THE NECESSITY OF OBSERVING JUSTICE
Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Volume 3
Abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri
© 2000 Darussalam
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just, that is nearer to Taqwa; and have Taqwa of Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.” [Soorah al-Maa’idah (5):8]
Allah said, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah.” meaning, in truth for the sake of Allah, not for the sake of people or for fame, “as just witnesses” observing justice and not transgression.
It is recorded in the Two Sahihs that An-Nu`man bin Bashir said, “My father gave me a gift, but `Amrah bint Rawahah, my mother, said that she would not agree to it unless he made Allah’s Messenger, saw, as a witness to it. So, my father went to Allah’s Messenger, saw, to ask him to be a witness to his giving me the gift. Allah’s Messenger, saw, asked, ‘Have you given the like of it to everyone of your offspring?’ He replied in the negative. Allah’s Messenger, saw, said, ‘Have Taqwa of Allah and treat your children equally.’ And said:’I shall not be witness to injustice.’ My father then returned and took back his gift.”
Allah said: “and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice.”
The Ayah commands: Do not be carried away by your hatred for some people to avoid observing justice with them. Rather, be just with every one, whether a friend or an enemy. This is why Allah said, “Be just: that is nearer to Taqwa” this is better than if you abandon justice in this case.
Although Allah said that observing justice is ‘nearer to Taqwa’, there is not any other course of action to take, therefore ‘nearer’ here means ‘is’. Allah said in another Ayah, “The dwellers of Paradise will, on that Day, have the best abode, and have the fairer of places for repose.”
Some of the female Companions said to `Umar, “You are more rough and crude than the Messenger of Allah, saw.”, meaning you are rough, not that the Prophet, saw is rough at all.
Allah said next, “and have Taqwa of Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.”
And consequently, He will reward or punish you according to your actions, whether good or evil. Hence Allah’s statements afterwards, “Allah has promised those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, that for them there is forgiveness for their sins, and a great reward.” which is Paradise, that is part of Allah’s mercy for His servants. They will not earn Paradise on account of their good actions, but rather on account of His mercy and favor, even though they will qualify to earn this mercy on account of their good actions. Allah has made these actions the cause and path that lead to His mercy, favor, pardon and acceptance. Therefore, all this is from Allah Alone and all thanks are due to Him.
Allah said next, “And they who disbelieve and deny our Ayat are those who will be the dwellers of the Hell-fire.”
This only demonstrates Allah’s perfect justice, wisdom and judgment, He is never wrong, for He is the Most Wise, Most Just and Most Able.
JUSTICE AND FAIR TESTIMONY
By Imaam ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah
From the book Ar-Risaalat ut-Tabukiyyah
It is surprising to find someone claiming closeness to the Messenger (saws) and complete love for him while he strives to follow and establish someone else’s opinions. He bases his anger, love, and satisfaction on such opinions; he referees them; and he compares the Messenger’s statements to them – if they agree with those opinions then he accepts them, otherwise he applies all sorts of tricks and takes all measures to reject them and to turn away from them.
Allah (swt) said: “Believers! Stand out firmly for fair dealings, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin; be he rich or poor, Allah can best protect both. So follow not the lusts [of your hearts] lest you may avoid justice. If you distort your testimony or refuse to provide it, verily, Allah is ever Well-Acquainted with what you do” [an-Nisaa’ 4:135]
This ayah carries great meanings that should be emphasized because of people’s dire need for them.
Allah (swt) commands the believers to establish equity and justice. It should be rendered toward everyone, whether enemy or friend. It is even more important to establish justice in matters of ideas, opinions, and beliefs, because they relate to Allah’s commands and teachings. Allowing whims and disobedience to influence one’s opinions and beliefs conflicts with Allah’s commands and with His Messenger’s Message.
Establishing justice in ideas, opinions and beliefs is the mission of the successors to the Messenger (S) in his Ummah (nation) – those who are worthy of carrying the trust among his followers. No one deserves such description of honesty except those who establish absolute justice in this, as an advice for Allah, His Book, His Messenger, and His worshipers. These are indeed the true inheritors [of the glorious Message].
Thus a person is not worthy of this description if he takes his company, ways, and opinions as measures and indicators of the truth – loathing or befriending people because of them. How far is such a person from establishing the justice that Allah mandated on everyone, especially in these matters of belief where the obligation is higher!
The above ayah has,”… as witnesses to Allah …”. A witness is a reporter. If he reports truthfully then he is acceptable and just; if he reports falsehoods then he is a false witness.
