God commands you to hand back trusts to their rightful owners and to always pass judgment upon men with fairness.
Verily this is from God an excellent admonition. For God is He who hears and sees all things. (4:58)
A look at the context of the above mentioned verse shows that it is related to the state. It says that the real responsibility of an Islamic State is to strive to establish justice in its ultimate form at every level. My mentor Amin Ahsan Islahi comments on this verse in the following words:
- This is a delineation of the most important aspect of the trust referred to as well as an explanation of the responsibility attached to political authority. The foremost responsibility of the people who are blessed with political authority by the Almighty is that they should decide all disputes that arise among their people with justice and fairness. There should be no difference in the eyes of the law between the various classes of the society like the rich and the poor, the high and the low. Justice should not become a commodity that can be bought or sold. Partiality and bias should not creep into it nor should indifference and apathy arise in dispensing it. No power or influence, greed or fear of any kind should affect it in any way.
Whoever in this world are blessed with political authority by the Almighty are done so that they may discharge justice. Therefore, this is the primary responsibility. A just ruler will receive great reward from the Almighty, and an unjust will be punished grievously [on the Day of Judgment]. Consequently, the verse says that this is an excellent admonition from the Almighty to the believers, who, therefore, must not show slackness in following it. The attributes of the Almighty mentioned at the end of the verse caution us that even the most concealed injustice is in His knowledge. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur'an, 5th ed., vol. 2, [Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1994], p. 323)
It is to this responsibility that the Companions of the Prophet (sws) referred to when they launched an offensive on the Roman and the Persian empires. They proclaimed to the world that whoever among the people wanted, he could leave the servitude of man by entering into the servitude of Allah, and whoever among them wanted he could leave the narrowness of this world and enter into its vastness and whoever among them wanted he could leave the oppression of various religions and enter into the folds of Islam to get justice*.
The Prophet (sws) on this very basis insisted that a person who has greed for a public office should never be considered eligible for it, since justice cannot be expected from such a person. He is reported to have said:
- By God! we shall not grant any person a post in this system who asks for it and has greed for it. (Muslim, Kitabu'l-Imarah)
The Prophet (sws) also warned his companions to fear Allah in such matters and never ask for a public office:
- Do not seek a post. If it is granted to you because of your desire you shall [find yourself] being handed over to it, and if it is granted to you without your desire, the Almighty shall help you. (Muslim, Kitabu'l-Imarah)
Consequently, history bears witness that in order to establish justice, the Rightly Guided Caliphs always kept their doors open for criticism and for petitions and appeals from the public, adopted the lifestyle of the destitute to the extent that they even wore patched-up clothes and administered their realms with utmost simplicity and austerity. In short, the heavens and the earth bore witness that they lived among the masses like the masses and for the masses: they were like kings even in indigence and princes even in poverty.