Justice System During Early Khilafat


“Darul-Qadha’a during the Rightly-Guided Khulafa”

Throughout known human history lack of justice has been the root cause of decay and degradation of civilizations. No society can make any progress without prevalence of justice and peace. A common tenet of the missions of all messengers of God has been to create a just society. Islamic teaching on justice system stands out among teachings of other different faiths. There are several verses of the Holy Qur’an as well as Ahadith of Holy Prophet (sa) on the subject matter.

Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra)

Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) was very particular that due justice should be done to all the members of the community without fear or favor according to the injunctions of Islam. At the time of the assumption of office as Caliph he declared:

“The weak among you shall be strong with me till God willing his rights have been vindicated and the strong among you shall be weak with me till, if the Lord wills, I have taken what is due from him.”

Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) strictly followed this policy and administered evenhanded justice. As a result of this policy, a society came to be established in Medina, which was practically litigation free (1). He followed the example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) and always consulted the companions in important matters.

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Hazrat Umar bin al-Khattab (ra)

Hazrat Umar (ra) took particular pains to provide effective and speedy justice for the people. He set up an effective system of judicial administration. Justice was administered according to the principles of Islam. Qadis (judges) were appointed at all administrative levels. Hazrat Umar was the first ruler in history to separate judiciary from the executive. The Qadis were chosen for their integrity and knowledge of Islamic law. High salaries were fixed for the Qadis so that there was no temptation for bribery. Wealthy men of high social status were appointed as Qadis so that they may not have the temptation to take bribes, or be influenced by the social position of anybody. The Qadis were not allowed to engage in trade. Judges were appointed in sufficient number, and there was no District which did not have one.

Hazrat Umar (ra) issued ‘Farmans’ from time to time laying down the principles for the administration of justice. In one of the Farmans issued to Judicial Officers, he laid down the following principles:

“Praise be to God. Verily justice is an important obligation to God and man. You have been charged with this responsibility. Discharge the responsibility so that you may win the approbation of God and the goodwill of the people. Treat the people equally in your presence, in your company, and in your decisions, so that the weak despair not of justice and the high-placed have no hope of your favor. The onus of proof lies on the plaintiff. He who denies must do so on oath. Compromise is permissible, provided it does not turn the unlawful into lawful, and the lawful into unlawful. Let nothing prevent you from changing your previous decision if after consideration you feel that the previous decision was incorrect.

“When you are in doubt on a question and find nothing about it in the Qur’an or in the Sunnah of the Prophet, think over the question over and over again. Ponder over the precedents and analogous cases, and then decide by analogy. A term should be fixed for the person who wants to produce witnesses. If he proves his case, get him his right. Otherwise, the suit should be dismissed.

“All Muslims are reliable, except those who have been punished with flogging, or who have borne false witness or are doubtful in integrity” (2).

History has preserved the names of some of the eminent persons who held judicial office during the caliphate of Hazrat Umar (ra):

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Hazrat Umar (ra) as a plaintiff

It is related that Hazrat Umar (ra) purchased a horse on approval, and gave it to somebody to try it. The horse got hurt in the ride, and Hazrat Umar (ra) wanted to return it, but the owner refused to take it back. In the dispute that arose as a consequence, Shuraih was chosen as the arbitrator. He gave the verdict that if the horse was ridden with the permission of the owner it could be returned, otherwise not. Hazrat Umar (ra) said that was the right decision and at once appointed Shuraih as the Qadi of Kufa (2).

Here is another example of Hazrat Umar’s (ra) respect for justice and his conviction that all are equal before the law.

Hazrat Umar (ra) as a defendant

Once a dispute arose between Hazrat Umar (ra) and a Muslim called Ubayy bin Ka`ab over some money. The case came before Qadi Zaid for hearing who ordered Hazrat Umar (ra) to appear before him to plead his case. As the parties arrived in court, Zaid, out of respect for the Khalifah, invited Hazrat Umar (ra) to sit with him, but he declined by saying, “This is your first injustice. All are equal before the court of law.” He then went and sat along side Ubayy bin Ka`ab.

During the hearing Ubayy was asked to produce any evidence for his claim but he failed to do so. Hazrat Umar (ra) totally denied that Ubayy had any claim over him. At this Ubayy requested the court to get a statement on oath from Hazrat Umar (ra). Qadi Zaid hesitated by saying that it was not proper for the Khalifah to sign such a statement but Hazrat Umar (ra) reprimanded the judge by saying, “You can administer justice only if you remain impartial” (3).

With victories in battlefields the Muslim empire expanded and Hazrat Umar (ra) appointed Qadis and governors in all regions and provinces who ruled according to the teachings of Islam. It is related that once while he was writing an appointment order for a person, a child came running to him and sat on his lap. Hazrat Umar (ra) began to pat the child with one hand while he kept on writing with the other. Seeing this, the person remarked:

“Ameer-ul-Momineen, the child seems to be enjoying your company. I have ten children and none of them dare come close to me while I am working.”

