'Adalah (Justice)

From WikiIslam, the online resource on Islam
(Redirected from 'Adalah (Justice in Islam))
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Under construction icon-yellow.svg

This article or section is being renovated.

Lead = 3 / 4
Structure = 4 / 4
Content = 3 / 4
Language = 4 / 4
References = 4 / 4
3 / 4
4 / 4
3 / 4
4 / 4
4 / 4

'Adalah (عدالة) is the Arabic word for "justice" and is used in various forms throughout the Islamic scriptures. While the basic concept of justice in Islam and Islamic law is not wholly distinct from modern conceptions of the word, in the definitional sense of justice being what is fair and reasonable, there are many contexts in which what is considered Islamically just is, in practice, significantly distinct from what a modern sense of justice would entail. An important example of this difference is found in the frequent and broad-ranging preferential legal and financial treatment of Muslims over and above non-Muslims and of men over and above women in Shariah courts -- while such treatment would not evoke in many modern persons the feeling that justice had been attained, it is nonetheless considered just under Islamic law. In addition to these substantive distinctions, which are themselves significant, there are also certain meaning-laden phraseologies and symbols with which the concept of justice is associated in the Islamic scriptures which are noteworthy for historical and literary reasons. One recurrent and still-popular image in the Quran is that of the Scales of Justice, which are supposed to be employed to determine individuals fate (be it Hell or Heaven) on the Day of Judgement.

Distinct from the legal and literary senses of 'Adalah, or justice, in Islam is the theological nature of expectations of Justice from Allah. According to mainstream Islamic theological schools, which defined themselves directly against the Mu'tazilites of the early Islamic period, God must be more powerful than he is just. While the Mu'tazilites, or rationalists, of early Islamic history maintained that God was bound to justice and could neither favor nor disfavor anyone except by their merits and demerits, the theological schools (particularly the Ash'ari school) that emerged to denounce this view as heretical would win first political favor and finally the contest of history. What results is that, today, all major schools of Islamic theology hold that while one may expect justice from Allah on grounds of likelihood, Allah is not bound by it, and may arbitrarily decide to punish or reward whoever he wills. This is because it is believed that justice must be beholden to an all-powerful God rather than vice-versa.

Justice in the Shariah

Muslims are worth more than non-Muslims

In many legal matters, Muslim parties involved in a dispute are given immediate and incontestable priority and preference over non-Muslim parties. One example of where such preferential treatment is given to all Muslims, no matter the facts of the case, is in the case of killing. The vast majority of Muslim scholars hold the view explicitly formulated in Sahih Bukhari 1:3:111, among other hadith, that while a non-Muslim will be executed for killing a Muslim, a Muslim should never be killed for killing a non-Muslim. A minority of scholars, by contrast, hold that a Muslim may be executed if he kills a non-Muslim, but only if that non-Muslim is a sub-citizen dhimmi who is under the "protection" of the Islamic state.[1][2]

Narrated Ash-Sha'bi: Abu Juhaifa said, "I asked Ali, 'Have you got any book (which has been revealed to the Prophet apart from the Qur'an)?' 'Ali replied, 'No, except Allah's Book or the power of understanding which has been bestowed (by Allah) upon a Muslim or what is (written) in this sheet of paper (with me).' Abu Juhaifa said, "I asked, 'What is (written) in this sheet of paper?' Ali replied, it deals with The Diyya (compensation (blood money) paid by the killer to the relatives of the victim), the ransom for the releasing of the captives from the hands of the enemies, and the law that no Muslim should be killed in Qisas (equality in punishment) for the killing of (a disbeliever).

Similarly, in the case of a killing where compensation is paid in the form of blood money, the sum to be paid for killing a Muslim is significantly more than that to be paid for killing a non-Muslim. The same is also the case for the genders: if a man is killed, the money owed is significantly greater than that owed if a woman is killed. In monetary terms, the direct implication is that the life of a Muslim is worth more than the life of a non-Muslim and that the life of a man more than that of a woman.

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As:

The value of the blood-money at the time of the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) was eight hundred dinars or eight thousand dirhams, and the blood-money for the people of the Book was half of that for Muslims.

