Sunday, April 12, 2009

Justice of the Day of Judgement

Justice of the Day of Judgement
Lamaan Ball

Question: What does the Qur’an say about a final judgement? In the final judgement, are all issues of injustice fully dealt with? Will people get a real sense of 'judicial rest', meaning that all injustices have been perfectly considered by an objective judge and fully dealt with to the satisfaction of all involved-- all injustices paid, everything that was 'bent' being 'straightened'?

In Islam, what is the basis for forgiveness? Judicially, how can relational debts (abuse, betrayals, breach of trusts) be fully repaid? In other words, we can say: 'I forgive', but until the debt against me has been fully paid how can I forgive? Is there a final judgment that promises to pay all debts and right all wrongs somehow that I can access by faith now?

In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
All praise and thanks are due to Allāh, May Allāh blessings and peace be upon His Messenger.

All issues of injustice will be finally settled on the day of judgement and people will get a real sense of judicial rest. This also reflects the original teachings of all the prophets including those of Judaism and in particular the teachings of Eesa (peace be upon them all). To the extent that modern manifestations of Christianity and Judaism depart from this teaching they are deviating from the teachings of their Prophets. There are many references to the day of judgement in the Qur'an. Here are a few that seem relevant:

But how (will they fare) when we gather them together against a day about which there is no doubt, and each soul will be paid out just what it has earned, without (favour or) injustice? [Al-Imran, 3: 25]

We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgement, so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least, and if there be (no more than) the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it (to account): and enough are We to take account. [Al-Anbiya’, 21: 47]

And the Book (of Deeds) will be placed (before you); and thou wilt see the sinful in great terror because of what is (recorded) therein; they will say, "Ah! Woe to us! What a Book is this! It leaves out nothing small or great, but takes account thereof!" They will find all that they did, place before them: And not one will thy Lord treat with injustice. [Al-Kahf, 18: 49]

To understand the basis of forgiveness in Islam, and how there is a final judgement that promises to pay all debts you need to know that there are two kinds of relationship that are dealt with on Judgement day. First there is the relationship between you and God and then there are the relationships between you and other people. God is able to give practically infinite punishment or infinite rewards and so your relation with God is the one that really matters. (You can compensate others for outstanding claims against you with the rewards you get from God for your good deeds)

This relationship and how it relates to our relationships with other people and indeed our relationships with all of creation are reflected in the basic moral ethic of Islam: Show mercy and forgiveness to others so that God shows mercy and forgiveness to you. Or - in the general form - be towards others the way you would like God to be towards you.

On judgement day, Allah's reward is sufficient to compensate for any suffering we receive in this life. The debt against each and every person will be fully paid out of God's mercy and generosity. The idea that God's generosity is in some way constrained to only give paradise to a select few who happen to obey the right church, or who are part of the "chosen people" would imply an injustice by God and is refuted clearly in the Qur'an

And they say: "None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian." Those are their (vain) desires. Say: "Produce your proof if ye are truthful." Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to God and is a doer of good, - He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. [Al-Baqarah, 2: 111 – 112]

Justice on the day of judgement isn't accessed "by faith" which would imply God is unjust under some circumstances. Rather, it is simply the way things will be – God is perfectly just. We are judged by God as to our faith based on the simple instruction that when we receive guidance from God then we may benefit from it and by submitting ourselves to His commands we can gain our reward.

In Islam where one key principle is that deeds are judged by their intentions. What matters is more our willingness to do God's work than how long us or our ancestors have been doing it, which may be just the result of an accident of birth or circumstance. There is no injustice because once we have shown willingness there is an agreement. Eesa [Jesus] was correcting a Jewish notion that the Jews are given special favour and that God was bound not to be generous to other people. They thought it was the amount of deeds they did that counted and that since they had been doing them longer than others that their position is special. Jesus contradicted this. The Qur'an also deals with the issue directly:

The Jews say: "God's hand is tied up." Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy) they utter. Nay, both His hands are widely outstretched: He giveth and spendeth (of His bounty) as He pleaseth. But the revelation that cometh to thee from God increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. ... [Al-Maidah, 5: 64]

[Excerpted with minor modification from Q&A published in Islam Online -- Ask About Islam, 25 Jul 2002.]

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