Hazrat Umar (ra) heard this and cancelled the orders of appointment saying:

“How can a person, who can’t love his own children, love the people who are put under his care?”

Hazrat Umar (ra) always advised his governors in the following manner:

  1. Do not be discourteous to anyone whether he is a Muslim or a non-Muslim.
  2. Do not misuse your office for your own benefit or for the benefit of your friends and relatives.
  3. I have not appointed you to treat people harshly. You should do justice to them at all times.

Hazrat Umar (ra) as an Arbitrator

Hazrat Amr bin Al-Aas’s (ra) son hit a poor Egyptian for no apparent reason. Hazrat Amr bin Al-Aas (ra) arrested the Egyptian and put him into prison so that he could not go to Hazrat Umar (ra) and complain. Shortly afterwards, when the poor person was released, he went straight to Hazrat Umar (ra) and told him the whole story. Hazrat Umar (ra) called Amr bin Al-Aas and his son to Medina. When they arrived, he told the Egyptian to take his revenge from Amr’s son. The Egyptian hit the boy so hard that he was injured. When he finished, Hazrat Umar (ra) gave him permission to hit the Governor as well saying: “Had he not been the son of a Governor, he would not have hit you.”

Hazrat Amr bin Al-Aas pleaded, “Sir, the offender has been duly punished.”

“What did you say?” asked Hazrat Umar to the Egyptian. The Egyptian said that he had already taken revenge from the person who had hit him and that he was satisfied that the justice was done. Hazrat Umar (ra) accepted the plea of the Egyptian and then admonished his Governor saying, “Every person is born free, you should not treat him like a slave.”

Hazrat Amr bin Al-Aas was so ashamed at his conduct and that of his son that he sought forgiveness from Hazrat Umar (ra), which was duly granted (3).

Majlis Shura (consultative body) was well established and Hazrat Umar consulted companions on all important matters such as appointment of governors, Qadis and other government officials during wars etc.

Hadrat Uthman bin Affan (ra)

As more territories came under Muslim control judiciary and administrative divisions of the government improved further during the caliphate of Hazrat Uthman (ra).

Hazrat Uthman (ra) issued the following directive to the persons responsible for administration in various parts of the dominions:

“After glorifying and offering all praise to God Almighty, it may be stated that Allah requires the administrators to be the well wishers and protectors of the people… See that a proper equation is maintained between the rights and duties of the people. Everybody should perform his duty, and at the same time he should be assured that he would have what is due to him…(4)”.

Hazrat Ali bin Abu Talib (ra)

Judiciary and administrative set up became more advanced during the reign of Hazrat Ali (ra). When Malik Ashtar was appointed as the Governor of Egypt, Hazrat Ali (ra) instructed him as follows:

“O Malik let it be known to you that you have been appointed to the governorship of Egypt … When appointing Qadis, select holy and pious persons for the post. They should neither be greedy nor make errors in their judgments. In no way should they deviate from the truth deliberately … Give them handsome pay so that they may not be beguiled into monetary temptations.” (5)

Similar instructions were sent to every governor at the time of appointment. Like earlier khulafa, Hazrat Ali (ra) was also an arbitrator.

Hazrat Ali (ra) as a Plaintiff

After the Battle of Siffin, Hazrat Ali (ra) lost his valuable coat of mail and saw it in the possession of a Christian. When asked to return it, the man insisted that the coat belonged to him. Hazrat Ali (ra) filed a suit in the court of the Qadi of Kufa. The Qadi asked him to produce witnesses in support of his claim. Hazrat Ali (ra) could produce his son and his slave as witnesses. The Qadi held that he could not accept such evidence. Hazrat Ali (ra) appreciated the integrity of the Qadi. After the judgment the Christian came to Hazrat Ali and offered him the coat saying that it in fact belonged to him. The man was so impressed that he accepted Islam at the hands of Hazrat Ali (ra) who presented him the coat of mail as well as a horse…(6).

Appears in the Fall 2017 issue.


  1. Khalifa Abu Bakr: “Political, Social, Economic and Military Organization”. http://www.alim.org/library/biography/khalifa/content/KAB/15/2
  2. Khalifa Umar bin al-Khattab: “Political and Governmental Actions Judicial Administration” http://www.alim.org/library/biography/khalifa/content/KUM/15/5
  3. Hadrat Umar Farooq (ra) by Rashid Ahmad Chaudhry https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Hazrat-Omer.pdf
  4. Khalifa Uthman bin Affan: “The Trial of Ubaidullah bin Umar Directive to the administrators” http://www.alim.org/library/biography/khalifa/content/KUT/9/8
  5. Khalifa Ali bin Abu Talib: “Administrative Instructions of Ali Instructions to Malik Ashtar” http://www.alim.org/library/biography/khalifa/content/KAL/83/2
  6. Khalifa Ali bin Abu Talib: “Judgments of Ali” http://www.alim.org/library/biography/khalifa/content/KAL/84/10

Last modified: January 2022

2 Responses to :
Justice System During Early Khilafat

  1. Zaina Fatima says:

    Love this , I learn alot of things thank you!

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