The Islamic Personality, Part 3: ‘Adl, by Ayub A. Hamid

The kind of individuals Islam wants to develop and the society that Islam wants to establish is summarized in one verse of the Holy Qur-aan forming the basis of a person’s attitude and paradigm of one’s lifestyle as well as a society’s mission statement or statement of objectives:

Verily, Allaah commands ‘Adl (fairness, equity, justice) Ihsaan (excellence in servitude to Allaah, benevolence towards people, graciousness in dealings) and giving to those close to you, while He forbids Fahshaa (lewdness, indecency, licentiousness, immorality), Munkar (bad actions, undesirable activities, generally unaccepted behaviour, not fulfilling one’s obligations), and Baghy (rebellion, transgressing limits, exploiting or violating others’ rights, abuse of authority or freedom). He admonishes you so that you heed the advice.” (An-Nahl 16:90)

Let us explore each of three “do’s” and three “don’ts” one by one:

‘Adl

‘Adl represents fairness, equity, justice and balance.

The Islamic concept of ‘Adl is very comprehensive and implies fairness and equity in every thing a person says or does. It covers the comments we make, the judgements we pass, the way we handle our responsibilities and obligations to others, the way we deal with people, the way we handle differences, the way we treat others whether they are members of our family, friends, relatives, strangers or enemies. Fairness, equity and justice must be a hallmark of our behaviour in all of these areas.

While reiterating Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala’s commands that He had always commanded the followers of earlier prophets, Allaah says in the Holy Qur-aan:

And when you speak, be just, even if it concerns a close relative.” (Al-An’aam 6:152)

He especially commands God-fearing people to watch what they say:

O believers! Have Taqwa and say only the words that are appropriate.” (Al-Ahzaab 33:70)

Those who deride, ridicule or insult others or use offensive names and epithets for others, they were told:

So, those who do not repent, they indeed are the Zhaalimeen (unjust, wrongdoers, inequitable, transgressors).” (Al-Hujuraat 49:11)

In a detailed advice that the Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam gave to Mu’aadz, he ended with the following words:

“Should I inform you of something on which everything else depends?” Then, he held his tongue out and said, “Control it!” Mu’aadz wondered if we would be held accountable for what we say. Then addressing him in a frank, loving words of Arabic idiom, he replied, “It is the harvests of their tongues that will cause people to be dragged on their faces or noses into the fire.” (Reported in Musnad Ahmad, At-Tirmidzee and Ibn Maajah)

The Messenger of Allaah also said:

The fair and just people who are equitable: in passing judgements, in dealing with their family members and in using the authority delegated to them, will be on the pulpits of Noor in the audience of Allaah SWT.” (‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar in Muslim)

The most dear to Allaah SWT and closest to Him on the Day of Judgement will be the person in authority who was fair and equitable. The most disliked and the most severely punished will be the person in authority who was unjust.” (Aboo Saeed in At-Tirmidzee)

Even in the treatment of the children there must be fairness and justice, regardless of who their mother is and regardless if they are males or females. The Messenger of Allaah, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said:

Treat your children equally when gifting or giving things. Were I ever to suggest giving preference to anyone, I would have suggested it to be given to the daughters.” (Reported from Ibn ‘Abbaas by Sa’eed Ibn Mansoor in his Sunan and by At-Tabaraani in Mu’jam Kabeer)

Nu’maan Ibn Basheer mentioned in one of his sermons that:

Once my father gave me a gift. My mother, ‘Amrah Bint Rawaahah, told him that she would not approve of this gift unless it was witnessed and approved by the Messenger of Allaah. My father reported it to the Prophet and said, “I have given my son from ‘Amrah a gift which she is not approving until you become a witness to it.” The Messenger asked, “Have you given similar gifts to your other children?” When he replied in negative, the Messenger of Allaah said, “Fear Allaah and treat all your children with equity.” According to other reports, he also said, ” Do not make me witness as I cannot be witness to injustice.”
He came back and took his gift back.
(Reported in Bukhaaree and Muslim)

Whether we are judging among people informally, settling disputes among the people around us or formally in the court as a judge or jury, we must practice justice. Even evaluating people to pick up the best candidate for our voting or for hiring to fill a position, must be done fairly without any biases. This is not only a requisite for being just, but also for rendering trust to those who truly deserve it. Rendering trusts to the most deserving and being just are so closely related that Allaah SWT commands us to practice these virtues as a package:

Verily, Allaah commands that you render back the trust to whom they are due, and when you judge between people, judge with justice. Surely, excellent is what Allaah instructs you.” (An-Nisaa 4:58)

The Messenger of Allaah in this regard said:

Those who practise justice in this world will be seated on the pulpits of pearls in the audience of Allaah SWT. This will be because they continued to be equitable throughout their life.” (Hadeeth 6485 in Musnad Ahmad)

Judges are of three types, one of which will enter Jannah and other two will end up in the Fire. He who grasps the truth and judges by it, will go to Jannah. The one who sees the truth but decides unjustly or the one who judges despite lack of knowledge will both end up in the Fire.” (Reported from ‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Amr in Aboo Dawood and in Ibn Maajah; from Aboo Hurairah in At-Tirmidzee)

