True justice, giving the right holder what he deserves by protecting his right, cannot be achieved through absolute equality.
Today, we are in need of the feeling of justice in all areas of life. Ranging from our personal life to family life, from our work life to all layers of social life, we need virtue of justice. It is obvious that the whole society will collapse if the persecution, the opposite of justice, prevails in life. History of mankind is already full of countless examples of this. Since justice is a dynamic that holds the whole layers of society, we should primarily define the justice correctly. If we do so and see the perfect reflections of it in universe, we can reflect this understanding of justice on our personal world.
First of all we need to start working by defining the justice. Justice, in general expression, means to give the title holder his right. Besides, in law specifically, it means to punish the wrongdoer by judging truly. Now, by starting from these descriptions we can say that justice has two aspects that are different but complete each other. I, first of all, want to elaborate the part of “giving the title holder his right” that is the general description of justice and of that we see the reflections.
For example, consider an eagle. The eagle needs to have wings to fly, and beak and claw to catch its prey. It needs to have sharp eyes to see its prey from a long distance. Giving the eagle excellent wings befitting that work is the justice. Placing a vision system on that eagle’s head, which enables locating its prey from kilometers away, is a nice example of justice. Yet, giving them to eagle is the right of it. There is no injustice about meeting indispensable needs of eagle and whole living creatures. Even, wild animals’ (e.g. eagles) being few in number is also great justice. The excellent justice in the universe that protects the eagle’s right to live also protects its prey’s right to live by keeping the number of eagles limited.
As another example, we can take giraffes. Their heights are around 4-6 meters. 6-meter giraffe has equal height to a two-flat building. Blood supply of the brain is the most basic need of that 6-meter-height giraffe since the brain is the control center of the entire body. Our Lord placed a heart which is bigger than its head in giraffe’s chest so that the blood is pumped to the farthest reaches of the body and giraffe can live. The weight of an adult giraffe’s heart is around 12 kilos and its width is 60 cm. This huge heart beats 170 times per minute and pumps 75 liters blood into the body on a regular basis for a lifetime. It is crucial that giraffe’s heart is at this magnitude and it works with perfect performance. Sending blood, which is the need of body, to tissues in this way, is justice itself.
Now, this kind of question may spring to mind: while this huge heart is pumping high pressure blood to farther organs, aren’t the closer organs affected adversely by this pressure? No, they aren’t. This merciful justice takes precautions (even giraffes don’t know this) for closer organs not to be affected by this pressure. For example, legs and feet, which are lower than heart level, need a special protection. Giraffe’s skin surrounding its legs and feet is very thick just like varsity socks. This is a wonderful mechanism which protects legs from adverse effects of blood pressure. Additionally, valves which control the high pressure are placed to balance the strong blood flow in vessels under the heart level. Justice, which bestows this huge heart upon giraffe for blood to be reached to the head region of giraffe, does not persecute lower organs. Contrarily, by taking additional precautions it shows us that the other parts of the body are not forgotten.
After these two examples, let’s expand the circle a bit more and evaluate the order and equilibrium of the heavens with respect to justice.
When we look around our environment, we see that justice surrounds everywhere. There is a perfect manifestation of justice in every corner of the universe from the smallest sphere to the greatest realm. When we say justice, one of most important words is equilibrium. There is equilibrium and balance in universe. Everything is created in an excellent equilibrium. For example, let’s look at the atom that is the smallest constituent of the universe: a core inside the atom; inside of the core there is balance, electrons around it are balanced, and its orbit is balanced. If a little unbalance occurs, that micro universe will be messed up, current order will be destroyed.
There is a similar equilibrium in the space in a wider scale like the equilibrium in the atom. There is an excellent balance between the sun and planets, planets and the sun, the sun and the Milky Way, the Milky Way and other galaxies. This balance shows us that there is an absolute just creator who puts this balance, creates this balance and put this greatness on them. This creative power which does not forget the smallest atom does not hit and strike the planets to each other while they are rotating. The fact that there is no small unbalance shows that both atoms and galaxies are treated justly. There is such a manifestation of justice that it does not forget even smallest one.
The great manifestation of justice that surrounds universe is a very important reference point for us. As Sayyidina Imam ‘Ali (ra) said, “The human is a small universe. The universe is a big human.” If justice shows itself gingerly and sensitively in universe, does not human, a little universe, has to show the reflections of this justice in his personal, family and social life? Human who sees the manifestation of justice in a great scale must reflect this wonderful justice by modeling it. This human must reflect the beauties of justice, if he is son, over parents; if head of family, over family; if employer, over employee; if manager, over the people under his command so that the order that is missed and wanted is provided in family, social life and business world.
What is the relation between equality and justice?
