(Text of talk given by Raheel Raza)
Where is the justice of political power if it executes the murderer and jails the plunderer, and then itself marches upon neighboring lands, killing thousands and pillaging the very hills? Kahlil Gibran
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s a great honour and blessing to be with you this afternoon for World Day of Prayer. We all know that there is an urgent need in the world today for prayer because in the words of philosopher and Guru Andrew Harvey “the world is burning and we are bystanders”. Globally – good people of faith and religiosity are entangled in a battle that My God is bigger and better than your God – without stopping to think for a moment that our God is the one and the same.
Let me begin by quoting Pope John Paul II who said while speaking to young Muslims in Morocco “Christians and Muslims have many things in common as believers and as human beings. We live in the same world, marked by many signs of hope, but also by multiple signs of anguish. For us, Abraham is a model of faith in God, of submission to His will and of confidence in his goodness. We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings His creatures to perfection.”
Since the theme today is justice, let me mention a tradition we are told about our common Ancestor Abraham. There is a story in the tradition of Muslims that Abraham was told by God he would be the leader of his community. Abraham asked God “will my progeny also be leaders? God replied “Perhaps your progeny will also be leaders but I do not promise leadership without adl – justice, so if they are JUST they could be leaders.
Hence Justice is embedded into the theoretical framework of all 3 monotheistic faiths but not practiced on the ground – because if all of us DID practice justice as it was meant to be – then we would not see so much strife and suffering in our fellow human beings.
A just society is one where “justice” refers to more than just the administration of laws. It is based on the idea of a society which gives individuals and groups fair treatment and a just share of the benefits of society.
Justice manifests itself in society at many levels – issues of minority groups, women’s and children’s issues. International justice particularly refers to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide. Then we have social justice – a very important component of justice for people of faith.
Social justice encompasses economic justice. Social justice is the virtue which guides us in creating those organized human interactions we call institutions. In turn, social institutions, when justly organized, provide us with access to what is good for the person, both individually and in our associations with others. Many of us who come from third world countries are interested in issues of social justice because we lack the institutions that provide social justice which is also a hallmark of a healthy democracy.
I know that the women of Malaysia are being highlighted today so I think it’s appropriate to focus for a moment on Malaysia. Malaysia is 60% Muslim, 19% Buddhist, 9% Christian and 6% Hindu with 3% other religions & ethnicities. There was a time when the minorities and majority Muslims in Malaysia lived in peace and harmony. However with the rise in extremism, there has been documented injustice against minorities. According to UN reports, the Chinese population has declined, Christians are being forced to use sharia courts and other minorities like gays are also being harassed.
You may ask is this what being a Muslim all about? What does Islam say about justice? Let me share some insight with you. Very importantly if I want justice for myself I must demand the same justice for others around me. It’s not a oneway street.
Justice is the recurring overall theme in Quran. Quran repeatedly negates all ideas of injustice, looking upon oppression, bigotry, inequity, racism, intolerance and suppression as forms of gross injustice.
And act justly. Truly God loves those who are just – Quran 49:9
Having put this background into perspective; let me cite that Islam bases social justice on the following foundations:
o Absolute freedom of conscience
o Complete equality of all human beings
o The permanent mutual responsibility of society
The understanding is that Justice will only occur when the Foundation of the community is strong and reflects the above
• The Koran says in 10:44 God never considers it permissible to act unjustly towards his servants – it is rather men who render oppression and injustice
In terms of social justice, the Quran says: Truly God commands you to give back trusts to those whom they are due, and when you judge between people , to judge with justice. 4:58
The Prophet of Islam was extremely concerned about inequity and injustice as he saw it being practiced among the people of Mecca while he was growing up. Mohmmad exemplified justice in many ways in his life. In fact, he was known in Mecca for his honesty and just dealings in line with the guidance of the Quran about truth and justice being the most important facets of a persons life. Mohammad used to say – “People beware of injustice for injustice shall be darkness on the Day of Judgment
The Quran says in 16:90: God commands men to act with justice and virtue and enjoins upon them generosity to kinsfolk. He forbids them evil deeds and oppression He admonishes you out of His mercy, so that you may accept His advice.
Islam values justice so highly that if one group of Muslims deviate from the path of justice and start engaging in oppression, they must be stopped, even if this means using force against them. It’s unfortunate that we don’t see this happening at an international level.
The Qur’an recognizes the right to religious freedom not only in the case of other believers in God, but also in the case of non-believers
Surah 6: Al-An’am: 108 states:
• Revile not those whom they call upon besides God, lest they out of spite revile God in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did.
Islam in its infancy was a minority faith and Muslims were heavily persecuted. So today, if Muslims in the name of Islam persecute others for their faith, lifestyle, culture, colour or politics then they are clearly deviating from the path set out for them.
All is not lost – there are people engaged in pointing out the fallacy of faith without justice, and trying to bring about a reform from within.
A moderate Muslim group set up in Malaysia called Sisters In Islam who are working hard for women’s rights has this to say: “What is done in the name of Islam today often contravenes Islam’s central ideas and animating principles in order to justify patriarchal practices. Generally speaking, women’s rights have been distorted by the increasingly powerful conservative faction of predominantly male Muslims heavily influenced by the dominant parochial views of Islam’s Middle Eastern heartlands. What especially concerns Muslim modernists in Malaysia today is the readiness of some of their leaders, who at the overtly political level directly oppose the “Islamist” agenda and the parties advocating it, to accommodate these tendencies and capitulate piecemeal to fundamentalists’ demands for the recodification of modern state law, especially that affecting women and minorities.”
I’ll end with words Martin Luther King, Jr.
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
The solution, is promote the emergence of an Islam that is “just – modern, moderate, democratic, humane, thinking, reasoning, literate, liberal, good neighborly, and respectful of women, homosexuals, atheists, and whoever else. One that grants non-Muslims equal rights with Muslims.”
Let me end with a prayer from my tradition.
In the name of Allah,
the beneficent, the merciful.
Praise be to the Lord of the
Universe who has created us and
made us into tribes and nations
That we may know each other, not that
we may despise each other.
If the enemy inclines towards peace, you
also incline towards peace, and
trust God, for the Lord is the one that
hears and knows all things.
And the servants of God,
Most gracious are those who walk on
the Earth in humility, and when we
address them, we say “PEACE.”