He said: This applied till Umar (Allah be pleased with him) became caliph and he made a speech in which he said: Take note! Camels have become dear. So Umar fixed the value for those who possessed gold at one thousand dinars, for those who possessed silver at twelve thousand (dirhams), for those who possessed cattle at two hundred cows, for those who possessed sheep at two thousand sheep, and for those who possessed suits of clothing at two hundred suits. He left the blood-money for dhimmis (protected people) as it was, not raising it in proportion to the increase he made in the blood-wit.
The maximum amount of Death Compensation (Diyya) generally admissible in Saudi Arabia, in respect of road/traffic/fire accident, murder, etc. is as under:

Death Compensation in respect of a male person:

i. Muslim - SR. 100,000/-

ii. Christian/Jew - SR.50,000/-

iii. Other religions : such as Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, etc. - SR 6666.66

In the case of death of a female, death compensation allowed is equal to half the amount as admissible to males professing the same religion. Further the amount of compensation admissible, is based on the percentage of responsibility fixed on the causer e.g. if the causer is held 50% responsible for the accident resulting in the death of a Muslim, the amount of Death Compensation admissible will be SR 50,000 only.

The above example of Muslims being favored over non-Muslims is just one instance of religious preference in the Sharia. Other examples of legal issues where Muslims are unequivocally favored over non-Muslims include slavery, marriage, inheritance, transport, attire, houses of worship, taxation, residential zoning, and freedom of expression, among others.

Men are worth more than women

In perhaps equally numerous instances in the Shariah, male parties involved in a dispute are given immediate and incontestable priority and preference over female parties. Two famous examples found in the Quran include men's double right to both inheritance and testimony in court when compared to women.

"O you who believe! when you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; and the scribe should not refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so he should write; and let him who owes the debt dictate, and he should be careful of (his duty to) Allah, his Lord, and not diminish anything from it; but if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding, or weak, or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness; and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other; and the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned; and be not averse to writing it (whether it is) small or large, with the time of its falling due; this is more equitable in the sight of Allah and assures greater accuracy in testimony, and the nearest (way) that you may not entertain doubts (afterwards), except when it is ready merchandise which you give and take among yourselves from hand to hand, then there is no blame on you in not writing it down; and have witnesses when you barter with one another, and let no harm be done to the scribe or to the witness; and if you do (it) then surely it will be a transgression in you, and be careful of (your duty) to Allah, Allah teaches you, and Allah knows all things."
"Allah enjoins you concerning your children: The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females; then if they are more than two females, they shall have two-thirds of what the deceased has left, and if there is one, she shall have the half; and as for his parents, each of them shall have the sixth of what he has left if he has a child, but if he has no child and (only) his two parents inherit him, then his mother shall have the third; but if he has brothers, then his mother shall have the sixth after (the payment of) a bequest he may have bequeathed or a debt; your parents and your children, you know not which of them is the nearer to you in usefulness; this is an ordinance from Allah: Surely Allah is Knowing, Wise."

Other examples of men being favored in the Shariah over women abound. These include matters of murder, slavery, marriage, attire, mobility, domestic autonomy, and public leadership, among others.

It is also worth noting that in some few cases, women are given preferential treatment. Examples of this preferential treatment include, for instance, apostasy, where according to a minority of Islamic legal authorities, a female apostate's life may be spared (by contrast, a male apostate must always be killed).

Justice and Allah in Islamic theology

The first significant formal theological school to emerge in the Islamic world was that of the Mu'tazilites, or rationalists. According to the Mu'tazilites, Allah was obligated to do justice to his creation and could not do otherwise. Thus, a good person was guaranteed a good fate in the hereafter, and a bad person a bad fate. Many early Islamic thinkers, however, found this notion to limit God's omnipotence to an unacceptable degree. This theological discontent ultimately manifested itself in the formation of rival theological schools, most famously Ash'arism, the school that became affiliated with Abu Hasan al-Ashari (d. 936). Ash'arism is still the most common theological school in the Muslim world today, and its stance on the doctrine of God being more powerful than he is necessarily just rings true through all major competing theological schools until today.

“Let us imagine a child and a grown-up person in Heaven who both died in the True Faith. The grown-up one, however, has a higher place in Heaven than the child. The child shall ask God: ‘Why did you give that man a higher place?’ ‘He has done many good works’, God shall reply. Then the child shall say, ‘why did you let me die so soon that I was prevented from doing good?’ God will answer, ‘I knew that you would grow up into a sinner; therefore, it was better that you should die a child’. Thereupon a cry shall rise from those condemned to the depths of the Hell, ‘Why, O Lord! did You not let us die before we became sinners?’
Abu Hasan al-Ashari (d. 936), quoted in Fazlur Rahman, Islam (first ed.), University of Chicago Press, p. 91, 1970, https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/I/bo3632939.html 

In the hadith

There are some authentic hadiths which convey stories immediately relevant to Allah's relationship with justice. The messages found in these hadith are not always consistent and may not square perfectly or easily with the doctrines endorsed by the main schools of Islamic theology.

