Justice and Decree
[From the Nuradeen
magazine, Vol. 4 No. 2, Spring 1984]
Every action of Allah is based upon wisdom and the knowledge of that
which is in the best interest of His servants. The question of
injustice and wrongdoing does not arise with regard to His actions.
Injustice and wrongdoing are the result of a shortcoming or a flaw
and Allah is far exalted above any flaw. As a result of the absolute
justice of Allah man is given a free choice in his actions and
therefore is responsible for everything that he does.
There is a tradition related by al-Kulayni in his book of traditions
entitled "al-Kafi" which illustrates the absolute justice of Allah
and how it must follow that man has free choice:
It is related that Amir al-Mu`minin, 'Ali, upon him be peace, was
sitting in the masjid (mosque) of the city of Kufah after his return
from the Battle of Siffin, when an old man approached him and knelt
down in front of him, then asked him :
"O Amir al-Mu`minin, tell us about our march against the people of
Damascus, was it destined and decreed?"
'Ali, upon him be peace, replied: "Certainly! Old man, we do not
ascend a hill nor descend into a valley except that it be destined
and decreed by Allah."
Then the old man asked:
"Shall I then reckon my actions to Allah, O
"Quiet, old man, I swear by Allah, that Allah has granted you a
great reward for marching out (against the enemy) and for remaining
at the front, then again for returning (from the battle). You were
by no means compelled in any of these actions, nor were you
The old man then asked, "How is it that we were not compelled or
obliged and yet our marching, our fighting at the front and our
return were all destined and decreed?"
Imam 'Ali, upon him be peace, replied, "You assume that it was an
absolute and necessary decree. If it was such then reward and
punishment, commanding and forbidding and reprimands or censure from
Allah would be invalid and untenable. The promise and the warning
would lose their meaning. There would be no need to criticize the
wrongdoer nor to praise the righteous. In fact, the wrongdoer would
be more deserving of goodness than the righteous and the righteous
more deserving punishment than the wrongdoer. (Because the wrongdoer
had already suffered the effects of his wrong action at the time
that he performed it, while the righteous had already received the
pleasure of his good action.) This is the saying of the idol
worshippers, the enemies of the Merciful Lord, the party of Shaytan, and the fatalists of this Ummah (community of believers).
"Allah, the most Blessed and Exalted, assigns something giving with
choice (to either do it or not), or He forbids something and warns
(about it). He gives much in exchange for little. He is not
disobeyed because He is overcome by someone, nor is He obeyed
because He forces obedience. He does not turn everything over to
man, nor did He create the heavens and earth and everything in
between them in falsehood. He did not send the Prophets as bearers
of good tidings and warning foolishly. That is the assumption of
those that reject Allah..."
Individual justice is when one refrains from slander, lies, the
greater sins, and attempts to abstain from all unworthy actions. The
person who refrains from these things is considered to be "just," or
as it is said in Arabic
"'Adil". This person can, in accordance with the
stipulations established in the Shari'ah (divine law), issue
judgments, govern, be in a position of leadership, as well as take
part in the various other activities related to the maintenance and
administration of the Ummah. The person who lacks these qualities,
however, is not eligible for these positions of responsibility.
Leadership and administration have an organic role in the
development of a society, in its education, and in the well-being or
corruption of that society. For this reason it has come to us in the
teachings of Islam, that the root of corruption and its very core is
the corrupt and unjust leader. Likewise, the root and basis for
goodness, blessings and virtue within the society is the truthful
and just leader. Imam 'Ali, upon him be peace, said:
"Good men are delivered and saved by the just leader, but the
corrupt perish with their corrupt leader."
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq, upon him be peace, has said,
"Truth is obliterated in the governing of the unjust ruler, and
falsehood is brought to life. Likewise, oppression, lies and
In many traditions the rule of the oppressor is counted as a form of
kufr (that is, the complete rejection of Allah).
