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Concept of Justice in the Bible and the Quran

Muhammad Iqbal
3/25/2012
16813 views

 

 

Islam may be defined as a proactive, dedicated, and single-minded pursuit of guidance from Allah (2:38) to Allah (76:29) with Allah (8:19) on the way of Allah (42:53). This pursuit of guidance is done with a view to come out with flying colours on the Day of Judgment. This Day becomes the focal point for Muslim existence. A Muslim sets much store by it because it unravels the purpose and the mystery of the bewildering phenomena of life and the universe. Belief in this Day brings hope, reassurance, strength, courage, and consolation to a Muslim that all will be well at the end of the day. He puts up with all privations and losses, pain and tragedy, crises and challenges in the hope that he will receive complete and perfect justice and recompense on the Day of Requital. The centrality of the Day reflects the paramount importance that the concept of justice enjoys in the value-system of Islam. God is designated as the Owner/King of the Day of Judgment in the first chapter of the Quran and this chapter is recited invariably in every Prayer. This function of God is thus kept fresh and constantly upheld in the Muslim consciousness in order to motivate a Muslim’s pursuit of guidance and strengthen his belief that Islam is the religion whose truth has stood the test of time and which has been followed by God’s rewardees throughout human history. The principle of justice is applied to this world as well as to the next.

Justice in This world:

 

God loves and enjoins justice. “If you judge in equity between them for Allah loves those who judge in equity.” (5:42) “Allah commands justice.” (7:29; 16:90) “O Ye who Believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, 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.” (5:8) “Give measure and weight with (full) justice…Whenever you speak, speak justly even if a near relative is concerned.” (6:152)

 

Similar instructions are found in the Bible. “Do justice to the afflicted and the needy.” (Psalm, 82:3) “Keep ye judgment, and do justice.’ (Isaiah, 56:1) “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justly.” (Micah, 6:8) “Execute true judgment, and show mercy. (Zechariah, 7:9) “Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother?” (Malachi, 2:10) “Ye judge not for man but for the Lord.” (2 Chronicles, 19:6) “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James, 2:13)

 

Prophets are divinely appointed to establish a just social order where everyone gets his/her due, where everything is given proportionate importance, where nothing is inappropriately placed, where the rules of the protocol are scrupulously applied, where a sense of alienation and discrimination is conspicuously absent, and where everyone gets a level playing field for healthy competition and gets equality of opportunity for helpful progress.

 

Solomon and Jesus (may peace be upon them) delivered wise judgments in the most tricky of cases. (1 Kings, 3:16-28; St. John, 8:3-11) Jesus complains, “Woe to you, Pharisees…you neglect justice and the love of God.” (St. Luke, 11:42) He narrates a parable of the persistent widow who requested, “Grant me justice against my adversary” and won her case. (St. Luke, 18:3) Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s blessings and peace be with him) had to deliver judgments in his capacity as the ruler of Arabia. One who submits unquestioningly to the Prophet’s judgment passes the test of faith. “When a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, it is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, to have any option about their decision.” (33:36)

In Islam, the principle of justice should not be taken for granted or treated cavalierly in the most intimate and personal relationships. While permitting conditional and limited polygyny, this is what the Quran says, “If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one…That will be more suitable to prevent you from doing injustice.” (4:3)

 

Justice In The Hereafter

 

In spite of our best efforts, the inadequacies of this world intrude upon and affect the fruits thereof adversely. Even justice available here partakes of the imperfection that this world is characterized by. In order to secure perfect justice, three things are to be taken into account- motive, action, direct and indirect consequences.

 

Motive: Motive determines the nature and significance of any action. This fact is appreciated in the Bible too. “God does not judge by external appearance.” (Galatians, 2:6) “The Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel, 16:7) “God knows your hearts.” (St. Luke, 16:15)

 

Action: Actions can be either good or bad. They will be assessed in conjunction with the motives which trigger them. “Give them according to their deeds.” (Psalm, 28:4) Good actions will be rewarded and evil deeds will be punished.

 

Consequences of the actions: The consequences of the actions can be direct and immediate and they can be indirect and continue to have their impact for shorter or longer periods. The Prophet (Allah’s grace and peace be with him) said, “Anyone who initiates a new factor, undesirable in the eyes of Allah and His Messenger, will be accountable too for exploiting the gullibility of all those who followed him in his new factor and their own responsibility for subscribing to his evil innovation will not be overlooked.” In another tradition this concept is explained through an example. “A part of the blame for murdering an innocent person anywhere will be put on Cain, son of Adam, who was guilty of fratricide because he established the precedent of murder as a way to settle scores.” The individual or group initiating a wrong concept or conduct will not be held responsible only for what they do; they will be held partly responsible for the sins of all those who followed their wrong concept or conduct. As long as the indirect impact of their evil initiative continues, it will be added to their store of evil and in proportion to the quantum of their sin as measured on the basis of motive, action and consequences, retributive justice will be meted out. In the case of good deeds, a similar procedure will be followed.