In addition to establishing justice, Allah requires one to be a witness for Him alone. Thus the testimony should be: with justice and for Allah alone. In another ayah Allah (T) said: “Believers! Stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to fair dealing” [al-Maaidah 5:8]
Together, these two ayaat require four things: establishing justice, doing it for Allah, maintaining truthful testimonies, and doing this for Allah as well.
The ayah in surah an-Nisaa’ emphasizes fairness and maintaining the testimonies for Allah, while that of surah al-Maaidah emphasizes standing out firmly for Allah and maintaining fair testimonies. This difference (between the two ayaat) has an important reason that cannot be dealt with here.
THE TEST OF FAIRNESS
The above ayah (an-Nisaa’ 135) then says, “… even if it be against your own selves, your parents or your kin …”.
Allah (swt) commands to establish justice and to maintain fair testimony against everyone, including the most beloved ones. One is required to be fair against himself, his parents who are his roots, and his relatives who are usually closer and better supporters for him than other people. A person’s love for himself, his parents, and his kin, tends to prevent him from establishing the right and justice against them, especially when the right is for someone whom he hates and loathes. Thus, it is obvious that no one will establish this justice except he to whom Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saws) are more beloved than anything else. One can use this to test the strength of Imaan in his heart, and his status of Imaan.
On the other end, one should be just toward his enemies and those whom he dislikes. His hatred should not cause him to be unjust to them, just as his love for himself and his kin should not prevent him from establishing justice against them. This hatred should not make him do wrong, just as that love should not stop him from doing right. One of the salaf1 said: “A just person is one whose anger does not cause him to do wrong, and whose pleasure does not prevent him from doing right.”
Thus these two ayaat (of an-Nisaa’ and al-Maaidah) together require two things: establishing justice, and maintaining fair testimony with friends and enemies.
The above aayah (an-Nisaa’ 135) then says, “… be he rich or poor, Allah is closer to both of them …”. [The meaning of this is that,] “Allah is the Lord and Master of both the rich and the poor; they are His ‘abid (subjects), just as you are his ‘abd. So, do not be prejudiced toward a rich man because of his wealth, nor toward a poor man because of his poverty; Allah (swt) is closer than you to both of them.”
A possibly better interpretation of this is the following: “People may be reluctant to establish justice and to testify against the rich or the poor; as for the rich, they fear to cause him a loss in wealth; and as for the poor, they tend to take the matter lightly with him because of his poverty and that he possesses nothing. So they are told, ‘Allah is closer than you to both the rich and the poor; He is more knowledgeable of, and more merciful toward both; thus do not stop establishing truthful testimony against either of them.'”
Two Motivations for Hiding the Truth
The next portion of the above ayah (an-Nisa’ 135) says, “… So do not follow the lusts, lest you may be reluctant to establish justice…”
Another possible (but not as strong) interpretation of this ayah says, “… lest you may be unjust …”
This ayah (an-Nisa’ 135) continues,”… if you distort your testimony, or refuse to provide it, verily, Allah is ever Well-Acquainted with what you do”
Allah (swt) mentions here the two incentives for hiding the truth, warning against committing either of them. These are: distorting the testimony and refusing to provide it.
When the truth becomes clear and evident, a person who likes to hide it does so in one of two ways: he either turns away from it and abstains from mentioning it, acting by this as a mute devil, or he changes and distorts it.
The distortion of truth is either in words or in meaning. Distorting the words is done by adding, dropping, or replacing them with other words. It can also be done by uttering other words in such a way as to make the listener think that he heard something different from what was actually meant. This is similar to what the Jews did in greeting the Messenger (S) or on some other occasions2. Distorting the meaning is done by interpreting the words differently from what the speaker intended, introducing that which he did not mean, dropping some of what he meant, and so on.
Thus Allah (T) warns against all kinds of distortion in the testimony. A witness is required to provide a precise testimony, without hiding or distorting it. Just contemplate then on the great amount of wisdom and knowledge contained in this ayah.
In summary, Imaan is not complete, or not even present in a person, unless he submits the Texts [of the Qur’an and Sunnah] with acceptance and pleasure, proclaims them, and invites people to them. He should never respond to them with rejection or distortion.
1. Salaf: The early pious Muslims of the Sahabah (companions) and their true followers.
2. When greeting the Messenger (S), some Jews used to fake “As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum” (Peace be on you) by saying “As-Saammu Alaykum” (Death be to you) instead [Al Bukhari and Muslim]. Also, review al-Mujaadalah 58:8.