The Definition of Justice and Legislation in Islam
According to Ibn Manzur, justice literally means being fair or determining the truth. Conceptually, he said:
What is meant by justice is something that has been acknowledged in our minds as something that is correct and straight. (See Lisan al-‘Arab, 11/430)
Sayyid Sabiq said: Justice is giving the rights to the rightful person and protecting the rights of others. (See ‘Anasir al-Quwwah fi al-Islam by Sayyid Sabiq)
Islamic legislation in Arabic is also known as al-Syariah or Syariat. In the literal aspect, syariat means everything that has been set by Allah for His servants in the form of al-Din (religion). The scope of the syariat is broad, extensive and comprehensive in terms of ibadah (worship), family, crime, muamalat (dealings), social, siyasah (governance) and others. (See Guideline of Understanding the Syariat of Islam (translation) by Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, pg. 6-9)
The word syariat originates from the word syarak, which means road towards water or water spring where water flows continuously. (See Mu’jam Alfaz al-Qur’an, 2/12)
Syeikh Mahmud Syaltut in al-Islam Aqidah wa Syari’ah said, the word syari’ah is defined as a wide straight path. This is relevant for syari’ah functions as a straight path in human’s life, whether it is the relationship with his God or with others, whether it is a Muslim, non-Muslim or the environment. (See al-Islam Aqidah wa Syari’ah, pg. 12)
Muhammad Mustafa Syalabi said, syari’ah refers to the rulings in Islam that were revealed to the Prophet and recorded in the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet. (See al-Madkhal fi al-Ta’rif bi al-Fiqh al-Islami, pg. 28)
The Fairness and Justice of Islamic Legislation in History
It is recorded in history how Islamic legislation system guarantees peace and justice for all regardless of race and religion. Here we include several examples of the great Islamic empires that adopt Islamic legislation system:
The rule of Caliph Umar al-Khattab
During his time as the caliph, Islam spreads across regions and Islamic territories expand and are divided into districts. Each district is governed by a governor. They are responsible for the management of these districts and have the authority of collecting taxes in their respective districts. However, the only one who has absolute authority to decide on certain cases and issues related to taxes is the Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab.
The land is measured and valued before any tax is fixed on the owner of the land. The type of land is also classified and taken into consideration before the amount of tax is decided. This clearly shows the fairness of Caliph Umar administration. (See Milkiyyat al-‘Aradi fi al-Islam: Tahdid al-Milkiyyah wa al-Ta’mim by Muhammad ‘Abd al-Jawwad)
Regarding the rate of agricultural tax, Caliph Umar established the following rates; 10 dirhams for dates and 5 dirhams for grapes. The tax for each land which does not irrigate, whether it is used for agricultural purposes or not is one dirham or one sa’. Whereas, 1/10 tax is put on dates which are watered by rain, while 1/20 is the tax for crops that needs a water irrigation system, which must be established by the owner himself. (See Kitab al-Kharaj by Abu Yusuf, pg. 46-47)
However, if the land does not yield any crops, or the crop is infected or destroyed by a natural disaster, then there will be no tax imposed on the land. The reason 10 dirhams are imposed as the tax for dates is that growing dates would need labor, care, and fertile soil.
The manifestation of the fairness of the governance of Caliph Umar in determining the taxes is showcased when he set 1 dirham and one sa’ for lands which does not any irrigate, whether it is used for agriculture or not. This will encourage landowners to take the opportunity to exploit their land for agriculture. He is also just when setting 1/10 and 1/20 of taxes as explained previously as his way of appreciating the energy and money invested by the landowner. (See Milkiyyat al-‘Aradi fi al-Islam: Tahdid al-Milkiyyah wa al-Ta’mim by Muhammad ‘Abd al-Jawwad)
We close the discussion on the reign of Caliph Umar with the following phrase made by Saidina Umar himself:
“If a goat died on the riverbank of Furat while it is lost and separated from its herd, I am certain that Allah SWT will ask me about it in the Hereafter.” (See Hilyah al-Auliya’ by Abi Nu’aim, 1/53)
Caliph Umar bin Abd al-Aziz
During the time of his rule, it is known as the time where justice was upheld numerous times. It is recorded, that once, the people of Samarkand complained to Caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz regarding Qutaibah (a commander for the Islam army), where he entered and attacking their country without any warning as is obligated by Islam.
Amirul Mukminin then directed al-Qadhi to judge the case and the Qadhi then decided to order the Muslim army to withdraw from Samarkand. This ruling gives victory for the people of Samarkand.