 

Maulana Maudoodi of respected memory says, “The limits that the world imposes on life and its resources do not possess any means of granting to an individual his full recompense. Conjure up in your mind the enormity of a criminal who kindles the flame of a world war and the evil consequences of his dastardly crime affect the destinies of millions of people for thousands of years. Is it possible to punish him physically, morally, spiritually, and substantially to the maximum extent possible and will that punishment be in proportion to the enormity of his crime? Will that punishment meet the ends of justice?” (Tafheemul Qur’an, Chapter 7, Footnote 30) The world is so constituted that it cannot fully reward a person whose good deeds bring sunshine and smiles into the lives of millions of people for millions of years!

 

So a new cosmic order is needed which will facilitate the rendering of complete justice. To compute the indirect consequences of good and bad deeds, it becomes necessary for the last generation of human beings to complete its tenure of existence on earth. Both conditions will be fulfilled, according to the Quran and the Bible. Both the scriptures say that it is a promise of God. “In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2 Peter, 3:13) “To Him will be your return – of all of you. The promise of Allah is true and sure.” (Quran, 10:4) “One day the earth will be changed to a different earth and so will be the heavens.” (14:48)

 

That Day will be exclusively set apart for distributive and retributive justice. In the Bible it is called the Day of Judgment and the Day of the Lord. In the second phrase, ‘of’ may have the meaning of ‘owned by’. Then God becomes ‘the Owner of the Day of Judgment’ or as the Quran says ‘Maliki Yowmiddeen’. (1:3) For the sinners, it will be a ‘great and dreadful day’. (Malachi, 4:5) For the virtuous people, according to the Quran, there will be neither fear nor grief. (2:112)

 

The day of the Lord is at hand.” (Isaiah, 13:6) “The day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand.” (Joel, 2:1) “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thessalonians, 5:2) “The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly.” (Zephaniah, !:14) The Quran says, “The Hour of Judgment is nigh.” (54:1) “Warn them of the Day that is (ever) drawing near.” (40:18)

 

The Quran has several synonyms for the Day of Judgment- A Day of Assembly, A Day of mutual loss and gain, (64:9) The Day of Account (38:26), The Day of Resurrection (50:42) The Day whereof warning had been given (50:20), etc.

 

This Day is important on other counts also. The Prophets will bear witness. (39:69)” “How then if We brought from each people a witness, and We brought you (O Muhammad!) against these people!” (4:41) The differences will be resolved. “Say: O Allah! Creator of the heavens and the earth! Knower of all that is hidden and open! It is You who will judge between your servants in those matters about which they have differed.” (39:46)” “On the Day when hidden thoughts shall be searched out.” (86:9) In the Romans, 2:16, St, Paul says, the day when God will judge men’s secrets. The Prophets will face questioning. (5:116; 7:6; 43:44)

 

Collapse Of The Present Cosmic Orders

 

When he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” (Isaiah, 2:19) The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard. (ibid.,24:20) The sun shall be darkened in his going forth. (ibid., 13:10) The moon shall be confounded (ibid., 24:23) The everlasting mountains were scattered. (Habakkuk, 3:6) The stars shall withdraw their shining. (Joel, 2:10)

 

Jesus Christ draws a similar picture. “The sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. “ (St. Mark, 13:24, 25)

The Quran gives vivid and graphic details. When the earth is shaken to its (utmost) convulsion, (99:1) when the earth is flattened out (84:3), when the sky is rent asunder(84:1), when the stars are scattered (82:2), when the sun (with its spacious light) is folded up, when the stars fall, losing their lustre, when the mountains vanish (like a mirage) (81:1-3) and the moon is buried in darkness, and the sun and the moon are joined together.(75:8,9)

 

That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire and the elements will melt in heat. (2 Peter, 3:12) The heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll. (Isaiah, 34:4) The Quran confirms these statements. “The Day that We roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for books (completed)”. (21:104)

 

Prossess of Justice On The Day of Judgement

 

The institution of justice has these main components: court, judge, statute book, plaintiff and defendant, evidence, balance, intercession, conferment of rewards, and punishment.

