At the ending of Khutbahtul Jummah – Friday Sermon portion of Salahtul Jummah – Friday Worship Service it is practice of many Imams at Mosques across our nation, America and the world and throughout the centuries to recite by way of reminder to the faithful gathered the following verse from Islam’s sacred scripture, the Holy Quran, which begins:
“Allah (God) commands justice and the doing of that which is most excellent – that which is best, and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct (injustice) and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” (Quran 16:90)
Many of those in attendance at the Friday service hear this verse and because they have heard it over the years on Fridays – can even recite it from memory themselves- but unfortunately are not mindful and often do not reflect and act upon God’s command to do justice in the world (Faith in Action) as they go forth after the Friday worship service into the world.
You see in the Arabic lexicon – the language of revelation of the Holy Quran – there are two primary words for Justice, ‘Adl’ and ‘Qist’. The term ‘Adl’ is defined linguistically “as what the souls see as straight”. It is the opposite of deviation from a well established moral and ethical norm. It is to be in a state of equilibrium, to be balanced: balance that is inherent in the cosmic order as much as it needs to be present in our spiritual and ethical values and our very being and our lives as lived in the world. Adl– Justice is ruling by truth – not by that which is false and fake – this is extremely relevant and timely given the “fake news” phenomenon, alternative fact and truth and fact denying frenzied world we find ourselves in these days. Adl– Justice is giving equal things – equal rewards. In an economic sense Adl – Justice calls for an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work at a living and sustainable wage that allows hard working folk to provide for the basic necessities for themselves and their families lives in both sickness and in health. Islam’s teachings on Justice as they apply to those who have been placed in power and render decisions that affect us all is that they not be deviated from their sworn task by following their base desires and latent prejudices, which may hinder them from giving the right ruling and deciding on that which is just and right. Adl-Justice is about restoring of a thing or matter to the place and situation where it rightly belongs. Qist (equity), the second term used for justice in the Quran lends itself to a much more refined and nuanced understanding of justice which implies going beyond Adl – from the aforementioned verse “doing that which is most excellent and best” – meaning going beyond restorative justice to placing a matter or thing in even a better place and situation then it was before.
Brothers and Sisters in faith and humanity, we need to follow God’s commandment to establish justice for Al-Adl (The Just One) which is one of the Ninety Nine Most Beautiful Divine Names (Al-Assma ul Husnah), The Just One is the one from whom just action emanates. We know God – Al-Adl, the Just One – through knowing His justice, which in turn is realized through knowing His action. The Just One is He who orders and arranges matters in such a fashion that there is no fault in them. We human beings who are in the Quranic reading “infused with the Divine spirit” and in the language of the Old Testament “made in the image of God” – need to strive to do the same.
Dear brothers and sisters- We must follow God’s command to establish justice for our neighbors and friends and in some cases our own relatives, the many who have called America home for so long, working hard, paying their dues by doing their fair share, paying their taxes and contributing to the general well being and growth and prosperity of our State and nation yet are denied because of the absence of a piece of paper the right to call themselves citizens. They need sanctuary now and a clear pathway to citizenship in the future – as do their children – the Dreamers who dared to have a dream, not unlike Rev. Martin Luther King Jrs Dream – and have worked so hard to realize the American dream and promise of America in their own lives and that of their families.
We need to follows God’s command to establish justice for those Americans who have been unfairly targeted and racially profiled based on the color of their skin for unfair treatment and excessive use of force by some of those in law enforcement who are charged to protect and serve the people of our great State of New Jersey and Nation. In this regard, we applaud and recognize the consistent efforts and hard work over the years of all those including many of you here from Faith in New Jersey and are partner organizations who by God’s blessing were able to push through the Independent Prosecutor bill through the New Jersey State legislature which, when signed by Governor Murphy, will be a big step forward and important milestone in the long term process of rebuilding the trust between our communities and law enforcement.
We need to follow God’s command to establish justice and work to put an end to policies and practices of mass incarceration which disproportionately affect too many of our African American and Latino brothers and sisters and results in their disenfranchisement as Citizens from the most basic of civil rights – the right to vote. Let us make no mistake and state here loud and clear that in order for all human lives to matter – black and brown lives must matter! In this regard I am reminded of the famous Hadith (saying) of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) over 1,400 years ago when during his Hajjatul Wada – Farewell Pilgrimage the Prophet (AS) said to all those present with him and through them to we who come after him:
An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety, righteousness and good action. All human beings are from Adam(AS) and Adam is from earth – dirt. White supremacy has no place here in our America!
Finally Dear Brothers and Sisters – we need to follow God’s command to establish justice in the most basic area of human rights – as articulated in all of our faith traditions and as found in the lofty words of the foundational documents of our nation – which affirm and guarantee our freedom of conscience and the right to believe as we choose and to freely practice our respective faiths and religious traditions in safety and security without fear of prejudice or harm. In a time of growing religious intolerance and bigotry as manifested in hate speech and associated hate crimes run amok, we must speak out and organize against the forces of xenophobia, islamaphobia, anti-Semitism, and the like until the Dream of Dr. Martin Luther King of a “beloved inclusive community” is realized, where we will be judged and judge one another on the basis of the content of our character and not the color of our skin, religious affiliation or gender.
May Allah – God help us all to make it so – Ameen!
Imam Saffet Catovic