Sunday, August 23, 2015

A lesson in justice

Ali Ibn Abi Talib (radiyallahu anhu) was the 4th caliph of the Muslim world. During his caliphate, his armor had gone missing. One day, while  walking through the market place, he recognized his armor in the possession of a Jewish person who lived in the territory.

He went up to the Jew and said, “This is my armor.” The Jew retorted, “Bring witnesses to prove it. Alternatively file a law suit!”

Ali (radiyallahu anhu) proceeded to the judge - Qazi (Qadi) Shuraih (also spelled as Shurayh) and laid a charge of theft against the Jew. Here is some information about the judge.

Shuraih ibn al-Hârith ibn Qays ibn al-Jahm al-Kindî accepted Islam in Yemen during the lifetime of Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) though he never met him. During the reign of Abû Bakr al-Siddîq (radiyallahu anhu), he relocated to Kufah in Iraq.
"Umar appointed him to be the judge of Kufah and he was very young at the time. Abû Nu`aym relates from Umm Dâwûd al-Wâbishiyyah that “people took their disputes before Shuraih at a time when he still had no beard (i.e., he was young and poor).”
It is said that he spent sixty years in that office. He also served as judge in Basra for a year. He succeeded Abdullah ibn Mas'ood (radiyallahu anhu) as the Qadi of Kufa. He was well known throughout the country for his intelligence and keen sense of judgment. He was regarded as a model judge. Ali used to call him iiAqd-ul-Arabi, that is the most judicious of all the judges of Arabia.
Shuraih was known for his extensive knowledge of Islamic law and respected for his good judgment. The caliphs showed deference to him. He retired from office only a year before his death, and he is supposed to have lived to the age of 108 or 110. It is related that, "Ali assembled the people in the public square, saying: 'I am going to leave you, so assemble in the public square.' The people came and began to petition him with their questions until they were finished and no one remained but Shuraih, who sat upon his knees and began to ask him. `Ali said: “Go, for indeed you are the most knowledgeable of Arabs in matters of judicial verdicts.” [Hilyah al-Awliyâ’ (4/134)]

Once a woman came to `Alî (radiyallahu anhu) with a case against her husband in a matter of divorce. After she presented her case to him, `Alî turned to Shuraih and said: “Judge between them.” Shuraih said: “O Commander of the Faithful! (Should I presume to do so) while you are right here?” `Alî (radiyallahu anhu) repeated: “Judge between them.”

Shurayh was renowned for his impeccable sense of justice and for holding all people equal before the law.

About Shuraih's appointment as a judge, it is related that Umar (radiyallahu anhu) purchased a horse on approval, and gave it to somebody to try it. The horse got hurt in the ride, and Umar wanted to return it, but the owner refused to take it back. In the dispute that arose as a consequence, Shuraih was chosen as the arbitrator. He gave the verdict that if the horse was ridden with the permission of the owner it could be returned; otherwise not. Umar said that that was the right decision and at once appointed Shuraih as the Qadi of Kufa.

The case of Ali (radiyallahu anhu) came before the Qazi. Both plaintiff and defendant presented themselves before the Qazi.

Qazi Shurayh (rah), without being overawed by the presence of Ameerul  Mu’mineen, Ali (radiyallahu anhu), seated himself with the stature that the occasion demanded. Calmly, without any trace of discomfort or panic, he commenced proceedings. He asked the Jew, “Does the armor belong to Hazrat  Ali (radiyallahu anhu)?” The Jew flatly denied it.

Thereupon the Qazi turned to Hazrat Ali (radiyallahu anhu) and calmly requested, “Bring your witnesses to support your claim.”

Hazrat Ali (radiyallahu anhu) produced two witnesses. One was his son and the other was his freed slave, whose  name was Qambar. In his opinion, the evidence of these two was in accordance
to Islamic law.

However Qazi Shurayh (rah) addressed Hazrat Ali (radiyallahu anhu), to bring another witness in place of his son. The evidence of your slave, seeing he was freed is accepted.”

Hazrat Ali  (radiyallahu anhu) replied, “I have no other witness.” Due to the lack of  sufficient evidence – a second acceptable witness – Qazi Shurayh (rah) dismissed the case acting according to the Islamic Shariah and not according to his personal reliance on the truthfulness of Hazrat Ali (radiyallahu anhu).

The defendant in the meantime was observing the entire proceeding with full attention - the high degree of justice where the leader of the Muslim world could lose a case in the face of a just ruling. On leaving the courtroom, he watched intently to see the reaction of Hazrat Ali (radiyallahu anhu). There was not the slightest bit of  annoyance on the face of Hazrat Ali (radiyallahu anhu). Not a word of displeasure regarding the verdict was uttered.

He, being overwhelmed by Ali's  sterling character and the judgment addressed Hazrat Ali (radiyallahu anhu) thus: "The reality of the situation has become quite clear to me, your religion is certainly a true one, and your attitude is its effect on you.” He continued, “Here, take it; the armor, in deed, belonged  to you! And I herewith proclaim that 'I bear witness, there is none worthy of worship besides Allah and Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) is his servant and messenger."

Hazrat Ali (radiyallahu anhu) said, “I, in turn present this armor to you as gift!”

The defendant remained in close association with Ali until he was martyred in a battlefield.

Here is another story on this theme of justice.

It was not something normal for the people of Kufa, when they saw their Caliph Ali (r) rushing out of his home towards the pulpit of Masjid e Kufa, in a manner never witnessed by them before. His cloak was scrubbing the ground and he was running desperately.  Then as he reached the pulpit, he said: "I have got the news that one of my soldiers has snatched an anklet from a Jewish woman. If anyone who listens to this news and dies of grief, his death will be righteous."

Such a man was Ali ibn Abu Talib (r), who could not tolerate injustice done even to the woman who belonged to the non-Muslims. He was prepared to be dragged without shirt on a bed of thorny cactus but not to usurp a single grain out of the mouth of an ant. One of the uniqueness of the character of Ali (r) was his adherence and firmness on the principles of Justice.

Justice when it is not administered in a society results into oppression. Injustice is nothing but oppression.

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