Justice is a very important pillar of society, you will often find that societies with a proper foundation of justice are usually societies that thrive and flourish. While on the contrary, where corruption prevails in the justice system, the society on the other hand really begins to fall apart. In most cases the level of corruption leads to the level of decay, the higher the corruption, the worse the society is and so each situation varies from one to another. The common denominator though, is that wherever corruption exists within the justice system, that society can never really flourish and will always find itself with problems.
When it comes to social justice in Islam, Islam has a very consistent and solid basis on the matter, one that if properly applied, both in spirit and application, would lead to very fruitful, and most of all, just societies.
Both the Quran and the hadiths, including Islamic scholarship spend a great deal amount of time discussing the issue, because indeed it is a very important issue, as we mentioned at the start, a faulty, or a corrupt justice system really does lead to the decay of society.
Now when it comes to faulty justice systems, the most common themes you will usually find that usually lead to a mishandling of justice are the following: 1) Many times people will deviate from the path of justice because the ones involved are persons they do not like, either for personal reasons, or for other bigger reasons such as political, or racial differences. So for example it’s well known that back in the day in the west, black people would be treated very unfairly by the justice system due to the color of their skin. Some may argue, and have successfully done so, that even today in many western countries, black people still do not enjoy a balanced and shared place within the justice system.
2) The second and most common form of corruption within the justice system is when people of affluent, i.e. the rich and influential, can get away with things that the common person cannot, throughout history and to our very present day, this has been the most common case of corruption within the justice system. So if a common man breaks the law, he will have the full force of the law thrown against him, while if it was a person of influence that broke the same law, well then suddenly the force of the law would not be equally applied to that person, or it would be applied but to a much lesser extent. So say the common man gets 5 years in prison, the person of influence would probably get 6 months, or a mere fine.
3) The third form of corruption we usually see in the justice system is when it comes to our own family, when it’s our family members who have done wrong, we’re not so keen on carrying out justice on account of their relation to us. So if a family member has wrong another person, we wouldn’t be sticking to justice as we would if it was a non-family member that wronged that person.
4) Lastly, another form of corruption of justice is when it comes to yourself, if a person is in the wrong, that person won’t fess up to it because it involves them personally.
So in essence these are the most common ways in which the justice system is usually corrupted, by 1 or more of these actions. Now when Islam does speak of social justice, it touches on all 4 of these areas, making sure to warn Muslims to stay clear of falling into any of these areas.
We start with the first example, when a person allows the hatred of others get in the way of applying for justice, on this the Quran says:
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to fair dealings 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. Fear Allah, indeed Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.”(5:8)
The Quran explicitly calls on its followers to not allow the hatred of others to swerve us away from justice, that we must continue to be just, and we must fear God, as he knows everything we do.
Now obviously if this teaching is taken both morally and in application, we would have a very good social justice system, and a strong and good social justice system leads to a strong and just society. A society where everybody is afforded justice in a proper manner, irrespective of one’s feeling toward the defendant or the prosecution, is a society that thrives. It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is, what your political or religious affiliation is, everybody will be afforded a fair opportunity in the justice system. And this is precisely the message and meaning behind the verse we have just quoted.
Another form of corruption within the justice system as we mentioned is when family member is involved, on this the Quran says:
And when you speak, then be just though it be (against) a relative, and fulfill Allah’s covenant; this He has enjoined you with that you may be mindful; (6:152)
So the Quran implores the Muslim to be just, even if it is against a relative, i.e. their own family members. So in Islam while blood relations are very important, and Islam teaches all Muslims to uphold ties of kinship, even if their family members are non-believers, but blood relations should never come in the way of justice. Justice must prevail even if it means going against your relative.
Now in our second example of corruption within the justice system is when justice is applied to the common man, not the persons of influence, and on this the Quran says:
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor…” (Quran 4:135)
Notice this verse doesn’t merely touch on the 2nd example we brought up, but also includes examples 3 and 4. This verse is an all-encapsulating verse of justice, telling Muslims to apply justice if it’s against 1) ourselves 2) our family 3) against the people of influence.
Now once again if this verse was taken in both a moral and applicable fashion, we would have a very solid justice system, which in turn leads to a strong society. The verse is clear to mention that justice must be applied equally on everybody, the rich, or the poor. So if a person of influence breaks the law or goes against justice, they should be treated in the very same manner as the common person, there is no distinction between them in the eyes of justice, justice must prevail.
In conclusion, Islam is a religion of justice, and justice for all, Muslim, non-Muslim, poor, rich, it doesn’t matter, all stand equal before the eyes of justice.