What is Justice?
Justice is generally understood as the quality of being ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable.’ It is the principle that people receive that which they deserve; with the interpretation of what then constitutes ‘deserving’ being impacted upon by numerous fields; including the concepts of morality- based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness.
Why is Justice important?
To help us answer this- let us ask ourselves- what would the world be like without ‘Justice?’
Can we have True Peace without Justice? Can we have true kindness without Justice? Can we have true compassion without justice? How can we become truly righteous on both an individual and global level while we turn away from injustice? How can we love God- who is All-Just, if we cannot establish it within our lives? How can we treat one another how we are selves would want to be treated if we do not try our best to overcome oppression and corruption in our societies? How can we prove our 'justice' to our Creator without being true to what we understand to be the 'purpose of our existence?'
By establishing 'Justice' we learn to protect ourselves and our communities from 'harm', and therefore create a platform on which we can do 'good.' Without the platform of 'cause no harm', how can we establish peace and unity amongst ourselves where we are able to form trusting relationships and show loving kindness to one another without limit?
Some say that 'justice' is a form of oppression and control- but let us look at it in a different way- how can we ever be 'free' while we live in a world of 'fear', and which prevents us from truly expressing ourselves and respect diversity? True Justice according to Abrahamic Scripture is about enabling humanity to feel 'free' again to seek their true soul purpose without causing harm to others or taking away the right of others to also express themselves. It is about building a 'safe' platform on which we can feel inspired to treat others how we ourselves want to be treated.
How can establishing Justice help us and our societies?
By being 'Just' and 'fair' in all of our affairs and interactions with others- helps others to trust us, and therefore enables to form trusting relationships with others on both a personal and societal level. It helps us to know our 'boundaries' and gives us a level of freedom within those boundaries with which we can live how we like, according to our level of freewill and physical ability. This therefore enables societies to respect diversity and allows people and groups of individuals to practice according to their cultures and traditions, without being 'afraid' to express themselves and be creative. When societies have a firm set of rules and courts of justice which are based on democratic ruling- the people who live within that community feel valued and respected and 'safe' and 'free' to be able to live a life according to the best of their ability and freedom to choose.
However, let us ask the question- is there a set of rules or a 'platform' of boundaries that governments and societies should build their Law upon? We have seen over the years that mixing what we define as the 'religion of God' with the 'Law of the land' can make the people who live there feel obliged to practice a religion that they do not believe to be correct, and if anything repel them from the idea of having faith altogether. We see governments causing corruption and suffering and oppression in the name of 'religion' and compelling people to practice the rituals of a religious practice against the people's wishes.- Let us ask- is this the 'Justice?' that God would want for His People?
What we find when we look at Scripture is that that in fact God encourages us to respect the right of all people to practice their religion freely, and that there should not be compulsion in religion. However we also see that the 'Noahide' commandments are a recommended set of principles to use for humanity as a minimum 'platform' on which to build our courts of justice upon (see link) as a guidance. It is unto societies and democracy to decide whether or not to base their courts of justice according to these boundaries- but what reflection on history teaches us that when governments fall short or exceed any of its boundaries- we often see corruption and oppression and mischief resurfacing in our societies, including racism, sexual oppression, robbery, murder, rape, fraud, adultery, breaking of the ties of kinship, giving false witness etc and our relationships start to fall apart, and our societies become filled with mental, physical, spiritual and emotional struggles.
For Social Justice depends on our relationship with one another. Scripture teaches us that our relationship with one another depends on our relationship with our Creator. In order to have a better relationship with our Creator, we learn to adapt our morals and principles of speech and behaviour in a way that does not exceed the boundaries of Humanity. As long as we keep ourselves from causing harm to others- the extent to how much one chooses to do good- is unto them.
How can we become more Just as individuals and societies?
According to Scripture, the way to establish Justice is through 'Respect'- for Our Creator, for one another, and for all creatures great and small. However- how can we be compelled to respect something which we may not know about? How can we stay committed to a Law that is not written in our hearts? So the answer must lie in Knowledge and Wisdom- and seeking 'Truth.' One cannot do this without self reflection and reason and understanding. Or without questioning themselves and others, and the information that is given to them. One cannot seek truth without they themselves being 'truthful.' For how will they know it is truth and recognise its validity? How will they truly respect the truth that they find if they themselves do not define it in their behaviour? So perhaps the answer lies here- 'Truthfulness.'- The more truthful we are in all that we say and do- so that our hearts are in line with our speech and actions, the more likely it becomes that we ourselves will be 'true' to our soul purpose- and when we understand this- perhaps the path to true Justice will come naturally...
