Administration of Law
Judiciary is an important branch of government, and serves an essential need of a civilized society. Prophet Muhammad (saws) has furnished a complete guidance in respect of it as well. There was no question of a judicial system as long as the Prophet remained in Makkah, but after he, along with his Companions, had migrated to Madinah, and the Muslims had begun to live as a community, an order was set up for dispensing and administration of justice, in an elementary form. The Apostle of God himself was the judge and arbiter, in addition to being the Divine Messenger. Disputes were brought to him and he decided them, and awarded punishment to the guilty in accordance with the holy law. The holy Prophet, thus, himself decided the cases between Muslims. From some reports it appears that Omar b. al Khattab, too, used to hear and decide cases, in the Prophet’s own lifetime, in Madinah, at his command. Later, when Yemen came under Islamic rule, the Prophet also sent Ali b. Abi Talib and Muad b. Jabal there to act as judges. The holy Prophet strictly enjoined on those who were charged with the duty of dispensing justice to perform it to the best of their ability, and acquit themselves with honesty and fairness, and in the spirit of God-fearingness. He gave the tidings of Divine help and guidance and an immense reward in the Hereafter to the bondmen who strove earnestly to observe these instructions, and also held forth the assurance that should they, inadvertently, make a mistake in the interpretation or application of law, they would not be called to account for it, but rewarded for good faith and eagerness. As against it, the Prophet administered a severe warning of Divine wrath and punishment to bad and unfair rulers and judges and also laid down that only such men were to be appointed to such a position who were not solicitous of it.
(1) It is related by Abdullah bin Amr that the Apostle of God said: “The bondmen (among the rulers, judges and other officers of the Government) who exercise their authority with fairness and justice will, in the Hereafter, be on the pulpits of light, (and) on the right hand side of God – and both of His hands are right hands – and these will be the men who are just and honest in their decisions, and in the exercise of their powers with regard to affairs and concerns of the members of their families and other persons associated with them.” – Muslim
In this tradition, the great good tiding is given to rulers, judges etc., who take due care to be honest and impartial in their acts and judgements that in the Hereafter, they will be treated with unique honour and ceremony, and seated on pulpits of light, on the right hand side of the Almighty. One can be misled into believing from the above Tradition that just as we have a right hand and a left hand, and the left hand is inferior to the right, the other hand of the Lord, too, will be the left one. The Prophet, therefore, has made it clear that both the hands of God are right hands. He has no left hand. It, further, goes to show that the words, Yameen (right) and Yadd (hand), used in this and some other Traditions, and Qur’anic verses, with relation to God, do not denote hands like ours. As it has been set forth candidly in the Qur’an: “There is nothing whatever like unto Him.” As for what do words like Yadd, then, signify in that context, prudence lies in the acceptance and affirmation of the way and rule of conduct of the earlier doctors seeing that we, by our very nature, are incapable of comprehending the essential meaning and reality of the Being and Attributes of the Lord. The tidings contained at the end of the above Tradition are for the just and upright bondmen who are honest and impartial in their judicial decisions as well as attitude towards the members of their families and other persons connected to them in relationship, social affairs, business etc., and conduct themselves in a like manner if they happen to be the guardians of anyone or trustees of some property or institution. It shows that the commandment of justice and uprightness and the reward promised on it does not relate merely to rulers and judges, but to everyone in his own sphere of activity.
(2) It is related by Abu Sa’eed Khudri that the Apostle of God said: “The most beloved of men in the sight of God, on the Day of Resurrection, and the nearest to Him will be the just rulers, and the most hateful of men in the sight of God, on the Day of Resurrection, and farthest removed from Him will be the unjust and tyrannical rulers. – Tirmizi
(3) It is related by Abdullah bin Abi Aufa that the Apostle of God said: “God is with the judge, i.e., His help and guidance is reaching him as long as he is just and fair, and when he (departs from the path of justice and fairness) and becomes unjust and tyrannical, the Lord leaves the man alone and the Devil attaches himself to him.” – Tirmizi
It tells that as long as a judge or ruler honestly desires to act justly and impartially, the help and guidance of the Lord is available to him, but when his intention is changed and he adopts the course of injustice and tyranny, the Lord withholds His help, and he becomes a plaything in the hands of the Devil.
