Rafed English

Speaking about Justice as the main task of Al-Mahdi (as), how should man define justice in the Islamic conceptualization? How should it be reflected from different angles?

Justice is an abstract concept that eludes clear definition. In this way it is like many other concepts, such as liberty and freedom, whose meaning remains fluid and difficult to grasp. Our aim here is to present a definition of justice that moves beyond familiar social contract theories as found in Locke, Rousseau, and Kant, and other classical theories of political and religious thought. In the place of such theories, we seek to establish an alternative, holistic understanding of justice.

For the Muslim, justice revolves around the Divine example found in Allah (swt). He possesses all the qualities of perfection, and these qualities are known in the Qur'an as "the most Beautiful Names" (al-assma al-hussnah). The most relevant of these qualities fro our discussion are the attributes of Authority (al-hakam), Justice (al-'adl), and Peace (al-salaam). The Qur'anic concept of as-salaam is often translated as "peace", but this peace does not merely imply the absence of conflict. Rather, it reflects the ideas of harmony, fulfilment, and completeness in all aspects of existence. This idea ultimately refers to the establishment of an ideal global state in which security, prosperity, and righteousness pervade. Such a society is based on just relationships between human beings themselves, and between humanity and the rest of the universe that surrounds them.

Justice defined

The idea of justice lies at the heart of religious, social, economic, moral, and political philosophy. It is a necessary virtue of individuals as well as governments in their interactions with others, and it is the principal virtue of social institutions. Without it one can never speak about a just civil society, nor can a human being achieve any sort of perfection.

Justice is traditionally defined by the Latin phrase "suum cuique tribuere" give to each his own. It has always been closely connected to the notion of right, and to ideas of desert. Rewards and punishments are justly distributed if they go to those who deserve them. But in the absence of different claims for desert, justice demands equal treatment. This is a general and highly flexible definition, and as such it easily evades any kind of criticism.

We would argue, however, that justice cannot be merely understood from the perspective of a social contract. Rather, one must understand justice in terms of one's commitments to others, commitments that are fundamental and eternal. Free individuals, in spite of their freedom, have manifold commitments, and it if from these commitments that we can begin to understand justice. From this, we begin to establish a government and social structure based upon commitments. This model is classified as justice as commitment.

This model presumes that all people engaging in social cooperation collectively choose those principles that will assign basic rights and duties and determine the division of social benefits and responsibilities. Men decide in advance how they will regulate their claims against one another and what is to be the founding charter of their society. Just as each person must decide by rational reflection what constitutes his good and the ends that are rational for him to pursue, so a group of persons make a final decision as to what constitutes justice and injustice. The choice which rational men would make in this hypothetical situation of equal library, assuming for the present that this choice problem has a solution, determines the principle of justice. In the model of "justice as commitment" the original position of equality corresponds to the state of nature, as regulated by the Divine injunction.

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

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