Sunday, January 08, 2017

Equality Before the Law

    Sunday, January 08, 2017   No comments


By:
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 train.
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."

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