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Meaning of justice in Islam

Source : IslamReligion | 22 Sep 2012

In the Islamic worldview, justice denotes placing things in their rightful place. It also means giving others equal treatment. In Islam, justice is also a moral virtue and an attribute of human personality, as it is in the Western tradition. Justice is close to equality in the sense that it creates a state of equilibrium in the distribution of rights and duties, but they are not identical. Sometimes, justice is achieved through inequality, like in unequal distribution of wealth. The Prophet of Islam declared:

“There are seven categories of people whom God will shelter under His shade on the Day when there will be no shade except His. (One is) the just leader.”(Saheeh Muslim)
God spoke to His Messenger in this manner:

“O My slaves, I have forbidden injustice for Myself and forbade it also for you. So avoid being unjust to one another.” (Saheeh Muslim)

Thus, justice represents moral rectitude and fairness, since it means things should be where they belong.

The importance of justice

The Qur’an considers 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 Muhammad’s prophethood. God declares in the Quran:

“God commands justice and fair dealing...” (Qur’an 16:90)
And in another passage:

“O you who believe, be upright for God, and (be) bearers of witness with justice!...” (Qur’an 5:8)

Therefore, one may conclude that justice is an obligation of Islam and injustice is forbidden. The centrality of justice to the Qur’anic value system is displayed by the following verse:
“We sent Our Messengers with clear signs and sent down with them the Book and the Measure in order to establish justice among the people…” (Qur’an 57:25)

The phrase ‘Our Messengers’ shows that justice has been the goal of all revelation and scriptures sent to humanity. The verse also shows that justice must be measured and implemented by the standards and guidelines set by revelation. Islam’s approach to justice is comprehensive and all-embracing. Any path that leads to justice is deemed to be in harmony with Islamic Law. God has demanded justice and, although He has not prescribed a specific route, has provided general guidelines, on how to achieve it. He has neither prescribed a fixed means by which it can be obtained, nor has He declared invalid any particular means or methods that can lead to justice. Therefore, all means, procedures, and methods that facilitate, refine, and advance the cause of justice, and do not violate the Islamic Law are valid.

Equality in justice

The Qur’anic standards of justice transcend considerations of race, religion, color, and creed, as Muslims are commanded to be just to their friends and foes alike, and to be just at all levels, as the Qur’an puts it:

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor...” (Qur’an 4:135)

According to another Quranic passage:

“Let not the hatred of a people swerve you away from justice. Be just, for this is closest to righteousness…” (Quran 5:8)

With regards to relations with non-Muslims, the Qur’an further states:

“God does not forbid you from doing good and being just to those who have neither fought you over your faith nor evicted you from your homes...” (Qur’an 60:8)

The scholars of the Qur’an have concluded that these rulings apply to all nations, followers of all faiths, as a matter of fact to all humanity. In the view of the Qur’an, justice is an obligation.