Activism & Civil Rights Dawah (Outreach) With the Divine

How Far Does Your Justice Go?

Names of Allah Series:  Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV | Part XXVI | Part XXVII | Part XXVIII | Part XXIXPart XXX |Part XXXI | Part XXXII | Part XXXIII | Part XXXIV | Part XXXV | Part XXXVI |Part XXXVII | Part XXXVIII | Part XXXIX | Part XL| Part XLI |Part XLII | Part XLIII | Part XLIV | Part XLV | Part XLVI | Part XLVII | XLVIII is a story in the Qur’an that we are seldom told about. Before revealing the ayah (verse), let us understand the context in which it was revealed. The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) had lived in Madina for about two years before this incident occurred. The situation in Madina was very different to Makkah, as were the demographics. There were two tribes—al-Aws and al-Khazraj—as well as hypocrites, and three Jewish tribes. Al-Aws and al-Khazraj had a troubled history. Though they accepted Islam, tensions sometimes flared between them.

A man from al-Aws named Rafa’ bin Nu’man was awarded a shield of armor from a battle in which they were victorious. Armor was considered precious at that time as not many people were able to acquire it. But two days later, his armor was stolen. Rafa’s cousin, Qatada, said that he saw a man named Ta’ma bin Ubayriq steal the armor. Ta’ma was from Khazraj, and he was a new Muslim.

To ascertain the truth, the Prophet ﷺ sent people to look in Ta’ma’s house. The armor was not there. People from the tribe of Khazraj said that it was a Jewish man who stole the armor. So they went and checked in his house, and found it buried in the backyard. The Prophet ﷺ was mad at Qatada. How could he accuse someone, and a Muslim no less, of theft?

In any case it seemed that the matter was solved. The Muslims prayed `Isha (evening prayer) together.

But something happened. Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala, sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophetﷺ to declare that the Jewish man was innocent, and it was indeed Ta’ma who stole the armor. Allah (swt) revealed in the Qur’an:

“Indeed, We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth so you may judge between the people by that which Allah has shown you. And do not be for the deceitful an advocate.

And seek forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.

And do not argue on behalf of those who deceive themselves. Indeed, Allah loves not one who is a habitually sinful deceiver.

They conceal [their evil intentions and deeds] from the people, but they cannot conceal [them] from Allah , and He is with them [in His knowledge] when they spend the night in such as He does not accept of speech. And ever is Allah, of what they do, encompassing.

Here you are – those who argue on their behalf in [this] worldly life – but who will argue with Allah for them on the Day of Resurrection, or who will [then] be their representative?

And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allah will find Allah Forgiving and Merciful.

And whoever commits a sin only earns it against himself. And Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.

But whoever earns an offense or a sin and then blames it on an innocent [person] has taken upon himself a slander and manifest sin.

And if it was not for the favor of Allah upon you, [O Muhammad], and His mercy, a group of them would have determined to mislead you. But they do not mislead except themselves, and they will not harm you at all. And Allah has revealed to you the Book and wisdom and has taught you that which you did not know. And ever has the favor of Allah upon you been great.” (Qur’an, 4:105-113)

Ta’ma had stolen the armor. He told some of his relatives, and they all conspired with him to protect him. But Allah (swt) knows all. And Allah, al-`Adl, revealed these verses before fajr (morning prayer) so that the Prophet ﷺ could declare it after prayers.

The Jewish man did not accept Islam. This is important to point out. Allah is al-`Adl, and He is the Most Just. He commands us to be just for the sake of it, not for the reason to convert people to Islam. Da`wah (inviting people to Islam) is important, but justice is established because Allah (swt) commands us to do so.

Allah is al-`Adl

This story highlights to us Allah’s justice. The issue was not about tribes, or Muslims vs. non-Muslims. Allah’s justice is true justice; it does not favor any ‘group’—only the group that establishes His justice. Indeed, this is why one of Allah’s Names is al-`Adl, and according to an-Nabulsi, it is a Name that the entire ummah (Muslim community) agrees upon. While we touched briefly upon this Name in a previous article, we will go into detail here. `Adl comes from the root `a-d-l (ع-د-ل) which means to make something upright; it is the opposite of transgression.  Al-Ghazali explains to us Al-`Adl means “one who is Just, and He is one from whom just action emanates, the opposite of injustice and oppression.”

We see manifestations of Allah’s justice both in this world and the Next. That said, not everything will see the justice that we expect in this world, or in the time that we want. We might live to see the demise of the Pharoah, and we might not. But at the same time, while it might seem that the person committing the injustice has ‘won’, we need to look beyond the superficial. We do not know what Allah (swt) has written for the unjust after he dies, nor do we know what spiritual nourishment this person has been denied because of his transgressions. Moreover, when it comes to injustice, we need to reflect inwardly. We sometimes fail to uphold our covenant to Him. Allah (swt) has commanded us to be just, but we do not act in such a way. We allow those small transgressions in our daily lives, and only complain when something affects us. This can even be at the lowest of levels; do we believe rumors about people without being absolutely certain about the evidence? Do you give people the chance to explain themselves?