The Abrahamic Scriptures encourage us to reflect on the Attributes of God and to incorporate these attributes as much as possible into our lives. With this comes wisdom- and with wisdom comes the ability to 'judge' between right and wrong. Through gaining wisdom, one feels more able to be able to make judgement on how to behave in a given situation, and what makes societies work, and what doesn't. The more we all take responsibility in doing this on an individual level, the more our democratic society will get closer to establishing peaceful Kingship and Leadership and Courts of Justice which provide a sense of security and provision for its people- where we can feel once again free to express our talents and cultures and diverse colours through creativity while helping one another, and learning from each other despite our differences in colour, culture, race and sex.
(Above writing is based on the reflections of Dr Lale Tuncer)
Scripture quotes on Justice
'It is He who enables you to travel on land and sea until, when you are in ships and they sail with them by a good wind and they rejoice therein, there comes a storm wind and the waves come upon them from everywhere and they assume that they are surrounded, supplicating God, sincere to Him in religion, "If You should save us from this, we will surely be among the thankful." But when He saves them, at once they commit injustice upon the earth without right. O mankind, your injustice is only against yourselves, [being merely] the enjoyment of worldly life. Then to Us is your return, and We will inform you of what you used to do.' Quran 10:22-23
‘The Rock, His work is Perfect, for all His ways are Justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, Just and Upright is He.’ Deuteronomy 32:4
‘Righteousness and Justice are the foundation of Your Throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before You.’ Psalm 89:14
‘Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.’ Psalm 82:3
‘Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause.’ Isaiah 1:17
‘He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ Micah 6:8
‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.’ Luke 11:42
‘When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.’ Proverbs 21:15
‘Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,” will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come on them.’ Proverbs 24:24-25
‘Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.’ Proverbs 28:5
‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.’ Mathew 5:38-39
‘But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ Amos 5:24
‘Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed ; the offspring of the wicked will perish. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.’ Psalm 37:27-29
‘Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him! People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you.’ Isaiah 30:18-19
‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8
‘For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.’ Isaiah 61:8-9
‘Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.’ Psalm 106:3
‘This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.’ Zechariah 7:9
‘Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.’ Deuteronomy 16:20
‘The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.’ Proverbs 29:7
‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.’ Leviticus 19:15
‘The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.’ Psalm 33:5
‘Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: Instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.’ Isaiah 51:4-5
‘Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ ” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:1-8
‘And let there always be among you a body of men who should invite to goodness, and enjoin virtue and forbid evil. And it is they who shall prosper.’ Quran 3:105
‘Do not kill any person; God has prohibited that, except in the course of justice.’ Quran 6:151
‘You shall surely be tried in your possessions and in your persons and you shall surely hear many hurtful things from those who were given the Book before you and from those who set upon equals to God. But, if you show fortitude and act righteously that indeed is a matter of strong determination.’ Quran 3:187
‘O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of God, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people‟s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear God. Surely, God is aware of what you do.’ Quran 5:9
‘And create not disorder in the earth after it has been set in order and call upon Him in fear and hope. Surely, the Mercy of God is nigh unto those who do good.’ Quran 7: 57
‘Verily, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others: and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency and manifest evil and transgression. He admonishes you that you may take heed.’ Quran 16:91
‘And the servants of the Gracious God are those who walk on the earth in a dignified manner and when the ignorant address them, they say “Peace”....’ Quran 25: 64
‘O ye who believe; let not one people deride another people, who may be better than they; nor let women deride other women, who may be better than they.’ Quran 49:12
‘And defame not your own people nor call one another by nicknames. Bad indeed is evil reputation after the profession of belief; and those who repent not are the wrong doers.’ Quran 49:12
‘O mankind, we have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and subtribes that you may know one another. Verily the most honorable among you in the sight of God is the one who is most righteous among you. Surely God is All-knowing, All-Aware.’ Quran 49: 14
‘And never think that God is unaware of what the wrongdoers do. He only delays them for a Day when eyes will stare [in horror].’ Quran 14:42
