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Justice: Comprehensive and Limited Perspectives

The traditional Islamic understanding of justice is situated within a limited framework. In his book "Islamic Teachings in Brief" Allamah Sayyed Mohammad Husayn Tabatabai, presents three kinds of duties where he says:

In general, life is connected to:

1) The Almighty Allah (swt) who has created us. This moral obligation which is for us a blessing and is greater than any other duty and our dutifulness towards His Holy presence is more obligatory than any other obligation;
2) Ourselves;
3) Our fellow creatures with whom we are obliged to live and perform our duties and tasks with their co-operation and assistance.

As according to the above order we have three duties; duty towards Allah (swt), duty towards ourselves and duty towards others.253

We see in another text that Allamah Tabatabai divides justice into two kinds: individual justice and social justice. Also what Allamah Tabatabai is referring to is something similar to what Sheikh Mohammad Mahdi An-Naraaqi has said in his "Collector of Felicities". 254 We would take issue with this tri-partite division of obligations. We would add to these three categories:

1) Man's obligation to the physical environment, which includes all non-human living or non living creatures, such as animals, trees, earth and milieu.
2) Man's obligation to other non-human invisible beings, such as jinn or angels.

The tri-partite division is a classic way of explaining Islamic Shari'ah Law, and we find a similar division in other works of major scholars. This is an oversight on the part of Allamah Tabatabai among other scholars -though he would certainly agree that these are obligations as well. We must remember that the Shari'ah is a complete way of life, and that the Shari'ah covers more than merely our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with God, and our relationship with other human beings. The physical environment plays a role as well, and Islamic law has regulations for how one is to deal justly with the world Allah (swt) has created to fulfill the needs of humanity. We find many traditions in the corpus of ahadeeth speaking on these issues. We see, for example, that hunting and killing animals for the sake of pleasure and without need is something that is forbidden in Islam. Hunting has nothing to do with one's direct relationship to God, one's relationship to oneself, or one's relationship to others, yet nonetheless the Shari'ah has regulations for this and many other human affairs. A similar argument should be said concerning non-human invisible beings, such as using angels and jinn as instruments in fulfilling malign desires and evil wishes.

253. Tabatabai 169

254. Shaikh M. Mahdi An-Naraqi, The Collector of felicities, Flow-chart presented: Syed Gul Muhammed Naqvi, pp.30-34, Ansarian Publ Qum, Iran 1999

Adapted from the book: "The Awaited Saviour; Questions and Answers"

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