A Muslims, as servants of al-`Adl, we can never ever give up on striving for justice on all levels. Allah (swt) in the Qur’an says:

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” (Qur’an, 5:8)

Ibn Taymiya is even reported to have said that Allah (swt) will protect a just nation even if it were not Muslim, and He would bring down an unjust nation even if it were Muslim. So crucial is the principle of justice to our faith that Allah (swt) also says:

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.”  (Qur’an, 4:135)

Allah tells us to uphold justice even if it were against our families or even our own selves. When we understand that Allah (swt) has Named Himself the Most Just, it should reassure our hearts that even if we do not see justice now, there will be justice eventually. Moreover, it should push us to strive to establish justice, because we are servants of the Most Just.

Connecting to this Name

1—Commit yourself to justice

Justice is at many levels, and true submission to the Most Just is to work for justice at all levels:

  • With yourself: Al-Ghazali states that justice concerning yourself means to put your “passion and anger under the guidance of reason and religion; for as soon as he puts reason in the service of passion and anger, he will certainly commit injustice.” Every time we transgress—by crossing the limits of Allah—we harm ourselves. Even if we do not see the immediate effects, these things affect us spiritually. So be just with yourself.
  • With your family: We know that charity starts at home, but so does justice. We cannot be unjust to our siblings, abusive towards our spouse, or unfair in the treatment of our children, and claim to be servants of the Most Just.
  • With your community: The Prophet ﷺ told us, “The believer who mixes with people and patiently bears their annoyance will have a greater reward than the believer who does not mix with people and patiently bear their annoyance,” (Tirmidhi). It may sometimes be disheartening to deal with a community that only gives lip service to the principles of justice, but this is Islam: to strive for justice when it is most difficult; to continually improve; and be just not only to humans, but to the environment and to the animals. It applies as much to the rejection of gossip as it does to establish equitable mosques where all members of the congregation are respected.
  • With the wider society: As we have heard many times, justice is not “just us”. The Prophet ﷺ stood with the oppressed in his society before they became Muslim. He ﷺ was witness to a treaty when he was young that guaranteed the rights of the weak, and said that if Quraish had offered to sign such a treaty with him, he would accept.
  • For Allah (swt): Being committed to justice at all these levels for the sake of Allah (swt) means that we cannot transgress. We do not choose our ‘group’ over others. Allah is the Truth and the Most Just, and thus we need to seek Truth and Justice in all our interactions, even if it were against ourselves.

2—Always remain hopeful

When you see a situation that is unjust and feel helpless to change it, remember that Allah (swt) is the source of justice. Nothing passes without His knowledge and there will be ultimate justice.

3—Be certain that He is the Most Just

Al-Ghazali says, “Man’s religious gain from his believing that God—great and glorious—is just lies in not taking objection to Him in His plan, His decree and all of His actions, whether they correspond to his will or not. For all that is just: it is as it should be and how it should be.” Al-Ghazali reminds us that sometimes we do not know the alternative to what seems to be a big injustice. Indeed, He (swt) knows the unseen.

4- Be Merciful

Just like, when it comes to our sins, we like for Allah (swt) to deal with us with His Mercy rather than justice, so should we be merciful with people’s slights against us and in covering their sins, as long as they are not harming others.

May we be of those who stand for justice for all, even if it were against our own selves.

About the author

Jinan Yousef

Jinan's main interests within the field of Islamic Studies are the Names of Allah, the life and character of the Prophet ﷺ, tazkiya and Muslim personalities.


  • Thank you for using a common tree with tenure held deep below
    counting the rings of growth during each consecutive year with
    such provision granted by the eloquence of textual reminders
    only to descend as if through intervals of time immortal.
    Skin of earth in heart felt murmur
    Veins are born, Hijab that cups the little transplant
    Oh root of thought that can explore, so deep and fibrous
    Such justice, filamented to miracles that sends out living roots
    Above as shown in heights to soar a tree in muslim form.

  • Question.

    How can Allah show himself to be perfect in upholding justice if he lets anyone into paradise? It is good for God to be merciful and forgiving but if He is to look past your transgressions, even the smallest, isn’t that an injustice?

    A just God cannot allow sin, any sin, to go unpunished. The law, by its very nature, demands satisfaction. The law demands perfection, but this is something we cannot fulfill. None of us are perfect. I would even argue that it is impossible for us to do one perfect deed, which would include having perfect motives. Every good act, if it is going to be a perfect act, must be done for the glory of God alone. Because we are selfish individuals, this is impossible. Nevertheless, for the sake of the argument, let us suppose that it was possible for us to accumulate more good works than bad works. This still does not tip the scales in our favor. A murderer may be perfect in every area of his life from birth until death except for the fact that he committed murder. Yet in the eyes of the law, the murderer is still guilty and must pay for his crime. A lifetime of goodness does not cancel out one single transgression. The law requires that we live perfectly from start to finish. This includes loving God with all our hearts and loving others as ourselves in every thing we think, say, and do. Sin is anything that comes short of this standard. A just God cannot say, “Well, you’re close enough.” Justice requires perfection, and any sin requires a penalty. This is the nature of the law.

