
killed Bilal for his 'arrogance'. They did, however,
voice strong reactions against this act, which
is an indication of how shocking it had appeared
to them. For example, Utaba ibn Usyad of Mecca
thanked God that his father was no more and could
not, therefore, witness this horrible sight on
that day. Harith ibn Hisham asked, 'couldn't Muhammad
have found someone other than this Black crow?'
(Al-Jame Lil Ahkam AL-Qur'an, 16/341).
Ali ibn abi Talib, the fourth caliph, lost his
coat of armor. One day he saw a Christian of Kufa
selling the same coat of armor. This case was
brought to the then Qazi Shurayh bin al Alharith.
Ali went to his court like a commoner where he
was asked by the Qazi to produce two witnesses.
Ali then brought forward his son Hasan and his
slave Qambar. The Qazi rejected the evidence of
his son on the grounds that the evidence of a
son in support of his father is not acceptable.
Thus the reigning Caliph lost his case. However,
the Christian was so greatly impressed at the
display of such equality in the court of Islam
between the king and commoner, that he himself
admitted that Ali was right. The coat of armor
did belong to him (Azmath-e-Sahaba, pp. 32-33).
Once during the caliphate of Umar Faruq, the second
Caliph, Amr ibn al-Aas, who was the then governor
of Egypt, arranged a horse race in which his own
son was also to participate. His son's horse lost,
however to a young, native Copt. The son, Muhammed
ibn Amr, was enraged and lashed the Copt boy with
a whip, saying, 'Take that! That will teach you
to beat the son of a nobleman!' The Copt came
to Medina and complained to the Caliph Umar, who
took it upon himself to institute an inquiry.
When he found that the Copt had been beaten unjustly,
he immediately sent an emissary to Egypt to summon
the governor and his son before him forthwith.
When they arrived, he handed the Copt a whip to
flog them, just as he himself had been flogged.
the presence of the governor, the Copt started
whipped his son, stopping only when he was satisfied
that the punishment had been severe enough. Then
the Caliph addressed himself to the governor Amr:
" O Amr, since when have you enslaved people
who were born free? (Azmat-e-Sahaba, pp.40 - 41)
Palestine was conquered during the Caliphate of
Umar Faruq. To sign certain agreements with the
conquered nation, he had to travel to Palestine.
When he left Medina, he was wearing rough clothes
and had only one servant and one camel. He said
to his servant, 'If I mount the camel and you
go on foot, it will not be fair to you. And if
you mount the camel while I go on foot, that will
not be fair to me. And if we both sit on the camel's
back, that will be an injustice to the camel.
So, it would be better if all three of us took
taking it by turns, Umar Faruq would ride and
the servant would walk, and vice versa, and then
both would take a turn of walking so that the
camel should be spared. Travelling in this manner,
they reached the gates of Palestine, where the
inhabitants gaped at the sight of the Caliph going
on foot while his servant rode the camel, for
it was the latter's turn to ride as they approached
their destination. In fact, many Palestinians
failed to make out who was the Caliph and who
was the servant. (Taamir ki Taraf, pp..56-57).
its intellectual revolution and the practical
examples it set, Islam thus created a history
which had an impact on almost the whole of the
inhabited world of that time. This revolution
was so powerful that its effects could still be
felt one thousand years later.
the Prophet, the period of Sahaba (The Prophet's
companions) and of Tabiin, (the companions of
the Prophet's companions) is known as the golden
age of Islam. But the effects of the Islamic revolution
lasted far beyond this period, continuing to leave
its imprint on human society in various forms
across the centuries. Even Muslim kings dared
challenge it. Many examples of their submission
to Islam can be cited. An incident relating to
Jehangir, the Mughal emperor, has been very effectively
portrayed by Maulana Shibli Nomani in the form
of a poem entitled, 'Adl-e-Jahangiri.'
Queen, Noor Jahan, once inadvertently killed a
poor man. It happened at some hunt, when a washerman,
straying into her line of fire, was hit and mortally
wounded. When he died, the matter was brought
to court, where the Qazi passed the death sentence
on the Queen. Neither the king nor the Queen dared
refuse the Qazi's sentence. Finally, the issue
was resolved only when the washerman's wife pronounced
herself willing to accept the blood-money, as
is provided for under Islamic law. (If the victim's
next-of-kin refuses to accept the blood-money,
the culprit is sentenced to death-murder for murder).
let us take an example of conduct which is the
very opposite in spirit. The British ruler, James
I, (1566-1625) a contemporary of the Indian ruler,
Jahangir (1569-1627), claimed that he was above
the law and could exercise his judgement independently.
The then British chief Justice, Sir Edward Cook,
(1552-1634) differed with him on this issues,
so that when John Beat, a British merchant, once
refused to pay tax on imported currants (an order
given personally by James I) because no law to
this effect had been passed by parliament, Sir
Edward took the side of Beat. Enraged, the King
exclaimed, 'Am I subject to the law? To say so,
is treason!' Justice Cook did not waver from his
standpoint. As a result he was removed from his
post by the King. It is a matter of historical
record that legal differences with the king eventually
broke his judicial career.
the case of the King and Justice Cook came to
the British privy Council, the then Attorney General,
Francis Bacon, upholding the legal supremacy of
the king said: 'Judges should be lions, but yet
lions under the throne.' (1/92).
to time-honored legal traditions in Britain, there
were two kinds of law: common law and legal prerogative.
For the public there was one set of laws and for
the king and nobles quite another. The King was
above the law. His word, in fact, was law. It
was not until the advent of Islam that this division
was abolished and the same set of laws was enforced
for all. The rule of the King had perforce to
give pride of place to the law of the land.
THE IMPACT ON HISTORY
Shortly before his death on the eve of his
last pilgrimage, the Prophet of Islam gave a sermon
which came to be known as the sermon of the Final
pilgrimage. One of the historic declarations made
in this sermon was: 'Everything pertaining to
paganism now lies beneath my feet." 'With
these words, the Prophet announced the advent
of a new age, an age freed by him of all superstition
and ushered in with the special succor of God.
This historic change was first wrought within Arabia, then it spread beyond its frontiers, ultimately making itself felt throughout the entire world. This resulted in the eradication of the division in society between free men and slaves and the inception of the rule of law all over the world. It also caused all such philosophies as sanctioned injustice and social inequality to lose in influence. Now, any philosophy based on human inequality finds no ground on which to flourish.
It is true that Christianity does not teach human inequality or social injustice. But there was not a powerful, historical example of human equality. The mission of Christ did not reach beyond the invitation to faith. It did not reach the stage of practical revolution.
The Islamic system is totally different from those of Hinduism and Christianity. In it, there exists a complete ideology in favor of human equality, while alongside it there exists a perfect, practical example. On both counts, the first phase of Islam set the course of Islamic history for all eternity. And Islamic history will continue forever in the same direction, for there is no influence powerful enough in the world to alter its course.