 

Court: According to the Quran, the flattened earth will become the court. The Bible hints that the earth, particularly, the area of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives will become the court. (Zechariah, chapter 14)

Judge: “The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth.” (1 Samuel, 2:10) “There is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect for persons, nor taking of gifts.” (2 Chronic., 19:17) “The Lord is a God of Judgment.” (Isaiah, 30:18) “The Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.” (ibid., 26:21) “I, the Lord, love judgment.” (Psalm, 61:8)

 

The Judge is an eye-witness to all events. “Thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah, 32:19) “From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.” (Psalm, 33:14) Even Jesus Christ acknowledges that there is a judge who seeks his glory. (St. John, 8:51) The Quran confirms that God the Creator of all things (6:103; Revelations, 4:11) alone will be the Judge on the Day of Judgment.(1:3) “Those who believe (in the Quran), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabaians, Christians, Magians and Polytheists- Allah will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for Allah is witness of all things.” (22:17)

 

Jesus enjoyed sleep. (St. Mark, 4:38) According to the Quran, God does neither nod nor sleep. (2:255) Jesus is a mediator between God and man.(1 Timothy, 2:5) The Lord is a God of knowledge. (1 Sam. 2:3) Jesus does not know that day or hour. (St Matt., 25:36) The Lord sitteth King forever. (Psalm, 28:10) So it appears strange and incomprehensible to a Muslim when the Gospel according to St. Matthew, (chapter 25, verses 31-46) portrays Jesus Christ as the judge. The following extracts confirm the said Gospel. “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.” (St. John, 5:22) “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power.” (ibid., 13:3) “He is the One whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts, 10:42)

 

Statute Books: Each scripture is a statute book containing His commandments and laws. “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.”(James, 4:12) The Quran is a revelation from Allah, the Exalted in power, full of Wisdom. (39:1) “His verily is all creation and commandment.” (7:54) Muslim lives will be evaluated to find out how much they conform to the Holy Quran. God has unlimited legislative, executive, and judicial powers. He makes laws, interprets them, and applies them. His authority to forgive or punish a person is absolute. “God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” (Romans, 9:18) “He forgives whom He pleases, and punishes whom He pleases.” (Quran, 2:284)

 

Plaintiff and Defendant: “The Lord judge between me and thee.” (1 Sam., 24:12) There will be plaintiffs and defendants, after the Resurrection. “The Lord killeth and maketh alive, He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up.” (ibid., 2:6) “A time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (St. John, 5:28, 29) St. Paul expresses belief in the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked. (Acts, 24:15) All shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit. (Isaiah, 24:22)

 

According to St. Paul, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians, 15:50) So, there will be spiritual resurrection only. Jesus seems to hint that it will be so (vide St. Luke, 20:35, 36) However, a glance at St. Mark, 9:43 seems to hint that it will be a physical resurrection. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.” The ‘hand’ to be cut off is physical and so is ‘fire’.

 

According to Islam, there will be physical resurrection. If the resurrection begins from the graves, then it ought to be physical. Bodies are laid to rest in the graves and resurrection is an act of joining the souls with the respective bodies. “When the souls are reunited (with their bodies).” (81:7) “From (the earth) did We create you and into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you once again.” (20:55) He will gather you together against the Day of Judgment. (4:87) “And there will come forth every soul: with each will be (an angel) to drive and (an angel) to bear witness.” (50:21) This will ensure that there are no adjournments and no ex parte judgments and all will be given a fair deal.

 

Each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans, 4:12) “Each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians, 6:5) “No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another.” (Quran, 6:164) In the light of these observations, the concept of vicarious atonement through crucifixion does not hold water to a Muslim. “God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice.” (Romans, 3:25) And yet there is no taking of gifts with God. (2 Chronicles, 19:17)

 

Evidence: In the theory of rebirth, people are expected to accept their lot without knowing why they are being rewarded or punished. According to Islam, everyone will get a record or a charge sheet in which what they said and did would be accurately encoded. Everyone will read that record. (17:14) Angels are employed to record what we say. “Not a word does he utter but there is a sentinel by him, ready (to note it).” (50:18)

 

The human body will bear witness. “Their hands will speak to Us, and their feet bear witness, to all that they did.” (36:65) See also 24:24. “Your hearing, your sight, and your skins should bear witness against you.” (41:22)

On that day will it (the earth) declare its tidings.” (99:4) Thus the evidence will be clinching. There will be no need to extend benefit of doubt.

