When oppression, discrimination, persecution and barbaric punishment for small crimes or noncrimes are justice...
In this article I discuss the concept of Justice in Islam. Many a time we hear expressions like "Islam promotes justice", "Islam is just", "Islam promotes a just society".
This article is divided into three part:
First, what is Justice and how it can be ascertained.
And second, the applications of Justice in Islam:
Punishments for crimes
What is Justice and how it can be ascertained
The concept of “Justice” is not exact science. It also developed and matured throughout human history. “Justice” in ethical theory may or may not agree with “Justice” in political theory. I am not interested in discussing such scholarly differences that are better left for academicians. I am interested in social justice. Islam claims to offer social justice and I suspect that Muslims who say “Islam is just” have the concept of social justice in mind.
One of the best social concepts we have is the golden rule “treat others as you would want to be treated”. This is a great rule that is golden indeed. It promotes the genuineness of human equality in social affairs. There are no classes, and there are no caste systems. It means humans are brothers and sisters, and ought to treat each others in a decent and humane way. Every decent human being should practice and promote such a rule.
Even though the concept of Justice may not be defined in exact terms, we know what may or may not constitute a just rule. If every individual in the state can run to be elected president of the state, that is a just rule. If some individuals cannot run to be elected as a president of the state because of their eye colors, or because of income level or religious convictions, that is not a just rule. In summary, we can recognize the applications of Justice when we see them. We also know the converse.
Application of Islamic Justice
Let me move now to Islam and its applications of Justice on certain matters. There are certainly other matters in Islam that one can analayz to see if they insure justice or not, so my list is not conclusive by any means.
Jizya: This is a tax levied against non-Muslims living in a country ruled by Muslims. Please note that the “amount” of this tax is immaterial for our discussion. This tax is unjust regardless of how you look at it. Imagine if you live in a country that forces you to pay a special tax just because you are a Christian, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. It just does not make sense to force people to pay a special tax because they hold certain religious beliefs. Individuals in a specific state must be obliged under the same tax laws that apply equally to all citizens of the state, regardless of their religious convictions. The golden rule is clear on this matter.
Politics: In a country ruled by Muslims, only a Muslim can run for election as president of the state. The same applies for other elected seats. Is this a Just practice? Off course not. The golden rule tells you that you are disenfranchising individuals who may be highly qualified to run for such positions, and be very good for society if elected and allowed a chance to serve. The only reason they were not allowed to run for a political seat is because they are not Muslim. What a silly reason indeed. A person can serve well his society regardless of his personal religious beliefs.
Women: A man can beat his wife (Qur’an 4:34). A woman cannot beat her husband. Is this a just practice? The golden rule says that this is indeed not a just practice. The Qur’an does not have the equivalent of verse 4:34 that gives women a chance at beating their husbands. I reject the Qur’an as a useful book. But if one accepts the Qur’an, and the golden rule at the same time, then one accepts contradictions. Such a person believes that a man can beat his wife, but the wife cannot beat her husband. This is a contradiction in and of itself with regard to the golden rule. The golden rule is an instruction and a universal moral command to treat people equally and fairly. Also, a man is allowed to marry up to four wives in Islam. A wife is not allowed to marry up to four men. Is this a just practice? Off course not. The golden rule tells you that if you want to allow men to marry up to four women, the converse should be allowed too. A woman should be allowed to marry up to four men. However, Islam is a one-way street here. Hence, again, it is in contradiction with the golden rule.I do feel I need to insert my personal convictions about having multiple wives here. I think it is an ugly practice. It is crude and inhuman. I believe it degrades women as full human beings.
Inheritance: Islam has so many rules about inheritance. It has rules who gets what, and in what proportion. But one of the ugliest inheritance rules in Islam is that when a man dies, his sons get twice as much as his daughters. What an ugly and inhuman rule? It is a rule that is clearly designed to degrade women, and violate any universal moral code of decency, let alone the golden rule of what is just and fair.
Punishment for crimes: “Stealing” is an example of crimes and punishment in Islam. The punishment for such a crime in Islam, regardless of the amount stolen, is to cut the hand(s) of the perpetrator.
I submit to you that the cutting of hands in this case is one of the most inhuman acts a religion can do. First, when you cut the hands of an individual, you have put him/her at a disadvantaged position for the rest of their lives. Most jobs require hands to be able to work and make a living. If the hands are cut, society has to pick up the tab and pay for that individual’s life for the rest of his/her life. Second, the amounts of theft matter. When one steals a can of soda, the punishment should be much lighter than when someone steals a million dollar or a car or a motorcycle. So, clearly, stealing is a crime that requires a detailed system of gradual punishments according to the amount stolen.
Hence, Islam’s code of punishment does not promote a just society that deals in a fair way with criminals. “stealing” is just an example of how Islam’s laws of punishment should never be applied. They do not belong to human society, period.
Where does the golden rule apply here? Well, if you stole something, would you want your hand removed, and rely on state benefits to live a marginal life for the rest of your life, Or would you want to make up for your mistake and move on with your life? The golden rule takes the second choice for any individual. Islam’s rules of punishment are not fit for human consumption here.
The above analysis showed many problematic issues in Islam’s value system. Islam does not treat individuals in the same state equally. Islam does not provide a good value system in dealing with men and women. Islam’s political system does not promote the golden rule of fairness between people living in the same country. Islam’s system of punishment does not help individual’s in their lives, rather it is designed to maime people and render them useless for the rest of their lives. In short, Islam is unjust, and, in Sina’s words, “belongs to the dustbin of history.”