Equality Before the Law - Light of Islam

Equality Before the Law




Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari

The equality which obtains in Islamic law courts
should be taken as a world model. Haroun-al-Rasheed, the
Abbasid Caliph, had to testify on oath in a court before
a judge, and his servant Fazl bin Rabee' witnessed in his
favour. The judge refused to accept Fazl's testimony. The
Caliph demanded to know why. The judge replied:
"Fazl himself says he is your servant. If he is
telling the truth, the Islamic court does not accept a
servant's testimony to the advantage of his master. If he
was lying, his testimony is void on that account."

The next Abbasid Caliph, Mansour, hired numbers of
camels to make the Hajj. On his return he made a series
of excuses as pretexts for not repaying the hire. The
cameldrivers took the Caliph into the courts. The judge
summoned him and sat him alongside the cameldrivers. When
he had heard the evidence he judged against the Caliph,
who was compelled to pay the cameldrivers what he owed
them before he was allowed to leave the court.

This immediate verdict and execution of sentence is
recognised by Western jurists as one of the greatest
advantages of Islamic law courts. It saves a great deal
of time and expense, for plaintiff, defendant and judge
alike. Dr. Gustave Le Bon relates his own personal
observation from a court he attended in Marrakesh in
Morocco. Plaintiff and defendant with their lawyers and
papers entered the court. The judge entered. All rose.
Straightaway each side presented its case. The judge
summed up. The verdict was given. Sentence was pronounced
and immediately executed, to the great benefit of all
concerned. "If only Western courts with their long
delays would learn this art of dispensing justice fairly,
swiftly and economically!" he comments.

When litigants are all secure in the knowledge that
the laws by which their case will be judged are based on
eternal principles revealed by God Himself, and that
therefore the powerful cannot swing judgment in their own
favour. arid when the judge has principles of judgment to
go on which enable him with a detached impartiality to
seek his guidance from the law of God in total freedom
from any emotional bias; the law is observed and
respected, injustices are cut out, certainty and security
reign in society and bring trust and confidence in their

Islam does not aim to level men down, but to level
them up to an equality on the highest level, where true
affection and the real love of one's fellowmen call the
tune - a unity of heart based on a unity of faith in the
one God, Who is Maker of all and Judge of all, and Who
makes no distinctions save those of obedience between one
of His creatures and another. This is made plain by the
Qur'anic verse 10 from the Sura Hujurat already
quoted where it is written : "We made you into
nations and tribes that you might learn to know each
other." It is the practice of this creed which has
produced that marvellous hospitality which so many
Western travellers have noticed among Muslims and of
which they bewail the absence in the materialistic
civilisation which has grown up in the West. One
traveller commented: "I found in Iran that if I
walked into a village and knocked on any door, and
introduced myself as a stranger within their gates to
whoever addressed me through the lattice, the door was at
once opened and I was welcomed in as one of the family.
They sat me down to share whatever meal they were having,
however frugal, gave me a palliasse and lehaf for a
comfortable sleep through the night, and sent me on my
way rejoicing after a breakfast of sweet tea, fresh-made
bread and sour milk (mast) next morning."