(4) It is related by Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-`Aas and Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “When a ruler has to decide a case, and, (in order to decide justly and correctly), he exerts himself and applies his mind, and decides correctly, he will get a double reward: (one for the intention and effort to decide justly, and the other for giving a fair and correct decision), and when he tries sincerely to get to the truth of the matter and decide correctly, and, yet gives a wrong decision, he will get one reward (for endeavouring to arrive at a just and correct decision).” – Bukhari and Muslim
Of primary importance, in this Tradition, is the principle that if a judge, legist or ruler tries his level best to find out where the truth of the matter lies and what is the correct legal position with regard to it, and even then fails to decide properly, he will still be deserving of reward in the judgement of God, for his intention was pure and he really wanted to decide with justice and it is this much that anyone can, after all, do. But, clearly, it appertains only to people who are worthy of it, and the permission of Ijtihad can, evidently, not be given to everyone, irrespective of the qualifications. As it is distinctly stated in the next Tradition, anyone who proceeds to judge between people and give decisions without necessary knowledge and ability will go to Hell.
(5) Buraidah relates, saying that the Apostle of God said: “Judges (officers of court) are of three kinds. One of them are deserving of Heaven, and two of Hell. Deserving of Heaven is the judge who grasps the truth and decides accordingly while the judge who does not decide justly even after grasping the truth is deserving of Hell, and the same is the case with the judge who lacks knowledge and is ignorant, and yet ventures to pass the judgement.” – Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah
(6) It is narrated by Abdullah bin Amr bin el-Aas that the Apostle of God cursed (both) the giver and the taker of bribes.” – Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah (Tirmizi has quoted it, also, on the authority of Abu Hurairah, in addition to Abdullah bin Amr).
The imprecation of anyone by God or His Messenger is an expression of extreme displeasure, and a most severe punishment. Condemnation by God shows that He has decided to deprive the wrong-doer of His benevolence while by the Prophet or Angel is in the nature of a prayer against him that he may be excluded from Divine mercy. The Tradition would, thus, mean that the Apostle of God has indicated an excessive dislike for those who give or receive bribes and invoke the wrath of God against them. In some accounts of the same narrative, it is stated that apart from the giver and taker of bribe, the holy Prophet also condemned the one who acted as a middle-man between the two.
(7) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever was appointed a judge to decide the disputes between men was slaughtered without a knife.” – Musnad Ahmad, Tirmizi, Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah
A person who is slaughtered with a knife will die in a few minutes while if an attempt is made to slaughter anyone without a knife, it will, naturally, prolong the agony. The substance of this Tradition is that to function as a judge is to put oneself to a severe trial, and whoever accepts the office should know that he wears a crown of thorns.
(8) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “A time will come when you will covet public offices, and it will be the cause of regret and repentance in the Hereafter. Very pleasing looks power and rule which takes one in the arms and suckles, and very displeasing does it look when it ceases to nurse at the breast.” – Bukhari
It had been revealed to the Prophet that in, time to come, his followers will become greedy of the loaves and fishes of office and, in this Tradition, he has warned that they will come to grief on the Day of Last Judgement. It, further, tells that when a person comes into power and authority, it looks very nice and agreeable to him, as the nurse looks to the child who suckles it, and when he is divested of it, owing to one reason or another, it looks awfully bad, as the nurse looks to the child who stops feeding it from the breast and accustoms it to take nourishment otherwise than by nursing. The moral of it is that seekers of power should not be unmindful of the sequel of the Hereafter. On the Day of Reckoning, they will have to render a full account regarding the rights of countless men over whom they ruled or exercised authority, in one form or the other. An effect of sayings like these of the holy Prophet was that the Companions preferred to keep away from public offices. As Tirmizi tells, during his Caliphate, Osman b. Affan wanted to appoint Abdullah bin Omar a judge, but the latter declined.
(9) Abdul Rahman bin Samurah related to us, saying that the Apostle of God said to him: “Do not ask for a public position, for if it is given to you at your request (or solicitation), you will be turned over to it, i.e., left to discharge the responsibility without help and guidance from the Lord, while if it is given to you without asking, you will be helped by God.” – Bukhari and Muslim
(10) It is related by Anas that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever will be desirous of the office of a judge and obtain it through solicitation will be handed over to himself. (He will be left to discharge his responsibilities on his own, which is most difficult and dangerous). And whoever will be persuaded to accept the office, (against his desire), God will appoint a special Angel for his guidance.” – Tirmizi, Abu Dawood and Ibn-i-Msja
The sum and substance of both the Traditions is that one should not covet public offices and positions. Anyone who will do so, will not be favoured with Divine help and guidance in the discharge of his functions. On the contrary, a person who is entrusted with power or responsibility without a request or effort on his part, and accepts it, putting his trust in God, it is the promise of the Lord that His support and guidance will be made available to him.