The discourse of activism is often framed through the lens of seeking justice. But what is justice? asks Shaykh Riad Saloojee.
In our Islamic understanding, one of the Names of the Divine is the Infinitely Just, or Al ‘Adl. As we have mentioned previously, Allah possesses Names of Majesty and Rigor (jalal), which signify power, might and strength. And He possesses Names of Beauty and Benevolence (jamal). His name, the Infinitely Just, is a name of Divine Majesty and Rigor.
Justice is to give everything its due right, measure and proportion. In the Qur’an, this is exemplified by what Allah terms the balance: “He has raised the heavens and placed the balance – that you do not transgress the balance (55:7-8).”
Allah is the Infinitely Just. He commits no oppression or injustice, major, minor, or infinitesimal. His actions, commands and decrees are always just and equitable. An inductive analysis indicates that justice (‘adl) is a universal constant that infuses every aspect of the Islamic theology, legal code and spirituality.
The Realization of Justice
As vicegerents of the Divine, we are meant to embellish our inner character with justice in its most penetrating, nuanced and unique manifestation. The Divine exhorts us: “O you who have believed, stand persistently for justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves, parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. Follow not your personal inclinations and drives that you swerve from justice” (4:135).
The verse indicates that the impediments to the full external realization of justice and equity are internal – within our lower-selves. Social phenomena are the collective projections of our inner states.
Where injustice exists, it is due to the socialized or institutionalized projection of the states of our inner selves. Because of this, the verse first addresses the injustice hidden in the subtle and not-so-subtle drives and impulses within us.
Justice Begins With the Divine
Then, the verse addresses us to stand for justice in the midst of filial relationships that cause us to be partisan. And finally, the verse widens the circle to encompass economic or social stratification and, by implication, all other social relations.
We see then that the value of justice in our tradition is truly universalized. Oftentimes, our discourse frames justice in purely political terms. But justice cannot be restricted to either the personal or the political, or both. Its reach is farther.
As a Divine Name manifested in our inner character, justice must permeate every aspect of our lives, beginning from our relationship with the Divine. If we do not seek justice in our relationship with the Divine, how can we hope to realize justice with His creation at large?
Justice and the Web of Our Existence
Justice is interconnected in the web of our existence. It must be expressed in the personal, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, moral, family, social, economic, political, local, national and international dimensions.
To restrict its scope is the very definition of injustice and a feature of the caprice and arbitrary motives of my lower-self. In fact, the seeds of a sincere, sacred and sanctified justice begin with self-critique, stepping away from my lower self, interrogating its selective justice and its rationalizations of its selective justice.
Practically speaking, it is inconceivable, and spiritually and intellectually dissonant, that an Islamic activist, taking inspiration from his or her faith, does not pray or respect the letter and spirit of the Sacred Law.
Where is the “Islam” in our Islamic activism? Where is our personified loving surrender to the Divine that is connoted and denoted in the word “Muslim?”
About the Series
This written series will pair with a new, forthcoming podcast, Spiritual Activism by Shaykh Riad Saloojee. He will present a paradigm for a spiritually-inspired activism that is what it was always meant to be: a vehicle for nearness to the Divine through genuine individual and social ethical change.
This series will comprise of seven discussions that explore the foundations of Islamic spirituality, the spiritual ethos that is the basis of all activism, the ailments of activism unhinged from spirituality, and an application of how spirituality must inform true environmental activism.