Peace and Justice in Islam
By Imam Zaid Shakir
We are living in a world where there could obviously be more peace. As Muslims, we realize this fact more than most people, as the peace of many of our brothers and sisters in various parts of the globe has been tragically disrupted â€“in Palestine, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and other locales. Similarly, we are living in a world where there could be more justice. We read almost daily of assassinations in various parts of the world, where military forces or intelligence services, in summary fashion, declare victims guilty, and then proceed to execute them. Unfortunately, such unprincipled political behavior has become increasingly common in both the foreign and domestic policies of this country, causing untold damage to her image and credibility abroad.
These two issues, peace and justice, are joined in the slogans we hear from many activists, especially here in the United States, â€œNo Justice, No Peace!â€�  This linkage is logical, as justice must be considered one of the indispensable prerequisites of peace. This article intends to briefly look at the ideas of peace and justice in Islam and explore their deeper significance in the life of a Muslim.Peace
In the Arabic language, the word peace is derived from the radicals (S-L-M). The scholars of language mention four closely related terms that can be derived from this origin: Salaam, Salaamah, Silm, and Salm. Raghib al-Isfahani says in his lexicon of Qurâ€™anic terms, â€œAl-Salm and al-Salaamah mean being free from any external or internal ruinations.â€�  Based on that he mentions that true peace will only exist in Paradise, for only there will there be perpetuity with no end; complete satisfaction with no need; perfect honor with no humiliation; and perfect health with no disease. In this regard, God is known as al-Salaam, because He alone is described as being totally free from any defects or flaws. 
At the level of interstate relations, if we ponder the above definition, we can consider peaceful relations between nations as a condition where violence, a state inevitably involving both internal and external ruination, is absent. In this sense, war can be viewed as an aberrational state. This is so in that it is a movement away from the original state of human relations. The aberrational nature of war is made clearer if we consider that murder, the ultimate consequence of war, is considered an innovation, which destroyed the peace formerly existing among the human family. It is stated in a prophetic tradition, â€œNo soul is killed unjustly, except that the elder son of Adam (Cain) shares in the stain of the crime. That is because he was the first to innovate murder [in the human family]. 
At the individual level, peace can be viewed as an absence of the ruinations of the heart. One free from such ruinations, will succeed, God-willing, when he/she meets his/her Lord. Therefore, he/she will enter safely into the Abode of Peace (Dar as-Salaam). God says in that regard, â€œ[On] the day no amount of wealth or children will be of any benefit. [The only one benefited] will be one who comes before God with a rectified heart.â€� 
If one reflects on these meanings, it should be clear that the wars, which Muslims have been involved in throughout our long history, do not nullify the validity of the statement, â€œIslam is the religion of peace.â€� What is meant by that expression, and God knows best, is that Islam provides a path for the human being to enter Paradise (Dar as-Salaam), and there he/she will know true peace.
One of the loftier objectives of our religion is to introduce into the world an ethos that facilitates the spreading of peace at every level. Our personal relations with our fellow Muslims should begin with the implementation of the Prophetic order, â€œSpread peace between yourselves.â€�  This order is so pressing that the Beloved Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon Him, advised its indiscriminate implementation. He says at the end of a tradition in which he described one of the best forms of Islam, â€œExtend the greeting of peace, to those you know and those you know not.â€�  This is a very weighty matter, which calls for our deeper reflection. Its weightiness is illustrated by the fact that it is mentioned as being one of the things that completes our faith. The Prophet, peace and blessing of God be upon Him, said in that regard, â€œYou will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I indicate to you something that will surely lead to your mutual love? Spread the greeting and spirit of peace between yourselves.â€� 
Our relations with our spouses should also be characterized by peace. God admonishes us concerning those relations, â€œAnd peace is best.â€�  Similarly, in our relations with other nations, God commands us, â€œIf they [the enemy] inclines towards peace, then you should similarly incline, and place your trust in God.â€�  As alluded to above, peace is the original state that prevailed in relations between individuals and societies. This opinion is based, among other narrations, on the saying of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon Him, that Jesus, peace and blessings of God be upon Him, â€œwill return the world to a state of peaceâ€� (Yurjiâ€™ as-Salaam) after his reappearance at the end of time.  Justice
Our lexicographers define justice, variously, as, â€œTo rule based on that contained in the Book of God, and the Sunnah of His Messenger, peace and blessings of God be upon Him, and refraining from ruling based on empty opinion.â€� Also, â€œExtending inherent rights [to their possessors] equitably.â€�  This latter definition emphasizes the importance of equity as an essential aspect of distributive justice.
