Balance & Justice

By: Ahmad Ibrahim

And the heavens He has raised high, and he has set the Meezan (balance). In order, that you may not transgress balance. And establish the balance with Qist (justice and equity) and do not make the balance deficient. [55/7-9]

The concept of justice in the Quran is based on achieving a balance (Meezan) with justice (Qist and Adl) in every aspect of life, whether it is social relationships, financial matters, trade or business or even in exacting retribution. This balance with justice and equity ensures that individuals and groups in the society adhere to the social order, behave in acceptable ways and as a result resolve their social tensions.

This balance also requires that when people do not conform, some action is taken to restore the balance. This action, in the light of guiding principles of the Quran is called 'Justice'. Enforcing justice is one of the responsibilities of the society but every individual in the society is equally responsible to keep the balance of justice.

In the Quran, justice is one of the basic themes and also one of those human qualities for which God has expressed love and support [i]. (read about Qualities God loves). The Quran maintains that the human society cannot endure without justice and its absence creates corruption on land. Therefore, God teaches humankind to observe the principles of equity and justice to ensure social order.

The Quran acknowledges that establishing justice on land involves consultation and framing of laws under its guiding principles, educating individual in the society about the laws and if a law is broken, some corrective actions to ensure justice. This whole process requires understanding of the guiding principles, sound policies and strategies and equally efficient administration to serve Justice.

Also note that the concept of Ihsaan (read about Ihsaan) is closely related to Adl. While Adl is to treat people equally and with fairness by giving them their rights, Ihsaan teaches us to give something beyond what is due to seek the pleasure of the God.

Literal Meaning: The Quran has used several different words in the context of justice; Meezan (balance), Qist and Adl (justice and equity)

The word Meezan is derived from Wazana and it means balance, equilibrium or to distribute equally. It is also used in the meaning of equity, justice and fairness.

The word Qist means justice, fairness, equity, fair-mindedness, rightness or correctness.

The word Adl means to act justly, equitably, not to discriminate, be equivalent, to make straight, to be in a state of equilibrium, impartiality, justice and straight-forwardness.

(refer to Hans Wehr dictionary of Modern Arabic)

We can see that these three terms have similar meaning but at the same time have subtle differences. The word Qist is used in the context of fulfilling an obligation. Adl is used in the context of treating people equally. Mezan is used in the context of balance in different aspects of nature andrefers to the natural human faculty to judge between right and wrong. An individual can only appreciate the guiding principles of the scripture with this natural sense of balance. These contexts are further highlighted below.

References form the Quran

Following is a summary of teachings of the Quran on Justice:

God has sent down the Quran with truth which contains guiding principles and the Balance (meezan), for establishing justice [42/17][ii] [57/25][iii]

Stand for Justice even if it against yourself or your family and do not follow your desires in matters of justice[4/135][iv]

Be just when you are giving people their rights and do not commit mischief and corruption [11/84-85][v]

Do not be the one who, when he has to receive by measure from others, demands full measure but when he has to give by measure to others, gives less than due [83/1-3]

Give just measure and weight. Do not give short measure and weight [6:152, 7:85, 11:84-85]

Give full measure when you measure, and weigh with a balance that is straight [17:35]

Establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. Maintain the balance with fairness and justice, without differentiating anybody's rights and obligations [55:9]

Conclusion and Relevance  

Social order is essential for a peaceful society. This is only possible if the society establishes and enforces justice with the cooperation of the individuals and groups in the society. The Quran provides the philosophy of justice by emphasizing the concept of balance (Meezan) and provides guiding principles for establishing justice in the concepts of Qist and Adl. The Quran emphasizes that justice can only be established on land if people follow these guiding principles in their individual and collective spheres of life.

Notes and References -


[i] 5:42, 49:9, 60:8

[ii] It is God who has sent down the Book in truth and the Meezan (balance). And what can make you know that perhaps the hour is close at hand? 42:17

[iii] Indeed We have sent Our Messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance that humankind may keep up Qist (Justice) [57:25]

[iv] O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Qist (justice), as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well- acquainted with all that ye do. [4/135]

[v] And O my people! Give measure and weight in Qist (justice) and reduce not the things that are due to the people, and do not commit mischief in the land causing corruption. [Prophet Shoaib (PBUH) to the people of Madyan 11:85] by this book






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