Among the social virtues which Islam has emphasised, the most important is the virtue of Justice. It is so important that when the preacher gives the Friday Sermon, the Sermon is not considered complete unless the following verse of the Holy Qur’aan is recited.
“Verily Allaah commands you to do justice (to all creatures under all circumstances).”
The concept of social justice has been different in different religions and ideologies of the world. A study of history reveals that the idea of fundamental human rights was practically unknown before the advent of Islam, and even among the most civilised nations and races the principle of common humanity and common fundamental human rights was not honoured.. For instance, the Jews divided humanity distinctly into two groups, namely, the children of the House of Israel and the rest of mankind whom they called Gentiles. There was not only this distinction but also the distinction in the matter of their respective rights. The Jews considered themselves to be the chosen people of God and regarded the Gentiles as Barbarians and unworthy of honour. All the rights were the rights of the Jews while the non-Jews had no place in their social order except that of beasts of burden.
According to Jewish philosophy the only natural role of the non-Jews was to act as slaves of the Jews. We find similar ideas in Hinduism. When the Aryan invaders from the North subjugated India, they relegated the sons of the soil to a social status which was worse than slavery. And this distinction continued even when the original inhabitants of India had embraced the religion of the invaders. They were actually chipped off into a distinct caste known as the Sudra and this status has been maintained till today.
According to Hinduism, it is the birthright of the Brahmin to be the supreme master and it is the bounden duty of the Sudra to behave always as a most despised slave. The Brahmin is the very incarnation of holiness and the Sudra by nature and constitution filthy and despicable, so much so that according to the law of Manu if a Sudra comes so near to a Brahmin that his voice can reach the ears of the Brahmin the Sudra is punished for defiling the sanctity of the Brahmin by pouring molten lead into his ears. What justice the Sudra can obtain under such a law is obvious. How a Hindu should treat a non-Hindu in matters which involve justice can also be judged in this perspective. Indeed the Hindus regard all humanity outside the three upper castes of the Hinduism as maliekshas which means those who are filthy, barbarians, robbers and devils-incarnate.
As regards Islam, its basic teaching is that all humanity is one family. Islam calls it the “ Family of God “. As regards racial and linguistic and territorial divisions of humanity, Islam emphasises that they are merely nomenclatures and that no human being should fall into the deception of regarding these distinctions as having any intrinsic significance or value. According to Islam, all human beings are equal as human beings and there are certain fundamental human rights which no human being can be permitted to violate. The Islamic state ensures these fundamental rights to all, whether they are Muslims or Christians or Pagans. Islam goes even so far as to lay down the law that a Muslim individual or a Muslim state has absolutely no right to commit even the slightest act of injustice against even the worst enemies. Moreover Islam has, for the first time, laid down the law that inside the Islamic social order everyone is under the control of the law and no one can be above the law even though he may be the head of the state. This ideal of justice has not been achieved even by the most advanced modern states whether capitalist or communist.
Ihsan, or Well-doing, forms one of the most important virtues in Islam. The Holy Qur’aan says
“ Verily, Allah commands you to practise justice and doing good to others (as a regular programme of your life)’’.
The human nature consists of two elements so far as the human relations are concerned. There is an element of selfishness and an element of altruism. The element of selfishness is grounded in the instinct or self-defence. The element of altruism or sympathy is based on the paternal instinct. The balanced human personality is that wherein conflict with the interests of other people. It is actually to be subordinated and sublimated.
According to Islam every human being has a definite individuality and worth of his own. But no human being is born in a vacuum. Rather, he is the product of society and all that any individual normally possesses comes to him in the final analysis from his social environment. It is his parents who are the first benefactors. After them come other human beings, among whom the teachers enjoy the most prominent place. Thus there is a continuous series of benefactors who always exist in the normal course for all human beings.
A person has to obey his parents in order to get physical and moral benefits from them. Similarly, he has to obey his teachers in order to get spiritual blessings. In all these processes the medium through which the various blessings flow is Love and Sympathy. If the parents do not have sympathy and love for their off-springs, the latter will go to dogs. If the teachers do not have sympathy and love for their students they will not transmit knowledge in the requisite measure and manner. If the government does not have sympathy and love for the people there will be bungling and quarrels on all sides. All this means that sympathv and love for others form the very basis of human social existence.
Indeed this is so, if everyone were to live for himself alone, humanity shall be transformed into a herd of wild beasts. This would happen, because the interests of no two human beings are exactly alike. The ancient philosopher who for the first time in human history seems to have propounded the philosophy of Individualism was Epicurus of Greece. The motto of human life attributed to him is as follows
“Each one unto himself and the devil take the hindmost.”
This philosophy of selfishness in its ultimate social perspective can only lead to the law of the jungle. As regards its civihised form it is that which it has taken in the modern materialistic civilisation of the West under the label of Capitalism, and which when turned upside down has assumed the shape of the hydra-headed monster of Communism.
Islam has given us a spiritual philosophy of life which is based on the notions of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. According to Islam, every human being should always keep before himself the following two infallible principles
1. God is the source of all life amid light, and all types of blessings in general; and every human being should consider every blessing of God as a sacred trust.
2. All human beings, whatever their country or colour or creed, are members of the same family, and it is the duty of every individual to live not for his selfish good but for the common good and thereby to earn Divine Pleasure and to fulfill his duty as a trustee of the Lord.
In Islam the love of God forms the basis of the love for fellow-beings. And this principle is most reasonable. He who does not love God and does not care for his relation with Cod cannot logically love his fellow-being, on the basis of expediency, which is another name for self-interest. For such a person it is impossible to make any sacrifice for others and to render service to them without any ulterior motive. This being so, the Islamic principle of the love of God and leading one’s life solely for God forms the basis of Ihsan in Islam.
According to the Islamic teachings, he who does injury to others and in this manner propagates evil will go to Hell, and it is only those who live to serve others and to promote the good of others that are the loved ones of God. All forms of wealth and all other means of benefiting one’s self or others which a Muslim possesses are according to Islam first and last a trust from God, and no Muslim has the right to spend his assets and to enjoy his faculties to his own liking - the likings of his baser self. He has to keep Divine Pleasure before him as the goal. The natural conclusion from this would be that a Muslim should abstain from doing anything which is based on selfishness and should act always in a manner which is conducive to the attainment of the maximum good for the maximum number. And it is not only “good” which a Muslim has to give others but also “grace”. God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’aan:
“Do not forget to practice grace in your mutual relations.”