The rich are punished more severely

Narrated Abu Huraira: While we were sitting with the Prophet a man came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have been ruined." Allah's Apostle asked what was the matter with him. He replied "I had sexual intercourse with my wife while I was fasting." Allah's Apostle asked him, "Can you afford to manumit a slave?" He replied in the negative. Allah's Apostle asked him, "Can you fast for two successive months?" He replied in the negative. The Prophet asked him, "Can you afford to feed sixty poor persons?" He replied in the negative. The Prophet kept silent and while we were in that state, a big basket full of dates was brought to the Prophet . He asked, "Where is the questioner?" He replied, "I (am here)." The Prophet said (to him), "Take this (basket of dates) and give it in charity." The man said, "Should I give it to a person poorer than I? By Allah; there is no family between its (i.e. Medina's) two mountains who are poorer than I." The Prophet smiled till his pre-molar teeth became visible and then said, 'Feed your family with it."

The poor are rewarded less handsomely

Abu Huraira reported: The poor amongst the emigrants came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and said: The possessors of great wealth have obtained the highest ranks and the lasting bliss. He (the Holy Prophet) said: How is that? They said: They pray as we pray, and they observe fast as we observe fast, and they give charity but we do not give charity, and they set slaves free but we do not set slaves free. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: Shall I not teach you something by which you will catch upon those who have preceded you, and get ahead of those who come after you, only those who do as you do being more excellent than you? They said: Yes, Messenger of Allah. He (the Holy Prophet) said: Extol Allah, declare His Greatness, and Praise Him thirty-three times after every prayer. Abu Salih said: The poor amongst the emigrants returned to the Messenger of Allah (may peace upon him) saying: Our brethren, the possessors, of property have heard what we have done and they did the same. So the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: This is Allah's Grace which He gives to whom He wishes. Sumayy reported: I made a mention of this hadith to some members of my family (and one of them) said: You have forgotten; he (the Holy Prophet) had said (like this): "Extol Allah thirty-three time, praise Allah thirty-three times and declare His Greatness thirty-three times." Ibn `Ajlan said: I made a mention of this hadith to Raja' b. Haiwa and he narrated to me a hadith like this from Abu Salih from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) on the authority of Abu Huraira.

Symbolic associations in scripture

Scales of Justice in the hereafter

The symbol of the scales used in trade has been used throughout history by various cultures to represent the concept of Justice and is still seen in court rooms today. For instance Maat, the Egyptian goddess of truth, right, and orderly conduct, holds the scales which weigh the human heart in the judgment of the dead. Justitia, the Roman Lady Justice, is another goddess of justice who carries measuring balances. And the book of Daniel refers to scales being used to judge a man just as with other ancient religions.[3]

The same symbolism is found in Islamic scriptures, which describe Allah using a balancing scale to measure every individuals good deeds against their bad deeds to determine their fate in the hereafter.

In the Quran

We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgment, so that not a soul will 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.
Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy,- they will attain salvation: But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls, in Hell will they abide.
Then, he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) heavy, Will be in a life of good pleasure and satisfaction. But he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) light,- Will have his home in a (bottomless) Pit. And what will explain to thee what this is? (It is) a Fire Blazing fiercely!

The Law of Honest Scales

The Tanakh contains a codified law which requires that scales and measuring balances be honest. Such a rule and similar statements can be found in the Torah[4] and the book of Proverbs[5][6] and is in all likelihood found throughout various other cultures and religions. The Qur'an includes the this same expectation of worldly scales being used justly.

Give just measure, and cause no loss (to others by fraud). And weigh with scales true and upright.

Islamic scholars on Western vs. Islamic notions of justice

The following fatwa by a famous Saudi fatwa organization reflects the attitude many traditionalist Islamic authorities hold towards Western notions of justice when compared to those found in Islam. While the opinions of Islamic scholars vary widely across the world, the basic message and non-conciliatory attitude this fatwas consists of can be considered representative of the mindset held by the majority of Islamic scholars around the world today. It is worth noting that the small proportion of Islamic scholars residing in the West (only 3% of the global Muslim population lives in the West) is likely to have considerably more conciliatory feelings towards Western notions of justice, but this would represent an exception to the more common global phenomenon of sharp and pronounced disagreement.