Are equality and justice same things? When we treat two people equally even if they have different characteristics, do we end up acting always fairly? Does the notion of equality, loved by many people; really comprises the notion of justice? Isn’t there any place where equality is not practiced? What is the relation between equality and justice? These kinds of questions have always been in people’s mind. Now, we will try to approach this issue from different perspectives.
Even the descriptions of equality and justice are different!
First of all, we can start by telling that these notions are not same because the meanings of equality and justice in dictionary are different from each other. Equality is defined in dictionaries as follows: the state of two or more things being equal. We see the definition of justice in this way: giving to right holder what he deserves by protecting his right.
An example to elaborate the issue: A rich man comes and says to a headman that he wants to give everybody without exception in that neighborhood a 41-number pair of men’s shoes as a gift. If he really does what he says, he would treat everyone equally by providing equal support. However, this act is not and cannot be a just treatment.
Because, in that neighborhood, there are rich and poor, women, men and children and ones who have different shoe sizes. In addition, residents of that neighborhood may need more crucial things than shoes. But here in this example, everybody with no exception is given a pair of shoes by that equal aid. It seems like that a favor is done to ones who do not wear 41-number male shoes, too; but is this really a favor to them some of who wear bigger or smaller sizes or even do not need a shoe? This is an issue which we need to think seriously.
However, if that benefactor, first of all, determined people who need shoes with the help of the headman, categorized them as women, men and children, and helped them by learning their shoe sizes, maybe this would not be an equal treatment but everybody would get what they need, which is a just treatment.
The Difference of Needs and Capabilities Refuses Equality!
Justice is manifested according to needs and capabilities. Equality, as a legal term, means “the state of not making discrimination.” If two things are different in all aspects and we say that we will not differentiate between them and not discriminate them, this will be actually a persecution while treating them equally.
For instance, noses given to people and animals are not the same and equal; but this is a very just situation and fair distribution. Giving the necessary noses to an animal (e.g. a dog) which survives by sniffing is justice. Supposing that such kind of a nose is given to everyone, would not it be a persecution of everybody but dogs?
When equality exists, there is a possibility of persecution most of the time. If the wing given to a bee is given to an eagle, equality among them may exist but we lose justice and fair distribution according to needs. Because of that, everything needs such a treatment that they are given what they deserve at their position, place, amount and disposition. This is exactly what justice is.
Persecution Sometimes Occurs within Equality!
If one mother does not treat her children, (who are at different ages, have different dispositions and genders) according to their ages, dispositions and needs of their genders and insists of being an equalitarian mother, she would still be a mother. But she cannot get away with being in the list of mothers who persecute their children with their own hands; because it is such a persecution that it does not see differences within equality, does not credit different dispositions and ignores different characteristics. Because of this, the mothers who do motherhood properly and do not want to be a cruel mother are not the equalitarian ones but the just ones. There is always equality within justice but not always justice within equality. There is, most of the time, marks of unfairness and persecution.
Justice Surrounds Everywhere not Equality
Yes, justice surrounds everywhere. For example, let’s consider a plane tree. It stands in front of us with its solemn body, its branches and snags. Water and foods are distributed from its roots to the whole tree but some branches are big, some are small. Some leaves are wide, some are narrow. Its roots are under the soil, trunk is on the soil.
Necessary nutrition and water are delivered to everywhere of that tree without forgetting or mixing up how much they are needed. Not only the need of big ones is fulfilled but also that of little ones is fulfilled. Little ones are not indulged and big ones are not despised. The amount that who needs exactly what and how much is given. Whatever right owner deserves is bestowed on it sensitively.
For example, leaves are protected by a secret power via covering the cuticula a waxy layer with the aim of keeping the balance of water retention and being less harmed by sunlight. However, there is such manifestation of justice that, because the upper surface of the leaf is more exposed to sunlight, the protective layer there is thicker than that of the lower surface. As the upper side is more disadvantaged, it needs and has a right to have this kind of protective layer more. Since the owner of the sun is also the owner of the leaf, he intends to protect and protects his beautiful leaf from his glorious sun.
Meanwhile, it is weird that neither unreasonable leaf nor unconscious tree is aware of this operation of vital importance. An invisible hand, just as it protects our world from the harmful sunlight via ozone layer, protects the sweet and coy leaf against the heat of the red-hot sun via cuticula layer.
This condition is whispering us: “The one who owns the ozone layer in atmosphere also owns the cuticula on the leaves because both layers are made to serve for the same aim and life.”
Well, where is the field of Practice of Equality in Islam?
There is, in Islam, equality only before law and justice. Our Prophet (saw) prescribed: “People are equal just like teeth of a comb.” People must see equal treatment without discrimination in the sense of human rights while they are governed. The man in the street and the Sultan are equal before the law. The example of story in which Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror and a non-Muslim citizen were judged in a court is a very good example and witness of that. However, if it is said that “people will be equal in all aspects” even if they are different in capability, age, gender, needs and especially in creation, that will be a persecution and injustice.