Rebranding our Understanding of Justice

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By Hafsa Ahmed and Tasneem Vali – Freelance writers

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’idah 5:8)

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Introducing Justice and Fairness to Children

teaching justice to kids

Islam has given Muslims a set of values that were modeled with perfection by the last Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (sa). These values need to form the core of our character, because the best amongst Muslims is he, who has the best manners and character. The Prophet (sa) told us:“The dearest and nearest among you to me on the Day of Resurrection will be one, who is the best of you in manners; and the most abhorrent among you to me and the farthest of you from me will be the pompous, the garrulous and the arrogant.” (Tirmidhi)

As Muslim parents, it is our duty to inculcate these values in our children. The values we impart to our children today, consciously or unconsciously, will have a major impact on the Muslim Ummah tomorrow.  Justice and fairness is one such important value.

Justice and Fairness

Children’s understanding of justice and fairness is very different from that of adults. Children see black and white and are sometimes unable to understand or accept situations that don’t feel fair to them. Also, in their dealings with others, children have a hard time giving priority to being just and fair over what they desire.

Here are some ways to teach your children about justice and fairness:

Discussion Questions

This can be a preliminary exercise to the activities given below.

What does justice and fairness mean?Try to lead them to these answers:

  • Treating all people with honesty and respect.
  • Giving everyone equal opportunities.
  • Cooperating with one another.
  • Celebrating the uniqueness and value of everyone.
  • Making sure others are not treated badly.

Do you feel you’re treated fairly at home?

Are you treated fairly at school?

How do you feel, when someone treats you unfairly?

Is it okay to cheat for winning a game? Why or why not?

Do you think it’s fair your older sibling gets to stay awake later than you? (Or any other example pertinent to your family’ssituation.)

Relate to them some stories from the life of Sulayman (as), who was given the ability by Allah (swt) to make sound, fair and just decisions.

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Not Fair!

Vol 4-Issue 3 Not fairDid you know that a generation back in corporate America, CEOs made 40 times more than workers? Today they make 400 times more. Did you also know that in the US 44% of discrimination cases won by workers are reversed on appeal, while only 6% of cases won by employers are reversed? In all likelihood, the Pakistan scenario is much worse. Although laws requiring protection of workers’ rights are in place, enforcement is ineffective due to limited resources and corruption. It seems that whether it’s corporate America or a local company in Pakistan, fairness at the workplace is not really on the priority list of employers.

It’s mind-boggling to understand, why Muslim employers are unmindful about the importance of justice in Islam. Perhaps, they are unaware or may be they just need a reminder. So, let’s take a look at what Allah (swt) and Prophet Muhammad (sa) say about fairness.

Allah (swt) says:

“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, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you avoid justice; and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (An-Nisa 4:135)

“Verily, Allah enjoins Al-Adl (i.e., justice and worshipping none but Allah Alone—Islamic Monotheism).” (An-Nahl 16:90)

“Verily, Allah loves those who act justly.” (Al-Maidah 5:42)

Prophet (sa) says:

Abdullah Bin Umar (rta) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘Injustice will be darkness on the Day of Standing.’” (Bukhari)

Ibn Abbas (rta) narrated: “The Prophet (sa) sent Muadh (rta) to Yemen and said: ‘Fear the curse of the oppressed one, as there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.’” (Bukhari)

Rights Given to Workers

If Allah (swt) has placed so much importance on ensuring fairness, let’s look at some of the rights employees have been given.

Right to receive prompt payment

Abdullah Bin Umar (rta) reported Prophet Muhammad (sa) as saying: “Give the worker his wages before his sweat dries.” (Ibn Majah)

Right to considerate treatment

Anas (rta) said: “I served the Messenger of Allah (sa) for ten years, and he never said to me ‘Shame!’ or ‘Why did you do such and such?’ or ‘Why did you not do such and such?’” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Abu Hurairah (rta) reported Allah’s Messenger (sa) as saying: “A slave is entitled to his food and clothing, and he should have imposed on him only such work, as he is capable of doing.” (Muslim)

Right to equal treatment

Al-Marur (rta) has narrated: At Ar-Rabadha, I met Abu Dharr (rta), who was wearing a cloak, and also his slave was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied: “I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said to me: ‘O Abu Dharr! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names? You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah (swt) has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity and if you do so, then help them.’”

(Bukhari)

According to Abu Hurairah (rta), Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Your servant brings your meals to you, then if someone does not let him sit and share the meals, then he should at least give him a mouthful or two mouthfuls of that meal or a meal or two meals, as he has prepared it.” (Bukhari)

Rights of the Employer

Demanding rights and not fulfilling duties would result in injustice to the employer. Among the rights awarded to employers is:

Right to be served with sincerity

Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated: “Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: ’Goodness and comfort are for him, who worships his Lord in a perfect manner and serves his Master sincerely.’” (Bukhari)

How can Employers Create a Fair Workplace?

1. Make Dua

The importance of praying to Allah (swt) should not be underestimated. The person seeking to enforce justice can say the following Quranic Dua: “My Lord! Bestow Hukm (religious knowledge and right judgment of the affairs) on me, and join me with the righteous.” (Ash-Shuara 26:83)

2. Have an open-door policy

Modern managers harp on and on about keeping an open-door policy. Yet, Caliph’s Umar’s (rta) open-door policy is enough to put such fancy talk to shame. Often foreign envoys and messengers sent to him by his generals found him resting under a palm tree or praying in the mosque among the people, and it was difficult for them to distinguish, which man was the Caliph. He also insisted that his appointed governors live simple lives, keep no guard at their doors and are accessible to the people at all times.

3. Be prepared to apologize

Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Whoever has wronged his brother should ask for pardon, as there will be neither Dinar nor Dirham (in the hereafter), for he should do this before some of his good deeds will be taken and given to his brother, and if he will have no good deeds, then some of the bad deeds of his brother will be loaded on him (in the hereafter).” (Bukhari)

4. Get out of your office and meet the workers face to face

Modern management calls this action ‘walk-arounds.’ Although fancy management literature did not exist at the time of the four rightly guided Caliphs, the Islamic principles were sufficient for motivating them to be fair and just. Once again we have Caliph’s Umar’s (rta) example – he spent many watchful night on the streets of Madinah to see whether anyone needed help.

5. Be ready to counsel someone, if you feel he/she is being unfair

Anas (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Help your brother, whether he is the oppressor or the oppressed one.” People asked: “O Allah’s Messenger (sa)! We rightfully help the oppressed, but how can we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (sa) said: “By preventing his hands from oppressing others.” (Bukhari)