Sunday 16 January 2022

Islam and Retributive Justice

Anger and retribution have always been the basis of breakaway and injustice in the society. Usually it is far difficult to control one's emotions and anger when unduly wronged. Islam while one hands teaches the man to be steadfast and oft forgiving, it also tells the believers that if they are unable to control themselves being wronged, then tehir reaction should not exceed the harm being done to them. This is amply emphasised in the 126th verse of Surah 16. An Nahl as under:

وَاِنۡ عَاقَبۡتُمۡ فَعَاقِبُوۡا بِمِثۡلِ مَا عُوۡقِبۡتُمۡ بِهٖ​ۚ وَلَـئِنۡ صَبَرۡتُمۡ لَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ لِّلصّٰبِرِيۡنَ‏ 
(16:126) If you take retribution, then do so in proportion to the wrong done to you. But if you can bear such conduct with patience, indeed that is best for the steadfast.

This verse is in fact The Commandant for Equality in Punishment: Allah commands justice in punishment and equity in settling the cases of rights. ` But its second part is for being patient for Allah loves those who are patient: (And be patient, and your patience will not be but by the help of Allah.) This emphasizes the command to be patient and tells us that patience cannot be acquired except by the will, help, decree and power of Allah.

Hereinunder, we share the explanation of this verse by prominent Muslim scholars for better understanding of this verse:

Tafsir Ibn-Kathir
The Command for Equality in Punishment - Allah commands justice in punishment and equity in settling the cases of rights. 

`Abdur-Razzaq recorded that, concerning the Ayah, (فَعَاقِبُواْ بِمِثْلِ مَا عُوقِبْتُمْ بِهِ then punish them with the like of that with which you were afflicted.) Ibn Sirin said, "If a man among you takes something from you, then you should take something similar from him.'' This was also the opinion of Mujahid, Ibrahim, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, and others. Ibn Jarir also favored this opinion. Ibn Zayd said: "They had been commanded to forgive the idolaters, then some men became Muslim who were strong and powerful. They said, `O Messenger of Allah, if only Allah would give us permission, we would sort out these dogs!' Then this Ayah was revealed, then it was latter abrogated by the command to engage in Jihad.''

(وَاصْبِرْ وَمَا صَبْرُكَ إِلاَّ بِاللَّهِ And be patient, and your patience will not be but by the help of Allah.) This emphasizes the command to be patient and tells us that patience cannot be acquired except by the will, help, decree and power of Allah.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
In the context this passage refers to controversies and discussions, but the words are wide enough to cover all human struggles, disputes, and fights. In strictest equity you are not entitled to give a worse blow than is given to you. Lest you should think that such patience only gives an advantage to the adversary, you are told that the contrary is the case, the advantage is with the patient, the self-possessed, those who do not lose their temper or forget their own principles of conduct.

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
Lit., "retaliate [or "respond"] with the like of what you have been afflicted with": thus, the believers are admonished to observe self-restraint while arguing with people of another persuasion, and never to offend against decency and intellectual equity. Although retaliation in argument is permissible if one's integrity is impeached by an opponent, the sequence makes it clear that it is morally preferable to renounce it altogether and to bear the unjust attack with patience.

If you must retaliate make your response proportionate to how you were harmed, however it is better to be patient.  Prophet Muhammad is told to be patient and not to grieve or be distressed by the conspiracies of the disbelievers.  God is with those who are mindful of Him and have an attitude of righteousness. 

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation
If the addressees of preaching resort to oppression and inflict harm on the preacher, he is allowed to avenge it in a proportion commensurate with the harm inflicted while remaining within moral limits; however, in the eyes of God, it is better that a person bears this oppression without avenging it; he should not take any measure of revenge; neither should he change his stance after being overwhelmed with hardships. Those who show patience at these instances are promised great rewards. Not only will they face its good consequence in this world, they will also encounter good consequences in the Hereafter.

Qur'an Wiki:
This is the proper method of advocacy as long as it remains within the realm of verbal address and stating a point. Should the advocates of Islam suffer aggression, then the whole situation changes. Aggression is an action that must be repelled with similar force in order to preserve the dignity of the truth and to ensure that falsehood does not triumph. Response to aggression, however, must not exceed the limits of repelling it. Islam is the faith of justice and moderation, peace and reconciliation. It repels any aggression launched against it or its followers, without committing any aggression against others: “If you should punish, then let your punishment be commensurate with the wrong done to you.” (Verse 126)

This is indeed part of the method of advocacy. To repel aggression within the limits of justice preserves the dignity of the Islamic message so that it suffers no humiliation. A humiliated message has no appeal for anyone. Indeed no one will accept that humiliation be suffered by a divine message. God does not permit His message to suffer humiliation without repelling it. Those who believe in God do not sit idle in the face of persecution and humiliation. They are entrusted with the task of establishing the truth in human life, maintaining justice between people, and leading mankind to the right path. How are they to fulfil their tasks when they do not reply to aggression or respond to unjust punishment?

Yet at the same time that the rule of equal punishment is established, the Qur’ān calls on believers to endure with fortitude and to forgive. This applies in situations when the believers are able to repel aggression and to eradicate evil. In such cases, forgiveness and patience are more effective and of greater value to the Islamic message. Their own personal position or prestige is of secondary importance when the interests of the message are better served by forgiveness and endurance. However, should such forgiveness compromise the position of the message and lead to its humiliation, then the first rule of equal retaliation is preferable.

Since endurance requires resisting one’s feelings and impulses, restraining one’s emotions and maintaining control over natural reactions, the Qur’ān relates it to faith and earning God’s pleasure. It also assures the believers that it brings them good: “But to endure patiently is far better for those who are patient in adversity. Endure, then, with patience, remembering always that it is only God who helps you to be patient.” (Verses 126-127) It is God who gives a believer the strength to be patient in adversity and to control his instinctive reactions. Seeking God’s pleasure is the one thing that restrains the impulse to retaliate and punish.
May Allah help us understand Qur'ān and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
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Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Qur'ān officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2]  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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