Peace and justice are terms that were coined to define the state of being at tranquility and having an appropriate response to behaviors. The two terms often parallel each other in creating a harmonious state of living where both tranquility and due process are established. Historically it may be noted that civilizations with an established judicial system reigned for lengthy periods of time in prosperity and union throughout the centuries. It is interesting to note as well how, with time, different concepts of law and order evolved and progressed to match the increasing capacity of human intellect.
From 1792 BCE, at the time of early Mesopotamia, the ruler Hammurabi established a set of legal codes that governed Babylon. Hammurabi’s belief of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” was the principle of Babylonian justice and ruled over all matters of trial and conflict. Penalties would be equal to the weight of the action; and so, a rigorous and straightforward sense of justice and equality presided over the civilization for many years. In ancient Greece, trials were held with opposing sides arguing their cases. Instead of lawyers, involved individuals would participate in civil debates themselves to rectify situations. Jurors instead of judges were appointed to oversee the proceedings.
In Rome, there were a set of rules known as the Twelve Tables that outlined the main framework for Rome’s authority and order of community and people. This system of governance was in place for more than 1500 years and was often looked back to for reference in many modern countries today. Ancient China also had its own unique judicial system that paralleled its form of government. Chinese law was heavily influenced by the Confucian Codes of Conduct that focused on individual righteousness and morality without the need for the law to interfere in affairs. Hundreds of years later, the first centralized feudal system of government in China was formed in the Qin Dynasty (1).
During the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), 1,500 years ago, the Holy Qur’an was revealed that outlined clear and universal guidelines for law and order for all the people:
“O ye who believe, be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against your parents and kindred. Whether he, against whom the witness is borne, be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both than you are. Therefore, follow not your low desires that you may be able to act equitably. And if you hide the truth or evade it, then know that Allah is Well-Aware of what you do” (2).
In an address at the National Peace Symposium in Canada, the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), Khalifatul-Masih V, said:
“In this verse, the Holy Qur’an demands the very highest possible standards of justice. It requires that Muslims should be willing to forgo all of their personal interests for the sake of the truth. Muslims are commanded to put aside their own desires or personal relationships and to be witnesses for the sake of Allah the Almighty. This verse instructs that a person must even be willing to testify against himself, his parents, and his loved ones in order to establish justice. Islam teaches that a Muslim’s first loyalty must always be to the truth and so a person must never hide the facts or give false testimony. A person should not be governed by his own personal desires, as this leads to bias and prejudice and takes a person away from what is fair and what is right. This enlightened principle is the means to solve the problems of the world and to transform all forms of hatred into peace, tolerance, and mutual respect” (3).
Furthermore, Allah directs Muslims in the Holy Qur’an to not only speak the truth and to be just but also to favor others. Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others, and giving like kindred and forbids indecency and manifest evil and transgression, “He admonishes you that you may take heed” (4).
The Internationalist Magazine of September 18, 2018, outlined ten steps to world peace. Interestingly enough, the very first thing outlined was “stamping out exclusion” providing access to justice for all equally without exclusion. The third remedy they listed was “Share out wealth fairly,” and they quote:
“According to world bank survey 40 percent of those who join rebel groups do so because of a lack of economic opportunities. Relative poverty is just as important, with more equal societies marked by high levels of trust and low levels of violence. Economic fairness when it comes to public resources, taxation, and tax evasion is also key. The systematic transfer of wealth from rich to poor – instead of the other way around – improves security for everyone.”
The tenth remedy they mentioned was “look within” and they quote: “Peace starts with you. Ordinary citizens can make a difference. When’s the last time you said sorry? Think about who loses when you win. Are the people around you heard and respected, or marginalized, ignored, and left out? Make a decision to care about what happens to them. Start a constructive conversation with someone you disagree with. Challenge ‘them-and-us’ thinking in yourself as well as in others. Every one of us can choose to make society more just and peaceful, or more unjust and warlike” (5).
His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, addressing the European Parliament in Brussels in 2012, states:
“I should also mention that there are multiple aspects of ‘peace’ and ‘security’. As every individual facet is important in its own right, at the same time the way each aspect interlinks is also extremely important. For example, the basic building block for peace in society is tranquility and harmony within the family home. The situation within a home is not limited but has a knock-on effect on the peace of the local area, which in turn affects the peace of the wider town or city. If there is a disturbance in the home it will negatively affect the local area and that will affect the town or city. In the same way, the state of the town or city affects the peace of the entire country, and ultimately the state of a nation affects the peace and harmony of the region or the entire world. Therefore, it is clear that if you wish to discuss even a single aspect of peace, you will find that its scope is not limited, but will continue to expand. In a similar way, we find that where there is a lack of peace, different methods are required to solve the issue, based on the underlying problems that exist and upon the particular aspects of peace and security that have been violated” (6).
As explained above by His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), it is important to understand that in order for peace to flourish, justice and equality must be prioritized and implemented to ensure a balance between authority and harmony. Justice and peace work best in unison and are complementary to each other in multiple ways that have evidently been witnessed throughout history and civilization. The cultivation of our modern judicial system and its effect on the welfare of the public has been advanced from past rules of government into a new era, but not nearly enough. Until absolute justice can be established, there can be no peace.
This article appears in the February 2022 print edition.
1. Law in the Ancient World (February 16, 2021). https://online.law.tulane.edu/articles/law-in-the-ancient-world [Accessed: December 5, 2021]
2. The Holy Quran (4:136)
3. Mirza Masroor Ahmad, “Justice, The Prerequisite to a Peaceful World.” https://www.alislam.org/articles/justice-prerequi site-to-peaceful-world/ [Accessed: December 5, 2021]
4. The Holy Quran (16:91)
5. “10 steps to world peace.” https://newint.org/features/2018/09/18/10-steps-world-peace (18 September 2018) [Accessed: December 5, 2021]
6. Mirza Masroor Ahmad, “Khalifa of Islam makes historic address at European Parliament,” https://www.alislam.org/press-re lease/khalifa-of-islam-makes-historic-address-at-european-parliament/ [Accessed: December 5, 2021]
Last modified: February 2022