The Right to Justice
Justice is a central theme in the Quraan, dictating the traditions of law and how they should be put into practice. There are two ways in which justice operates: in a legal sense and in a divine sense. Regarding justice in the legal sense, the Quraan tells Muslims not only how to conduct themselves, but is also highly important regarding relationships with other people. It states what the various punishments for certain crimes should be along with the justification behind this reasoning. Furthermore, the Quraan brings across the idea that anyone who propagates the message of justice and acts accordingly will be justly rewarded with their place in Jannah. With regards to divine justice, the Quraan is very clear that Allah shall not do any injustice.
Justice assumes such prominence in the Quraan that it is regarded as one of the reasons why Allah created the earth. The demands that the Quraan makes upon individuals to uphold justice and oaths is extraordinary, transcending all bonds of family and society. While justice is something that one demands for oneself, more importantly, it is something to be fulfilled for others, regardless of the cost to oneself, one’s relatives or one’s own community.
وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُمْ بَيْنَكُمْ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتُدْلُوا بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ لِتَأْكُلُوا فَرِيقًا مِنْ أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالْإِثْمِ وَأَنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
And eat up not one another’s property unjustly (in any illegal way e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving, etc.), nor give bribery to the rulers (judges before presenting your cases) that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully. Sura Al-Baqara: (2:188)
Quranic justice must be seen in the context of the age of ignorance (jāhilīyah) in which it was first revealed. Ignorance implies the ‘reckless temper’ of pagan Arabs who were prone to violence. In the name of manliness, they sought violent revenge for the smallest slights, inspiring blood feuds that sometimes went on for generations. The Quraan made them aware that the essence of morality comes from moral responsibility, not tribal loyalty and preservation. The Quraan taught them that every person is responsible for his or her actions, and thereby transformed tribal loyalty into a personal morality:
أَلَّا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ
“No burdened soul shall bear the burden of another.
A universal personhood governed by justice and kindness is more important than tribal custom and law. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ responded to the challenges of his time, curbing the violence and cruelty of the pagan Arabs. The Qur’an devotes two hundred verses to admonishing those who are guilty of injustice and oppression.