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By Imam Dr. Zijad Delic - Special to the CIC Friday Magazine

Sept 7, 2007


Islam's greatest contribution to social justice was the example it set in
according honor and respect to all people -- weak or strong, kings or
commoners - whether in family circles, social life, positions of power, or
in government. By the same token, no one could escape due punishment for
his/her sins.

Here are only a few examples of incidents illustrating justice in the
history of Islam:

1. Ali ibn abi Talib, the fourth Caliph, lost his coat of armor. One day,
he saw a Christian of Kufa selling the same coat of armor. This case was
brought to the Qadi (judge) Shurayh bin al Alharith. Ali went to his court
as if he were a commoner. Since he was asked by the judge to produce two
witnesses, Ali brought forward his son Hasan and his servant Qambar. The
Qadi rejected the evidence of Hasan on the grounds that it is not
appropriate for a son to testify in support of his father. Thus Ali, the
reigning Caliph, lost his case. However, the Christian of Kufa was so
impressed at the Muslim judge's display of such equality, that he himself
admitted Ali was the rightful owner of the armor. (Azmath-e-Sahaba, pp.

2. Once during the reign of 'Umar Faruq, the second Caliph, Amr ibn al-Aas,
who was then governor of Egypt, arranged a horse race in which his own son,
Muhammed ibn Amr, was to participate. But when his son's horse lost to a
young native Copt, the enraged son lashed the Copt boy with a whip, saying,
"Take that! That will teach you to beat the son of a nobleman!" The Copt
youth complained to the Caliph in Medina, who called an inquiry. When it
was found that the beating was unjust, he immediately sent an emissary to
summon the governor and his son from Egypt. When they arrived, Caliph Umar
Faruq handed the Copt boy a whip to flog the guilty party, just as he
himself had been flogged.

Thus in the presence of governor Amr ibn al-Aas, the Copt boy whipped his
son, stopping only when he was satisfied that the punishment was
sufficient. Then the Caliph himself addressed the governor, saying: "O Amr,
since when have you enslaved people who were born free? (Azmat-e-Sahaba,
pp. 40-41)

3. During the Caliphate of the same 'Umar Faruq, Palestine was conquered
and the Caliph thus had to travel there to sign certain agreements with the
conquered nation. When he left Medina, he was wearing rough clothes and had
only one servant and one camel. He said to his servant, "If I mount the
camel and you go on foot, it will not be fair to you. And if you mount the
camel while I go on foot that will not be fair to me. And if we both sit on
the camel's back, that will be an injustice to the camel. So, it would be
better if all three of us took turns."

So, taking it by turns, 'Umar Faruq would ride and the servant would walk,
and vice versa, and then both would take a turn of walking so that the
camel should be spared. Traveling in this manner, they reached the gates of
Palestine, where the inhabitants gaped at the sight of the Caliph going on
foot while his servant rode the camel, for it was the latter's turn to ride
as they approached their destination. In fact, many Palestinians failed to
make out who was the Caliph and who was the servant. (Taamir ki Taraf, pp.

In effect, Islam generated an intellectual and moral revolution based on
its radical renewal of justice-based principles and their practical
applications to daily life throughout virtually the entire known world of
that time. This revolution was so powerful that its effects were still
being felt a millennium later.

After the earthly passing of the Prophet, came Sahaba (or era of the
Prophet's Companions), followed by Tabi'in (era of the Companions of the
Prophet's Companions); together these periods are known as the Golden Age
of Islam. But the effects of the Islamic ethical revolution lasted far
beyond this time, continuing to leave their imprint on human society
through succeeding centuries.


This brief discussion should affirm for any Muslim (and non-Muslim) that we
are mandated by God to be committed to peace and justice, and that we must
show this to the world through a Din (way of life) that reflects our
religion as one of peace and justice. That means going far beyond slogans
and moving into the realm of positive action -- actions inspired by the
words and deeds of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and
those who followed him, and by the parameters of Divine Law.

This also means that if Muslims act unjustly, it is not Islam that is to
blame for their weakness. It sends a message that Muslims ought to go back
to the main sources of Islamic reference - the Qur'an and the Sunnah - and
not search selectively for the answers, but look at their faith in its
entirety. It is obvious that ignoring these basic principles of Islamic
justice will lead to increased confusion in the minds of Muslim youth, as
well as adding more uncertainty to many Muslims and people of other
religious affiliations.

Let me leave this discussion with one of the finest jewels from Islamic
law, one that is often forgotten, or not applied among Muslims today: "The
fear of committing an injustice may even prevent the doing of an act that
is otherwise permissible and good."

In fact, one of the derived principles of Shari'a is that all permissible
things are condoned, provided that no damage or harm results to others from
their practice; and that in the event that such damage or harm is suspected
or confirmed, the permissible shall be prohibited to avert such damage or
harm. In such discernment lies true wisdom, without which justice would be
merely a set of abstract rules.

(Imam Dr. Zijad Delic is the Ottawa-based National Executive Director of
the Canadian Islamic Congress. He can be reached at <

 This article was edited for the CIC Friday Magazine.




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