Justice in Islam (2)

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Saidina Umar’s example of justice captured hearts and minds of the people of his time and is also relevant as an example for us today. In his view, justice was a practical way of calling people to Islam and opening people’s hearts to faith. He followed the same method as the Prophet (SAW), a way which based on justice that encompassed all people. Unlike many countries today who propose an ‘Islamic Justice’ without actually implementing it.

The Prophet s.a.w. and Saidina Umar r.a.’s success on the practical level is unprecedented, so much so that their names became synonymous with justice and anyone who learns even a little about their lives story can hardly separate the two.

There are 3 key reasons why Saidina Umar r.a. was particularly successful:

  1. Lead oneself: He adhered firmly to the truth, to such an extent that he was stricter with himself and his own family than with the people.
  2. Vision: The concept of meeting Allah was deeply rooted in his mind, to such an extent that in all that he did, he sought the pleasure of Allah before the pleasure of the people, and he feared Allah but he did not fear anyone among the people.
  3. Followers: The authority of shari’ah held sway in the hearts of the Sahabah and Thabi’een, so that Saidina Umar actions met with strong support and a great deal of cooperation from everyone.

There are some examples of his attitude in establishing justice and fairness the people:

Justice Transcends Religion

Saidina Umar ruled in favour of Jewish man against a Muslim; the fact that the Jewish man was a non muslim did not cause him to be unjust towards him or to be biased against him. Iman Malik narrated from Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib that a Jewish man and a Muslim referred their dispute to `Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA). `Umar saw that the Jew was in the right and he ruled in his favour. The Jewish man said to him: “By Allah you have ruled aright.”

Justice with Governors/Politicians

Saidina Umar r.a. used to command his agents to come and meet him on certain occasions, and when they had gathered he would say: “O’ people, I send my agents to you to beat you or take your money, rather I send them to protect you against any injustice and to divide the war booty among you. If anyone has had everything else done to him, let him stand up.” No one stood up except one man who stood up and said, “O’ Commander of the Faithful, your agent gave me one hundred lashes.” He asked, “What did you beat him for? Get up and settle the score.” `Amr ibn al-As stood up and said, “O’ Commander of the Faithful, if you do that, things will go out of control and it will set a precedent that people will follow after you.” He asked, “Should I not establish justice when the Messenger of Allah allowed people to settle scores with him?” he said: “Then let us make a deal with him.” He said: Here he is, work it out with him.” So they compensated him by giving him two hundred dinars, two dinars for each blow of the whip. If they had not made this deal, Saidina Umar would have allowed the man to settle the score.

Justice Regardless of Position and Affiliation

A man Egypt came to complain about the son of `Amr ibn al-As, who was Saidina Umar’s governors in Egypt. He said: “O’ Commander of the Faithful, here is man running to you from oppression. He said, “I will offer you protection.” He said, “I raced with the son of `Amr ibn al-As and beat him, and he started hitting me with a whip and saying, `I am the son of noble people.’ “Saidina Umar wrote to `Amr (RA), telling him to come (to Madeenah) and bring his son with him. `Amr came and Saidina Umar said, “Where is the Egyptian? Take the whip and hit him.” So he started hitting him with the whip, and Saidina Umar was saying, “Hit the son of noble people!” Anas said he hit him, and by Allah we liked that hitting, and he did not stop until we thought that it was enough. Then Saidina Umar said to the Egyptian, “Hit the bald head of `Amr.” He said, “O’ Commander of the Faithful, his son is the one hit me, and I am satisfied. Saidina Umar said to `Amr, “Since when did you enslave people whose mothers bore them free?” he said, “O’ Commander of the Faithful, I did not know about (this incident) and he did not come to me.”

The state of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs was based on the principle of justice. How well ibn Taymiyah put it when he said: “Allah causes the just state to prevail even if it is a non-muslim state, and He does not allow an unjust state to prevail, even if it is a Muslim state …”

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Something for muslims today to ponder.

Justice in Islam (1)

I chose to write about this topic at a pertinent time when we tend to blur the line between what government is and what government should be and where Islam stands in this issue. In many cases, what is portrayed (or even practiced by muslims) is far from what Islam preaches or is contained in the scriptures.

The establishment of justice between people on the individual, social and international levels is not voluntary matter that depends on the moods or whims and desires of the ruler or the government. Rather the establishment of the justice between people is a universal tenet and basic human principle. In Islam, it is regarded as one of the most sacred and important of duties in Islam. The ummah is unanimously agreed that justice is obligatory. Al-Fakhr ar-Razi said: “They (the scholars) are unanimously agreed that whoever is a ruler (or judge) must rule (or judge) with justice.”

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One of the aims of Islamic government or administration is to set out the principles of the Islamic system for the purpose of establishing a prosperous and well-balanced society. Among the most important of these principles are justice and equality and these principles are evident in the administrations of the righteous caliphs.

