Justice Doers: Putting everything in their right places
Blog Post 34
October 10, 2020
The Islamic definition of justice is putting everything in their right places, as Imam Ali (peace be upon him), in Nahj al-Balaghah, said, “[making sure] that everything is placed in its real place” and expounded on in The Institute for
the Compilation of and Publication of Imam Khomeini's Works' Theory of Justice.
So justice is a verb because it is “visible action” (as well as a noun). “‘Adl is not simply an inner state and a worldly habit.” (Imam Khomeini) We won’t be able to be just to others, unless we are just to ourselves. We won’t be able to be just to people who aren’t in our family, unless we are just to our family. This is the situation we’re in. Everyone’s in. All over the world. Not just Muslims.
Since we can’t be just in society, in the world, unless we are just to our family and that means we have to be just to ourselves, of course ultimately we must begin with ourselves. When we’re born and brought up in a family where everyone's just to themselves and each other and others in society, it makes it that much easier to do likewise. But unfortunately because people don’t understand what being just is, what justice is, we often are treated unjustly and we treat ourselves unjustly.
Let’s examine what it looks like to be just. First, Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala uses two words for justice in the Holy Qur’an – ‘adl and qist. ‘Adl means a balanced approach to life, spiritually, morally and behaviourally. Qist means the regulation of this balance, between human beings and Allah, to one’s self and between people. Therefore, “‘adl is the essence and source of existence,” “the basis on which the whole of creation rests.” “‘Adl constitutes the basis of qist and qist is the consequence of ‘adl in the life of the individual and society.” “The loftiest goal of the world, man [people] and religions is to attain ‘adl and actualize it in the society and within man’s [people’s] soul. For this reason, God has emphatically ordered all human beings, particularly the people of faith, to be upholders of ‘adl and qist." (Imam Khomeini)
Actually, we must understand that our first obligation is to be just to Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala.
How could we be just to ourselves
without being just to Allah?
When we’re just to Allah, inshallah, we can hopefully be just to ourselves, our family and others. What does it mean to do justice to Allah, to be just to Him?
We know that Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala is ‘Adl (The Just). We know that Allah created the whole of creation with justice. If we do not work to maintain that justice, things will go wrong, things will be off balance, we will be unhappy and Allah will be “unhappy” with us. Being just with Allah, doing justice to Allah means worshipping and obeying Him Only, always trying to do what is right and just, enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, staying on the Straight Path. Because Allah is Al-‘Adl, we have been given within our fitrah the ability to stay on the Straight Path, to be just. Within our fitrah, we naturally love justice and hate oppression. ‘Adl is “a human and social quality rooted in human primordial nature,…[an] ingrained…tendency towards ‘adl and ‘adl-seeking and an aversion for oppression, tyranny, injustice and discrimination.” (Imam Khomeini) If we can endeavour to focus on Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala with ikhlas (sincerity), rather than other than Allah, including “preoccupation with superficial fools” and the snares of this world which keep us steeped in ignorance, we will be doing justice to Allah and, inshallah, we will be on the road to doing justice to ourselves, our family and others. And, Al-Hamdulillah, Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala has made it binding on Himself to give us sufficiently of the affairs of this world and the Hereafter if we worship Him Alone with ikhlas. (Imam Ali Zain al-‘Abideen)
How can we be just to ourselves?
Imam Ali Zain al-‘Abideen (peace be upon him), the great-grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), outlines the rights of our nafs (self), body parts and the activities of the self in his Risalat al-Huquq (Treatise on Rights). If we observe these rights in the Way of Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, we will be doing justice to ourselves, inshallah.
1.Employ your nafs in the obedience of Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala. If this is done, everything else will be in its correct place, inshallah.
2. Consider your tongue noble and use it for good, expressing kindness and speaking well about others. Do not use your tongue for obscenities and meddling in what doesn’t concern you.
3. Keep your hearing pure. Listen only to good. Do not listen to backbiting and other unlawful things.
4. Keep your sight pure. Look only at good things and take heed when you look by lowering your gaze. Do not look at unlawful things.
5. Stretch out your hands only for lawful things. Do not stretch them toward unlawful things.
6. Use your legs for walking towards and for lawful things. Make sure your legs do not slip and lead you astray and into the Hellfire. Do not walk toward unlawful things. Do not stand for unlawful things.
7. Use your stomach to eat lawful things. Eat moderately without stuffing yourself. Do not eat unlawful things.
8. Use your private parts only for lawful activities. Shield them from being looked at. Protect them from fornication.
So you can easily see that if we are just to ourselves in these areas, we will have made a great headway and stayed on the Straight Path, inshallah. We would make ourselves obey Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, speak and hear good words, look at good things, take and hold and use good things, walk toward and stand for good things, eat moderately of good things and guard our private parts from others’ sight and unlawful actions. If you need a list of unlawful things or sins, see Appendix I.