After witnessing the manifestation of justice in Islam, the people of Samarkand praise Islamic legislation system and its army. They express their acceptance of Islamic legislation system. (See Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk, 4/69)
Caliph Umar bin Abd Aziz is a dominant figure as a leader practicing true good governance. This is stated by Ibn Khaldun and he praises Caliph Umar’s administration in his book al-Muqaddimah.
When coming into office, Caliph Umar refuses to have any personal bodyguards like his predecessor. He is careful with regards to his personal finances that most of it are returned back to Baitulmal. His panel of advisors is sincere and firm Islam scholars which assist him and gave him great advice. This is stated by Ibn Kathir in al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah (9/221).
Caliph al-Hadi and Qadhi Abu Yusuf
During the time, the position of Qadhi (Judge) is held by Abu Yusuf. One day, Sultan al-Hadi came to consult with him regarding a dispute about a farm. After analysing the case, Qadhi Abu Yusuf found that the truth lies with the opposition, and not on Sultan al-Hadi’s side. However, the Sultan brings forth several witnesses. Thus al-Qadhi said: “The opposition asks you to swear that your witnesses are honest and truthful.” Caliph al-Hadi was offended and refuses to swear for it was a disgrace to him. Finally, Abu Yusuf returned the farm to its rightful owner.
Sultan Salahuddin al-Ayyubi
During the Palestine conquest, it was recorded that 100,000 Christians which includes men, women and children are captured by the army of Islam. (See Kitab al-Fath al-Qussi fi al-Fath al-Qudsi by Imad al-Din al-Isfahani, pg. 43). Compared to the army of the Crusaders who killed Muslims, Salahuddin took an opposite approach and forgive the Christians. Furthermore, they are all released after paying the ransom money of 10 dinars for man, 5 dinars for woman and 2 dinars for a child. (See al-Islam wa al-Qadiyyah al-Filistiniyyah by Abdullah Nasih ‘Ulwan).
For the poor, a total of 7000 people is released for a sum of 30,000 altogether. However, if they are unable to pay their ransom money, then they will remain as prisoners.
This is a clear image of goodness, security and peace of Islam through the approach taken by Salahuddin, where he chose to avoid battle and conflict, to prevent the loss of lives and spilling of blood.
It was recorded that Salahuddin also prepares provisions in terms of money and animal mounts when he saw that some of the prisoners are together with their elderly parents and family members. He did so for the prisoners who have freed themselves after paying the ransom money. (See al-Islam wa al-Qadiyyah al-Filistiniyyah by Abdullah Nasih ‘Ulwan)
Moreover, he even commanded his army to escort the prisoners to their destinations, ensuring their safe return. (See Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem by Geoffrey Regan pg. 150-151)
This clearly shows that Islam is a religion of hospitality, peace, harmony, tolerance and fairness, where it ultimately forms a system of peace for multicultural and multireligious communities.
Raja’ bin Haiwah: The Wise Sultan’s Advisor
The Umayyad empire was established on 41H/661M after Caliph al-Hasan bin ‘Ali hand over his reign to Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan. This empire was ruled under the lineage of Bani Umayyah for 91 years. The advisors for this great empire are knowledgeable and astute Islamic scholars
Among the advisors, the one who stands out the most is Raja’ bin Haiwah. He gave invaluable and wise advice in line with syarak in political matters as well as for the affairs of the life of the Sultan. He is the advisor during the rule of Sultan Sulaiman bin Abd al-Malik.
Before the Sultan passed away, he asked Raja’ bin Haiwah for his opinion regarding the right candidate as his successor to be a caliph. Raja’ bin Haiwah said: “Among the matters that will protect someone in his grave in the future is when he appoints a pious man as the leader for the Muslim ummah.”
Sultan Sulaiman then suggested someone who is not his brother, nor is he the Sultan’s son, but it was Umar bin Abd al-Aziz, his cousin. The Sultan then asked for Raja’ bin Haiwah’s opinion, which he then answered: “In my opinion, he is a great guy, an honourable Muslim, he loves doing good and love virtuous people. However, I worry that your family would disagree.”
