Justice and Fair Testimony

Establishing Justice

It is surprising to find someone claiming closeness to the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and complete love for him, whilst they strive to follow and establish someone else’s opinions. People base their anger, love and satisfaction on such opinions. They refer to them and compare them to the messenger’s statements, and if they agree with those opinions then they accept them, otherwise, they will use all sorts of tricks to try and reject them and turn away from them.

All praises be to Allah who tells us:

“Believers! Stand firmly for fair dealings, as witness 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 Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (Surah An-Nisa 4:135)

Allah commands the believers to establish justice and equity. It should be rendered towards everyone, whether friend or enemy.  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 desires to influence one’s opinions and beliefs conflicts with Allah’s commands and with His Message.

Establishing justice in ideas, opinions and beliefs is the mission of the successors to the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and his ummah, those who are worthy of carrying the trust amongst his followers. No one deserves such a description of honesty except those who establish absolute justice in this, as an advice for Allah, His Book, His Messenger and His worshippers. These are indeed the true inheritors of His Message.

Thus a person is not worthy of this description if they take their company, ways and opinions as measures and indicators of the truth – loathing and befriending people because of them. How far is such a person from establishing the justice that Allah has mandated, especially in matters of belief where the obligation is even higher!

Fair Testimonies

The above ayah states “…as witness to Allah…”. A witness is a reporter. If they report truthfully then they are acceptable and just; if they report falsehood, then they are 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 says:

“Believers! Stand out firmly for Allah as witness to fair dealing.” (Surah Al-Maidah 5:8)

Together, these two ayat require four things: establishing justice, doing it for Allah, maintaining truthful testimonies, and doing this for Allah as well.

The Test of Fairness

The above listed ayah from Surah An Nisa then says, “…even if it be against your own selves, your parents and your kin…” Allah commands us to establish justice and to maintain fair testimony against everyone, including the most beloved to us. One is required to fair against themselves, their parents and relatives and those close to them. Often, our love for people can prevent us from establishing justice against them, especially when the right is for someone we laothe. Thus it is obvious that we cannot truly establish justice unless Allah and His Messsenger, peace and blessings be upon him, are more beloved to us that ourselves and our kith and kin. We can use this to test the strength of our imaan.

On the other hand, we should also be just towards our enemies and those whom we dislike. Our hatred should not cause us to be unjust. One of the early Muslims 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.”

Wealth-Based Bias

The ayah also states, “…be he rich or poor…”. We should not be prejudiced towards a rich person or discriminatory against one who is poor. People may be reluctant to testify against the rich or in defence of the poor, because they fear loss of wealth or status. Allah is closer than us to both the rich and the poor, He is more Knowledgeable of, and more merciful toward both; thus do not stop establishing truthful testimony.

Two Motivations for Hiding the Truth

The ayah then says, “so do not follow the lusts, lest you be reluctant to establish justice…”. In Surah an-Nisa Allah says, “…if you distort your testimony, or refuse to provide it, verily, Allah is ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.” Allah mentions the two incentives that keep a person from telling the truth: distorting the testimony and refusing to provide it.

When truth becomes clear and evident, a person who likes to hide it does so in one of two ways: they either turn away from it and abstain from mentioning it, or they change and distort it. The distortion occurs either in words or meaning, by either adding words or dropping or replacing them, or interpreting the words differently from how the speaker intended. Allah verily is against all kinds of distortion in testimony.

 

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