The concept of justice is one of the essential pillars in the maintenance of both the natural and social orders. God, be He Exalted, has said, â€œâ€¦and He has established the scale, therefore, do not transgress in the scale [of justice]. Undertake the measuring with justice and do not cheat concerning the scale.â€�  Justice, as many of our scholars point out, is one of the underpinnings of the order that has been established by God. This reality is also a foundation of a healthy social order. God says in that regard, â€œO, You who believe! Be upright for God, witnesses to justice; and do not let your hatred of a people move you to a position where you are unjust. Be just, that is closer to piety. Be mindful of God! Verily God is well-informed concerning all that you do.â€� 
This social aspect of justice has been beautifully summarized by Imam al-Qurtubi, May God have Mercy on Him. He says, discussing the relationship between two words which are usually translated as justice, al-â€˜Adl and al-Qist, â€œAl-Qist (distributive justice) is al-â€˜Adl in interpersonal relations, it is the basis of all human relations and a foundation of Islamic rule.â€�  His saying is illustrative of the meaning conveyed by the saying of God, â€œVerily, We have sent Our Messengers with clear proofs, and We have revealed unto them the Scripture and the Balance in order that they lead people with Justiceâ€¦â€� 
Imam Mawardi , May God have Mercy on him, has summarized the social implications of justice in the following way:
One of the things that reforms worldly affairs is the principle of distributive justice. It facilitates amicable relations between people, engenders obedience to the Divine Law, and brings about the prosperity of countries. It is the basis of a thriving economy, strong families, and stable government. Nothing devastates the land nor corrupts the mind as quickly as tyranny. That is because there are no acceptable limits [to regulate tyranny]. 
For this reason, Ibn Taymiyya, May God have mercy on him, sees the responsibilities of Islamic government emanating from a single verse in the Qurâ€™an, â€œGod enjoins on you that you deliver the Trusts to their rightful possessors. And when you rule over [or judge between] people, that you do so with justiceâ€¦â€�  The Noble Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon Him, has said in this context, â€œSurely the most beloved of people with God, and the closest to Him on the Day of Resurrection will be a just leader. And the most hated of people and the furthest removed from Him will be a tyrannical leader.â€� 
Clearing himself from even an inadvertent association with oppressive acts, our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon Him, is reported to have said, â€œYou bring your disputes to me for adjudication; perhaps one of you is less eloquent than another, and I rule against the other party on the basis of what I have heard. Therefore, if I inadvertently grant one of you something owed to his brother, do not take it, for I am granting him something that constitutes a piece of Hellfire.â€� 
Our impeccably just Khalifa, Umar Ibn al_Khattab, May God be Pleased with him, relates the following penetrating words:
Verily, God sets forth parables for you, and He directs admonition towards you in order that [ your] hearts will be quickened. Surely, the hearts are dead until God quickens them. Justice has signs and portents. As for its signs, they are shyness, generosity, humility, and gentleness. As for its portents, they are embodied in mercy. He has [likewise] made for every affair a gate, and He has made that gate assessable by providing a key. The gate of justice is a deep consideration of consequences, and its key is otherworldliness. Consideration of consequences ultimately involves remembering death, and preparing for it by freely parting from oneâ€™s wealth. Otherworldliness involves dealing justly with everyone and being satisfied with what suffices. If one is not satisfied with what suffices him, no amount of wealth will every enrich him.â€� 
Much of this discussion has focused on distributive justice. However, the Qurâ€™an also places great emphasis on commutative justice. God commands in Sura an-Nur, â€œDo not be moved by partiality to discriminate in meting out divinely legislated punishments.  The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, mentioned that one of the reasons behind the ruination of a nation is a lack of commutative justice.  In this context, he mentioned that if his very daughter were to steal, he would not hesitate to punish her to the full extent of the law. 
In summary, this brief discussion should make it clear to any Muslim that we have to be people committed to peace and justice. We must clearly illustrate to the world that our religion is indeed the religion of peace. However, our love of peace must never allow us to be unjust, nor should it allow us to passively accept injustices. We must take a stand for justice. However, that stand must go far beyond slogans, such as the one mentioned at the beginning of this article, and move into the realm of positive action. Action inspired by the words and deeds of our illustrious Prophet, peace and blessings of God upon him, and our righteous forebears, some of which have been mentioned in this article; and action governed by the parameters of the Divine Law.