Psychology of Adl (Justice) and Qist (fairness) – A psycho-spiritual reflection of Q. 4:135
O you who have attained faith (iman)! Stand firm for justice as witnesses for Allah even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or close relatives. Be they rich or poor, Allah is best to ensure their interests. So do not let your desires cause you to deviate from justice. If you distort the testimony or refuse to give it, then know that Allah is certainly All-Aware of what you do. (Q. 4:135)
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّـهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ ۚ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّـهُ أَوْلَىٰ بِهِمَا ۖ فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا ۚ وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
The root meanings of the word ‘Adl include the sense of Justice, Equity, Fairness, Non- Discrimination, Counter-Balance, to Rectify, Put in Order, Evenness, Proportion. Whereas the root meanings of the word Qist include Equity, Fairness, Justice, Fair Distribution, Correctness, Balance, and Scale. The believers are ordered to be qawwamin, which is an intensive form of qa’im (lit, to be responsible for, to stand up for), in other words Allah is explaining that the believers are responsible to maintain and call others to justice and fairness. Qawwamin also conveys the meanings of moral and ethical responsibility.
The verse reminds us that standing by ones principles requires great patience and strength of character since it is at this point that people may be made to suffer; precisely because they are not changing position. This is often case for victims of bullying, abuse and maltreatment during disclosure of their experiences. Often this is due to pressure from the abusers family, or someone higher in authority or position to them.
Allah commands and reminds us to maintain justice, fairness and balance in the interactions we are involved in, irrespective of the behavior or status of others. The verse is an exhortation to remain faithful and uphold equitable justice without compromise, irrespective of the consequences to oneself, family, friends and associates, and an admonition to distance oneself from oppression (dhulm) and maltreatment of others.
Psychologically, the concept of justice is explained in a number of ways: 1) procedural justice, so for example, a manager may make a decision that us biased by personal feelings. When it concerns higher state authority a law is developed without the input of all affected parties. 2) Distributive justice – in terms of equality may be described as when a law is proposed and written that treats some people directly than others. 3) Distributive Justice – in terms of need is when the poor are not cared for because their basic needs are not met, or a free meal is provided to the rich, rather than the hungry. 4) Distributive Justice – Equity – Effort & Ability/Production. For example, a law is passed that penalizes productive members of society. 5) Interpersonal justice: a person is not treated with dignity etc. 6) Informational justice: a trial is decided with untruthful information. 7) Retributive Justice – Punishment Orientation: a person commits a crime and goes unpunished, or a criminal experiences less punishment than the criminal’s victim etc.
The aforementioned examples aim to demonstrate how people feel and react when justice and fairness is absent in our day to day situations. We understand that unfairness causes stress and anxiety and induces anger, fear and hopelessness.
Allah reminds us that it is our desires, love of materials things, greed, love of fame and other base cravings that propels us to dissuade from being Just and fair. Qist or fairness is an inbuilt mechanism in the brain, and can affect our sense of relatedness and status. When people perceive unfairness as when they are physically disgusted by something, driving people to a state of either anger or fear – the classic fight or flight response.
Thus in order to maintain a happy, peaceful society Allah commands mankind to maintain justice and fairness. Without justice peace is ephemeral and unstable. When people and society display and mistreat members of the community tension between people increase and they develop hatred and jealousy for each other, often leading to violence.
The verse concludes by Allah impressing upon His complete knowledge and awareness of things. The attribute of Al-Khabir is different to Al-Aleem, Khabir is when He is aware of the most detailed, intricate and secret matters. This is important because when it concerns shahadat or witnessing, there is high possibility of lying, cheating, forgery, perjury and falsification of things. So it is a warning to people to take heed!