Social Justice in Islam

THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Social Justice In Islam (Or. Ijaz A. Qamar) 37 Islam can be described as the “holistic” world religion. This functional characteristic necessitates that, among other things, it should provide comprehensive social values and a system of justice to a wide section of the people. Otherwise its claim of providing guidance and teachings in every interacting sphere of human endeavour will be negated and nullified. My thesis in this paper is that Islam, the religion of one-fifth of present day humanity, provides a specific social value system and thus provides a comprehensive system of justice which satisfies the needs of human beings in a fair and just manner. In other words, Islam lays down rules of conduct which serve as the foundation of society and which regulate the rights and duties of its members. These social rules of Islam encompass every segment of life from family relations to relations between and among nations. It will not be possible to cover all of these areas in this paper. Therefore, I will take up three subject areas to illustrate the comprehensiveness of the Islamic teachings and how Islam deals with the multi~facets of human society. The three areas I have selected are: Justice in married Life (Family Situation); Criminal Justice (National Situation) Racial and Communal Justice (International Situation) First a word on how the Holy Book of Islam the Quran, enjoins justice in all human affairs. “Tell them, my Lord has enjoined justice” (7:30): and “if thou judge, judge between them with justice, surely Allah loves those who are just” (5:43). JUSTICE IN MARRIAGE POSITION OF WOMEN IN GENERAL First, it is important to stress that from material as well as spiritual points of view, Islam justly recognizes the position of women to be the same as that of men. A female is considered at par with a male. She can own property and earn money as he can do. “Men shaH have a share of that which they have 38 SOCIAL JUSTICE IN ISLAM earned, and women a share of that which they have earned” (4:33). She has full control over her property and can dispose it as she likes. “If they (the women), of their own pleasure, give you a portion thereof, then enjoy it as something pleasant and wholesome” (4:5). Similarly, women can also inherit property as well as men, according to their designated shares. Good works bring the same reward without the consideration of gender. “I will not suffer the work of any worker from among you, whether male or female, to be ·Iost. You are from one another” (3: 196). Spiritual blessings are equal for both. For example, the Quran says: “who so does good works, whether male or female, and he or she is a believer, such shall enter heaven” (4:125). Revelation, which is God’s greatest gift for mankind in this worldly life, is granted to both men and women. The mothers of both were blessed with revelation. Can women get a just deal under any other dispensation except under Islam? MUTUAL RELATIONS OF HUSBAND AND WIFE By entering the married state, woman does not lose any of the rights she possessed as an individual member of society. Her individuality is not merged in that of her husband. She undertakes new responsibilities of life along with new rights. The Holy Quran states: “Women have rights similar to those of men In a just and equitable manner” (2:229). In one of the sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) woman has been described as the ruler over the house of her husband and his children. Thus a wife is the ruler in her territory (home) which is a kingdom (Queendom) in miniature. Islam, being a practical religion, does not close its eyes to the hard realities of life. Unless the husband or wife is given a leading authority in the home, there would be chaos in the household. Men being the stronger species are the maintainers of women in the Islamic system. Being entrusted with this responsibility of the family, it is only just and fair that he must hold the final authority. REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 39 The functions of the hushand and wife are quite distinct and each is justly entrusted with the functions which are best suited for his or her nature. God has made men stronger in constitution and physique while women are endowed with the qualities of love and affection in a greater measure. Hence there is a natural division of work for the progress of humanity. Man is suited to face hardships and greater dangers, and woman is suited to bring up children because of the preponderance of the quality of love and. warmth. No more just system of the division of labour can be devised. Despite the managerial responsibilities of the household, the women are not totally excluded from certain other spheres of life, because otherwise it would be unjust in individual and certain specific situations. For example, when the situation arose in Islamic history women took care of the sick and the wounded on the battle field, and even joined soldiers in the field in carrying provisions ~tc. Women in Islam have helped husbands in the field work, carried on business and the like. A woman was appointed as the superintendent of the Medina market by Caliph Omar. These instances go to show that the functions and responsibilities of husband and wife are not totally mutually exclusive, as some would interpret. The husband has certain basic responsibilities assigned to him as has the wife, but the family must be kept a going concern in mutual co-operation. It is related about the Holy Prophet of Islam that he used to help in household chores, such as milking animals, patc~ing clothes and shoes and cleaning utensils. Thus the greatest of the prophets has left a golden precept for us to follow. CRIMINAL JUSTICE Penal laws of Islam are called “Hudud” in the books of