Did I not enjoin on you,
O children of Adam,
do not worship the Shaitan,
surely he is your clear enemy,
and that you worship Me?
This is the Straight Way.
- The Holy Qur’an, Surah Yasin 36:60-61
In terms of actions for Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, Imam Ali Zain al-‘Abideen (peace be upon him) explains how we should:
1. Pray to Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala with the understanding that you have arrived before Him and are standing before Him, in awe of His Majesty, Power and Glory, as a humble, obedient and needy human being. Pray with stillness, dignity and sincerity, with your heart, and perform the salat well.
2. Perform Hajj for Allah Subhanahu wa ta’aa with the understanding that you have arrived before Him and are fleeing to Him from your sins. You have the opportunity for repentance and are fulfilling an obligation.
3. Fast for Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala with the understanding that it is a veil He has set up over your tongue, hearing, sight, stomach and private parts to protect you from the Fire of Hell. Abandoning the fast means you are tearing "Allah’s protective covering away from yourself."
4. Give charity for Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala with the understanding that "it is a storing away with your Lord and a deposit" for the Hereafter. Giving charity in secret gives you more confidence of that storing away for the Hereafter than giving in public. Giving charity "repels afflictions and illnesses from you in this world" and "repel[s] the Fire from you in the next world."
5. Sacrifice for Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala with the understanding that you only desire Him and "not His creation." You only desire to expose "your soul to Allah’s Mercy and the deliverance of your spirit on the Day you encounter Him."
So you can clearly see that if we perform these actions with the understanding that they are performed only for Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, to worship His Majesty with awe, humbleness and sincerity, to flee to Him from sins and ask forgiveness from Him Only, to utilize the veil of fasting He has provided us as a protection from the Fire of Hell, to store away a deposit for our Hereafter and repel afflictions in this world and to only desire Him and expose our soul to His Mercy and for deliverance on the Day of Judgement, then we will certainly be doing justice to ourselves and we will surely reap the rewards of happiness here and in the Hereafter, inshallah.
These actions entail acts of justice towards ourselves. And in doing justice to ourselves, we are also doing justice toward Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, our family and others.
Let’s look at some specific acts of justice towards our family,
also taken from Imam Zain al-‘Abideen’s (peace be upon him) book.
1. Honour your wife with the understanding that "Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala has made her a tranquility and a comfort for you." She is "Allah’s favour toward you so...honour her and treat her gently...Her right toward you is more incumbent [so] you must treat her with compassion," provide her with food and clothing and "if she makes a mistake...forgive her."
2. Honour your mother with the understanding "that she carried you where no one carries you;" "gave you the fruit of her heart which no one gives to anyone;" "protected you with all her organs;" "did not care if she" was hungry, thirsty, naked, in the sun as long as you ate, drank, were clothed, in the shade; "gave up sleep for" you; "protected you from heat and cold" so "that you might belong to her." "You will not be able to show her gratitude" unless Allah helps you and gives you success.
3. Honour your father with the understanding "that he is your root" and "without him you would not be." When "you see anything in yourself which pleases you know that your father is the root of its blessing upon you." "So praise Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala and thank Him" for that in like measure and know "there is no strength" except in Allah.
4. Honour your child with the understanding that they "are from you and will be ascribed to you," both their good and evil, "in the immediate affairs of this world," and "you are responsible for what has been entrusted to you, such as educating" them "in good conduct, pointing" them "in the direction of" Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala and helping them "to obey Him." You should act toward your child "with the action of one who knows that he will be rewarded for good-doing toward" them "and punished for evil-doing" toward them.
5. Honour your brother and sister with the understanding that they are "your hand, your might and your strength." Do not use them "as a weapon with which to disobey Allah" Subhanahu wa ta’ala "nor as equipment with which to wrong Allah’s creatures." Do not neglect to help" them against their enemy or to give them "good counsel." If they obey Allah that is good, but if they do not "you should honour Allah more than" them. "And there is no strength" except in Allah.
So again we can see that surely if we act justly toward our wife, mother, father, child and brother we will have developed this trait of justice so that it can be easily extended towards the rest of humanity. We must honour and treat our wives gently and with compassion; honour our mothers with tremendous gratitude for all that she has done for us; honour our fathers for being the root of our blessings from Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala; honour our child(ren) by being responsible for them, educating them, pointing them toward Allah and helping them to obey Him and do good toward them; and honour our brother and sister by acknowledging their support, helping them against their enemy and giving them good counsel and not by using them to disobey Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala nor to wrong Allah’s creatures.