    If God, as the Lawgiver and Judge, overlooks even the slightest transgression, then He becomes unjust. Any injustice in God makes Him a sinner. For instance, if your little girl was abducted and abused, with all the forensic evidence, including DNA and eye witnesses, pointing to Mr. Joe Blow as the perpetrator, it would be unjust for the Judge to dismiss the case because Mr. Joe Blow has been an outstanding citizen and a good father. It would make no difference even if Mr. Joe Blow were deeply and sincerely apologetic. If justice is going to be served, then Mr. Joe Blow must pay. Thus, is it just for the Judge to let Mr. Joe Blow walk away as if he had done nothing? If you loved your little girl, then it is only reasonable to assume that you would not be content with the Judge releasing her murderer as if he was innocent.


    • Thanks for your comment. I think the difference here is in the nature of the transgression. God is more likely to forgive transgressions against Himself rather than transgression against other people. And even transgressions against people carry different weights.

      If you gave charity, and your intentions were mixed (you wanted to do it for noble purposes but you also wanted some of the attention), the fact that your intention is not pure doesn’t harm anybody. The person in need will receive his or her charity. Or if you drink alcohol in your own house and you don’t hurt anybody, your transgression is against yourself and against God. If He punishes you, He is exercising His justice. But He may choose to forgo it, because His Mercy encompasses all things. That is for Him to decide, and in His decision is both justice and mercy.

      Just like if someone stole from me or even assaulted me, I can choose to press charges or I can choose not to. No one would blame me for pressing charges, but it is also my decision to forgo pressing charges.

      When it comes to God judging our actions against our fellow creation, that’s when we have to be extra careful. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) asked his companions:

      “Do you know who is bankrupt?” They said, “The one without money or goods is bankrupt.” The Prophet said, “Verily, the bankrupt of my nation are those who come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers, fasting, and charity, but also with insults, slander, consuming wealth, shedding blood, and beating others. The oppressed will each be given from his good deeds. If his good deeds run out before justice is fulfilled, then their sins will be cast upon him and he will be thrown into the Hellfire.” (Found in the collection of Muslim)

      Moreover, different transgression carry different weights. Your example about Joe Blow abducting a little girl and abusing her is one of the worst crimes. But if Joe Blow lied to his brother to get out of meeting up with him, I think we can both agree that those two sins are not equal. The example about it not mattering whether a murderer lived an otherwise upstanding life ignores that even in domestic courts, the murderer could get out early if his behavior was outstanding and remorseful while in prison.

      The point of knowing God’s justice is to rest assured that no oppressor will get away with His ill deeds; and for us to hold ourselves to account and work on improving ourselves.

  • Thanks for your reply!

    If you would indulge me further, I would love to make sure I understand by asking more questions for clarity. Sorry if I’m bothering you with so many questions. But is seems like you know your Muslim faith well.

    Is not sinning against your neighbor also sinning against God? When you sin in any way, shape or form, are you not transgressing against God directly since it is God’s moral character/ law that you disobey?

    Also. Am I right in assuming from the scripture quoted that good deeds can justify the bad? And that one good deed is multiplied 10 times, while one bad deed is judged just as it was in real life?

    How does one have assurance that you’ve done enough good to justify the bad and the good deeds will not run out before justice is fulfilled?

    How much confidence do you have in Allah rewarding you paradise?

    Am I right in assuming that in the case of Allah, your sin against an infinite God isn’t deserving infinite punishment?

    I really appreciate your time, Jinan.

    • One question was out of context. I heard that one good deed is multiplied 10 times, while one bad deed is judged just as it was in real life. Is that true?

    • No problem at all. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert though, but happy to help if I can.

      1) Sins are transgressions against God and they can also be against other people and/or against ourselves. They are judged differently depending on their severity. Not all sins are alike. Hence some are more easily forgiven than others. Some people are punished for certain transgressions in this life, and so there is no need to punish them twice. So there are many factors at play here.

      2) Good deeds do not justify the bad but they can erase them. But again, it depends on the nature of the sin. For example, the context of the verse which states that good deeds wipe away the bad concerned a young man who had kissed a young woman. He felt guilty because they were not married. The Prophet (pbuh) informed him that because he was remorseful and because he had prayed to God, then good deeds wipe away the bad.

      3) As for whether Muslims are confident or assured in whether they will attain Paradise, Muslims are required to persevere throughout their lives, and have hope in the Mercy of God. No one can say for sure that they will be in Paradise (or in Hell, for that matter) as those things are left to God who will judge all of our deeds. We have hope in His mercy, while doing good deeds and treating His creation in the best manner.

      This article on God’s Name Al-Muqsit might also shed more light on this matter:

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