By Hafsa Ahmed – freelance writer
Tasneem Vali – Architect and freelance writer, Canada
In today’s world, branding is one of the most important marketing concepts of any product, person, business or advertising strategy. Islam’s branding strategy is ‘Adl (justice), which is a dominant theme throughout the Quran and the fundamental concept, from which all human rights evolve. In this article, we address the need to reconstruct our modern concept of justice, as defined by secular laws, and accept justice as an Islamic brand – the concept of ‘Adl‘.
“It’s not fair!” Most parents would agree this is the most frequently used phrase by their toddlers to get what they want. Although sometimes exasperating and mostly funny, it reflects the intuitive sense of justice in our young children, who have just learnt to speak. They have not yet been tainted by the world and indoctrinated into its system of justice and equality. Yet they call us out when something does not feel fair. As soon as it is disturbed or denied, this sense of balance sets of an alarm in us, no matter how young we are.
To reinforce and refine these innate human qualities of integrity, honesty and justice, Allah (swt) sent revelations and messengers. “And for every Ummah (a community or a nation), there is a Messenger; when their Messenger comes, the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged.”(Yunus10:47) Throughout his life, Prophet Muhammad (swt) served as a beacon of justice, guiding us to be fair and just, even when we are faced with unsurpassable injustices.
As Muslims, we must comprehend and implement this Islamic brand of justice in our individual and collective lives with as much fervor, as we fast during Ramadan. The presence of Dhulm or injustice must be as abhorrent to us as stealing or murder.
Allah (swt) repeats His command in the Quran in several places. “Verily, Allah enjoins Al-Adl (i.e. justice and worshipping none but Allah Alone – Islamic Monotheism)…” (An Nahl 16:90) “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor…” (An-Nisa 4:135). “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety.” (Al-Ma’idah5:8)
Every brand also has an identity it must build and uphold. Accepting Allah’s (swt) brand of justice might be an uncomfortable journey of self-analysis and self-discovery.
Islam’s brand of justice is unique, as it is divinely ordained, and to understand it, we must answer the following questions:
- Does ‘Adl (justice) mean equality?
- How can I implement justice?
Let’s address the first of these questions.
Does ‘Adl (Justice) Mean Equality in Islam?
Is ‘Adl the same as equality? In Arabic, the word ‘justice’ has two meanings:
- To give every rightful person the right due to them
All creatures in this world have certain rights. No one has the right to usurp these rights or to keep someone from attaining them. ‘Adl is the opposite of Dhulm(injustice). An example of justice, as understood by today’s secular law, would be to imprison a murderer and give the head of state the power to pardon him/her. Islam’s brand of justice would be to leave the decision solely in the hands of those, who have been wronged, the next of kin of the murdered person. This is an expression of ‘Adlas Islamic brand.
- To put things in their rightful place
An ‘Aadil is one, who keeps each thing in its proper place at the appropriate time. Dhulm would be to put something in the wrong place. An example would be Shirk. Shirk has been called the greatest Dhulm, because it accords the right to be worshipped, which is solely Allah’s (swt), to other false gods/wealth/worldly pleasures or knowledge.
People often confuse justice with equality or identical rights, regardless of individual situations or circumstances. Normally, to make accessible to every individual, what has been given to another, is considered justice. Let’s take the case, where a woman is only valued, if she works outside the home for monetary benefit, because she is now equal to man. This distorted understanding of justice affects our social and family relationships, because we equate equal opportunity to justice. This concept of equality is incompatible with Islamic teachings.
Islam considers this view unrealistic, as different people have different rights and needs. Undeniably, basic rights tolife,honour and security will be the same for all human beings. However, do parents and children, teachers and students, husband and wife, mother and father all have identical requirements? Does justice entail that we give each of them identical rights?If an older child needs a laptop for her school assignment, it is not necessary to give an identical laptop to her toddler sibling in the name of justice. In Islam, we do not confuse justice with equality.Islamic justice gives everyone their due rights, without denying anyone’s basic necessities.
How Can I Implement the Islamic Justice?
According to the Prophet (sa), Allah (swt)said: “O My slaves, I have forbidden Dhulm (injustice, wrongdoing, unfairness) to Myself, and I have made it forbidden among you, so do not wrong one another.” (Sahih Muslim)
Even though we read about justice, talk about it and want to act upon it, often we overlook its practical application in our lives. We must overcome this divide between theory and practice.
