Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa Ayah 135 on Commanding Justice and Conveying the Witness for Allah
“In this ayah, all Muslims have been instructed to uphold justice and be true when appearing as witnesses. Besides, things which can become impediments to the establishment of justice or the availability of true evidence have been removed in a highly eloquent manner.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala begins this ayah by saying,
يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَآءِ للَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَلِدَيْنِ وَالاٌّقْرَبِينَ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيّاً أَوْ فَقَيراً
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor…”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands His believing servants to stand up for justice and fairness and not to deviate from it, right or left. They should not fear the blame of anyone or allow anyone to prevent them from doing something for the sake of Allah. They are also required to help, support and aid each other for Allah’s sake. If someone has been called to give testimony he should remember that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is watching. If he gives false testimony, even if he escapes the punishment in dunya, he can’t avoid the torment of the Hereafter. Therefore, remembering akhirah everyone should try to live a righteous life as best as they can. Testimony should be delivered precisely, for the sake of Allah, thus making the testimony correct, truly just, and free of alterations, changes or deletions.
This is why Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,
وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ
“even though it be against yourselves”
This is an instruction to give correct testimony, and say the truth when asked about it, even if harm will affect you as a consequence. Indeed, Allah shall make a way out and give relief for those who obey Him in every matter.
أَوِ الْوَلِدَيْنِ وَالاٌّقْرَبِينَ
“or your parents, or your kin”
means, even if you have to testify against your parents and kin, do not compromise for their sake. Rather, give the correct and just witness even if they are harmed in the process, for the truth presides above everyone and is preferred to everyone. Allah’s statement,
إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيّاً أَوْ فَقَيراً فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَى بِهِمَا
“be he rich or poor, Allah is a better Protector to both”
means, do not favor someone (in your testimony) because he is rich, or feel pity for him because he is poor, for Allah is their caretaker, a better Protector of them than you, and has better knowledge of what is good for them. Allah’s statement,
فَلاَ تَتَّبِعُواْ الْهَوَى أَن تَعْدِلُواْ
“So follow not the lusts, lest you may avoid justice”
means, let not desire, lust or the hatred you have against others, lure you into injustice in your affairs. Rather, stand for justice in all situations. This is similar to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala’s statement in Surah Ma’aida ayah 8, “And let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety.”
When the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam sent Abdullah bin Rawahah to collect the tax on the fruits and produce of the Jews of Khaybar, they offered him a bribe so that he would go easy on them. He said; “By Allah! I have come to you from the dearest of the creation to me (Muhammad), and you are more hated by me than an equivalent number of apes and swine. However, my love for him (the Prophet) and hatred for you shall not prevent me from being just with you.” On that, they said, “This (justice) is the basis which the heavens and earth were created. ”
Allah’s statement afterwards,
وَإِن تَلْوُواْ أَوْ تُعْرِضُواْ
“and if you Talwu or Tu`ridu”
According to Mujahid this means, “Distort your testimony and change it”. This includes distortion and intentional lying. The Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said,
خَيْرُ الشُّهَدَاءِ الَّذِي يَأْتِي بِشَهَادَتِهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُسْأَلَهَا
“The best witness is he who discloses his testimony before being asked to do so.”
The ayah ends with a reminder to realize Who holds the actual power and domain? One day we have to present before Him. What are we going to say about our lies and false testimonies? What are we going to say about our atrocities and tyranny, if we are in a position of authority? What are we going to say about our dealing with people and financial matters?
فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيراً
“Verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.”
LESSONS from Suran an-Nisa Ayah 135:
– This ayah teaches us that everyone should adopt justice as his or her hallmark within his or her circle of influence or control. Parents being in a position of authority and leadership should raise their children with excellence. They cannot encourage or support a child when he is wrong. For example, if a parent refuses to accept any complaint about his or her child, and go to the extent of defending their child even when it can be clearly seen that the child was at fault. The parent is affecting the tarbiyah of the child. They are giving him the assurance and courage to keep doing wrong because the child has witnessed his parents’ support despite being mistaken.
– Establishment and maintenance of justice is not simply the duty of governments and courts. The instruction has been given to every human being obligating him or her to fulfill the demands of justice by being personally firm about it and at the same time by making efforts that others too stay equally firm about seeing justice done.
– Everyone cries for justice. It seems that the world is waiting for someone to come and fix the wrong. This is an incorrect approach. Like they say charity begins at home; justice cannot be brought unless we change ourselves. Unless we improve our day to day affairs, we can’t expect the condition of the world to change. Are we sincere in our dealings? Do we unnecessarily bargain for the cheapest things? Do we unjustly defend others? Do we wrongfully accuse an innocent person? We need to work on ourselves before we expect governments and courts to change.
– Today, the world is rapidly progressing. Science and its progress has taken us to the stars and in the depths of the seas. However, there is a valuable teaching which cannot be ignored. It’s believing in One God and knowing that He is the real authority over all matters. By ignoring His teachings we can neither be successful in dunya nor akhirah.”