jurisprudence, which means prevention, restraint and hence a restrictive ordinance/statute of God respecting unlawful things. (“Hudud” are limited to punishment for crimes mentioned in the Quran and Traditions, while other punishments for those infractions not mentioned are spoken as “tazeer”.) It should be stated, however, that all violations of Divine limits are not punishable by the society (in other words the state). The punishment is inflicted only in those cases in which there is a violation of the rights of others i.e. Neglect of one’s prayers, being not a violation of others’ rights, is not punishable by the state, while a murder and theft are. The general law of punishment in Islam is found in chapter Al-Shura of the Holy Quran: “the recompense of an injury (or evil) is an injury “the like thereof, but whose forgives and thereby brings about an improvement, his reward is with Allah” This golden rule is of wide application since it applies to offences against 40 SOCIAL JUSTICE IN ISLAM individuals and against society. The real object underlying the. aWarding of punishment to the guilty. person, according to the Islamic teaching, is his moral reformation. If forgiveness is calculated to do him moral good, he should be forgiven. But he should be punished; if this punishment is likely to lead to his reformation. The punishment, however, should in no case be disproportionate to the offence committed. Islam does not teach us to turn the other cheek, nor the doctrine of ‘an eye for an eye’ under all conditions. Islam adopts the middle path. It should be nqted that the Holy Quran generally adopts the same word for punishment as for the crime. In the verse quoted both injury and its punishment are referred to as “sayyiah”. This indicates that punishment, though justified by the circumstances, should be treated as a necessary evil. A more just and fair system cannot be imagined. Now I come to some specific crimes punishable in Islam. PUNISHMENT FOR MURDER “0 ye who believe, equitable retribution in the matter of the slain is prescribed for you; the freeman for the freeman, the slave for the slave and the female for the female. But for him who is granted any remission by his injured brother, pursuing the matter for the realization of blood money shall be done with fairness and the murderer shall pay him the blood money in a handome manner. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. Whoso transgresses thereafter, for him there shall be a grievous punishment. And there is life for you in the law of retribution, 0 men of understanding that you may enjoy security”. (2:179) The word “Qisas” or retribution is~xpressly limited to murder and is not meant for other crimes. The duty of punishing the culprit devolves not on the heirs of the murdered person but the plural “alaikum” shows that it is the authorities who are responsible for maintaining law and order. The heirs have the option to forgive and they are not entitled to take the law into thejr own hands and inflict the punishment themselves. The authorities concenied are bound to punish the offender according to the requirements of law, having no right to pardon him of their own accord. The provision of retribution in murder cases is followed by the words “the freeman for the freeman” and so on, which have· sometimes been misunderstood to mean that if a freeman has been murdered, any freeman can or should be murdered in his place. This is not the correct interpretation of Qisas. The words in question were meant to abolish an old Arab custom which insisted that when the person killed was of noble descent, a person REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 41 other than the murderer could be executed. So it was made clear that whosoever it might be, a freeman, a slave or a woman, then the murderer himself was to be killed. Islam has made due provision for the suppression of crime. On the other hand it has also kept the door open for the display of the noble qualities of benevolence and mercy. The fact that despite efforts to the contrary, the death penalty is still found on the statute books of most countries, in one form or another, constitutes sufficient proof of the wisdom of the Islamic injunction. The experts maintain that long term imprisonment is horrible and very expensive for society and is not an ideal substitute for capital punishment. PUNISHMENT FOR THEFT We read in the Holy Quran: “And for the man and the woman addicted to theft, cut off their hands as a punishment for their offence as an exemplary punishment from Allah and Allah is Mighty, Wise. But whoso repents ~fter the transgression and amends, then will Allah surely turn to him in mercy; : verily Allah is Most Forgiving and Merciful”. (5:39,40) The punishment prescribed for stealing may appear to be too severe, but human experience shows that punishment, if it is to be a deterrent, should be exemplary. He certainly is a good surgeon who amputates a rotten limb to save the whole body. In the hayday of Islam, however, there were extremely rare cases of the cutting off of hands of thieves because the punishment was a deterrent. In order to fully understand the nature of this punishment,it is necessary to know both the literal and metaphorical use of the two words, “Qat” and “Yad”. Taking the verse literally, the punishment of cutting off hands is the maximum punishment for extreme cases only. ne lesser punishment is the adoption of any practical means by which the offender is deprived of the capacity of, or is restrained from committing the offence, taking into consideration the nature and scope of all the attending circumstances. Moreover, the word “al-sariq” implies intensiveness, meaning habitual thief. Scholars differ as to the amount of money or property stolen for ·which the prescribed punishment is to be imposed. This disagreement shows that much