The Rights of Freedom and Justice in Islam
The concept of the right to justice is mentioned repeatedly in the Qur’an. There is quite a lot of detail in the passages relating to the freedom to justice. In Islam there are two concepts which are considered, Ihsan and Adl. While Adl is typical of monotheistic religions, referring to the need for balance and equality when judging and individual, in Islam perhaps the more important term is Ihsan. Ihsan refers to making up an imbalance or an injustice by returning or giving back something to the person that is at disadvantage. As such, it is not only important to treat all people equally, but to allow those that are at an objective disadvantage a compensation. These relate to the two most basic attributes of God, mercy and compassion (Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim.) These two concepts are often compared to the love of a mother to her offspring. A parent must love equally all of his offspring, but if one of them has a handicap or requires special attention Ihsan dictates that a loving parent will give that child more to help him make his way in life. In the ideal Islamic society, the concept of justice necessarily reflects helping the disadvantaged, like widows, orphans, and those living with handicaps or in poverty.
The right to freedom is also contemplated in the Qur’an and specifically addressed in the Surah Al-‘Imran. Many of the despots that are today in charge of Muslim countries would do well in reading this passage and taking it to heart. The Qur’an clearly states that only God can demand total obedience from a human being. That those that oppress and humiliate other people in search for power are going against the express messages of the Qur’an. This is an aspect that is often misunderstood about Islam. The Qur’an advocates a right to individual freedom that is unlike what is preached in many other religions. In Islam man submits his self completely to God and cannot be governed by any other earthly organization, government, or individual. In Islam, every human being is to be respected, endowed with a dignity that comes from humanity itself. Each person must be free to exercise free will and to find their own path to God, without any kinds of oppression or external force.
Often there is a conflict between these rights to freedom and the mentions of slavery in the Qur’an and in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. However, the Qur’an acknowledges that slavery existed in the times it was written and specifically urges all Muslims to free their slaves, especially those that were prisoners of war (which comprised the vast majority of slaves.) It is important to note that slavery in Arab society was vastly different from slavery as it was practiced in the West. It is also important to place the practice of slavery into the context of the verses of the Qur’an that prohibit any Muslim from infringing on the freedoms of other people and demanding obedience. Even in the case of the Prophet Muhammad, the Qur’an specifically urged him to consult all matters with the community rather than becoming a totalitarian ruler over his people.