I refer to the speeches which Saidina Umar gave to the people, he affirmed these principles, and his justice and sense of equality were manifested in the speech which he delivered to the people on the day when he became caliph. Undoubtedly justice, in Saidina Umar’s and all the Companion’s minds, meant the justice of Islam, which is the main pillar of Islamic society and Islamic rule. Islam cannot exist in a society where injustice prevails and justice is unknown.

This ruling is supported by the texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah. One of the goals of the Islamic state is to establish an Islamic state in which justice and equality prevail and injustice is eliminated and opposed in all its forms. There are 3 key principles that an Islamic administration must do to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done:

  1. The state should provide opportunities for each person who is seeking his right to attain them in the quickest and easiest manner possible without that costing him any effort or money.
  2. The state should prevent all means that put obstacles in the way of the one who is seeking his rights.

This is what `Umar did in his state. He opened the doors to enable all people to get what is their due and he himself checked on the people’s situation, protecting them from oppression and establishing justice between the governors and the people, not caring whether the one against whom judgement was passed was a relative or an enemy, rich or poor. Allah (SWT) says:

O’ you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witness; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just; that is nearer to piety; and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do. (Qur’an 5:8)

We will dissect a few examples of justice during the time of Saidina Umar r.a. for better understanding in the next article.

Islamic Management: Meetings and Consultation (3)

Continuing from our previous discussion, we gave examples of consultations of leaders with experts and those who were seniors.

However, seniority and experts weren’t the only group that Saidina Umar r.a. sought advice. Saidina Umar r.a. started to add younger people to the gatherings too, because he knew that the elders were approaching the end of their lives and would soon go to their Lord and His mercy and forgiveness, and the state needed to renew its manpower. The brilliant `Umar realized this fact and started to choose from among the youth of the ummah those whom he sensed were knowledge and pious. `Abdullah ibn `Abbas was one of the first of them, and `Umar continued to choose some of the youth of the ummah as advisors based on how much they knew of the Qur`an. `Abdullah ibn `Abbas said:

“Those who were well-versed in Qur’an were the members of `Umar’s council and his advisors, whether they were old or young.”

If at all, leadership through syura helped to develop young leaders. Az-Zuhri said to some young people: “Do not think too little of yourself because you are young, for when `Umar ibn al-Khattab was faced a difficult problem, he would call the young people and seek their advice, relying on the sharpness of their minds.

Women were part of the consultation and meetings and therefore, part of governing the country. Muhammad ibn Sireen said: Saidina Umar used to consult people about matters and he would even consult the women ,and if he saw something in a woman’s opinion that he thought was good, he would follow it. It is narrated that on one occasion he consulted the Mother of the Believers Hafsa r.a. If at all, this should reinforce the opinion on the importance of women in governance or leadership.

The areas of syura at the time of Saidina Umar were many and varied, such as the administrative and political fields, such as the selection of agents and governors, military matters, purely shariah issues, such as determining shariah rulings on whether things were halal or haram, and matters pertaining to courts and the passing of judgements.

For example, with regard to calamities, Saidina Umar practiced a consultative approach towards crisis management. He would assemble the Sahabah and widen the circle of advisors as much as possible, as he did when the plague struck Syria when he was on his way there. News of that reached Saidina Umar when the governors came to meet him in Saragh, which is a place near Syria. The Muhajireen and Ansar were with `Umar, so he assembled them asked them whether he would carry on or go back. They differed concerning that. Some said, “You came out seeking the pleasure of Allah and this should not stop you from carrying on.” Other said: “It is trial and death, and we do not think that you should go and meet it.”

Then he summoned the Muhajireen of Quraysh, and they did not differ concerning the matter, rather they advised him to go back. So Saidina Umar called to the people; “In the morning we will head back.” Abu `Ubaydah said: “Are you running away from the decree of Allah?” He said: ‘Yes. We are running away from the decree of Allah to another decree. Do you think that if you have camels and you go to a valley in which there are two areas, one which is green and one which is arid, if you graze your camels in the green are that is by the decree of Allah, and if you graze them in arid area that is also by the dcree of Allah?” `Abdur-Rahman ibn `Awf heard them and came to them and said: “The Prophet (SAW) said: ‘if you hear that this epidemic is in some land, then do not go there, and if it strikes a land when you are there, do not leave and flee from it.’

What we would like to emphasize is that the caliphate of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs was based on the principle of syura which is derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah. The reign of Saidina Umar was not an isolated case which was something invented solely by him, rather it was one of the principles of the system of Islam.