Social justice is when man does not neglect the rights of others and
he sees others as being equal before the divine law. He does not
transgress with regard to carrying out the established laws nor does
he fall under the influence of emotions and sentiments when he makes
We are commanded to act in justice in numerous
ayaat of the Qur`an as
well as in the traditions of the Prophet, may the peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him and his family.
Indeed, Allah commands justice and goodness and giving to relatives... Surat-un-Nahl, ayah 90
In this ayah Allah has made clear the principles and foundations
for transactions between men, in addition to making those in !man
aware of the basis for virtuous conduct. He has also given a clear
indication of what it is that pleases Him. He has commanded men to
act in justice and goodness and to maintain the laws of kinship
which bind them. We have discussed justice above from the standpoint
of the society, that is from the standpoint of the Shari'ah. The
deeper inner meaning or the meaning from the standpoint of haqiqah
(inner reality) is also indicated in this ayah. Allah has commanded his
slaves to act in justice in their transactions, that is, their
transactions with Allah, their transactions with the creation and
their transactions with their lower selves or their nafs.
Their transactions with Allah should be based upon their admission
and affirmation (of their own powerlessness and destitution before
Him). Their transactions with their own nafs or lower self should be
based on their acting in opposition to its whims and desires (for
Another way of expressing it is that one should act in agreement
Allah, with sincere intentions towards others, and contrary to one's
The meaning of acting in agreement with Allah is the acceptance of
His commandments. The meaning of action with sincere intentions
towards others is to give them goodness through your speech, your
actions, to deal with them earnestly with determination and equity
and to refrain from placing your own burden upon their shoulders.
You should strive to cover their shortcomings and regardless of what
state you find them in you should not withhold your concern and your
mercy from them. You should respect the aged and give your affection
and love to the young.
As for the meaning of justice with regards to the
nafs or the lower
self, one should restrain the nafs from that which will bring about
It is in the Holy Qur`an that justice and equity are most clearly
elucidated. We are informed in the Qur`an that the basis of all
existence is justice and equity. Likewise, it tells us that the
qualities of injustice are not found in the Creator and that He
judges His servants only through these principles of justice.
Allah (Himself) is a witness that there is no god but Him, and the
angels and the men of learning also are witness, maintaining His
creation in justice; there is no god but Him, the Almighty, the
Surat Ali 'Imran, ayah 18
Justice and equity is the standard used in the creation of this
And the heavens He lifted up and He established the balance.
Surat-ur-Rahman, ayah 7
The Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and
his family, said with regard to this ayah:
"It is with justice and
equity that the heavens and earth were established."
Allah tells us in the
Qur`an in reference to the Shari'ah and the
sending of the Prophets:
We have sent Our Messengers with clear proofs and We have sent down
with them the Book and the Scale, so that the people might observe
justice. Surat-ul-Hadid, ayah 25
As we have seen, social justice rests upon the justice of the
Shari'ah, which includes the teachings of all of the Messengers, upon
them be peace.
Further in the Qur`an it is stated:
Say: My Lord has commanded me to justice.
Surat-ul-A'raf, ayah 29
Justice is considered by Allah to be a requisite for leadership and
And when his Lord tried Ibrahim with (His) commands and He fulfilled
them, He said: HI have made you a leader (Imam) for mankind. He
(Ibrahim) said: And from my offspring (will there be leaders): He
(Allah) replied: My covenant does not include the oppressors.
Surat-ul-Baqarah, ayah 124
From this it is understood that leadership and the imamate are
covenants which are not deserved by the unjust.
Justice is also taken into account with regards to the judge:
... and let one who is just judge amongst you.
Surat-ul-Ma'idah, ayah 95
In the Qur`an there are more than fifteen
ayaat which specifically
point to justice in the area of politics, judgment, and society
from the standpoint of the individual, the family and the Ummah. The
Islamic society revolves on the axis of justice and equity in its
laws, beliefs and its view of life and existence.
[Added February 22, 2004]