All in all, if we worship and obey Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, keep our nafs in obedience to Him, keep our tongues, ears, eyes, hands, legs, stomachs and private parts only doing good, pray in awe and with humility, seek forgiveness, fast for protection, give charity for our Hereafter, sacrifice for Allah Alone, and honour our wives, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters with gentleness, compassion, gratitude, responsibility, education, reminders about Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, goodness, helpfulness and good counsel, inshallah, we will be steadfastly traversing the Straight Path, being just toward Allah, ourselves and our families and, inshallah, to others in society and around the world.
And what, may we ask, is so difficult about that? So unpleasant? So immoral? So against justice?
Is it really so hard to just
put everything in their right places,
where they belong,
"in its real place," inshallah?
Unlawful Things (Sins)
Worshipping other than Allah
Losing hope, despairing of Allah’s forgiveness
Despondency, beyond despair, not disliking the loss of hope in Allah’s forgiveness, the affairs of this world and the Hereafter
Not fearing, disregarding, being heedless of Allah’s anger and retribution for sins
Misbehaving/hurting/being disobedient to one’s parents
Cutting off ties/breaking relationships with one’s relatives
Usurping the property of orphans
Slandering/accusing chaste believers, especially women, of adultery/homosexuality
Drinking intoxicants/Consuming illicit drugs
Music/singing that causes/results in/focuses on/engages in/promotes sin
Lying, especially about Allah and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family)
Bearing false oaths/ false witness/false testimony
Breaking/not fulfilling promises
Misappropriation/embezzlement of property/breach of trust, including secrets
Short-weighing/short measure, cheating in business
Earning by haram things/work/deeds and consuming haram things
Usurping/not fulfilling other’s rights, such as non-payment of loans/debts
Neglecting to learn about Islam, not trying to move/learn toward Islamic places/people when you’re unable to learn/practise Islam, being immersed in worldly occupations/pleasures with no care for Islam & possibly moving away from Islamic places/people to where it’s difficult to practise Islam/where you may lose your faith
Assisting the oppressors
Not helping the oppressed
Fighting/assault/robbery/war against and creating/spreading enmity/mischief/fear among believers/friends of Allah/innocent people
Consuming carrion (animals that die of themselves), pig, blood and haram meat
Not praying/intentionally omitting prayer
Not paying obligatory expenses for dependents/not paying zakat/khums
Giving no importance to Hajj
Treating sins lightly/considering sins as small/being pleased with sinning/persistence in minor sins
Neglecting obligatory acts, including jihad, enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, loving the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s.) and friends of Allah and dissociation from and hatred of the enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s.) and the enemies of Allah
Slander, Gossip, Suspicion
Abuse/insult/disgrace others, especially believers
Intrigue, deception, breaking contracts/covenants, cheating, tricking, adulterating merchandise, fraud
Hoarding, black marketing
Disrespecting the Holy Qur’an, rejecting/denying Allah’s revelation
Disrespecting the Holy Ka’aba
Disrespecting graves/tombs of Masumeen (peace be upon them) and the soil of Imam Husayn’s (peace be upon him) grave
Dastghaib Shirazi, Sayyid Athar Abdul Husayn. Greater Sins, Vols. 1, 2 & 3. Trans. by Sayyid Athar Husayn S.H. Rizvi. Accessed from Al-Islam.org. https://www.al-islam.org/greater-sins-volume-1-sayyid-abdul-husayn-dastghaib-shirazi, https://www.al-islam.org/greater-sins-volume-2-sayyid-abdul-husayn-dastghaib-shirazi and http://www.al-islam.org/greater-sins-volume-3-sayyid-abdul-husayn-dastghaib-shirazi
Imam Ali ibn Husayn Zain al-‘Abidin. Risalah al-Huquq (Treatise of Rights). Al-Islam.org. Accessed from https://www.al-islam.org/treatise-rights-risalat-al-huquq-imam-ali-zayn-al-abidin
Imam Khomeini, Sayyid Ruhullah Musawi. Theory of Justice. Trans. by Hussein Karamyar. The Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works, International Affairs Department. Al-Islam.org. Accessed from https://www.al-islam.org/theory-of-justice-imam-khomeini/chapter-2-concepts-and-theories-adl-islam
Rizvi, Sayyid Sa’eed Akhtar. (1985). What a Muslim Should Know and Believe. Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania. Al-Islam.org. Accessed from https://www.al-islam.org/what-a-muslim-should-know-and-believe-akhtar-rizvi/