In Light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah

The pursuit of justice has occupied the minds of Western and Eastern philosophers from Aristotle down to our times. What is justice? How can it be achieved? Who is a just Person? These are some of the questions that have been debated in every age including our own.

Justice is a dominant theme in the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition. It is not only mentioned explicitly in many verses, it is implicit as well in the subtext to the narratives, for example, relating to Prophets and communities before the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Justice is so central to the Qur’anic worldview that it is impossible for anyone to overlook it. It is glaringly evident in the life of Prophet Muhammad  and his administration of the city of Madina 1400 years ago. Not surprisingly, justice has also been a dominant theme in Muslim societies from the years of the Khulafa Al-Rasihidun and beyond. From the administration of the state down to the regulation of weights and measures in the market place, justice has always been the desired objective of Muslim societies, even as it has been elusive.

In this essay I will attempt to outline the Islamic view of justice. I will begin with a brief overview of the concept of justice as it is conceived among western philosophers. This will be followed by examining the concept of justice through the lens of Muslim philosophers. Turning to the Qur’an and ahadith, I will examine three important and interrelated dimensions of justice. The final part of the essay will cite examples from the Prophetic and post-Prophetic traditions to demonstrate how Muslims have interpreted the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah in order to bring about what we today might describe as ‘a just society'.