Sultan Sulaiman then took swift political action with the purpose of gaining the agreement from his family. He suggested Umar bin Abd Aziz as the caliph, while his brother Yazid bin Abdul Malik as the Caliph’s deputy (wali al-‘ahd). He wrote an official letter stating: “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim. This is a letter of Sulaiman bin ‘Abd Malik for ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. I have appointed him as the caliph after me and after him is Yazid bin ‘Abd al-Malik. Listen to him and obey him (‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz). Do not disagree on this, if you do, your enemies will take over you.” (See al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, 9/207)
This action taken by Sultan Sulaiman is a great service and a blessing for Islam on this earth. He took a brave action of disregarding the norm and custom of the tradition by appointing a distant family member as the caliph.
As we know, history recorded the great achievement of Caliph ‘Umar bin ‘Abd ‘Aziz as a pious and just caliph. All through his rule, the justice and fairness that he practised created a glorious Islamic empire.
Though he ruled for only two years and several months, he managed to reform and improve Islamic state management and administration. (See Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’, 5/142)
Scholars and Islamic Legislation System: Towards Peace and Justice
Regarding this matter, we would like to state that there are uncountable books related to siyasah syar’iyyah and qanun Islami whether they are written by early or contemporary scholars. As an example, Imam Mawardi in his book al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah discussed this issue extensively. As for a book in our time, Syeikh Abdul Qadir Audah wrote al-Tasyri’ al-Jina’i fi al-Islam.
Another example is what has happened in our beloved country, Malaysia or previously known as Tanah Melayu, where there was a very close relationship between the leader which is the Sultan or Raja with Islamic scholars. This happened in most states such as in the state of Terengganu with Tok Ku Paloh , Abdul Rahman Limbong  and others with the state of Kelantan which has numerous scholars such as Tok Kenali , Tok Khurasan and others. The same for other states such as Pahang, Selangor, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak and others. They are very concerned related to the problems in society and advise the leader and the administration.
Numerous examples are presented by renown scholars regarding peace and justice which are important and upheld in Muslim countries. We would like to share some of our experience before the 14th general election, we advised the ummah and Malaysians to always maintain and protect the harmony that has existed in our society, no matter whatever happens after the election presented through a Bayan Linnas article we published. Alhamdulillah, citizens’ reaction is under control and even praised by scholars of the east and the west, regarding the peaceful transition of power.
Several Recommendations and Suggestions
Allah SWT states:
“O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.” [Surah al-Nisa’ (59)]
Syeikh Mutawalli al-Sya’rawi stated the commandment of obedience towards the administration of a government is together with the obedience towards Allah SWT and the prophet PBUH. Thus, obeying the government must be based on the absolute obedience to Allah SWT and the Prophet PBUH, in order for the community and faith to be protected from oppression.
Every leader is commanded to carry out their responsibility and fulfil the trust given to them and always obey Allah SWT and His messenger. If they fail to do so, they are considered as a tyrant leader. (See Tafsir al-Sya’rawi, 4/2360)
The following are our suggestions in helping to cultivate the relationship between scholars and leaders around the world:
- Organize muzakarah with both parties to discuss the issues on matters pertaining to the state and the importance of ummah according to Islamic perspective.
- Take the opinions of scholars seriously and give them a proper medium so that their views are shared and correctly understood.
- Muzakarah committee is responsible to produce astute, rational and discerning opinions in regards to issues raised in society.
- Issues related to justice, peace, stability and factors that contribute to them is the main issue discussed.
- Seek wisdom from the history of Islam which has an abundance of wealth in terms of wisdom and lessons that could be of benefit for today’s generation and contemporary leadership.
- Knowledge is prioritized and the culture of reading and seeking knowledge is applied in society so that every action is guided with knowledge and makrifah.
- Any form of khilaf and differing of opinions should be handled with wisdom and the scholars and leaders are together, not opposing each other.
- Cultivating taaruf and tafahum from among the scholars and society is an important agenda.
Scholars from previous generations have played an important role in stabilizing fierce and formidable situations in governance and leadership. Just see the incident that happened in Egypt a few years back, how the Syeikh al-Azhar and its scholars reacted and handle the situation, where they chose to follow the opinion of Imam al-Haramain during the country’s instability. With wisdom, debates and the right attitude, eventually, peace and harmony returned to their country. This is what we hoped and dreamed for.
Imam al-Ghazali once said: “Indeed, harm towards society is due to its leader, and harm of a leader is due to the wrong of the scholars as a result from the scholars’ love towards the riches and position of this world. Whoever is overwhelmed by worldly ambitions, he can never take charge of the citizen, let alone the leaders. Allah SWT is to whom we ask for anything.” (See Ihya’ Ulum al-Din, 2/381).