Monday 11 April 2022

Justice in Islam: Stand firmly for justice even though it be against the rich or poor

Justice is always portrayed as a blindfolded woman holding the balanced scale  expressing the belief that justice is blind and it doesn't differentiate between who is wronged and who did the wrong. However, it is often seen the despot or the affluent who usually wrong the poor have the backstage reins of justice in their hands and their advocates, well paid and deep pocketed,  over power the representatives of the poor and have the case decided in their favour.

Due to this disparity, the world is plagued with injustices, whether at individual, community, society or even at national and global level. Before advent of Islam, this was the norm and is still the norm even in some of the Muslim countries for we have departed from the teachings of Islam and consider this world as our only abode and usurp the rights of others to make us strong and positional. 

Let us see what is the importance of justice in Islam? The Divine Commandments in the Qur'an lay pronounce justice to be a supreme virtue. It is a basic objective of Islam to the degree that it stands next in order of priority to belief in God's exclusive right to worship (Tawheed) and the truth of Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) prophethood ﷺ. So unless those sitting on the high chairs of justice are well conversant with the importance of justice and the penalty for not ensuring justice as clearly enunciated in the many verses of Qur'an.
It is not enough for believers to uphold justice themselves: they are expected to be its standard-bearers. They are supposed not merely to practice justice in their own dealings but to strive for its triumph. They have to do all within their power to ensure that injustice is eradicated and replaced by equity and justice. A true believer is required to be the pillar supporting the establishment of right and justice.
The testimony of the believers should be solely for the sake of God. Their testimony should not be biased in favour of any of the parties concerned, they should not use any opportunity for personal aggrandizement, and they should not seek to please anyone but God.

And this what the 135th verse of Surah 4. An Nisa is all about:

يٰۤـاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا كُوۡنُوۡا قَوَّامِيۡنَ بِالۡقِسۡطِ شُهَدَآءَ لِلّٰهِ وَلَوۡ عَلٰٓى اَنۡفُسِكُمۡ اَوِ الۡوَالِدَيۡنِ وَالۡاَقۡرَبِيۡنَ​ ؕ اِنۡ يَّكُنۡ غَنِيًّا اَوۡ فَقِيۡرًا فَاللّٰهُ اَوۡلٰى بِهِمَا​ فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الۡهَوٰٓى اَنۡ تَعۡدِلُوۡا ​ۚ وَاِنۡ تَلۡوٗۤا اَوۡ تُعۡرِضُوۡا فَاِنَّ اللّٰهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعۡمَلُوۡنَ خَبِيۡرًا‏ 

(4:135) O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to Allah even as against yourselves or your parents or your kin and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts) lest ye swerve and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.

Tafsir Ibn-Kathir: Commanding Justice and Conveying the Witness for Allah: Allah commands His believing servants to stand up for justice and fairness and not to deviate from it, right or left. They should not fear the blame of anyone or allow anyone to prevent them from doing something for the sake of Allah. They are also required to help, support and aid each other for Allah's sake. 

Allah's statement:

 (شُهَدَآءِ للَّ as witnesses to Allah) is similar to His statement, (وَأَقِيمُواْ الشَّهَـدَةَ لِلَّهِ And establish the testimony for Allah). Testimony should be delivered precisely, for the sake of Allah, thus making the testimony correct, truly just, and free of alterations, changes or deletions. 

This is why Allah said, (even though it be against yourselves,) meaning, give correct testimony, and say the truth when you are asked about it, even if harm will effect you as a consequence. Indeed, Allah shall make a way out and give relief for those who obey Him in every matter. 

Allah's statement, 

(or your parents, or your kin,) means, even if you have to testify against your parents and kin, do not compromise for their sake. Rather, give the correct and just witness even if they are harmed in the process, for the truth presides above everyone and is preferred to everyone. 

(be he rich or poor, Allah is a better Protector to both.) means, do not favor someone (in your testimony) because he is rich, or feel pity for him because he is poor, for Allah is their caretaker, a better Protector of them than you, and has better knowledge of what is good for them. 

Allah's statement, (So follow not the lusts, lest you may avoid justice;) means, let not desire, lust or the hatred you have against others, lure you into injustice in your affairs. Rather, stand for justice in all situations. 

