Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Justice and Friendship in the Qur’an: Deena Zaki

  Justice serves as the foundation for a moral system. One cannot build on morality without understanding justice, and God is Just. The Qur’an makes it clear that God is Merciful, and justice is only the first step before receiving His mercy. With only justice, you wouldn’t be able to thrive in an environment and not form relationships, which is tied to the idea of friendship.(1) This idea that it is possible to live in a society with justice is interesting, however, this doesn’t mean that the society is good. The society is likely to be very individualistic and lonely, something that is illustrated in the Qur’an as Hell Fire loneliness. The five pillars of Islam enforce this community of togetherness and it serves as an important part of being at the highest level of religiosity. One example of this friendship is through Hajj.

   Aristotle has three elements of friendship (awareness, affection, togetherness) All three of these are present when doing Hajj and it is a “tridimensional” process, (2) because you are in the presence of God, people, and your ancestors. The pillar is itself, an institution of forgiveness and the sense of individualism is gone, because you are around a community of people from all different walks of life and countries, all praying together in one common language. 

     The Qur’an goes further in its discussion of justice when discussing the moral issue of polygamy. Firstly, the Qur’an should be read not as a law book, but as a source of law. Rahman says that the legal tradition was to regard the Qur’an as a law book.(3) These two ways of looking at the Book are different in approach when it comes to interpreting certain cases such as polygamy. Since the Qur’an serves to be used as a source of law, I think it makes this case differentiate between what is recommended versus what is the concrete way of dealing with the subject. During the tribal times, there was no institution to care for orphans, this was during war time, when a lot of men were killed off, and this left kids parentless. The idea was since there were a lot of orphans, marry them off to soldiers, so long as the solider was just to the orphan. The Qur’an says, “And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]” (4:3) (4). It is important to look at the historical context of this tribal history and then one can understand why polygamy, could have been just. The Qur’an also says, “And you will never be able to be equal [in feeling] between wives, even if you should strive [to do so]. So do not incline completely [toward one] and leave another hanging. And if you amend [your affairs] and fear Allah – then indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.” (5) Modern Jurists say that polygamy should be a temporary solution for a restricted purpose, e.g – an orphan issue or war crisis. (6)

     Forgiveness, Justice and Friendship should be at the heart of every religion, and to be a Muslim who reaches a higher level of religiosity, these characteristics are present. Hajj and interpretation of fairness in the Qur’an are only a glimpse of these traits that the Qur’an describes so well.

  1. M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, April 10, 2018)
  2. Ibid

(3) Fazlur Rahman, Major themes of the Quran (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 31.

(4) Qur’an, [4:3]

(5) Qur’an [4:129]

(6) M. Jafar Mahallati, Lecture (course on Introduction to The Qur’an, Oberlin College, Oberlin, April 12 , 2018)

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