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madeenahsh
08-06-2006, 06:14 PM
Justice & Fair Testimony
By Imaam ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah
Taken from: Ar-Risaalat ut-Tabukiyyah

Translation & Comments by Dr. Muhammad al-Jibaly


Establishing Justice



It is surprising to find someone claiming closeness to the Messenger (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and complete love for him while he strives to follow and establish someone else's opinions. He bases his anger, love, and satisfaction on such opinions; he referees them; and he compares the Messenger's statements to them - if they agree with those opinions then he accepts them, otherwise he applies all sorts of tricks and takes all measures to reject them and to turn away from them.



Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) said:



“Believers! Stand out firmly for fair dealings, as witnesses to Allaah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin; be he rich or poor, Allaah can best protect both. So follow not the lusts [of your hearts] lest you may avoid justice. If you distort your testimony or refuse to provide it, verily, Allaah is ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (Soorah an-Nisaa' 4:135)



This ayah carries great meanings that should be emphasised because of people's dire need for them.



Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) commands the believers to establish equity and justice. It should be rendered toward everyone, whether enemy or friend.



It is even more important to establish justice in matters of ideas, opinions, and beliefs, because they relate to Allaah's commands and teachings. Allowing whims and disobedience to influence one's opinions and beliefs conflicts with Allaah's commands and with His Messenger's Message.



Establishing justice in ideas, opinions and beliefs is the mission of the successors to the Messenger (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in his Ummah (nation) - those who are worthy of carrying the trust among his followers. No one deserves such description of honesty except those who establish absolute justice in this, as an advice for Allaah, His Book, His Messenger, and His worshipers. These are indeed the true inheritors [of the glorious Message].



Thus a person is not worthy of this description if he takes his company, ways, and opinions as measures and indicators of the truth - loathing or befriending people because of them.



How far is such a person from establishing the justice that Allaah mandated on everyone, especially in these matters of belief where the obligation is higher!



Fair Testimonies



The above ayah has: “...as witnesses to Allaah...” A witness is a reporter. If he reports truthfully then he is acceptable and just; if he reports falsehoods then he is a false witness.



In addition to establishing justice, Allaah requires one to be a witness for Him alone. Thus the testimony should be: with justice and for Allaah alone. In another ayah Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) said:



“Believers! Stand out firmly for Allaah as witnesses to fair dealing.” (Soorah al-Maaidah 5:8)



Together, these two ayat require four things: establishing justice, doing it for Allaah, maintaining truthful testimonies, and doing this for Allaah as well.



The ayah in Soorah an-Nisaa' emphasises fairness and maintaining the testimonies for Allaah, while that of Soorah al-Maaidah emphasises standing out firmly for Allaah and maintaining fair testimonies. This difference (between the two ayat) has an important reason that cannot be dealt with here.



The Test of Fairness



The above ayah (an-Nisaa' 135) then says: “...even if it be against your own selves, your parents or your kin...” Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) commands to establish justice and to maintain fair testimony against everyone, including the most beloved ones. One is required to be fair against himself, his parents who are his roots, and his relatives who are usually closer and better supporters for him than other people.



A person's love for himself, his parents, and his kin, tends to prevent him from establishing the right and justice against them, especially when the right is for someone whom he hates and loathes. Thus, it is obvious that no one will establish this justice except he to whom Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) and His Messenger (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) are more beloved than anything else.



One can use this to test the strength of Eemaan in his heart, and his status of Eemaan.



On the other end, one should be just toward his enemies and those whom he dislikes. His hatred should not cause him to be unjust to them, just as his love for himself and his kin should not prevent him from establishing justice against them. This hatred should not make him do wrong, just as that love should not stop him from doing right. One of the salaf said:



“A just person is one whose anger does not cause him to do wrong, and whose pleasure does not prevent him from doing right.”



Thus these two ayat (of an-Nisaa' and al-Maaidah) together require two things: establishing justice, and maintaining fair testimony with friends and enemies.



Wealth Based Bias



The above ayah (an-Nisaa' 135) then says: “...be he rich or poor, Allaah is closer to both of them...” [The meaning of this is that] “Allaah is the Lord and Master of both the rich and the poor; they are His 'abid (subjects), just as you are his 'abd. So, do not be prejudiced toward a rich man because of his wealth, nor toward a poor man because of his poverty; Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) is closer than you to both of them.”



A possibly better interpretation of this is the following: “People may be reluctant to establish justice and to testify against the rich or the poor; as for the rich, they fear to cause him a loss in wealth; and as for the poor, they tend to take the matter lightly with him because of his poverty and that he possesses nothing. So they are told, 'Allaah is closer than you to both the rich and the poor; He is more knowledgeable of, and more merciful toward both; thus do not stop establishing truthful testimony against either of them.'.”



Two Motivations for Hiding the Truth



The next portion of the above ayah (an-Nisa' 135) says: “...So do not follow the lusts, lest you may be reluctant to establish justice...”



Another possible (but not as strong) interpretation of this ayah says: “...lest you may be unjust...”



This ayah (an-Nisaa' 135) continues: “...if you distort your testimony, or refuse to provide it, verily, Allaah is ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.”



Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) mentions here the two incentives for hiding the truth, warning against committing either of them. These are: distorting the testimony and refusing to provide it.



When the truth becomes clear and evident, a person who likes to hide it does so in one of two ways: he either turns away from it and abstains from mentioning it, acting by this as a mute devil, or he changes and distorts it.



The distortion of truth is either in words or in meaning. Distorting the words is done by adding, dropping, or replacing them with other words. It can also be done by uttering other words in such a way as to make the listener think that he heard something different from what was actually meant. This is similar to what the Jews did in greeting the Messenger (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) or on some other occasions. [1]



Distorting the meaning is done by interpreting the words differently from what the speaker intended, introducing that which he did not mean, dropping some of what he meant, and so on.



Summary



Thus Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) warns against all kinds of distortion in the testimony. A witness is required to provide a precise testimony, without hiding or distorting it.



Just contemplate then on the great amount of wisdom and knowledge contained in this ayah.



In summary, Eemaan is not complete, or not even present in a person, unless he submits the Texts [of the Qur'aan and Sunnah] with acceptance and pleasure, proclaims them, and invites people to them. He should never respond to them with rejection or distortion.



Footnote:



[1] When greeting the Messenger (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), some Jews used to fake “As-salaamu 'alaikum” (Peace be on you) by saying “As-saammu ‘alaikum” (Death be to you) instead. (Saheeh al-Bukhaaree & Saheeh Muslim, Also, review al-Mujaadalah 58:8)
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