A Talk on the Nature of Justice (1/6/2007)

Some people say that Bahlul-ud-dana was the stepbrother of the caliph Harun al-Rashid. To the people, he appeared to be totally out of his mind. In Islam, there is a state which is called madzub, which comes from jazba, meaning passion or ecstasy in English. Muslims respect such crazy people because they think that Allah’s knowledge and wisdom have poured so heavily on them that they are crushed. There are many stories of Bahlul-ud-dana.         

            One day, he entered the palace, and was able to get into the throne room undetected. He went and sat on the throne of Harun al-Rashid, and when the guards saw him they immediately grabbed him, and starting beating him, because one does not sit on the throne of the sultan. Bahlul-ud-dana started shouting and crying. The sultan heard, and came to the throne room. He commanded the guards and said, “Stop! Don’t you know that Bahlul is not in his right mind! What did he do? Why are you beating him?”

            The guards replied: “My sultan! He sat on your throne!”

            Harun-al-Rashid said to Bahlul: “ Excuse them; they do not know who you are.” But he kept screaming and shouting and crying.

            The guards exclaimed, “Please Bahlul, forgive us.”

            “Stop crying,” said the sultan. “Why are you still crying?”

            Bahlul-ud-dana replied: “I am not crying for myself, I am crying for you.”

            The sultan was in shock. “You are crying for me? Why are you crying for me?”

            “Because for the few seconds I sat on your throne, I got a terrible beating! You have been sitting there for so long. Can you imagine what a beating you will get?”

            At that, the sultan started weeping, and said, “Bahlul, give me advice. What should I do?”

            And Bahlul-ud-dana answered: “Justice, justice, justice.”

            We as Sufis, as Muslims, and as human beings, have to know what justice is, and we have to exercise justice every minute of our lives. In terms of the ordinary meaning of justice, we think that if somebody commits a crime, then justice takes care of it by punishing him for that crime. We think that if somebody takes something that does not belong to him, from somebody who is weaker, that he then should return it to the weaker one. We think that is what justice is. But justice is much more complicated than that.

            If we would try to understand justice from what is being done in the name of justice in our society, we would be confused. We are living in a society where there is a certain justice for blacks; a different justice for browns; a different justice for whites; a different justice for the rich, and a different justice for the poor. The sick child, if he is poor, goes to the hospital; he does not have insurance, and he dies. The rich child gets cured. So don’t look for the meaning of justice in our world today.

            What is justice? In this universe of ours exists a divine harmony, a divine order. Justice is to abide, and to go along with this divine order, and injustice is to oppose and go against this divine order. Now what do we know? We do not know enough philosophy; we do not know enough anatomy; and we do not know enough biology, or physics or chemistry. How are we going to find out what this divine order is?

            Divine order is simply this: Allah has given us a pair of eyes. These eyes are supposed to see reality. These eyes are supposed to seek truth. These eyes are supposed to see the artwork of the Creator and remember the Creator. These eyes are supposed to take lessons from what they see. Although our eyes are open, we look but we do not see. In short, we are heedless; we are unconscious. When we prefer our imagination to reality, then we are being unjust to our eyes.

            Allah has given us these two lips, a tongue, and the ability to speak. Speech is meant to tell the truth which we learn through our other senses. When that mouth lies, we are doing injustice to our tongue. Allah has given us two hands; these hands were meant to give; these hands should caress the heads of the orphans. These hands are created to wipe the tears of the ones who are sad. When we use these hands to hurt people, or to take from others that which does not belong to us, then we are doing injustice to our hands.

            Allah Hu Ta'ala has given a destined time to live. Divide a lifespan into months, divide it into weeks, divide it into days, into hours, into moments. The greatest injustice that we commit is the injustice to the time which is allotted to us. We spend this time in vain, and do not value that which is the most valuable thing that Allah Hu Ta'ala has given to us. This moment that I have lost, I cannot have back. If I spill the coffee, I can get a new one. If the house burns, I can get a new one. If I lose my wife, I can get a new one. But, the moment I have lost, I can never get back. The greatest crime, the greatest injustice, that we do in our life is the injustice which we do to time.

            In addition, we do injustice to our lives. Allah Hu Ta’ala has not created us to dwell in criticism, hatred, and negativity. He has given us the ability, all the tools, to create our paradise in this world, to do good in this world. He says in the Qur’an al-Karim that He taught our father Adam (as) the names of all and everything, including all His divine names. We are in possession of these divine names, but we keep them in the dark, next to our soul, which is put into a dungeon deep, deep inside us. We are the servants of our egos, and we create our own hell. We create our own enemies, and we are our own enemies.

