DOING justice is one of the key features of the Qur’anic teachings. It has been specifically termed as akin to piety (5:8). Its importance and practice have been emphasized in several ways. One is when the Qur’an directly enjoins the believers to do justice and refrain from doing injustice (16:90).
The other is when the Qur’an says that Allah loves those who do justice (5:42) and warns those who carry the burden of the sins of inequities (injustices) (20:111) with a categorical declaration that for unjust there will be no helpers. The third is when the Qur’an enjoins the believers to be firm and foremost in doing justice for the sake of Allah (4:135). Normally whatever a person does, he does it for his own sake. But through this verse, the Qur’an enjoins the believers to do justice for the sake of Allah which shows how important doing justice is.
There are three factors that invariably take one away from the path of justice. One is lust, the other is affiliation or relationships and the third is enmity. The Qur’an expressly exhorts believers not to be influenced by these factors.(38:26).
The Qur’an enjoins the believers to do justice even if it may be harmful to themselves, or to their parents or to their relatives and irrespective of the fact that the party concerned is rich or poor (4:135). It means that they have to do justice uninfluenced by self-interest or any other affiliation or motive. The Qur’an further exhorts the believers to be so steadfast in doing justice that their enmity with some people should not turn them away from the path of justice (5:8). In other words, they have to be just even to enemies.
The Qur’an not only highlights the importance of justice but also tells us how to do justice when it says: “Indeed We have sent Our Messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance (justice) that mankind may keep up justice.” (57:25).
The verse, in fact, tells us that Allah sent His Messengers and with them the Books to enlighten the people, among other things, on the importance of balance so that they learn how to do justice.
The word “Balance” implies the maintenance of equilibrium. In the sphere of human activities when the norms of balance are applied in the exercise of discretion, whether in relation to one’s self or in relation to others or in the exercise of authority or in the delivery of judgment or decision in regard to others in general and their rights and obligations in particular, it is called justice.
Dispensation of justice assumes particular significance when it is in regard to the determination of the rights or obligations, or the guilt or innocence of others. The modern jurisprudence has identified three principles commonly known as the principles of natural justice the observance of which could be sine qua non to the doing of justice. One is that no one shall be condemned without being given a hearing. The other is that justice shall not only be done but shall manifestly be seen to be done. The third is that no one shall be a judge in his own case. All these principles are in the observance of the norms of balance as enjoined by the Qur’an.
The first and foremost requirement of observing the norms of balance could be that every allegation must be made by an appropriate explanation. The person alleged to have done something wrong, or to have failed to discharge an obligation, must have an opportunity to explain his position in respect of the allegation. Without such an opportunity it will not be possible to observe the norms of balance. The decision of Prophet Dawud (David) in the dispute between the two brothers over the ownership of a ewe (38:22,23) could be the best example.
Although the decision of Dawud was manifestly right in spite of that he fell down prostrate and sought Allah’s forgiveness after giving the decision, the only plausible explanation of which could be that it occurred to him that he gave his decision without hearing the other party. The principle that could be deduced from this story would be that no one shall be condemned without a hearing even if he is manifestly wrong.
The other requirement of observing the norms of balance could be that the person giving decision in the dispute between the parties gives equal opportunities to the parties to present, plead and defend their claims and positions, as the case may be, weighs the evidence adduced and the arguments and counter-arguments put forward on even scales, gives due consideration to the contentions raised and pleas by the parties and delivers judgment on merit, uninfluenced by any extraneous consideration. This, in other words, implies that justice shall not only be done but shall manifestly be seen to be done.
The third requirement of observing the norms of balance could be that the person giving the decision in a dispute involving the rights and obligations of others is unbiased and has no personal interest in the case. Balance is disturbed when the person giving the decision is biased or becomes a judge in his own cause. This is the third principle of natural justice deducible from the observance of the norms of balance as enjoined by the Qur’an.
An excellent example of the observance of the norms of balance cited by the Qur’an could be when the standing crop in the farm of a person was destroyed by the sheep of another person. The matter came up for decision before Dawud who ruled that all of the sheep should be given to the owner of the farm. Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon) came to know about the decision who said if he were to decide the matter he would have given a different decision.
When Dawud heard about it, he called his son Sulaiman and asked him what decision would he have given in the matter. Sulaiman said his decision would have been to give the sheep in the charge of the owner of the farm so that he could make use of them and the owner of the sheep would have been asked to sow seed in the farm and raise another crop. When the crop reached the same stage, in which it was when destroyed, the farm was to be given to its owner and the sheep returned to their owner. Dawud agreed and pronounced the same decision.
The doing of justice, whether in matters involving the rights and obligations of parties or the liability of persons, civil or criminal, largely depends on evidence. It is because of this reason that the Qur’an lays special emphasis on the production of proper and relevant evidence. As it says: “And mix not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know.” (2:42). It says again: “And conceal not the evidence, for he who hides it, surely, his heart is sinful . . .” (2:283) and to be staunch and firm in giving evidence (4:135).