‘O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for God, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, God is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed God is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.’ Quran 4:135
' Believers, be steadfast for the cause of God and 'just' in bearing witness. Let not a group's hostility to you cause you to deviate from justice. Be just, for it is closer to piety. Have fear of God; God is Well Aware of what you do.' Quran 5:8
‘And eat up not one another's property unjustly (in any illegal way e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving, etc.), nor give bribery to the rulers (judges before presenting your cases) that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully.’ Quran 2:88
‘Verily! God commands that you should render back the trusts to those to whom they are due; and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice. Verily, how excellent is the teaching which He (God) gives you! Truly, God is Ever All-Hearer, All-Seer.’ Quran 4:58
‘It is not for a believer to kill a believer except (that it be) by mistake; and whosoever kills a believer by mistake, (it is ordained that) he must set free a believing slave and a compensation (blood-money, i.e. Diya) be given to the deceased's family unless they remit it. If the deceased belonged to a people at war with you and he was a believer, the freeing of a believing slave (is prescribed); and if he belonged to a people with whom you have a treaty of mutual alliance, compensation (blood-money - Diya) must be paid to his family, and a believing slave must be freed. And who so finds this (the penance of freeing a slave) beyond his means, he must fast for two consecutive months in order to seek repentance from God. And God is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise’. Quran 4:92
‘O you who believe! Fulfil (your) obligations. Lawful to you (for food) are all the beasts of cattle except that which will be announced to you (herein), game (also) being unlawful when you assume Ihrâm for Hajj or ‘Umrah (pilgrimage). Verily, God commands that which He wills.’ Quran 5:1
‘... And if you judge, judge with justice between them. Verily, God loves those who act justly.’ Quran 5:42
‘But how do they come to you for decision while they have the Taurât (Torah), in which is the (plain) Decision of God; yet even after that, they turn away. For they are not (really) believers.’ Quran 5:43
‘Verily, We did send down the Taurât (Torah) [to Mûsâ (Moses)], therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to God’s Will, judged for the Jews. And the rabbis and the priests [too judged for the Jews by the Taurât (Torah) after those Prophets], for to them was entrusted the protection of God’s Book, and they were witnesses thereto. Therefore fear not men but fear Me (O Jews) and sell not My Verses for a miserable price. And whosoever does not judge by what God has revealed, such are the Kâfirûn (i.e. disbelievers - of a lesser degree as they do not act on God’s Laws). Quran 5:44
‘And We ordained therein for them: "Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal." But if anyone remits the retaliation by way of charity, it shall be for him an expiation. And whosoever does not judge by that which God has revealed, such are the Wrongdoers.’ Quran 5:45
‘Let the people of the Injeel (Gospel) judge by what God has revealed therein.... ‘ Quran 5:47
‘And so judge among them by what God has revealed and follow not their vain desires, but beware of them lest they turn you far away from some of that which God has sent down to you. And if they turn away, then know that God’s Will is to punish them for some sins of theirs.’ Quran 5:49
‘Do they then seek the judgement of (the days of) Ignorance? And who is better in judgement than God for a people who have firm Faith.’ Quran 5:50
‘O you who believe! Kill not the game while you are in a state of Ihrâm [for Hajj or ‘Umrah (pilgrimage)], and whosoever of you kills it intentionally, the penalty is an offering, brought to the Ka‘bah, of an eatable animal (i.e. sheep, goat, cow) equivalent to the one he killed, as adjudged by two just men among you; or, for expiation, he should feed Masâkîn (poor persons), or its equivalent in Saum (fasting), that he may taste the heaviness (punishment) of his deed. God has forgiven what is past, but whosoever commits it again, God will take retribution from him. And God is All-Mighty, All-Able of Retribution.’ Quran 5:59
"...and oppression is severer than slaughter... and do not fight them in the sacred mosque until they fight with you in it..." Quran 2:191
‘God will not punish you for the oaths you make accidentally, but He will punish you for the oaths you make intentionally; for the expiation of oaths made or violated accidentally feed ten Masakin (poor persons), on a scale of the average of that with which you feed your own families; or clothe them; or manumit a slave. But whosoever cannot afford (that), then he should fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths that you have sworn or broken accidentally. So protect your intentional oaths as God has made it clear to you in His Ayat so that you may be grateful.’ Quran 5:89
‘... and He is the Best of judges." Quran 6:57
Then they are returned to God, their True Maulâ [True Master (God), the Just Lord (to reward them)]. Surely, for Him is the judgement and He is the Swiftest in taking account. Quran 6:62
‘Say: “Shall I seek a judge other than God while it is He Who has sent down unto you the Book (the Qur’ân), explained in detail." Those unto whom We gave the Scripture know that it is revealed from your Lord in truth. So be not you of those who doubt’. Quran 6:113
‘God does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, God loves those who deal with equity.’ Quran 60:8
‘What is the matter with you? How judge you?’ Quran 68:36
‘Or have you oaths from Us, reaching to the Day of Resurrection, that yours will be what you judge?’ Quran 68:39