Reflection No. 139 on Q 16:90 – Justice

 إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ
Innallāha ya’muru bil-‘adli wal-iHsān
Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good
(Sūratun Nahl, Āyat 90)

In the verse above, Almighty Allah orders the human being to be just and do good to others. This is part of a verse that actually enjoins the human being to have three qualities, and stay away from another three qualities. But the discussion for today’s reflection is the first two qualities, qualities that are the basis of a healthy, functioning society.

To ponder over this part of the verse, think of the following questions:

Why are these qualities singled out in a special command?
What happens to a society when these qualities are/are not practised?
What is the difference between these two qualities?

The fabric of human society is made of the threads that tie people together. These are the relationships between people, the bonds that keep them together. When justice and doing good prevails, relationships flourish and society blooms. But when these qualities are lacking, the threads unravel and society disintegrates. This harms society as a whole, but even more importantly, is a blow for the progress of the individual.

Justice is the foundation of human society, without which it cannot progress. It is as necessary as the basic necessities of life. Imam Ali (a) says: Justice is the foundation on which the world rests. (MH, H. 11655). Justice means giving each person his or her due. It requires that people carry out their social and moral obligations to one another and grant to each what is rightfully theirs. It does not mean that people are treated the same, but each is treated in a deserving manner. Justice is synonymous with righteousness, for there can be no righteousness without justice. Imam Ja’far al-Sādiq (a) sums it up in the following Hadīth: Justice is sweeter than honey, softer than butter, and more fragrant than musk. (MH, H. 11661)

Ihsān or doing good means going a step beyond justice. Justice alone is not enough. People make mistakes, have flaws . . . and if we dealt with everyone on the basis of justice alone things would become quite difficult for everyone. So Allah orders us to deal with grace, to overlook and forgive, not to retaliate an eye for an eye. Ihsan wins the hearts of people and ties them closely together as it shows love and consideration for others. Imam Ali (a) says: Through ihsān you can possess the hearts (MH, H. 4003)

Aytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirazī in Tafsīr-e Namune gives the example of the human body under this verse. Each organ and part of the body has its own role to play, and does what it should for the body to function. This is giving what is due, or justice. But sometimes one part of the body falls out of synch. It cannot give what it should to the body. This creates a disharmony in the body which could become threatening. But the other organs pitch in, and put in extra to make up for the shortcoming of that organ. This is going beyond justice. It is ihsān.

Do your part in strengthening the foundation of your society. Remind yourself of this verse often.

Sources: Aytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirazī (ed.), Tafsīr Namūne;
Muhammadī Rayshahrī, Mizānul Hikmah.