Practice of justice is such an important Islamic requirement that the Messenger of Allaah gave detailed instructions on how to ensure that justice is carried out. There are many other Ahaadeeth in which the Prophet emphasized: the need to listen to both parties properly before arriving at a decision; basing the decision on evidence, not on claim; not giving a verdict or passing a judgement when angry; etc. Justice is not possible without credible witnesses, hence he emphasized on the need of giving true witness as well as provided guidelines for accepting witnesses and oaths. For example:

The witness from the following is not acceptable: A dishonest man or woman, a fornicator males or female, and a person who has animosity against the accused brother. Similarly, a witness of a dependent in favour of his provider will also be rejected.” (‘Amr Ibn Shu’aib in Aboo Dawood)

As mentioned in the section about speaking the truth, he taught people that giving false witness is as grave and unforgivable a sin as Shirk (equating others with Allaah). He also said:

The gravest of the grave sins are: Equating others with Allaah, disobeying parents and taking a false oath. When a person takes an oath and adulterates it with as little a falsehood as the wing of a mosquito, it keeps his heart stained until the day of Judgement.” (‘Abdullaah Ibn Unais in At-Tirmidzee)

He not only taught about justice, he demonstrated it by practice and lived it. Nowhere were people accustomed to see justice being done so seriously as to judge against one’s own. He surprised everyone when he judged in favour of a Jew of an enemy tribe against his own follower. He would even present himself for justice:

The Messenger of Allaah Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam was distributing things among people, a person rushed in and bent upon the prophet (instead of waiting for his turn gracefully). The Prophet poked him with a palm stick he had with him. The poking caused a laceration on his face. The Prophet immediately presented himself to that person so that he could avenge. The person responded by saying, “I forgave you, O Messenger of Allaah.” (Aboo Saeed in Aboo Dawood and Nisaai)

Justice is compromised when the powerful, rich and famous of the society are treated leniently by the law enforcement authorities. He set the example of applying law equally and seriously to everyone who violated it. A woman named Faatimah, of a respectable family of Banoo Makzoom, committed theft and was to be punished. The dearest people to the prophet were persuaded to seek pardon from the prophet for that woman. It made him angry and he said,

O people! Those before you went astray because they let go the influential while he common folks were punished. By Allaah, had it been my own daughter, Faatimah, I would have cut her hand as well.” (Reported in Bukhaaree and Muslim)

That is why Muslims became the exemplary enforcers of justice in this world. In fact, they were so distinguished in establishing justice that many people become Muslims when they saw the immaculate justice of the Muslims when there was injustice all around in the world.

Justice the goal of Islamic society

Allaah SWT is Just, deals with people justly, and loves those who establish, maintain or stand up for Justice. He has also created human beings with a propensity and liking for justice. Normally people like to be fair and equitable unless their innate tendency towards justice is overshadowed by their own self interest, their love of their own, their loyalties, their biases, their prejudices, their arrogance of power, their anger or hate towards some people, their desire for revenge, etc.

One of the primary goals of Islam being the establishment of an ideal peaceful and fair society, justice has been extremely emphasized in the Holy Qur-aan. Knowing how people drift towards injustice, the Holy Qur-aan advises Muslims to let justice triumph over all other emotions, feelings and attitudes. Muslims are told:

O believers, be the enforcers/establishers of justice, giving witness for the sake of Allaah, even if it is against yourselves, your parents or your kith and kin. Whether they are rich or poor, Allaah has more rights than any on them. Do not let pursuing your desires come in the way of being just.” (An-Nisaa 4:135)

O believers, be the enforcers/establishers of justice, giving witness for the sake of Allaah, and do not let your animosity towards any people incite you against practicing justice. Be just! That is the pious way.” (Al-Maaidah 5:8)

Justice is the first victim when an individual, a community or a state is overtaken by self interest, favouritism for their own or by anger, revenge or hate against others. When that happens, the party on the receiving side of injustice, reacts with similar attitude, perhaps even more strongly. Each party’s effort to get back more forcefully grows into a spiralling cycle of violence and terrorism. This ends up making the peace and security of humanity the ultimate victim of injustice. That is why there can be no peace in this world without justice.

As there can be no peace in the world without justice, it is in humanity’s own self interest to establish justice so that everyone can live in peace. Fear of the powerful or terror from the powerful can accomplish temporary peace, but sooner or later the pent up feelings of the aggrieved explode shattering the faade of peace out of fear. Permanent peace can be accomplished only through justice. That is why justice and fairness have been given crucial importance in Islam. Even when reconciling two parties Allaah wants the reconciliation to take place in such a just way so that the wronged party is duly compensated by the aggressive party so both parties feel that it has been a fair deal. Often, when reconciling among people, people pressure the weaker party to forgive and forget without doing justice. That is not acceptable to Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala. He commands:

Then make reconciliation between them with justice, and be equitable. Indeed Allaah loves those who are equitable.” (Al-Hujuraat 49:9)

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