IR 4.0 and International Security

Emerging technologies transforming international security:

  • Drones: They are essentially flying robots. The United States currently leads in this technology, but the technology is spreading like wildfire and will soon become widely available and more affordable.
  • Autonomous Weapons: Combining drone technology with artificial intelligence, they have the potential to select and engage target without human intervention.
  • Militarization of Space: A new generation of hypersonic glide weapons is also poised to enter into the space domain. This will increase the probability that space will play a major role in future conflicts. This gives rise to concerns that current regulations on regulating space may no longer be sufficient.
  • Wearable devices: They can optimize health and performance under conditions of extreme stress or produce exoskeletons that enhance soldier’ performance, allowing human to carry loads of around 90kg without difficulty.
  • Additive Manufacturing: It will revolutionize supply chains by enabling replacement parts to be manufactured in the field from digitally transmitted designs and locally available materials.
  • Renewable energy: This enables power to be generated locally, revolutionizing supply chains and enhancing capacity to print parts on demand and in even remote locations.
  • Nanotechnology: Nano is progressively leading to metamaterials, smart materials which possess properties that do not occur naturally. It will make weaponry better, lighter, more mobile, smarter and more precise. It will ultimately result in systems that can self replicate and assemble.
  • Biological Weapons: The history of biological warfare is nearly as old as the history of warfare itself, but rapid advances in biotechnology, genetics and genomics are the harbinger of new highly lethal weapons – airborne designer viruses, engineered superbugs and genetically modified plagues.
  • Biochemical weapons: Technological innovation is making the assembly of these weapons almost as easy as a do-it-yourself task.
  • Social media: This technology can also be used to spread malicious content and propaganda. In addition to that, recruitment via these media is easy and prevalent.

Do you agree? Do you want to add to the list?

Islamic Management: Meetings and Consultation (2)

We briefly discussed the importance of syura (meetings and consultation) in Islam in the last article. In this article, we will briefly touch upon the ways it was practiced during the time of the second Caliph, Saidina Umar Al-Khattab r.a. There is a specific reason we chose his period.

The issues that required syura became numerous during Saidina Umar’s rule because many new issues as Islam spread and reached lands with civilizations, traditions and different systems. New problems were created which required comprehensive ijtihad, such as how to deal with conquered lands, how to regulate stipend according to new principles, how to war booty collected by the state was to be spent. Saidina Umar r.a. used to assemble the largest number of senior Sahabah he could for syura, and the shaykhs of Badr enjoyed a special status with regard to syura because of their virtue, knowledge and superiority.

Saidina Umar r.a. considers holding syura as one of the key traits of a leader. It shows decisiveness, humility and resourcefulness. He says:

“Men are of three types: a man who deals with problems according to his own opinion; a man who consults other with regard to matters he is confused about and follows the opinion of those who have wisdom; and a man who is confused and helpless, as he does not consult others and cannot take decisions.”

Consultation and meetings are also a key trait for leadership. Consultative practices allows the leader to analyze the situation from different perspectives prior to making a decision. Saidina Umar r.a. put this into practice as a leader. He used to consult the common people first and listen to them, then he would gather the elder Companions of the Messenger of Allah (SWT) and the people of wisdom among them, tell them about the issue and ask them to reach a good conclusion, and whatever they agreed upon, he would carry it out.

His actions in this case are similar to those of constitutional regimes in many kingdoms where issues are first discussed in the parliament, for example, then after being agreed upon by the majority, they are referred to a higher council which may be called “senators” or “lords”, and once that council has reached its decision, the king executes a decree. The difference between what Saidina Umar did and what these kingdoms do is that in Saidina Umar’s case it was based on his own ijtihad (opinion), without there being any system or laws in place.

On many occasions, Saidina Umar examined an issue, thought about it and expressed his view, then the weakest of people would come and explain the correct view, offering evidence for that, and Saidina Umar would retract his mistaken view and accept the correct view once he became convinced of it.

Extending from this style of leadership, Saidina Umar used to urge his military commanders to engage in syura (mutual consultation). For example, when he sent Abu `Ubayd ath-Thaqafi to fight the Persians in Iraq, he said to him: “Listen to and obey the Companions if the Prophet (SAW) and let them have a say, especially those among them who were present at Badr.”

He considers those who are senior and more experienced as valuable resources to overcome challenges and achieve excellence. As such, he instructs the highest military commanders to keep their egos low and consult experts as well as others.

To illustrate this point further, as another example, Saidina Umar used to write to his commanders in Iraq, telling them to consult `Amr ibn Ma`diyakrib and Talhah al-Asadi concerning their military affairs. He said to them: “Consult Talhah al-Asadi and `Amr ibn Ma`diyakrib and seek their help concerning war, but do not give them any control over your affairs, for each person knows his own field best.”

This also illustrates another point. Consulting another person or having meetings does not imply delegating power or giving them control. The control and responsibility should still be held by the leaders. Consultation and meetings should help leaders to be more decisive.

Saidina Umar r.a. was not the only sahabah who practiced Syura. One of the things that `Urwah said to `Utbah ibn Ghazwan when he sent him to Basrah was: “I have written to al-`Ala` al-Hadrami, telling him to send `Arfajah ibn Harthamah to you, for he is experienced in warfare and in drawing up plans to defeat the enemy. When he comes to you, consult him and keep him close to you.”

To be continued…