            It is time to be just. It is time to teach others to be just, because if we are pure, clean loving and caring, our environment indeed is going to be transformed into a rose garden.

            Harun-al-Rashid used to change his royal clothes and put on normal clothes, as it was customary for the sultans to do. He would go out to the streets with his vizier, and see how people were living, how they were doing. One day, he was out in the countryside, and he encountered an old man who was digging the ground and planting things. He asked him: “Old man what are you planting?”

            The old man answered, “I am planting a date orchard.”

            The sultan asked him: “Old man, how long does a date orchard take to grow and to bear fruit?”

            The old man said: “Sometimes twenty or thirty, but usually it takes up to forty years to bear fruit.”

            The sultan replied: “But old man, are you going to be alive to pick those dates and to profit from what you are doing?”

            “No, I know I will not be alive.”

            “Then why are you doing it?”

            He said: “Sir, I eat from what the generation before me has planted, I profit from what generations before me have constructed. Why shouldn’t I do the same?”

            The sultan liked the idea so much, he put his hand in his pocket, took out a handful of gold and gave it to him.

            “You see, you were doubting that my orchard was going to give fruit in the next twenty or thirty years, but it has yielded fruit already.”

            And again the sultan liked that answer so much, that he put his hand into his pocket and took out another hand full of gold and gave it to him. The old man said: “You see, already in one season it has given me two harvests!”

            The sultan said to his vizier, “Let us leave here, or we will not have a penny in our pocket if this man continues.”

            Justice is using your time with consideration, with care. Using your time with love is justice. Allah Hu Ta’ala says in the Qur’an al-Karim that when you do something good, you profit yourselves; when you do something evil, you do it to your own loss. (Surah Israh 17:7) You do create your own rewards, and you do create your own punishment. No one else has to punish you; you create your own punishment when you do an injustice.

            In a hadith Rasulallah (saws) says that this world is our farm; the fruits of what we plant here, we will gather in the hereafter. But who thinks about the hereafter? In fact, this life is like that: when we come to this world we are given a little bag with some seeds inside. Some of us do not hold the bag too well, and by the time we are looking for some place to plant, somehow we have already spilled the seeds and the crows have eaten them. Those are the heedless and careless ones. Those are the ones of whom Rasulallah (saws) said: “Men are asleep, they will wake up when they die, and it will be too late.”

            Then there are the ones who take the seeds, and immediately look for a place to plant them. They see a wasteland and they throw the seeds; of course the seeds do not germinate. Those are the lazy ones, who do things in a hurry like that, and then nothing happens. Then there are the ones who take the seeds, thinking they need sunshine and water. They see someplace where there is a lot of water, and the sun is shining, so they plant the seeds there, not realizing that underneath is only rock, so the seeds germinate just a little bit, and die. Those are the stupid ones. Then there are the ones who patiently look for a place where the climate is good, and the earth is good, and they work hard to plant the seeds well, covering and watering them, caring for them. They are the chosen ones.

            We belong to one of these categories. The heedless ones; the one in a hurry; the stupid ones, or the chosen ones. You can figure out which category you belong to. This is how we spend our lives. Because this is what we do, we plant those seeds in this life.

            We know all these things. Yet, we go along and do whatever our egos tell us to do, and we do not even realize whose servant we are. Allah addresses the world. He says, “Oh world, if that creature which I have created as the best of My creation, looks at you, and is charmed by you, and falls in love with you, and forgets all about Me, be a terrible master to that creature and make him your servant, and make him work, and whip him day in, day out.

            “Oh world,” He says, “if that creature which I have created, as I have created you, looks at you, and he sees everything which is in you as beautiful and he attributes everything to Me, and considers it My art and he remembers Me with affection, and with love, then, be a slave to that creature which I have created, and work for it with all your force.”

            The world is not a bad place; it depends on how we relate to it. If we take it as our master and we love it, we become its slave. But, if we see in it the creation of the Creator and it reminds us of the Creator, and of the values of the attributes of the Creator, then the world becomes our slave. Allah says that He has created everything for human kind and human kind for Himself. But it depends on how we act. Indeed not only the world, but the whole universe, belongs to us. Allah has sent the human being as His caliph, as His representative to the universe.

            Someone asked Hd. Omar (ra) how a ruler should be with his people, and Hd. Omar (ra) said: A ruler is worthy of that name, if he serves his servants instead of expecting his servants to serve him.