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When we confuse Brotherhood/Sisterhood with Justice 13 March 2006

Posted by MOZAFFAR in Culture, Law, MOZAFFAR, Politics, Spirituality.


The single biggest problem across the Muslim community is the general alienation that people have from God; I’ll be addressing this issue many times, Insha Allah (God-willing). But, we often overlook the fact that the second biggest problem is the alienation so many of us have from each other.

One aspect in this brotherhood/sisterhood problem is that too many of us have been treating brotherhood/sisterhood as though we are citizens in a society handling issues of justice and injustice. In simple English, when a brother or sister does something wrong to us, we demand retribution. Usually, we demand apologies. And, often, we don’t even tell each other that we are owed these apologies.

But, that is not how brotherhood/sisterhood works. That may be how justice works, but that is not how brotherhood/sisterhood works.

Justice places focus on fairness, on due process, on comparative opportunity, on checks and balances, and, yes, compensation when someone is wronged, etc..

Brotherhood/Sisterhood places emphasis on giving, forgiving, and — the most difficult aspect of all — sucking in our egos. It’s all about tirelessly giving or giving up something. That is a hallmark of love, isn’t it?

One of the most quoted passages of the Qur’an is the following (translation from MAS Abdel Haleem (Oxford)):

“People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women far and wide; be mindful of God, in whose name you make requests of one another. Beware of severing the ties of kinship: God is always watching over you.”

We recite this passage in so many of our marriages, yet too many of us ignore the basic message:

1- Look at what you owe God, look at what you owe your mothers, before you start looking at what people owe you.

2- There are so many of us. If we ignore these basic duties, we will soon enough start breaking our ties. Don’t let this happen.

3- Be conscious of God (or, have “Taqwa”). Note that this call for Taqwa permeates the passage with repeated mentions.

If you instead look at what people owe you, you will make yourself and everyone else miserable. The fastest way to break down a relationship is to keep looking at what your friend, colleague, spouse, brother, sister owes you. In a relationship, focus on your responsibilities, and be ready to overlook your rights. Try. Obviously, there is a line of abuse that we cannot accept, but most of our interactions fall far short of abuse.

So, my request for this blog is that you take a moment and think of everyone in the world who owes you something like an apology, think of everyone with whom you have a personal conflict. We’ve got to work on washing those ill feelings out of our system. It can be done; the Qur’an promises it.

May Allah bless you.



1. talib - 15 March 2006

great message Mozaffar, alhamdulillah.

i always learned that fairness was different than justice. fair means equal. but what is just is not always dependent on equality. i think a lot of the conflict between the usul of Islamic Law and the modern western conceptions of justice come about because in the western conception there is no distinction between fairness and justice whereas in Islam, there clearly is.

But of course, what is justice, if I may ask a ridiculously abstract, philosophical question that is totally subjective? Does anyone know of foundational texts such as from the Qur’an to indicate some conception?

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