The Qur’anic Concept of Justice

by Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (deutsche Version).

Linked with Linked with Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd – Egypt, with The International Center for Islam and Pluralism ICIP, with Modernity, Democracy Are Only for the Privileged.

This discussion of the Qur’anic, rather than Islamic concept of justice is situated in the history of the Qur’an’s compilation. Various aspects of the Qur’anic sciences are critically employed to elucidate a Qur’anic concept of divine justice based on “the most trustworthy handhold” (al-’urwtu ‘l-wuthqa). This eternal pact between God and his creation is established on the divine law inherent in every human soul (fi’ra) which recognises the absolute authority of the One God. Justice is done when individuals are “just” and sincere to this inner nature, and their salvation rests in this. Thus the prophets and Qur’an are reminder (dhikr) of this initial revelation and the need to remain true to it. Dealing with equality and justice, it is important to refocus scholarly attention away from apologetic Islamic responses to issues of polygamy, the position of women, non-muslims and freedom of religion. A historical recontextualisation of the Qur’an may provide a more objective way of analysing these issues. Finally, after a discussion of various sins relating to social and economic justice, which are raised in the Qur’anic parables as examples of human disobediance and departures from Divine justice, the concept of scale (mizan) in reference to the final judgement of humanity’s good and evil is elaborated.


  • 1. Qur’an
  • 2. Islam and Divine Justice
  • 3. Equality and Justice
  • 4. Economic Justice
  • 5. Justice (’adl and qist)

Justice is a concept that is usually related to, and connected with, the concept of equality in the eyes of law; it means that the law should treat equally people who adhere to its rules and norms, regardless of their social, political or economic status. This is the judicial connotation of the concept. However, the concept provokes, furthermore, a wider paradigm of human equality upon which justice is not, or should not be, limited to its judicial connotation. Yet because equality is a relative concept, defined mainly by cultural, societal and sometimes by political and religious norms, it is expected that the concept of justice is similarly relative. With the emergence of the modern awareness of Human Rights, cultural relativism is challenged and the question concerning human justice based on absolute equality between individuals and nations regardless of their differences is brought back to the attention of philosophers as well as theologians. My contribution in this paper will be limited to investigate the Qur’anic concept of justice rather than investigating the Islamic concept. Though the investigation of the Qur’anic concept is not an easy task to be entirely covered in such limited space and time, the study of the Islamic concept entails necessarily indulgence in almost all the Islamic disciplines, such as jurisprudence, theology, philosophy, mysticism, and above all Qur’anic exegesis. An introduction to the Qur’an and to Islam as expressed in the Qur’an is, nevertheless, needed to establish the ground for the discussion.

1. Qur’an:
(full long text).

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