This is an essay on “Social Justice in Islam” for CSS, PMS, and Judiciary examination. Islam is the first religion in this world that propounded the concept of Social Justice. It is the prime focus of the government of Islamic State to provide for its citizens. We all know that when injustice happens, crime raises, and the basic principle of Islam is peace. So, to understand Social Justice in Islam here is an essay on the topic of “Social Justice in Islam”.
Essay on “Social Justice in Islam”
Social Justice means equality in law or justice for all. This kind of social justice was almost unknown either in theory or in practice. It was left to Islam then to establish equal justice for the first time in human history. This reversal of the old order has so established a fact that every non-Muslim thinker has acknowledged it.
The contribution of Islam in this respect can be placed under three headings: first,
1. The formulation of a complete ideology of human equality and justice; second,
2. The giving of powerful incentive to adopt this ideology; and third,
3. The establishment of a living example of equality and justice in all walks of life.
The Concept of Equal Justice in Islam
In ancient times the concept of human inequality, which was prevalent everywhere, gave rise to social injustice in every society. For example, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, regarded certain classes of individuals as natural slaves. Although there were other thinkers who did not subscribe to this view,· slavery continued to be widespread in Rone and Greece, and indeed, throughout the entire world of antiquity.
With the advent of Islam, all such ideas based on an inherent inequality lost ground. In different ways, and with great persistence Islam presented to the world. the concept that, in spite of outward diﬀerences, all human beings are equal. All are entitled to equal social status and equal rights. No one is inferior or superior. Here are two references from the Qur’an and Hadith respectively.
Men, we have created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you might get to know one another. The noblest of you in Allah’s sight is the most righteous of you. Allah is wise and all-knowing.
According to this verse of the Qur’an, the differences of color and race found among human beings are for the purpose, not of discrimination, but of identification. Men in essence are equal: What really distinguishes one man from another is character. His superiority can therefore bespoke of only in terms of the degree to which a man is honorable. The truly honorable man is one who is God-fearing and who recognizes and fulfills the rights of God and his fellow men.
On the occasion of the final pilgrimage, the Prophet delivered his last sermon while sitting on his camel. One of the things he said is recorded in these words:
‘O people, listen carefully, your word is one Lord, there is no doubt about it. Your ancestor is one ancestor, there is no doubt about it. Listen well to my words: no Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, and no non-Arab is superior to an Arab. No black is superior to a brown or red, and no red superior to any black. If there is any superiority in anyone it is due to his God-fearing qualities. Have I conveyed the message? the Prophet asked the people. The people answered from all corners, ‘Indeed so! God be a witness. Then the Prophet said: “Let him that is present tell it unto him that is absent”. (AI-Jamili Ahkam al-Qur’an, 16:342)
This declaration was made by the Prophet in the final year of his life at a time when the whole of Arabia had been conquered. As such, it was not the declaration of a reformer, but of a ruler of the time. His definition of human equality was not just listened to as a theory but was immediately put into practice–nay, enforced in society.
In his declaration, the Prophet told the people that just as there is one Creator of this world so all the human beings in this world were born of one man and woman. All human beings were thus equal, being each other’s brothers and sisters. They might diﬀer in respect of appearance, but as to honor, status, and the right to legal justice, there was no difference between them.
So far as human status is concerned, Islam clearly states that if people have been placed on different rungs of the social ladder, this is not a matter of having been favored with or deprived of social distinction but of their being under divine trial.
God has created man in this world in order to test him. Worldly goods and position (or the lack of them) are used by God as instruments of this test. They are like examination papers set by the Almighty. Opulence and penury are both intended to be states in which man is tested. He should, therefore, stop suffering from inferiority or superiority complexes, and should consider instead whether he is going to pass or fail this test.
Modern psychological and biological research on race has clearly upheld the teachings of Islam so that from the academic point of view, other theories stand refuted. Molecular biology, too, has opened a whole new field of research in modern times. A team of genetic experts in the USA, convinced by the evidence they already had that all of humanity had a common ancestor, have attempted to trace that single progenitor across the millennia. Placed in this perspective, all differences of color, physiognomy, physique, etc. are purely relative and do not necessarily constitute different racial characteristics.
All modern research points to human beings as members of one Great Family, all bound together by the same biological brotherhood. As well as enjoining justice, (16:90) the Qur’an holds out
the promise of reward for one’s deeds. It also informs us that a complete record is constantly being made of human actions.
