Harvard Law School, one of the most prestigious institutions of its kind in the world, has recently posted a verse of the Holy Qur’an at the entrance of its Faculty Library, describing the verse as one of the greatest expressions of justice in history. Verse 135 of Surah Al Nisa (The Women) has been posted at a wall facing the faculty’s main entrance, dedicated to the best phrases articulating justice:
“O you who believe!
Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses
To Allah, even as against
Yourselves or your parents,
Or your kin, and whether
It be (against) rich or poor;
For Allah can best protect both".
Established in 1817, Harvard is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. Among its alumni is US President Barack Hussein Obama and a host of influential journalists, writers, media and business leaders and even professional athletes. According to its official , The Words of Justice exhibition is a testimony of the endurance of humanity’s yearning for fairness and dignity through law. “The words on these walls affirm the power and irrepressibility of the idea of justice.”
We reproduce below an insightful explanation of this particular verse provided by the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius as part of his forthcoming Commentary on the Holy Qur’an:
"O you who believe, be persistently standing firm in justice, (and be) witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not low desires lest you do not act with justice. And if you conceal (the truth) or evade (it), then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do".
A true believer is expected by His Maker to be just in all circumstances. Justice is an attribute of God and Allah wants that His servants reflect that exceptional quality also in them. The true believer lets justice rule his life, even if he has to defy his own blood relations in settling a matter with justice.
Someone who loves Allah, His prophet and Islam must come forward to be the witnesses for Allah, witnessing to the establishment of justice and righteousness. No rich is to be favoured more than a poor one. Justice should prevail even if a wealthy person has to be tried after having been found guilty in a serious and appalling matter. Justice should be meted out at all stages of life and for all people. A perfect example of the establishment of such refined justice is found in the well-known saying of the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him):
A woman from noble descent was found guilty of theft and the prescribed divine punishment as found in the Holy Quran was to have her hand cut off. As she was from a noble line, Usama bin Zaid, the beloved companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was selected to go to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and plead on the behalf of that woman. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was very angry with such a request, especially concerning one of the prescribed divine punishment and later in the evening stood on the pulpit and delivered a sermon:
“This (injustice) destroyed those before you that when any one of (high) rank committed theft among them, they spared him, and when any weak one among them committed theft, they inflicted the prescribed punishment upon him. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, even if Fatima daughter of Muhammad were to commit theft, I would have cut off her hand.”
Afterwards the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) ordered that justice be made and that the hand of the guilty woman be cut off. (Muslim)
Therefore this Hadith goes hand in hand with this present verse which stipulates that there is no family feeling in meting out justice, and even if a close and beloved family member is found guilty of a heinous act then Allah’s commandment comes first. The believer is to submit to the divine laws and implement justice come what may.
Justice outside Islam is not as excellent in nature as that found in our pure religion. Justice in Islam would mean that it is the fear of Allah which regulates the believer in all circumstances. His fear of Allah propels him to establish truth and justice even if he is to rebel against his own people. This form of rebellion is a sign of the strength of the believer for this rebellion is made against injustice, against corruption of one’s mind and soul.
Therefore, a true believer is not one who lets his family feelings blind him in the settling of justice. If his own parents are guilty, then he is the one to denounce his own parents, siblings, near relatives etc., all for the sake of Allah, for the sake of justice. He should bear in mind that Allah is watching him and that his first and foremost duty is to obey Allah and implement justice as ordained by Allah, even if his family members or friends are not happy with him.
In such times of trials, family feelings can become a poison which eats away faith when the person happens to fall prey to his low desires and choose his family over the divine commandments. Such person therefore falls in the eyes of Allah, losing his dignity as a true believer and witness for Allah.