 

Balance: People should see that justice is being done and that no subjective element or prejudice is at work. Extra precaution is taken for transparency and an instrument like the balance will be used for precision and accuracy. Both the Bible and the Quran refer to the concept of the weighing of actions. In this concept, the relationship between faith and action (Iman and Amal) is important. “His faith was made complete by what he (Abraham) did.” (James, 2:2)

 

The Lord is God of knowledge, and by him are actions weighed.” (1 Samuel, 2:3) “Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting.” (Daniel, 5:27) “I will never forget any of their works.” (Amos, 8:7) Compare the Quran, 3:195. “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love.” (Hebrews, 6:10) “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes, 12:14)

 

Allah says, “We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgment, so that not a soul shall be dealt with unjustly in the least, and if there be (no more than) the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it (to account): and enough are We to take account.” (22:47) “The balance that day will be true (to a nicety): those whose scale (of good) will be heavy, will prosper: those whose scale will be light will find their souls in perdition.” (7:8,9) “Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good see it! And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it!”(99:7,8)

 

Intercession: The process of justice becomes complete with the weighing of actions. However, there is an element of mercy and there is an element of what the Quran calls Ihsan. Allah will extend Ihsan to the Prophets for their exemplary loyalty to Him and cover them with honour by permitting them to mediate on behalf of those people whom Allah proposes to show mercy. Foremost among the mediators will be the Prophets. Muslims believe that foremost among the Prophets will be Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s blessings and peace be with him).

 

Christians believe, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name (than Jesus) under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts, 4:12) This assertion may be read in conjunction with what Jesus Christ says to a Samaritan woman, “We worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (St. John, 4:22) In addition, Jesus says, “Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (St. John, 3:5) John the Baptist baptized with water (ibid., 1:26) and Jesus baptized with the holy Spirit (ibid., 1:33) Belief in both the Prophets, it appears, is being emphasized here.

 

God’s grace is shown through the Prophets who will be granted the privilege of intercession. “God, our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy, 2:4,5) “One who speaks to the Father in our defence- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John, 2:1) See the Quran, 5:118, for the intercession of Jesus. Muslims know that anyone whom Allah admits to Hell is truly covered with shame. (3:192) Angels know that anyone whom Allah preserves from the ills of that Day is truly covered with mercy. (40:9)

 

William Barclay says, “Antinomianism twists the grace of God as an encouragement for sin. God is love and yet God is justice.” Muslims have to be on guard against the tendency of Antinomianism. We have to fear God even though we know most certainly that He is Most Gracious. (36:11)

 

Conferment of Rewards: Using eloquent phrases like treasure in heaven, eternal life, kingdom of God, Jesus Christ urged his followers to secure them through righteous living. St. Peter carried on this mission and he said, “God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” (Acts, 10:34) The effect of righteousness will be quietness and assurance forever. “My people shall dwell in peaceable habitation and insure dwellings and in quiet resting places.” (Isaiah, 32:17, 18)

 

In heaven, everyone will get a crown that will last forever, (1 Corinthians, 9:25), will have life which is truly life, (1 Timothy, 6:19), and will have the company of Prophets including Jesus (1 Thessalonians, 5:10) The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corin., 15:26) There will be no more night. (Revelations, 22:5)

 

The Quran says, “Peace!- a word (of salutation) from a Lord Most Merciful.” (36:58) “Enter thou, then, among My devotees, yea, enter thou My Heaven!” (89:30) “Enter ye the Garden, ye and your wives (in beauty) and rejoicing!” (43:70) “Not the slightest sound of Hell will they hear; what their souls desired, in that will they dwell.”(21:102) “Beneath them will flow rivers in Gardens of Bliss. (This will be) their cry therein ‘Glory to Thee, O Allah!’ And ‘Peace’ will be their greeting therein! And the close of their cry will be ‘Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds’” (10:9, 10) “No one person knows what delights of the eye are kept hidden (in reserve) for them.” (32:17) “Nor will they taste death there, except the first death.” (44:56) “The Garden of Bliss will be as wide as the whole of the heavens and the earth.” (3:133; 57:21) “..You will see a Bliss and a Realm Magnificent…Verily this is a reward for you and your endeavour is accepted and recognised.” (76:20, 22)

 

Punishment: “The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corin., 6:9) “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong and there is no favoritism.” (Colossians, 3:25) “It is fearful to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews, 10:31) So Jesus warns, “Fear him, who after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell.” (St. Luke, 12:5) “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth.”(St. Luke, 13:28; St. Matt.,8:22, 24:51, 25:30) “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (St. Luke, 9:25)

 

According to the Quran, Hell has seven gates (15:44) and is under the supervision of nineteen angels (74:30). The prisoners in Hell will be chained and each chain will be seventy cubits long. (69:32) “Their garments (will be made of) liquid pitch and their faces (will be) covered with Fire.” (14:50) They will neither die nor live. (20:74) They will endure noise pollution. (21:100)

 

May Allah save us from the fire of Hell. “And let me not be in disgrace on the Day when (men) will be raised up.” (26:87) “And save us from shame on the Day of Judgment.” (31:194)

 

 






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