discretion is left to the judge who awards the punishment. The meaning of “Qat” and “Yad” in the metaphorical sense are worth considering. Yad, among other things, means the power and capacity to do a certain thing. Thus the phrase “Qata-a-Yadahu” means, he deprived him of 42 SOCIAL JUSTICE IN ISLAM the power to do a certain act, or he restrained him from doing it. In view of this significance of the two words, the Arabic expression used in the verse may mean “deprive them of the power to commit or employ any practical means calculated to restrain them from committing theft.” Basically the I object of Isla-mic punishment is reformation, that is why the Quran says whoso repents after transgression and amends, Allah turns to him in mercy. A general direction of the execution of punishment in the Islamic system is that it should be inflicted irrespective of the status of the person. When, in the case of a certain woman who was guilty of theft, some people sought to intercede on her behalf as she belonged to a good family, the Prophet said “those before you went astray for when one of them committed a crime and he was a great man, they wouldn’t punish him. When he was a poor man they would punish him”. Leniency however was shown in the execution of punishment when the guilty person showed signs of repentence. Again a more just system cannot be conceived or devised. Racial and Communal Justice The concept and idea of the oneness of humanity is Islam’s unique contribution to human civilization and it came as a natural consequence of its cardinal doctrine of Tau hid or the Unity of God. This doctrine runs through all teachings of the Holy Quran and finds its most concise expression in chapter AI-Ikhlas : “In the name. of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. Say, He is Allah the One, the Eternal, the Absolute. He begets not, nor is He begotten, and there is none like unto Him.” (112). He, Allah, the One and Only, is Rabbul-Alamin (Lord of all the worlds) as He is called in the opening chapter of the Holy Quran. Being Rabbul-Alamin he deals with all of us alike, no matter to which race, nation, tribe or parentage we may belong for He created us all alike. The Holy Quran elucidates this in numerous verses, i.e. “Mankind is one single community ……….. ” (2:214) The whole of humanity is one family, and should ideally form one fraternity, the universal brotherhood of man. The differences in colour, complexion, languages etc. are not regarded as differences of quality, or as degrees of excellence, but as an expression of the diversity in nature. The Holy Quran says: “And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the I earth and the diversity of your tongues and colours. In that surely are signs for those who possess knowledge” (30:23). Human progress is closely linked REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 43 with the diversity of tongues and colours. Underneath this diversity is the unity of mankind which leads to the inevitable conclusion of the Oneness of its Creator. Thus we see an all comprehensive. all pervading brotherhood of man: “0 mankind, we have created you from a male and a female; and we made you tribes and sub-tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah is one who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is all Knowing, all Aware.” (49:15) This verse constitufes the Magna Charta of human fraternity and equality and is the answer of Islam to racism, notions of superiority due to racial or national origin. All men are equal in the sight of God. The worth of a person is not to be judged by the pigment of skin, amount of wealth possessed, or by the rank or social status, descent or pedigree, but by his moral greatness and by the manner in which he discharges his obligations to God and to fellow human-beings. On the occasion of the last pilgrimage to Mecca, a short time before his death, the Holy Prophet addressed a vast concourse of Muslims. He said, “0 ye people your God is One and your ancestor is one. Ye people listen to my words and understand them. Know ye that all Muslims are brothers unto one another, Ye are one brotherhood. All are equal in Islam. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab; nor has the non-Arab any superiority over the Arab. A white is in no way superior to a red, nor for that matter a red to a white, but only to the extent to which one discharges one’s duty to God and men. The most honoured among you in the sight of God is the most righteous among you.” These noble words epitomize one of Islam’s loftiest ideals and strongest principles. Inspite of the lofty ideals of Western enlightenment, the West has not solved the racial problem until today. Kinds of racism exist. Biological racism in the shape of apartheid which is still allowed to be a state of policy at least in one capitalist country. In the socialist world, Marxism introduced its own type of racism, i.e. ideological racism which is as hateful and abhorrent as is the biological racism. I would say neither the ideals of the age of enlightenment, nor the United Nations Charter of Human Rights have been fully achieved, although some legislative efforts ‘are being made in differenf jurisdictions with varying degrees of success. Why has Islam succeeded while other systems or ideologies seem to have failed? What is the secret of its success? Actually, from the preceding discourse it is clear that the success of Islam vis-a-vis other systems is due to 44 SOCIAL JUSTICE IN ISLAM the universality of its teachings and the Divine sanction on which the Islamic· concept of brotherhood of mankind is based. As Muslims we believe that Islam is an all-inclusive religion and that all great religions which preceded Islam have been revealed by the One and only God. It is the fundamental rule of Islam that a Muslim must also believe in all