Equality in the Eyes of the Law. How to Prevent the Law of the Jungle

applying justice in islam

Islamic Principle of Equality not Favouritism

Say, [O Muhammad], ‘If you love Allah, then follow me [Muhammad], then Allah will love you and forgive your sins. And Allah is All Forgiving and All Merciful.’ (3:31)

Turning a blind eye to the crimes of people in the community due to their connections or status is easily done, however it goes against the very grain of Islam. The concept of justice in Islam applies to all people equally.

Follow Me

To truly love Allah, as we see in the ayah, is to follow the way of the Prophet (peace be on him). Anyone can claim they love Allah and His Messenger, but the proof is only in the practice. A claim is empty, until you demonstrate it – thus the real expression of your love is through it’ibah, following the Prophet (peace be on him).

Actions Speak Louder than words

The Prophet (peace be on him) taught us how to express our love not just verbally but in actual fact.  One example has been described on the authority of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) when the Quraysh was concerned about a theft committed by a Makhzoomi noblewoman and Usamah ibn Zayd wanted to intercede for her. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) became angry and said:

‘Do you intercede concerning one of the hadd (punishments) set by Allah? Those who came before you were destroyed because if a rich man among them stole, they would let him off, but if a lowly person stole, they would carry out the punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatimah bint Muhammad were to steal, I would cut off her hand.’ (Bukhari and Muslim).

The lady, Fatimah bintu Aswad was a relative of the Prophet’s wife Umm Salama from her late husband, Abu Salamah. The Quraysh wanted to brush the incident under the carpet tried several times to evade the humiliation of the exposure and the punishment.

She used to borrow things and deny she had borrowed them, and on this occasion as mentioned in Bukhari, she had stolen an expensive, jewel-encrusted dress. The Quraysh tried in various ways to have the matter overlooked, to the extent they offered the Prophet (peace be on him) the equivalent of 8kg of gold (40 shari’ ounces, which would be worth about £240,000 today) as compensation in lieu of carrying out the penalty. Eventually they urged Usamah, who was  close to the Prophet (peace be on him) to use his influence with him.

The Prophet (peace be on him) was so angered by this that he went to the mosque and delivered a speech, in which he began by praising Allah Almighty and then warned that those who came before us were punished by Allah Almighty because of the injustice that the poor were penalised for their crimes, while the rich were excused. The Prophet (peace be on him) was so outspoken about this, that he declared that had his own daughter committed theft he would have had her hand chopped off. This is the application of love. Not favouritism.

No One Is above the Law

There is no room in Islam for two laws to exist, one that favours the rich, or a particular colour, nationality, or family. All people are equal in they eyes of Allah Almighty. Every single person is accountable for their actions and punishable by shariah. No one is above shariah. Otherwise the law of the jungle prevails and the strong eats the weak.

The shariah came to establish justice this the what Allah wanted to establish justice. Everyone is equal.

Accountability when Crimes are Concealed by Groups

A further example of justice when the facts surrounding a crime are being obfuscated is narrated on the authority of Abu Said Al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:

 ‘If the dwellers of the heaven and the dwellers of the earth participated in killing a believer, God will throw them in Hell.’ (Tirmidhi)

During the time of Omar (may Allah be pleased with him) a child witnessed his mother cheating on his father. In an effort to cover her sin, she persuaded her boyfriend to kill the child so there would be no witness. Omar (may Allah be pleased with him) said that even if all the people of Sana had come together to kill this boy, he would have had all of them executed. This is the true following of the teachings of the Prophet (peace be on him).

Justice has to be carried out in every scenario. Otherwise we have a loophole for criminals to commit murder and then claim that it is not clear who the killer is. Everyone who participated in this crime has to be put to death to deter others from plotting and committing a similar crime. It is not harsh to hold those responsible for murder accountable for their crime.

Redemption and Kindness

In the case of Fatimah bintu Aswad, the Prophet (peace be on him) asked Bilal to call upon Fatimah to apply the hadd (punishment). Fatimah then asked if she had permission to repent and was told that she had been cleared of all her sins, as if she was new born. Thus the Prophet (peace be on him) dealt with her with mercy. He would visit her and bring her gifts and stuff and never mentioned her crime again. The Prophet (peace be on him) was keen to teach people through his example. Not just in theory.

He dealt with anyone in the community with kindness wisdom and mercy, whether the crime or sin was large or small. When it was minor, he would direct people how to repent, On one occasion, a man came to him full of regret because he had kissed a woman, who was not his wife. So the Prophet (peace be on him) sensing his abject condition, advised him to pray two rakah. There are sins which we can rectify between us and Allah Almighty. Others are more significant as they affect the safety and well being of the community, and here repentance is not enough, and punishment has to be applied.

Justice in the community cannot be controlled by preferential treatment. We need to revive the sunnah. Not to have favouritism. This is the true love of Allah and His message. Otherwise our love is fake and lacks substance.

Khutbah delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim on 9th November 2018 at the UKAMCC (Xhamia e Shqiptareve) London

Transcribed by A Khan

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.