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We have already spoken about Allah’s attributes of justice in a previous article, and today’s Name is al-Muqsiṭ. Al-Muqsiṭ comes from the word qisṭ and means the scale or balance. Taqasaṭū means to split something up fairly (Lisan al-Arab). Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) says in the Qur’an:
“And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance (bilqisṭas al-mustaqīm). That is the best [way] and best in result.” (Qur’an, 17:35)
Allah commands us to be balanced, and He is al-Muqsiṭ: the One who is most equitable, balanced and just. In some translations of the Qur’an, `adl and qisṭ are both translated as justice, but I will be using the term “equity” here so we can understand the difference.
The Even Balance
We envision justice in many different ways. For some, justice is treating people the same. We expect that, if two people commit the same crime, they should receive the same punishment. Similarly, if two people do the same good, they should receive the same reward. Likewise, all people should be given the same rights. Some of us may define that as justice.
But equity allows for more nuance and greater justice. Testing two people the exact same way because they share, for example, the same age and gender ignores crucial differences they may have. I can ask two 22-year-old men to do 100 press ups, and this might be regarded as fair because they both share similar characteristics. But would it be fair if one of them was recently getting over an injury in his wrist? Most of us would say no; the ability to see that is equity.
If we look at stealing in Islam, we might think that the punishment applies simply for the act of stealing, regardless of who stole and what they stole. But anyone versed in jurisprudence (fiqh) knows this is not the case, and this is why `Umar suspended that punishment when there was a famine; the circumstances matter.
This is why our understanding in Islam is that a person may give something that is seemingly small, but be rewarded greatly for it, and vice-versa. We are told of a prostitute who gave a dog water and was given Paradise, but of an ostentatious, wealthy philanthropist who was punished. To an outsider, it might not make sense; the philanthropist gave so much more than the prostitute! But Allah (swt) knows the individual circumstance of each person, and judges accordingly. The prostitute was sincere, and the philanthropist was not.
Also, it could be that Allah (swt) tests you with loss, but He tests others with wealth. Perhaps He blesses you with giving you, and He blesses others by taking away. He may delay something for you, and hasten it for other people. It may take you years to get something that you want – blood and sweat and tears – and for someone else, it requires no effort at all. But if you knew all that Allah (swt) knows, you would understand that His decree is ultimate justice and mercy that is specific to you and your circumstance. Indeed, this is why Allah (swt) tells us:
“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.” (Qur’an, 2:256)
Moreover, in a hadith qudsi (narration), it is reported that Allah (swt) says:
“Verily, from amongst My slaves is he whose faith cannot be rectified except by being inflicted with poverty, and were I to enrich him, it would surely corrupt him. Verily, from amongst My slaves is he whose faith cannot be rectified except by wealth and affluence, and were I to deprive him, it would surely corrupt him.” (Tabarani)1
When you are tested with an affliction, and yet you see someone else who may have sinned worse than you seem to get off easy, remember that Allah is al-Muqsiṭ. This will make sense some day.
Justice for the Wronged
Al-Ghazali says that al-Muqsiṭ is the One who delivers justice to the wronged from the wrongdoer, and only Allah (swt) is capable of that. In a hadith recorded in Hakim, two people are brought forth before Allah on the Day of Judgment. One of them says to Allah, “O Allah, let this person compensate me for how he has wronged me!” And Allah orders that of that person. The wrongdoer then says he does not have any good deeds left to compensate the one he had wronged. The wronged then asks to be relieved of his sins by the one who wronged him. Allah (swt) then asks the wronged person to look up and see Paradise, and proceeds to tell him that it is only for those who are willing to pay the price. When the wronged one asks how to pay such a price, Allah (swt) responds: “By forgiving your brother.” After recounting this, the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said: “Fear God and make peace among yourselves, for God – may He be blessed and exalted – will make peace among the faithful on the day of resurrection,” (Hakim).
Connecting with Allah al-Muqsiṭ
1– Remember that Allah will not test you with more than you can bear
This is a principle: Allah (swt) tests you to build you, because you have potential. In the grand scheme of things, His decree is most equitable and therefore the most just.
2- Think well of Allah, and work with what you have
Some of us adopt a very fatalistic attitude. We hear that Allah (swt) may choose to test us with poverty, and then assume that that means we are destined to be poor for all of our lives. The only certainty we have is that we do not know: perhaps you are tested with poverty now in order that you work hard to come out of it. It may be as a result of an economic system that collectively we have allowed to thrive, and we must work collectively to end it. It could also be that Allah blesses you in other ways. The point is, we do not know. Our individual responsibility is to think well of Allah and work with what we have.
3- Understand people’s circumstances
It is, at the same time, reassuring that Allah (swt) looks at our individual circumstances. Just as we love that from Allah, try to afford people the same gesture. That person who does not pray regularly may not have a deficiency in their eman (faith), but is going through difficulty. Reach out.
4- Those with the greatest share of this Name
Al-Ghazali says only Allah (swt) is capable of true justice, but we can emulate this characteristic partly by insisting on justice from ourselves for others, and being forbearing with other people.
- This hadith has been classed as weak, but some scholars permitted using the hadith because the meanings align with what we understand of Allah’s justice and mercy. Ibn Taymiyya alluded to the meanings found in this hadith in Majmoo’ al-Fatawa, where he states that, “It could be that, for some people, poverty is more beneficial than wealth, while wealth is more beneficial for others…” [↩]