After death, everyone will find himself standing in God’s court, where he will receive his just deserts. No perpetrator of cruelty will escape God’s punishment. That time has to come when man will suffer the consequences of his deeds. ‘On that day mankind will come, divided in terms of vice and virtue, into groups to be shown their labors. Whoever does an atom’s weight of good shall see it and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil shall see it also. (99:6-8)
This concept of accountability alerts man to the necessity of being extremely punctilious in his dealings with others. He then sees how essential it is to be just to everyone if he is to save his own self. He avoids wronging others so that he may not be punished by God. In the absence of any concept of accountability, social justice figures in our lives as a need felt by others. not by ourselves. But once we recognized that there is such a thing as accountability, social justice becomes a prime necessity for everyone, including ourselves. And who can neglect his own needs?
The concept of accountability is such a strong check that it restrains one not just from oppression. but also from even any semblance of it. Once when the Prophet was at home with his wife, Umm Salmah, he called the maidservant, who took some time in coming. Seeing signs of anger prophet’s face, Umm Salmah went to the window and looked outside where she saw the maid at play. When the latter came in, the Prophet happened to have a misvak ( a stick used for cleaning the teeth) in his hand. If it wasn’t for the fear of retribution on the Day of Judgement,’ he told the maid, “I would have hit you with this misvak”.
In ancient times the beating of slaves was considered a natural right. But the mentality created by Islam put a stop to this practice, whatever the faults of the slaves. This was because the Muslims were afraid lest they be held accountable for this act in the eyes of God.
The Prophet once came across Abu Masood Ansari beating his slave. “You should know, Abu Masood”, he said, “that God has more /power over you than you have over this slave”. Abu Masood trembled hearing these words of the Prophet. ‘Messenger of God,’ he said, “I am freeing this slave for God’s sake,” ‘If you had not acted thus, the flames of Hell would have engulfed you,” the Prophet told him.
This incident shows that Islam, by obliterating outward diﬀerences, brings all men on the same footing. Abu Masood had at first considered himself to be on a different footing from his slave in a purely material sense where he was respectable and powerful; the slave was lowly and weak. But when the Prophet reminded him that in the eyes of God he stood on exactly the same ground as his slave, he immediately humbled himself.
When faced with God, no one is powerful. Everyone feels himself in the same state of humility as he had supposed was the state of other human beings weaker than himself. Islam’s great contribution to social justice was the example it itself set in according to the same honor and respect to all human beings, whether they were weak or strong, kings or commoners, be it in family circles, social life, positions of power, or in the government, by the same token, no one could escape punishment for his sins.
Once during the caliphate of Umar Faruq, the second Caliph, Amr ibn al-Aas, who was the then governor of Egypt, arranged a horse race in which his own son was also to participate. His son’s horse lost, however to a young, native Copt. The son, Muhammed ibn Amr, was enraged and lashed the Copt boy with a whip, saying, Take that! That will teach you to beat the son of a nobleman!’ T.he Copt came to Medina and complained to the Caliph, who took it upon himself to institute an inquiry. When he found that the Capt had been beaten unjustly, he immediately sent an emissary to Egypt to summon the governor and his son before him forthwith. When they arrived, he handed the Capt a whip to flog them, just as he himself had been flogged.
In the presence of the governor, the Capt started whipped his son, stopping only when he was satisfied that the punishment had been severe enough. Then the Caliph addressed himself to the governor: “O Amr, since when have you enslaved people who were born free?
Palestine was conquered during the Caliphate of Umar Faruq. To sign certain agreements with the conquered nation, he had to travel to Palestine. When he left Medina, he was wearing rough clothes and had only one s_ervant and one camel. He said to his servant, ‘If I mount the camel and you go on foot, it will not be fair to you. And if you mount the camel while I go on foot that will not be fair to me. And if we both sit on the camel’s back, that will be an injustice to the camel. So, it would be better if all three of us took turns.’ So taking it by turns, Umar Faruq would ride and the servant would walk, and vice versa, and then both would take a turn of walking so that the camel should be spared.
Traveling in this manner, they reached the gates of Palestine, where the inhabitants gaped at the sight of the Caliph going on foot while his servant rode the camel, for it was the latter’s turn to ride as they approached their destination. In fact, many Palestinians failed to make out who was the Caliph and who was the servant.
Through its intellectual revolution and the practical examples it set, Islam thus created a history, which had an impact on almost the whole of the inhabited world of that time. This revolution was so powerful that its effects could still be felt one thousand years: later.
The influence of the social revolution brought about by the Prophet is still alive, not only in Muslim countries but also indirectly throughout the entire inhabited world. On the question of social justice, or equal justice researchers have acknowledged that if ever any system has truly attained this end, it is Islam.
The Islamic system is totally different from those of Hinduism and Christianity. In it, there exists a complete ideology in favor of human equality, while alongside it there exists a perfect, practical example. On both counts, the first phase of Islam set the course of Islamic history for all eternity. And Islamic history will continue forever in the same direction or there is no influence powerful enough in the world to alter its course.
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