prophets who were raised before the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). This aspect of Islam is unique in that it unifies the followers of all religions under the leadership of the Holy Prophet and his message which was addressed to all nations on earth. The nature of God mentioned in the Holy Quran has surpassed the nature in all other religions as He is described as the God of all human beings, and not the God of a particular nation or country. The natural flow from this statement is that all mankind is one community and a single nation. First and foremost Islam is an international religion and is not confined to a geographical area. The grand international ideal of Islam is the equality of all nations and races and the unity of all mankind, an ideal founded On the belief in the Unity of God. The curse of racism and narrow-minded nationalism which has been the cause of many troubles of the ancient and the modern world, and which can only be swept away unqer the flag of Islam and under the stewardship of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him). SANDS OF TIME Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing; leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time. (Longfellow) Lives of good men all remind us God can make our lives sublime: Otherwise we leave behind us Wrecks upon the sands of time. (J. Mackay) What is Islam? Islam literally means Peace, surrender of one’s Will; and to be in amity and concord. The significance of the name Islam is the attainment of a life of perfect peace and eternal happiness through complete surrender to the Will of God. The Ouran – the Holy Book of the Muslims – interprets it to be the religion whose teachings are in consonance with human nature. Islam, as the Ouran has stated (5:4), is the completion of the religion inaugurated by God in the beginning of the world, on His sending the Ouran through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be on him). As a child is taught his alphabet, so God taught the religion to the world gradually and little by little, by sending His prophets at different times and to different peoples. When the world reached that stage of understanding when it was ready for the final lesson, He sent the last and complete Book through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be on him). This Book not only corrects the errors which had found their way into various religions, but preaches the truths which have not been preached before, on account of special circumstances of the society or the early stage of its development. At the same time it gathers together in itself the truths which were contained in any Divine revelation granted to any people for the guidance of men (The Ouran 98:4). Lastly, it meets all the spiritual and moral requirements of an ever advancing humanity. This is Islam which is wrongly called Muhammadanism. According to Islam, the object of man’s life is its complete unfoldment. Islam does not support the idea that man is born in sin. It teaches that everyone has within him the seed of perfect development and it rests solely with a person himself to make or mar his fortune. We created man in the best make says the Holy Ouran (95:5). The cardinal doctrine of Islam is the Unity of Godhead. There is none worthy of worship but the one and only God, and Muhammad is His Prophet. He is free from all defects, Holy and Transcendent. He is All Good, All Mercy and All Power. He has no partner. He neither begets nor is He begotten, because these are the traits of frail and weak humanity. Furthermore, Islam helps us to establish a permanent relationship with God and to realise Him during our earthly life as our Helper in all our affairs and undertakings. This Unity of God is the first and foremost pillar of Islam and every other belief hangs upon it. Islam requires belief in all the prophets, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Confucious and Zoroaster. We regard them all (and many more not mentioned here) as heavenly teachers born to reform and regenerate man and lead him to God. Adherents of some other religions may consider it an act of piety to use disrespectful words and heap abuse on the prophets of other religions, but if a Muslim were to show the slightest disrespect towards the founder of any other faith, he does so at the cost of his own faith. He has to utter the respectful benediction Alaihis-Salam (peace be on him) after mentioning the name of every prophet. Thus Islam establishes peace between all religions. The REVIEW of RELIGIONS The Review of Religions is the oldest magazine ofits kind published in the English language in the Indo-Pakistan Sub-Continent. Its first issue was·published in 1902 and it has been continuously published since. It bears the distinction that it was initiated under the direction of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah himself. During more than eighty- six years the message of Islam has been eonveyed through this magazine to hundreds of readers and many fortunate persons have recognised the truth of Islam and accepted it through studying it. The articles published in it deal not only with the doctrines and teachings of Islam but also set forth a comparative appreciation of the teachings of other faiths. One of its outstanding features is the refutations of the criticism of Islamic teachings by orientalists and non-muslim scholars. It also presents solutions in the light of Islamic teachings of the problems with which the Islamic world is from time to time confronted. . , A study of this magazine is indispensable for the appreciation of the doctrines of the Ahmadiyya Movement and the teachings of its holy Founder. III Printed bV The Raqeem Press. Islamabad. Tilford. Surrey GUl 0 2AQ. U. K. Publi.hed by The Review of Religion •• The London MOIque. 16 Gre_nhall Road. London. SW1850L