Justice sine qua non for Peace
The UNESCO describes “An Agenda for Peace Definitions” as follows: “Peace is dynamic. Peace is a just and non-violent solution of conflicts. It generates equilibrium in social interactions, so that all of the members of society can live in harmonious relations with each other. Peace is good for society. Where there is violence there is…
The UNESCO describes “An Agenda for Peace Definitions” as follows:
“Peace is dynamic. Peace is a just and non-violent solution of conflicts. It generates equilibrium in social interactions, so that all of the members of society can live in harmonious relations with each other. Peace is good for society. Where there is violence there is no peace. Where there is injustice and absence of liberty, there is no peace. In order for there to be equilibrium in the dynamic of social interactions, peace must be founded on justice and liberty.”
Justice is universally recognised as indispensable for peace. Islam is no different in this regard. However, Islam is different because in Islam, justice and peace are not the same as in the modern world; it has a much more comprehensive meaning. Islam literally means Peace, and is defined as submission to God, which means that peace cannot be obtained without total submission to the Lord of the universe. Similarly Iman means total satisfaction, which again can be obtained only through undivided devotion to God.
When the Holy Qur’an calls, “Enter Islam wholeheartedly”, it does not merely invite its adherents to follow the institutionalised system of Islam; it also signals to them that the real, comprehensive and long lasting peace can be achieved only through total acceptance of the System of God. The Holy Qur’an states: “The System for you is the (system of) Peace” and “Call them to the House of Peace.” In Islam, peace is not just a state of absence of war or chaos in society; it has the broadest and the most comprehensive meaning, in terms of extent, depth and longevity, including all the components of peace described above. It has to be not just personal, not just family and not just social; it has to be at all the three levels and in the widest discernible sense. At individual level, it does not merely mean peace of mind; it encompasses physical, mental and social health. At family level, it comprises peaceful relationship between husband and wife, between parents and children, and among children themselves. At social level, it does not only indicate absence of war or chaos, it also means absence of all forms of crimes and social tensions, and prevalence of mutual brotherhood and justice.
Peace is also not something bound by time or space; it is as much for this world as for Hereafter; peace is eternal. This is to be ensured that Islam’s message of Grand peace has to percolate down the lowest strata of society. And this to be done in a way that the world does not feel threatened by the emergence of an institutionalised and political Islam, but learns to apply moral and socio-economic principles of Islam for the benefit of the whole mankind.
Justice in Islam is not just an act of punishing the culprits; it is a proactive and dynamic exercise that involves steps in advance to ensure justice at all levels. Justice does not merely involve a decision between two or more disputing men, communities or nations; justice is a much bigger exercise aimed at distribution of God’s bounties justly, acting kindly with all especially those who need special attention and to ensure that the posterity does not suffer from the ill effects due to misconceived acts of those who matter at present.
The Holy Qur’an says:
* Say: “My Lord hath commanded justice.” (7: 29/A)
* O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (4: 135/A)
* ..speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned… (6: 152/A)
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety…(5: 8/A)
* And God means no injustice to any of His creatures. (3: 108)
* God commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion. (16: 90)
* If they do come to thee, either judge between them, or decline to interfere. If thou decline, they cannot hurt thee in the least. If thou judge, judge in equity between them. For God loveth those who judge in equity. (5: 42/A)
* Judge thou between them by what God hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires..(5: 49/A)
Thus, according to the Qur’an, Justice is all-encompassing and includes legal, natural, social and divine justice as the essential constituents.