Allah said; (And let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety) when the Prophet sent `Abdullah bin Rawahah to collect the tax on the fruits and produce of the Jews of Khaybar, they offered him a bribe so that he would go easy on them. He said; "By Allah! I have come to you from the dearest of the creation to me (Muhammad), and you are more hated by me than an equivalent number of apes and swine. However, my love for him (the Prophet ) and hatred for you shall not prevent me from being just with you.'' On that, they said, "This (justice) is the basis which the heavens and earth were created. '' We will mention this Hadith later in Surat Al-Ma'idah (chapter 5) Allah willing. 

Allah's statement afterwards, (and if you Talwu or Tu`ridu) means, "Distort your testimony and change it'', according to Mujahid and several others among the Salaf. Talwu, includes distortion and intentional lying. For instance, Allah said, (And verily, among them is a party who Yalwuna (distort) the Book with their tongues (as they read)). Tu`ridu, includes hiding and withholding the testimony. 

Allah said, (Who hides it, surely, his heart is sinful) 

The Prophet said, (The best witness is he who discloses his testimony before being asked to do so.) 

Allah then warned, (Verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.) and will reward or punish you accordingly.

Yusuf Ali  Explanation: Some people may be inclined to favour the rich, because they expect something from them. Some people may be inclined to favour the poor because they are generally helpless. Partiality in either case is wrong. Be just, without fear of favour. Both the rich and the poor are under Allah's protection as far as their legitimate interests are concerned, but they cannot expect to be favoured at the expense of others. And He can protect their interests far better than any man.

Qur'an Wiki: Here we see the wise Qur’ānic method of educating the Muslim community in full operation, preparing the addressees for their difficult duties: “Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents and kin. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them.” (Verse 135) The trust they have been assigned is to maintain justice, in its absolute sense, in every situation. It is the sort of fairness which prevents aggression and oppression anywhere on earth. It guarantees justice between people, giving everyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, their rights. In their entitlement to justice, all people, believers and unbelievers, are equal in God’s sight, as we have seen in the incident involving the Jewish man in Madinah. Similarly, relative and stranger, friend and foe, poor and rich are treated with absolute equality.

“Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God.” (Verse 135) This is something to be done, dealing directly with God and for His sake. It is not for the sake of anyone else for or against whom a testimony is given. Nor is it to serve the interests of any individual, group or community. It is not something that takes into account the circumstances of any particular case. It is a testimony given for God’s sake, free of any desire, prejudice, interest or consideration.

 “Even though it be against yourselves, or your parents and kin.” (Verse 135) At this point, the Qur’ānic method of education tries to place a person firstly in opposition to himself and secondly against his feelings towards his parents and kin. This is a very difficult task, much more difficult than stating it verbally or understanding its significance theoretically. To put this into practice is totally different from having a mental picture of what it involves. It is only the person who tries to do it practically that can understand its difficulty. Nevertheless, the Qur’ānic method prepares the hearts of believers for this hard task, because it must be put into effect: the rule must be stated and human individuals must abide by it.

“Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice.” (Verse 135) Desires are of different types, some of which have already been mentioned. Love of oneself, one’s immediate family and other relatives is one type of desire, as is sympathy with a poor person when giving testimony or arbitrating. Being courteous or hostile to a rich person is another type of desire. In a situation of being a witness or making judgement, taking sides with one’s clan, tribe, community, nation or motherland is one desire, as is taking sides against one’s enemies, even though they are enemies to our faith. Desires have many other forms and God prohibits that we be influenced by any one of them in such a way that we deviate from truth and justice. 

The verse concludes with a clear warning against twisting the truth in one’s testimony: “If you distort [the truth] or decline to do justice, then [know that] God is indeed aware of all that you do.” (Verse 135) It is sufficient for a believer to remember that God sees what he does to realize the seriousness of this warning and to tremble at what it means. We must not forget that this is addressed to people who really do believe.

The commandments of Alah are very clear, but it is we who try to find loopholes to get free of a difficult time by hook or crook. Unless our judges and advocates have full knowledge and implications of Quranic verses with a caution that every make and break effort is being watched by none other than Allah.

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 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.  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, 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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