Sunday, 22 Rabi'ul Awal 1426Justice demands that individuals and groups in a society be given their
due rights. And God’s final revelation to mankind, the Holy Qur’an,
makes the establishment of justice an unconditional, absolute, and
universally binding imperative. For the pursuit of justice to be
seriously undertaken at both the individual and collective levels, it
is a sine qua non that we be able to distinguish truth from falsehood
and facts from opinions, biases and allegations. What guidelines has
the Ever-Bountiful Creator given to help us in this essential task?
These definitely need to be carefully examined and followed.
In an age when we read, all too often, of the innocence of persons
being established by forensic evidence or by unforced confessions of
others, after they had already been executed or after they had spent
years in wrongful imprisonment, does it not behove us to pay heed to
the Divine Guidance in the matter of evidence?
In a time when lying is being glamourised on television and in movies,
so much so, that what is being projected as wrong is being found out
after lying and not lying itself - - in an age when bribery,
fraud and corruption have increased tremendously, as evidenced by
Enron, or credit card fraud, or counterfeiting, or insider trading,
etc., -- do we not need to conscientiously follow the Guidance from the
All-Wise, All-Knowing, One True God on the matter of evidence?
The Holy Qur’an, the literal, Divinely guarded, unchanged Word of God,
free from all inconsistencies and contradictions, clearly stipulates
the requirement of ‘TWO WITNESSES’ in certain financial transactions
(Qur’an, 2:282), in connection with an infringement of the rules of
Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Makkah) (5:95), in oral bequests
(5:106), and in matters of divorce (65:2).
Furthermore these witnesses
need to be “possessors of ‘Adl” i.e., reliable, truthful and
trustworthy: “If any of you does so intentionally the
compensation . . . as adjudged by two persons who are ‘the
possessors of ‘Adl from among you.” (5:95) “And take for witness two
persons from among you who are ‘possessors of ‘Adl.” (65:2)
For a witness to be adjudged a “possessor of ‘Adl” he/she needs to be a
truthful, morally upright person who does not openly flout the major
laws of God. Thus a convicted thief or a self-confessed murderer does
not qualify as a competent witness.
The final in the chain of Prophets sent by the One True God to mankind
– and Prophets were sent to each and every people in this world at some
time in history (13:7) – the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be
on him and on them all), the one sent to expound and exemplify the
completed way of life revealed by the One True God, applied this
requirement of ‘TWO TRUTHFUL, RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY WITNESSES’ to
various civil and criminal matters.
As a society we would be well advised to pay careful attention to God’s
Guidance in the administration of justice by our judicial system when
trying to determine civil and criminal rights and liabilities.
In Islam, the judge is empowered to listen to depositions by persons
who do not qualify as competent witnesses and to make judgments based
upon such depositions, in the absence of credible evidence. However he
can NEVER give the maximum prescribed punishment (like execution for
murder or cutting off of the hand of the thief, etc.) in the absence of
the required number of competent witnesses.
In relation to the other two offences – Zina (sexual relations outside
of marriage) and accusing another of Zina – the Holy Qur’an lays down
the requirement of ‘FOUR’ truthful, reliable and trustworthy witnesses
(24:4). Zina is an offence that damages and then destroys the family
and debilitates and destroys the society. Thus to establish the
offence, a larger number of competent witnesses is required. How
unfortunate it is that the prevailing culture no longer deems Zina
(adultery and fornication) an offence!
(The writer, a distinguished scholar of Islam and former Shaikh
al-Islam of ASJA, is the head of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah Islamic
Institute in Trinidad.)