Legal Justice is the most powerful arsenal for defeating chaos of all types in society. Justice must not only be done but must also be seen done. Furthermore, it must be achieved swiftly. Any system of justice that denies justice to the victims of crime or unduly delays it cannot ensure social peace. The present legal systems all over the world have dismally failed to safeguard life and honour of the people. On the contrary, this has helped, directly and indirectly, the cause of criminals and the forces of evils. It looks advanced in method but extremely poor in results. It appears to profess humanity but promotes inhumanity. It has increased the crime rate to dangerous levels and has been transforming in increasing numbers good human beings into criminals. Islamic system of justice is based on speedy trial and a punishment equal to the crime with right to pardon only in the hands of the victims or the heirs of victims. In sharp contrast to the modern system that safeguards the interests of criminals, Islam primarily aims at bringing justice to both victims and convicts.
In the modern world, legal justice has been sacrificed at the altar of economic fundamentalism. The more the organised business gained ground the more criminals were produced. The procedures of trial have continued to become technically superior; but the effectiveness of the judicial system in lowering the rate of crimes has drastically diminished. With the overwhelming involvement of money, legal profession has become increasingly popular. Advocates have become pettifoggers eager to serve their clients, who offer them huge sums as fees, rather than assist the cause of justice.
The ethical code of the profession has unequivocally laid down the principle that the lawyer’s obligation is to look after the interests of his client; it is the duty of the presiding officer to arrive at the truth. Advocates have therefore in effect become white-collared, legally recognised hirelings of the offenders of law, and use all possible means including their golden tongue to subvert justice. Judges have been left with no direct method to come to a reasonable and just conclusion. They have no option but to rely on the evidence and arguments presented by the contending lawyers. Advocacy has been reduced to a foul play of words and logic. Still, it is presumed that the net effect of the lies of the two contending parties of lawyers will unfold the truth. What a travesty of judicial reasoning! The net effect is that the malefactors are having hey day, lawyers are growing in riches, and the weak, the poor and the oppressed are suffering.
Islam wants society to be peaceful and social justice is the first step in that direction. Social justice involves social equality, security of all irrespective of caste, creed or race, equitable distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities and ensuring honour and dignity of every human being and is defined as submission to God because the real peace cannot be achieved without wholly submitting to the injunctions of God.
Islam creates a social, political and economic system to ensure social justice. The grand objective of Islamic system therefore is to ensure peace at all levels. This cannot be achieved without taking three basic steps: first, to enjoin the righteousness and forbid evil; second, to ensure justice; and third, to foster unity and brotherhood. It is this trio that also forms the foundation of the Islamic political set-up. Justice is also to be ensured at the international level; there must be ways to guarantee that small and weak nations do not suffer at the hands of powerful nations.
Zakah and Jihad are two important ways to achieve social justice. Zakah complemented with declaration of total ban on usury, hoarding, commercialisation of forbidden social evils and exploitation leads to economic justice. Jihad in Islam is obligatory, and is an important constituent of the Islamic mission of universal peace and justice. It is in fact incumbent on all the human beings to engage in this mission. But for Muslims it is a divine duty.
Jihad is meant for protecting the weak against the mighty; for alerting the forces of evil that their sordid adventures will not go unchallenged; for giving the oppressed sections a voice and wrecking the nerve-centres of the tyrants; and for giving the exploiters sleepless nights. Jihad prepares a person to sacrifice his possessions including his life if required for the cause of God. But Mujahids must clearly know that the objective of Jihad is not to bring certain persons to power, nor to bring theocracies to the whole world through sheer use of force.
“Deen”, the system of God does not necessarily mean the establishment of a theocratic government through violent means; it means the rule of justice. Fighting is only the last but an open option in Jihad. If conditions are justifiable for fighting, it becomes obligatory; if conditions do not demand fighting, it becomes aggression. If its objectives are for the welfare of the masses it is desirable; if it is an excuse for selfish ends, it is an unparalleled sin. Jihad through peaceful means must always continue without halt; Jihad through arms must be an aberration. But once the conditions are justifiable, fighting must see no sympathy for the enemy; it must be given a crushing below. Fighting against the wicked is no violence; it is an exercise aimed at minimising violence. Killing bacteria and viruses through antibiotics and antiviral drugs is essential to maintain a healthy life. If microbes are not killed, they will kill the very person who provides them the food for their sustenance.
