Be just in all your dealings…

June 15th, 2011 @   -  No Comments

It is related by Mohammed ibn Jafar, a companion of the Prophet (PBUH), that a Christian delegation came to the Prophet (PBUH) and said, “O Abu-l Qasim, send one of your companions with us, one in whom you are well pleased, to judge between us on some questions of property about which we disagree among ourselves. We have a high regard for you Muslim people.” Why would the Christians come to ask the Prophet (PBUH) for a Muslim mediator to help them resolve their conflicts? Why would a Muslim be fair and just to all people? How did the companions of the Prophet (PBUH) deal with conflict? What can we learn from them and apply the lessons to today’s problems?

The early Muslims built their conflict resolution process on the following four pillars:

1.      Refer every dispute to Allah and His Messenger

Allah says in the holy Quran “If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.” (Quran 4:59)

Muslims are required to solve any dispute or conflict among themselves according to the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). Where there are clear instructions in the Quran or prophetic sayings, Muslims have no choice but to refer to them and use them as guide. Where there are no clear teachings, Muslims must refer to other basic laws of Sharia which ensure fair and just process for all.

Early Muslims believed that the most important element underlying the resolution of any conflict, be it at the personal or institutional level, is the conscientiousness of Allah. A Muslim who is conscience of Allah is always aware that one day (s)he is going to be accountable for his/her deeds in front of The Creator. Whether a Muslim is part of a conflict or mediating a conflict, (s)he will not want to take any action or say anything that may be wrong in the eyes of our Creator. A conscience Muslim knows that no gain in this world is worth the price (s)he will pay on the day of judgment.

2.      Be witness to fair dealing

Allah says in the holy Quran: “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (Quran 5:8) This verse teaches us that whether we are a mediator in a conflict or party to it or just a witness, we have to be fair even if the people on the other side of the conflict are our enemies or foster some kind of animosity towards us. Justice in Islam is blind to the people in front of it. It does not favor a Muslim over a non-Muslim, a man over a woman, a woman over a man, a rich over a poor, a strong over a weak, an old over a young, a local over a visitor, or any type of person over another. All people are equal in front of justice.

3.     Always ascertain the truth

Allah warns us: “O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done. (Quran 49:6)It is very common for people to complain to authorities about others in their absence. It is unfortunate that many people in authority take action based on the complaint of one party without referring the matter to the other concerned party. Islamic teachings dictate that we must always ascertain the truth from all concerned parties and all witnesses before passing any judgment or taking any action.  

4.     Encourgae Honesty and Openness

Islam encourages honesty and openness in all situations and more so when they are in front of a dispute. The Prophet (PBUH) warned Muslims about arguing falsely to win a case. Zaynab bint Abi Salama related from Umm Salama that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “I am a human being. Litigants come to me and it may be that one of them are more eloquent than the other and so I suppose that he is telling the truth and give judgment in his favour according to what I hear. If I judge for him any of the right of his brother, then I am only cutting for him a piece of the Fire.”(Al-Bukhari).

In organizations, most conflict situations emerge from either lack of information or misinformation. Encourage your team members to be honest in their dealings and, where possible, provide them with the necessary information to effectively perform their jobs. Take time to listen and respond to their concerns.

These are four basic pillars of conflict resolution. If we adhere to them we will not only succeed in this world, but we will also be winners in the hereafter.

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