The Importance of Justice

Now that we have recounted all the virtues and vices, it is necessary to gain an understanding of the true significance of the quality of justice, since all ethical virtues originate from this quality just as all vices emanate from injustice, which is the quality opposed to it. Plato says:

When the faculty of justice develops in man, all the other faculties and powers of the soul are illuminated by it, and these faculties and powers all acquire light from each other. This is the condition in which the human soul moves and acts in the best and the most meritorious manner possible, gaining affinity and reapproachment with the Source of creation.

The quality of justice saves the human being from the danger of deviation towards extremes, whether in personal or social matters, and enables him to attain enduring felicity and bliss. Of course, it should be noted that this quality can be successfully exercised only if the individual knows what the Golden Mean is, and can distinguish it from excess when he confronts it. Such discrimination is impossible to attain except through the holy teachings of Islam, which contain elaborate instructions relating to all the things needed by human beings to attain happiness and felicity in this world and the next.

Various Kinds of Justice

Justice is of three kinds:

1. The justice between the human being and God; that is, the penalties and rewards which God bestows on man in relation to his acts and deeds. In other words, for whatever acts he commits, whether good or evil, an appropriate reward or punishment is given to him by God. If it were otherwise, it would imply injustice and violation of rights on God's behalf and unfair treatment of His creatures -characteristics which God does not have.

2. The justice amongst human beings; which means that everyone must honour individual and social rights of others and act according to the sacred laws of Islam. This is called social justice. In a prophetic tradition, social rights are enumerated in the following manner: 

Every believer has thirty obligations over his brother in faith, which he could not be said to have met unless he either performs them or is excused by his brother in faith from performing them. These obligations are: forgiving his mistakes; being merciful and kind to him when he is in a strange land; guarding his secrets; giving him his hand when he is about to fall; accepting his apology; discouraging backbiting about him; persisting in giving him good advice;

treasuring his friendship; fulfilling his trust; visiting him when he is ill; being with him at the time of his death; accepting his invitation and his presents; returning his favours in the same manner; thanking him for his favours; being grateful for his assistance; protecting his honour and property; helping him meet his needs; making an effort to solve his problems; saying to him: 

`God bless you', when he sneezes; guiding him to the thing he has lost; answering his greetings; taking him at his word (not drawing a bad interpretation of things he says); accepting his bestowals; confirming him if he swears to something; being kind and friendly towards him, not unsympathetic and hostile; helping him whether he is being unjust or is a victim of injustice [when we speak of helping him when he is being unjust,

we mean that he must be kept from being unjust; when we speak of coming to his aid when he is a victim of injustice, we mean that he should be assisted in securing his rights] ; refraining from feeling bored or fed up of him; not forsaking him in the midst of his troubles. Whatever good things he likes for himself he should also like for his brother in faith, and whatever he dislikes for himself he should also dislike for his brother.

3. Justice between the living and the dead. This is the kind of justice that commands that the living should remember the dead with kindness, pay their debts, act according to their wills, pray for them, give alms seeking their forgiveness from God, and perform charitable acts in their memory.


At the end of this section, the conclusion that we draw is that justice means the complete mastery of the intellect overall other faculties and powers of the human soul, so that all are employed towards the ultimate goal of human perfection and the end of making oneself Godlike. In other words,

the intellect is the sovereign of the body; if justice prevails within it, it will also prevail in the domain under its jurisdiction. Just as if the ruler of a society is just, justice shall expand throughout that whole society, whereas if the ruler is unjust, then there will be no justice in that country. This is expressed in a narration: 

Whenever a sovereign is just, he shares in the reward and merit of all the good works done by his subjects; but if he is not just, he will be considered an accomplice in all their sins and evil deeds.

Another conclusion that can be drawn is that one cannot reform others as long as he has not reformed himself. That is, if an individual is unable to make justice prevail within the domain of his own individual self, how can he put it into effect amongst his partners, family members, fellow citizens, and finally, the whole society? Therefore, self-development is necessarily prior to all else, and this is impossible except through the science of ethics.


[1]. The Power of Imagination is also called the "practical intellect", which is the counterpart of the "speculative intellect". The "speculative intellect" comprehends the notions of virtue and vice and gives advice and guidance. The "practical intellect" puts the directives of the "speculative intellect" into effect and follows its orders. The directive of the "speculative intellect" are always directed at the regulation of the powers of passion and anger in the human being .

[2]. Ignorance or Jahl, are here used in a wider-than-ordinary sense. "Jahl" here stands in opposition to "`aql" (reason or "hikmah" (wisdom), not in opposition to "`ilm" (knowledge).