Muhammad proved by his own example that no one could be more just and equitable than the Messenger of God. As head of the state of Medinah, he decided all cases on merit with justice and equity, irrespective of color, creed, or race. Once a Quraish woman was found guilty of stealing. Some people wanted to save her from punishment in order to protect the honor of the family of the Quraish. They wanted to hush up the whole affair. They asked Asama bin Zaid, who was very dear to the Holy Prophet, to intercede on her behalf. He requested the Prophet to forgive her. The Holy Prophet very furiously said, “Bani Israil was ruined because of this. They applied law to the poor and forgave the rich.” Once Abdullah ibn Sehl went to Khaibar for the division of dates. He was accompanied by his cousin Muheesah. While walking in the street, Abdullah was murdered by someone and his dead body thrown in the ditch. Muheesah complained to the Holy Prophet. He asked him, “Can you swear that he was killed by the Jews?” He replied that he had not seen with his own eyes. The Holy Prophet said that the Jews should be asked to take an oath. Muheesah said, “How can we trust their oath? They will take false oaths a hundred times.” There was no one else living in Khaibar except the Jews and it was indisputably one of the Jews who had killed Abdullah. But as there was no eye-witness, the Holy Prophet did not ask anything of the Jews and paid one hundred camels as blood-money from the state treasury.
It is narrated by Tariq Muharbi that God’s Messenger was delivering a sermon in the Mosque of the Prophet (Masjid An-Nabi), when an Ansari, seeing them, stood up and said, “O Messenger of God! These people belong to the tribe of Banu Thalba. Their ancestor killed a member of our family. We appeal to you to get one of their men hanged in exchange for that.” The Holy Prophet replied, “The revenge of the father cannot be taken on his son.”
The Prophet was so well-known for his justice that even the Jews, who were his deadly enemies, brought their suits to him and he decided cases in accordance with their law. He very strictly followed the Commandment of God:
“If they come to you, either judge between them, or decline to interfere. If you decline, they cannot hurt you in the least. If you judge, judge in equity between them. For God loves those who judge in equity.” [Qur’aan 5:45]
Justice demands that it should be upheld in all circumstances, even if it goes against one’s own self or one’s family or relations.
“O You who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor.” [Qur’aan 4:135]
God’s Messenger proved by his own example that no one could be more firm for justice than him, even if it was against his own interest or the interest of those who were near and dear to him. He decided every case brought to him by friend or foe with justice, without fear or favor. He favored neither the rich nor the poor, but decided their case with equity and justice.
He decided the cases even of his enemies with strict justice and fairness. His enemies brought their suits to him without any fear or hesitation for they knew that they would get justice only from him. The Holy Prophet did not distinguish between a friend and foe in matters of justice: “O You who believe! Stand out firmly for God as witnesses to justice, and let not the enmity of others incite you to act contrary to justice. Be always just, that is next to’ piety. Be mindful of your duty to God.” It is surely an act of merit to do justice among friends and in a favorable or neutral atmosphere, but real greatness lies in doing justice to people who are one’s open enemies. The Holy Prophet, as head of the Muslim state of Medinah, always treated his enemies, including Jews and unbelievers, with justice and equity. Once the Holy Prophet was distributing the spoils of war among the people. There was a crowd of people round him, and a man came along and laid himself on him. The Holy Prophet had a thin stick in his hand, and he lightly struck him with it. By chance, the end of the stick struck his mouth, which was slightly scratched. The Holy Prophet asked him to take his revenge on him. He replied “O God’s Messenger! I forgive you.”
“We have sent down to thee the book in truth, that thou mightest judge between people by that which Allah has shown thee; so be not an advocate for those who betray their trust”[Qur’aan 4:105]
The Commentators explain this passage with reference to the case of Ta’ima ibn Ubairaq, who was nominally a Muslim but really a Hypocrite, and given to all sorts of wicked deeds. He was suspected of having stolen a set of armor, and when the trial was hot, he planted the stolen property into the house of a Jew, where it was found. The Jew denied the charge and accused Taima, but the sympathies of the Muslim community were with Tai’ma on account of his nominal profession of Islam. The case was brought to the Prophet, who acquitted the Jew according to the strict principle of justice, as “guided by Allah.” Attempts were made to prejudice him and deceive him into using his authority to favor Ta’ima. When Ta’ima realized that his punishment was imminent he fled and turned apostate.
The general lesson is that the righteous man is faced with all sorts of subtle will; the wicked will try to appeal to his highest sympathies and most honorable motives to deceive him and use him as an instrument for defeating justice. He should be careful and cautious, and seek the help of Allah for protection against deception and for firmness in dealing the strictest justice without fear or favor. To do otherwise is to betray a sacred trust; the trustee must defeat all attempts made to mislead him.