We need to ask ourselves: how I, as Allah’s (swt) slave, can implement justice in all aspects of my life? The choices we make throughout our life will determine our future in the Hereafter.
Prophet Muhammad (sa) told us in his last sermon:“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white, except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim, and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim, which belongs to a fellow Muslim, unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”
Ibn Taymiyyah said: “Justice is the foundation, upon which everything has been established.” It is very straightforward; provide each person his/her basic rights and beyond that – provide them with what they need, according to their individual circumstances. ‘Adl, the Islamic concept of justice and fairness, is compromised when people put their biases, fears and insecurities ahead of what Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa) have commanded us to do.
Two powerful emotions that sway us away from justice are love and hate. It is so easy to be unjust to an abhorrent enemy and so convenient to bend the rules for a dear friend. However, that is where Allah (swt) wants us to battle our inner impulses and do what is right. That is the test!
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allâh is Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (Al-Maida 5:8)
We are not infallible, reconstructing and rebranding our understanding of justice will come with self-analysis and inner strength. Ultimately the question is: are we trying to please Allah (swt) or ourselves? Do stand as a witness to justice.
What would you do if…?
- Your cute little toddler comes bawling that his older brother has taken away his toy car. Will you immediately go into protective mama-bear mode and scold his brother, demanding he return the baby’s car? Or will you find out the other side of the story, that the ‘tiny innocent toddler’ was banging his car on his brother’s head probably, before he took it away to save himself.
(As parents, we sometimes overlook the importance of justice towards our children and do not think we will be held accountable for how we behave with them, whereas a number of Ahadeeth lay out the importance of treating our children justly. By being hasty and unfair we are laying the groundwork for misplaced and hurried decision-making in our children’s immature minds.)
- Your son comes into the room, demanding permission to go out with his friends. Do you give him permission easily, happy he asked in the first place? When your daughter, on the other hand asks, will you disallow her to visit her friends or have them over?
(Sons and daughters both have rights and we must be just to them, without compromising the limits set out for them by Islam. If a son is allowed certain privileges it is mainly because he can stand up for himself in a sticky situation where a girl may not be able to defend herself. Hence she can be compensated in a more gratifying manner by inviting her friends over or arranging a get together for her. Most importantly they must know the reasons and rules clearly for these privileges and responsibilities.)
- You are looking for a suitable match for your son. He has never been too stable with jobs, parties into the night with his friends and has had a stint with drugs in the past. But the girl you are looking for must have a pristine reputation, must carry out her wifely duties impeccably and never complain. Will you reveal his real character flaws when seeking a bride for him?
(A marriage based on such unfair double standards is in hot water even before it begins, because it is based on blatant injustice.)
- Your mother starts weeping, while relating to you how her daughter-in-law is cruel and uncaring towards her. What she naturally leaves out is her own role in these events, how she wears a frown all day long, possessively takes up all her son’s time and does not allow them to go out alone as a couple. Will you listen to both sides of the story, before coming to any conclusion or poison your heart about your sister-in-law?
(It is most challenging to inform our beloved parents that they can be wrong too. But in order to secure peace of the household such situations must be dealt with wisdom, kindness yet firmly.)
- An ugly fight breaks between your brother and his wife. You I overhear bits of it. Out of natural love for your brother will you assume it is all his wife’s mistake?
(Love can make your opinion biased. Feelings must be put aside and one must speak up for the one, who is being wronged.)
- Your best friend unburdens her heart, telling you how a mutual friend has been rude to her. You have witnessed how your best friend behaved wrongly with her in the past. Will you blindly support her?
(Despite our loyalty toward our friends, we must advise them about their own part in the dispute.)
- Your father-in-law blames a trusted servant for stealing in the absence of any proof, although he is in the habit of misplacing his own things. Will you stay silent or suggest that everyone tries to help find his lost belonging before accusing an innocent servant?
(We must not be a party to this injustice, despite of our delicate position in the family.)
- In the office, all the people love blaming the new guy for every mess-up, because he is of a different nationality and speaks funny. Will you join in to fit in?
(We must speak up for justice, even if it means losing our own popularity in the work place. If we do not stand up for others today, nobody will stand up for us tomorrow when we need justice.)
- In some countries, line cutting, littering in public places or running a red light is a norm. It’s strange to speak up about it. If chance permits will you object to such behaviour?
(At least in n the name of justice, we must not cut into line, litter around or break the traffic rules and neither should encourage others to do it.)