According to one source, the monotheistic religions of 1500-2000 years ago, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all emphasized the importance of the following social behaviors: sharing; equality of treatment; not profiting at the expense of disadvantaged groups; avoiding greed; and, in the case of rulers, behaving righteously, fairly, and justly toward their people. In our own times, the foremost responsibility for social justice lies with the government. To maintain social order and stability, governments must always be bound by morality and ethics, pursuing justice both in the implementation of the law and the prosecution of crimes. Those are the principles to which the divine commandments have committed humanity. [See "What Is Social Justice?" Occasional Paper No. 1, National Bro Band Resource Centre, October 2011, p.5.]
Based on the divine commandments, the following principles represent a coherent set of conditions by which to measure the moral and ethical legitimacy of governments in carrying out their responsibilities. Have they:
- Ensured human dignity?
- Protected fundamental human rights?
- Maintained an equality of rights?
- Established equality of opportunity?
- Promoted equality of living conditions?
- Behaved justly and fairly?
These principles may well be extrapolated from the teachings of the Holy Prophet PBUH (Peace Be Upon Him), though any society that seeks balance and stability, regardless of faith, is bound to abide by them. Islamic teachings, however, whether they stem from the Holy Prophet's words in the Quran or the Ahadith, provide explicit norms and values on which such a society can be directly modeled.
Social Justice and Teachings of the Holy Prophet PBUH
At the end of this article, I will suggest practical codes of conduct based on Islamic teachings that can promote balance and stability in any society. But, given the relevance of the Holy Prophet's teachings to the ethical underpinnings of a just society, it is important to first examine the specific commandments given in Al-Quran Al-Hakeem and the Ahadith.
Al-Quran says (Al-Imran Surah):
"Allah does not wish injustice for any of his creatures." 3:108
"Allah commands people to maintain justice, kindness and proper relations with their relatives." 16:90
"One who observes justice is guided toward the right path." 16:76
"O, Holy Prophet PBUH, if you decree the matters among them, verdict according to justice." 5:42