The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) was completely just and fair in all his dealings, judgments, and legal rulings amongst his followers. He (sa) knew that after his demise, the legacy of his rulings would be in the hands of others, hence he (sa) deemed it essential that in the same way that as justice prevailed during his lifetime, just laws must also be applied among the Muslims of enduring generations. Various sayings of the Holy Prophet (sa) illustrate and stress the importance of being just and fair. Once he (sa) stated: ” Allah will give shade, to seven, on the Day when there will be no shade but His. [These seven persons are] a just ruler, a youth who has been brought up in the worship of Allah [i.e., worships Allah sincerely from childhood], a man whose heart is attached to the mosques, two persons who love each other only for Allah’s sake and they meet and part in Allah’s cause only, a man who refuses the call of a charming woman of noble birth for illicit intercourse with her and says: ‘I am afraid of Allah,’ a man who gives charitable gifts so secretly that his left-hand does not know what his right hand has given [i.e., nobody knows how much he has given in charity], and a person who remembers Allah in seclusion and his eyes are then flooded with tears” (1).
The Holy Prophet (sa) gave one of the most concise and wise pieces of advice about justice to his people in his Farewell Speech, in which he stated: “O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no favor of an Arab over a foreigner, nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness” (2). Similarly, in another Hadith, it is mentioned, “No one is better than anyone else except by religion or good deeds. It is enough evil for a man to be profane, vulgar, greedy, or cowardly” (3).
Honesty and fairness are essential characteristics of a leader since he/she is not responsible only for a single person but rather for an entire nation of people. Nonetheless, the implementation of justice is not limited to leaders of countries, to governors, or to judges. Justice has limitless applications in all aspects of life and for all people. People must apply principles of justice as leaders in whatever authoritative roles they acquire; they must be fair and even-handed in their judgments; they must apply the legal rulings of Islam, if called upon, in a just manner; they must be just in their everyday dealings with other people; they must be just when they try to make peace between two disputing parties; they must be just with their children and their spouses; they must be just even with their enemies. They must learn from the way the Holy Prophet (sa) treated everyone equally in his lifetime. He once said:
“Verily, with Allah, the just ones will be on pulpits made of light; they will be to the right of the Most-Merciful One- and both His hands are right. They are the ones who are just in their rulings, among the families, and with all over which they have authority” (4).
The following example illustrates how the Holy Prophet (sa) was a just leader, and fair in his dealings with others. The Holy Prophet (sa) treated the rich and the poor equally, something that, in the beginning, did not go down well with the elite members of the Quraish, who had for so long been accustomed to special treatment and special privileges. In fact, during the pre-Islamic days of ignorance, people of high ranking in the society felt that they could do wrong to others with impunity, but everything changed with the advent of Islam, and perhaps no example better illustrates that change than the story of a Makhzumi woman.
The narrator of the story, Hadrat Aisha (ra), reported that the leader of the Quraish became greatly distressed when, during the conquest of Makkah, a female member of the Makhzumi tribe was caught stealing. She belonged to the noble class of the Quraish, and she was a woman of high standing within her tribe. The leaders of the Quraish, having only recently embraced Islam, still held notions of elitism that were foreign to Islam. Thus, they did not think that it was fitting for a woman of such high ranking to be punished by having her hand cut off. But that was precisely what was about to happen since she was guilty of the crime of stealing and since what she stole was worth more than the minimum amount that was required for a thief to be punished with the severing of his hand.
None of the leaders of the Quraish dared to intercede on behalf of the Makhzumi woman; they knew they did not have a leg to stand on, for the woman was obviously guilty. Furthermore, after years of fighting against and persecuting Muslims, they did not want now to incite a confrontation with the Holy Prophet (sa). And so, they came up with a plan that at once protected them from the Holy Prophet’s (sa) anger and gave them hope regarding the fate of the Makhzumi woman. According to their plan, they would not speak to the Holy Prophet (sa) directly about the matter, instead, they would send someone to intercede on their behalf, someone the Holy Prophet (sa) loved a great deal, and whose request was not likely to be denied by the Holy Prophet (sa). That someone was Usamah ibn Zaid (ra). The leaders of the Quraish said among themselves, “Who other than Usamah ibn Zaid will dare speak to him (regarding this matter), for he is “The beloved one’ of the Messenger of Allah.” Reluctantly, Usamah (ra) agreed to intercede on behalf of the Makhzumi woman. When he finally brought up the matter to the Holy Prophet (sa), the color of the Holy Prophet’s (sa) face turned red. In an angry tone, the Holy Prophet (sa) said: “Are you interceding regarding one of Allah’s decreed laws (or punishments)?” That same evening, the Holy Prophet (sa) stood up to deliver a short sermon to the people, he said:
“O people, what destroyed the people who came before you were that, if a person of high-ranking among them stole, they would leave him (and not punish him); and if someone who was deemed weak among them stole, they would apply the divinely decreed punishment upon him. By the One Who has my soul in His Hand, were Fatimah the daughter of Muhammad to steal, I would cut her hand off” (5, 6, 7).
Justice is the opposite of all things unjust: wrongdoing, tyranny, oppression, and transgression. Allah ordered us to be just in our speech, in our judgments, and in our dealings. It is incumbent upon every Muslim to be just and fair in everything he says, in every judgment he makes, and in all his dealings- including, as the next example illustrates, in the treatment of his children. One day, while standing on the pulpit, Noman ibn Bashir (ra) told the story of how his father once gave him a gift. Noman (ra) said,
“When my father gave me a gift, ‘Umrah bint Atiyyah (his mother) said (to my father), ‘I will not be satisfied until you make the Messenger of Allah a witness (over this gift).’ My father went to the Messenger of Allah and said, ‘Verily, I have given my son a gift, but his mother, ‘Umrah, ordered me to make you a witness over it, O Messenger of Allah.’ The Holy Prophet (sa) asked, ‘Have you given each of your sons a similar gift?’ He said, ‘No.’ The
Holy Prophet (sa) said, ‘Then fear Allah, and be just and equitable in your treatment of your children.’ My father then returned and took back his gift” (8).
These few examples from the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) show unequivocally that he was always looking for opportunities to establish social justice also in order to teach this important lesson not only to his companions but also to leave guidance for generations to come.
1. Sahih al-Bukhari, No: 660, Book 10, Hadith 54, https://sunnah.com/bukhari:660
2. Musnad Aḥmad Bin Hanbal, No: 23489
3. Shu’ab al-Imān, No: 4767
4. Muslim 1827; https://sunnah.com/muslim:1827
5. Sunan Ibn Majah, No: 2547 Book 20, Hadith 15 https://sunnah.com/ibnmajah:2547
6. Sahih Muslim: Book 17 Number 4188: https://abdurrahman.org/2014/09/04/sahih-muslim-book-017/ 7. Sunan Abi Dawud, No: 4373; https://sunnah.com/abudawud:4373
8. Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3, Book 14, Hadith 23775
Last modified: June 2022