By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
2 October 2015
Is there any other duty of greater importance in the sight of Allah than rendering perfect (secular) justice in all matters? Let us examine the evidence.
(3:18) There is no god but He: That is the witness of Allah (Shahedullah), His angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. There is no god but He, the Exalted in Power, the Wise.
The above verse can also be read as: Those endued with knowledge about God, His Oneness, His Exalted Power and Wisdom, provide proof or evidence of such knowledge (witness) by standing firm on justice.
(4:135) O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah (Shuhadalillah), even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.
What is stressed in the verse above is perfect secular justice disregarding every other consideration as witnesses to Allah from whom nothing is hidden – not even the innermost thoughts, desires, prejudices, rancour, love or hatred for those being judged.
There is a slight variation in 5:8 where the term could easily have been Shuhadalillah but the term Shuhadabilqist has been used and the context is again rendering exemplary justice standing out firmly for Allah.
(5:8) O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing (Shuhadabilqist), 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: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.
It is made amply clear that justice cannot be comprised for any extraneous consideration and must be rendered in a manner that can be justified to Allah from whom nothing is hidden regarding your motives or the facts of the case and in turn providing evidence (witness) of your submission to Allah and His divine attributes of Oneness, Exalted Power and Wisdom.
The attribute of Oneness make all equal in the sight of Allah which must be reflected while rendering justice. The reminder of Allah’s attribute of Absolute Power helps to resist the pull of every other extraneous consideration. ‘Justice’ rendered by allowing extraneous consideration to influence is oppression. The opposite of justice is oppression and an oppressor witnesses or provides evidence of evil or Iblis/Satan. Rendering perfect justice provides evidence of Allah and His attributes as well as of the judge’s submission to such a deity.
The attribute of Wisdom requires rendering justice tempered with compassion since Allah has inscribed for Himself the rule of mercy. The rule of mercy makes the objective of justice promoting the greater good of the society while protecting the rights of the individual.
The word Shuhada (witness) has been used in the normal sense of witness otherwise in the rest of the Quran except in one other verse:
(3:140) If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Shuhada (witnesses to Truth). And Allah loveth not those that do wrong.
We understand from the verse that apart from rendering exemplary secular justice, a person provides proof of being a true believer by remaining constant in his devotion and dedication all through the days of varying fortunes which test his faith to the limit. Many of the translators have translated Shuhada in this verse to mean a “martyr” but clearly this is not what is meant. A wounded person’s faith is tested to a greater degree than that of the slain. The verse only talks about how a true believer gets separated from those who are found to waver when trouble afflicts them.
What about the "martyrs" then? The Quran does not use the word "shaheed" or a grammatical variation for the martyrs. There are other verses that explicitly talk about those killed in the cause of Allah but the word Shuhada or Shaheed has not been used and may not be used since such usage distorts the meaning of the Quran.
Those who fight in the cause of Allah and are slain are rewarded, but they have not been called either Shaheed or Shuhada. This may be because fighting is not a normal state but a duty only under exceptional circumstances. Also, there could be other reasons for which people fight such as the love of booty or women, glory, hatred or an escape from the tribulations of life. Thus being slain even in a just war does not by itself provide proof of the person’s intention and motives. In any case, contrary to popular usage and perceptions, the Quran does not use the term “Shaheed” for the slain.
A true believer, worthy of being called a witness to Allah and a witness to the people about the attributes of Allah is therefore a person who renders perfect secular justice and one who remains constant through all his trials and tribulations. These are therefore the defining characteristics of a Muslim.
If the highest virtue that provides evidence of being a Muslim (witness submission to Allah) is standing firm for secular justice, then what is its opposite that provides proof of a contumacious rejecter of the “truth” (kafir)? The opposite of standing firm for justice is the oppression of people in any form.
Fighting is ordained against the oppressors until justice and faith in Allah prevail, for tumult and oppression is worse than slaughter. But if they cease their oppression cease your fighting against them. (2:191 to 193)
The highest virtue or act of faith in Allah and His divine attributes is rendering perfect justice and the most obvious sign of a contumacious rejecter of Allah is an oppressor.
Again, contrary to popular perception, fighting in the cause of Allah is restricted to ending oppression in any form where the faith of the oppressor and the oppressed are irrelevant. This is covered in greater detail in my article:
The Much Discussed and Debated Medinian Verses Relating To Fighting
So shouldn’t rendering justice be called the central pillar or pole of Islam and the remaining five pillars, the outer pillars or the outer poles of the tent? Remove the central pole and the tent collapses taking down the remaining five poles also. The five pillars of Islam are no less important because the central pole cannot stand by itself either. The five pillars however only provide the necessary hygiene factors and what is central to Islam that defines a true Muslim who is both a witness to Allah and witness to the people of the divine attributes of Allah to whom he submits, is the quality of justice he renders and upholds. An oppressor is simply a contumacious rejecter of Allah and His attributes and a representative of Iblis.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.