When social justice fails to establish itself as system, the consequences are often dangerous. It can lead to pursuit of unauthorised and unjustified methods by certain groups to gain justice. Terrorism is one such effect. While terrorism cannot be condoned, it must be recognised that it is usually the product of the suppression of certain people. It is the weapon of the week against the mighty, which have large armies at their disposal.
When the innocent are killed in wars, big powers tend to dismiss it as collateral damage. But when innocents are killed in terrorist attacks, it is regarded as a ghastly crime against humanity. If terrorism is to be successfully tackled, its root causes have to be found. Justice is the only answer to terrorism. Attempts to kill terrorists or terrorise them may have a short-term impact. But in long term, it will breed bigger and more dangerous forms of terrorism.
The Holy Qur’an says:
“He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you!” (47:38)
Allah has made this world primarily a place of trial and not justice, but still Allah gives natural justice here also in the form of natural punishments and replacement of one people in power by the other people. Natural methods like earthquakes, floods, falling of asteroids, diseases and other afflictions have often come as punishments for misdeeds of the people of certain areas. It can be noted that while Hereafter will be a place where individuals will be judged, nations and communities are judged in this world. There will be no punishment for the nations, tribes or communities as a whole in the Hereafter. Aad, Pharaoh, the people of Sodom and many other peoples received natural punishment for failing to comply with God’s commands. Still, people are suffering from widespread effects of exceeding the God’s bounds. These include natural disasters and diseases like AIDS, both of which are mostly the consequences of the misuse of God given freedom for personal ends.
While Islam tells human beings to act with justice, it also makes it clear that even if humans do not act with justice, God will make justice prevail in the life to come. Natural justice is a natural attempt to restore justice and harmony in this world. But it often punishes even those people who were not individually responsible for the widespread evil or corruption in a particular society. Hereafter will undo whatever injustices individuals have faced in the world. Hereafter is the best guarantor of peace.
One often feels inclined to think if God is there why He allows these enormous sufferings and why oppressors go scot-free. Many atheists utilise this as an argument in favour of the non-existence of Supreme Being. The truth however is that the apparent sufferings of the weak, poor and innocent and the apparent successes of the strong, debauched and aggressors necessitates the presence of Supreme Being and Hereafter. If this alone is the whole life and there is no Hereafter and none to take cognisance of what is happening there is no way all these sufferings can be undone, honour of the sufferers can be restored and the perpetrators of crime can be brought to justice. If a person is murdered, there is no way he can be restored to life; no amount of compensation to the family of the deceased and no amount of punishment to the murderer can undo his death. If a father or mother loses their son, how can they get him back? Even if the killer is hanged this will not fill the vacuum created in their life; their son cannot get back his life and they cannot get their son back.
Millions of people died at the hands of Hitler, Stalin and many other dictators. Hundreds of thousands lost lives in American bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of those killed were innocent. How can they get justice in this world? This is a world where one can be punished for one’s actions, but more often one escapes the punishment. Here people suffer for others’ faults. The Holy Qur’an clarifies that this world is a place of trial, not that of judgement. It makes clear that humans suffer here due to their own faults. This does not mean, as is erroneously interpreted sometimes, one suffers due to one’s faults in the past. On the contrary, it applies to mankind as a whole. Man suffers due to man’s faults, not necessarily one’s own but often somebody else’s. This necessitates the Day of Judgement where every single deed of an individual will be taken into account for arriving at the judgement. No act, good or bad, of no individual will remain unaccounted for. The judgement will be without blemish; everybody will feel satisfied for what he gets.
Let us all endeavour to unite mankind for the purpose of establishing justice in this world in accordance with the commands of God! This alone is the guarantor of peace in this world and the Hereafter.
[Dr Javed Jamil is Executive Chairman International Centre for Applied Islamics, Saharanpur. He can be contacted at [email protected]]