The Muslim should not be deceived by the so called western and European “human rights” organizations, because although they outwardly appear to support the oppressed and to take a stance against torture and undermining of human dignity in prisons and detention centres – which in general terms are good ideas – they also play other roles, and support other principles which are aimed at destroying the family, and opening the door to slander against Islam and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and all his fellow-Prophets. They are opposed to the rule of sharee’ah which enjoins hadd punishments such as stoning for the adulterer, execution for the apostate and cutting off the hand for the thief, becoming part of legislation and being implemented, which is in fact very rare. These organizations are also opposed to the shar’i rulings that have to do with women, such as the necessity of her wali’s consent for marriage, the command to observe hijab, and the prohibition on her mixing, in addition to other principles where they claim that they want to liberate man from religious obligations and to make man free in the way he conducts his affairs, not restricted by good morals or sublime shar’i rulings.

To sum up what these organizations promote: it is that man should be able to do whatever he wants, no matter how perverse. They support lesbians, homosexuals and bisexuals, and religious deviance. They regard it as a human right to disbelieve in whatever religions one wants and to express one’s opinion – even about the Prophets – without any fear or shame, and they also support the liberation of woman from the control of her father, husband or religion.
There follow some of the articles of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was approved by the United Nations on 10/12/1948 CE, which we are quoting from their website: [Quotes from Articles 2, 18, & 19]

These so called rights and freedoms which they call for all people to enjoy regardless of religion make the monotheist and the polytheist equally entitled to these rights and freedoms, so the slave of Allaah and the slave of the Shaytaan are placed on the same level, and every worshipper of rocks, idols or people is given the complete right and freedom to enjoy his kufr and heresy. This is contrary to the laws of Allaah in this world and the Hereafter. [Quotes Quran 68:35-36, Quran 38:28, & Quran 32:18]

It is a call to abolish the ruling on apostasy, and to openly flaunt the principles of kufr and heresy. It is a call to open the door to everyone who wants to criticize Islam or the Prophet of Islam Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and to have the freedom to criticize and express oneself with no restrictions. These are corrupt principles. Even if they suit their lives, values and religion, they do not suit us and they are contrary to our pure sharee’ah, which brought rulings that are suited to individuals and societies, and establish noble morals, and protect minds, honour, physical well being and wealth, and show people the religion which Allaah loves and is pleased with.

[Quotes from Article 3] It is from this Article that the calls of these organizations come to protect criminals against execution, and started to give bad publicity to the nations which carry out the hadd punishments of Allaah by stoning married adulterers and executing bandits and those who spread mischief in the land. Now these organizations proudly claim that they have convinced many nations to abolish the death penalty for killers, rapists and criminals. This is contrary to sound human nature, reason and sharee’ah, and it is a message that gives peace of mind to those criminals that their lives will never be lost because of their deeds, which is a way of spreading mischief on earth.
They claim that the individual has the right to life and liberty, even if it is a bestial life, and even if that freedom leads to corruption, sicknesses and loss of security for the family and society.

[Quotes from Article 16] This article annuls the role of the woman’s guardian (wali) which is to protect the woman’s rights in marriage, and to help his daughter or sister to make a good choice, and to ask about the religious commitment and character of the suitor. It is by His wisdom that Allaah has prescribed this. If marriage was left up to the woman without her guardian’s consent, you would see most girls marrying those who enchant them of the wolves of men, who are eager to rob them of their chastity then throw them aside.
They also give the wife the same rights of divorce as the husband has. This is something that causes women to turn against their husbands and leads to the break up of their families. The one who knows the nature of men and women will not be able to agree to such nonsense. Western families are not so intact that we can say: Look at how they were destroyed. The call for homosexual rights and the rights of women to form any relationship she wants and women’s rights in marriage and divorce – what families can be built on such shaky foundations?

It is worth noting that these organizations are used for political purposes to put pressure on the Muslim states that care about virtue, modesty and morals, or that apply all or some of the rulings of sharee’ah. Some Muslim nations have abolished the death penalty, and they have introduced strict laws about marriage at an early age for both genders, but they pay attention to woman’s rights to khula’ and maintenance, etc, which causes widespread mischief and evil in many areas of life.


  1. Killing a Muslim in punishment for killing a non-Muslim - Islamweb, Fatwa No.92261, August 1, 2006
  2. Fatawa: Killing a Muslim for a Non-Muslim - Islamic Science University of Malaysia, November 6, 2003
  3. Daniel 5:27
  4. Leviticus 19:36
  5. Proverbs 11:1
  6. Proverbs 16:11