Uploaded on June 9, 2020
Insisting on a just order
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Over the last few weeks I have been returning to this column to discuss how best to ensure dignity to the entire humanity as per God’s assertion in the Quran that He “made children of Adam dignified.”
An important point to remember here is that God does not say he made Adam’s white children dignified, or black, or coloured children were particularly favoured in this regard. Such dignity conferred on humans does not distinguish between Jew and goy, Christian and pagan, Muslim and kaafir, Dwija and Shudra. When it comes to dignity, God does not discriminate between humans.
Over the last few weeks I have pointed out different requisites that are needed to ensure human dignity. One of them is justice, the fulcrum on which every civilised society is balanced. Islam insists on a just order, an order that is congnizant of everybody’s rights, including the right to equality.
In the landmark address of his Hajj (which was his first and the last), the Prophet (PBUH) laid down a brief and simple set of rules for Muslims to live their lives by. These were, in a sense, the gist of the essentials of Quranic teachings and his prophetic mission on earth, which was soon to conclude with his death.
The Prophet (PBUH) talked about, among many significant issues, the principle of equality of all humans, barring none. He declared for everybody to note, “…No white man has a superiority over a black man; no black man has a superiority over a white man; no Arab has a superiority over a non-Arab; no non-Arab has a superiority over an Arab, except in piety (closeness to God).”
The principle of equality, that involves equal basic rights of every human individual is an instrument that protects and fosters human dignity by correctly balancing everyone’s rights on each other; like the rights of the state vis-à-vis rights of the individual citizen; rights of a wife vis-à-vis rights of a husband; rights of a father or son vis-à-vis each other. These rights, which include all living things–plant, animal, water body, forests–are to be respected and conceded by every believer in Islam.
That the Prophet (PBUH) insisted so strongly on justice and respect for everyone’s (believer or not) rights that once he warned his companions about the rights of non-Muslims living among them. He said he would be on the side of a non-believer on the Day of Judgment if the companions (or other Muslims) wronged a non-believer. It was an assertion of neutrality and impartiality of Islam in matters of justice.
Justice is an equaliser. It balances out diverse interests against each other, thus ensuring a harmonious social and political order.
Islam insists on justice, but it also recognises that it is not always easy to force the dishonest or powerful people outside the jurisdiction of the Islamic state to concede other people’s legitimate rights,
In such cases the Prophet (PBUH) asked Muslims to give others their due, but forgive their own rights due on others who are unwilling to give it. In any case, Muslims believe that the final verdict on justice of every case will be delivered by God Himself on the Day of Judgment and nobody will be denied full and complete justice.
Finally, let us conclude by going back to the Quran, which provides the Divine guidance and context to the issue. Adl, the Arabic word for justice, appears frequently in the holy Quran. At one point (16:90), the holy book asserts: “without doubt, Allah demands justice and considerate conduct.”
On his part, Allah’s Prophet (PBUH) named everything and asked Muslims to honour their rights. Human beings are also required to respect the rights of their own bodies and souls on them.
We cannot expect human dignity where a just order does not exist, where everyone’s rights are not respected and protected. In case a society does not respect other people’s rights, theoretically there are the police, the magistracy, courts and an entire justice-delivery system to ensure a modicum of justice.
However, a self-regulated society that automatically ensures justice and fair play to promote human dignity is the most conducive to human dignity.