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ARIF M. KHAN
FAITH & BIGOTRY

Arif Mohammed Khan is a former Union Cabinet minister.

Islamic justice is based on human dignity

The Islamic concept of justice is based on the divinely-ordained right of human dignity: “We have honoured the children of Adam” (17.70). If honour, and dignity, is a common heritage of mankind, then it is only logical that they all must be treated as equals. It is important to remember that one of the attributes of God mentioned in the Quran is adl, that is justice, which denotes placing things in their rightful place. The Quran says, “God does command you to render back your Trusts to those to whom they are due; and when you judge between man and man, that you judge with justice” (4.58).
Justice is also closely associated with moral rectitude and fairness, necessary ingredients to build an equitable system that leaves no room for any section of the community to feel burdened or discriminated against. In fact, the Quran uses strong language to denounce those regimes that divide people by applying differential treatment. It says, “Truly Pharaoh elated himself in the land and broke up its people into sections, depressing a small group among them: their sons he slew, but he kept alive their females: for he was indeed a maker of mischief” (28.4).
The fact that the commands to do justice and shun inequity have been repeated more than 55 times in the Quran, gives an idea of the overriding importance of justice and equity. The Quran emphatically prescribes: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety” (5.8). The words are clear; the duty to do justice is paramount and no extraneous considerations like personal hatred are allowed to colour the judgement. Not just hatred, other considerations like personal interest, kinship or the high or low standing of the person concerned, shall have no bearing on doing justice. The directive is clear to “stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it is against rich or poor” (4.135).
The Quran further clarifies that in matters of justice, even the proclaimed faith of a person cannot help him to avert punishment if he is found guilty. It sternly warns those who show partiality on account of religious affinity and defend a wrongdoer: “We have sent down to you the Book in truth, that you may judge between men, as guided by God: so be not (used) as an advocate by those who betray their trust” (4.105). The commentators explain this verse with reference to the case of one Taimah bin Ubayraq, a Muslim of Medina who was suspected of having stolen some valuables and later planted them in the house of a Jew, where the property was found. The Muslim community sympathised with Taimah, but the Holy Prophet decided in favour of the Jew who had been falsely implicated.
The Islamic laws, as developed during the Umayyad and Abbasid periods, have many provisions which discriminate between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. But the provisions of the Quran are crystal clear; they are addressed to the general run of people and make no distinction on grounds of race or creed of any person. In fact, as a measure of special caution, the Quran exhorts to be kind and just in dealing with all non-Muslims who do not indulge in any religious persecution: “God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loves those who are just” (60.8). The Quranic injunctions on justice and fair dealing are reaffirmed in several prophetic narrations. One tradition quoted by Imam Ghazali in his book Advice to Kings is particularly revealing. It says: “A country can survive under kufr (disbelief or ingratitude to God) but it cannot survive under zulm (injustice and oppression)”.

 
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