Arab springtime: in search of Al-Adalah Al-Ijtima’iyyah Fil Islam[1]


Journal of Islamic Accounting and Business Research

ISSN: 1759-0817

Article publication date: 27 September 2011



Haniffa, R. and Hudaib, M. (2011), "Arab springtime: in search of Al-Adalah Al-Ijtima’iyyah Fil Islam[1]", Journal of Islamic Accounting and Business Research, Vol. 2 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Arab springtime: in search of Al-Adalah Al-Ijtima’iyyah Fil Islam[1]

Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Islamic Accounting and Business Research, Volume 2, Issue 2


This year has seen some unprecedented events unfolding in the Middle-East. They are triggered not by Islamic activism and radicalism, as often discussed in the literature and portrayed in the media, but by the power of the people frustrated with their status quo. It was a “grand” social movement seeking one ultimate goal, adalah ijtima’iyyah (social justice). The event was facilitated by mass-communication technology, the newly found “weapon of the weak” in the Arab world. Increase in poverty level, constant use of fear and brutality in disciplining society, inhibition of religious expression in everyday life, economic transgression by the elites in society, rise in unemployment and lack of opportunity, poor governance, corruption, etc. are bound to be untenable by any society that has endured violations of social justice for a long time. In this editorial, we reflect on the concept of adalah ijtima’iyyah fil Islam (Islamic social justice) and the possible implications on Islamic financial institutions following recent events.

Adalah ijtima’iyyah fil Islam (Islamic social justice)

One of the dimensions addressed in Islamic Shari’ah is related to muamalat (interactions)[2]. It emphasised not only in principles related to relationships between “man and God” but also between “man and man”. One of the most important principles in the organisation of relationships among members of society is the concept of social justice, which is about giving each individual what he/she deserves, the distribution of financial benefits in the society, providing equally for basic needs and egalitarianism in opportunities, regardless of whether one defined it from the political, religious or social philosophy. In short, social justice is about one’s struggle against inequality in various aspects of life.

Maqasid Al-Shari’ah (the ends of Shari’ah) addressed some basic elements of social justice in Islam:

  1. 1.

    preservation of the faith (aqidah);

  2. 2.

    preservation of the mind or intellect (aql);

  3. 3.

    preservation of the self (karamah); and

  4. 4.

    preservation of wealth (mal).

With regards to the preservation of aqidah, society should be allowed to practice their own religion and respect each other’s faiths. The curtailment of religious ethos and restrictions on freedom to practice all aspects of the religion (especially in public) by the state/institution violates the fundamental rights of human being. Social justice cannot be achieved except with a totally free human conscience that purely believes that there is no superior authority over any individual except God. The fear of God alone provides each individual with inner strength as nobody can assert his superiority over the others and collectively as a society, such feeling can be a strong weapon in fighting injustice by the State and Others. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his last sermon stated:

There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab and of a non-Arab over an Arab, nor of a white over a black nor of a black over the white, except in piety. All mankind is the progeny of Adam, and Adam was fashioned out of clay […]

Preservation of the mind or intellect (hifdh al ‘aql) is another important element of social justice in Islam. The right to seek, express and debate knowledge cannot be suppressed and must be allowed to flourish as knowledge enabled one to distinguish right from wrong. The danger posed by an ignorant society is more serious than an educated society. The advancement of technology has indeed helped society preserve their intellect by aiding the process of seeking and interchanging knowledge. Also related to preservation of mind is acknowledging the problems posed by consumption of intoxicants that will cause one to lose his/her rational capabilities which in turn has negative consequences on the whole society not only in terms of resources but also social order. Hence, it is the duty of the state to curb such activities to protect wider society.

Preservation of karamah requires observing the sanctity of human dignity and integrity which connotes inviolability of the human person, recognition of a set of rights and obligations and guarantee of safe conduct by others, including the society and the state, and the world communities to the others (Kamali, 2002). The Qur’an provides the most explicit affirmation of human dignity (karamah):

We have honoured the sons of Adam [wa laqad “karramna” bani Adama] […] and conferred On them special favours, Above a great part of Our Creation (Al Isra, 17:70).

Therefore, human dignity is preserved for every human being; the only difference among people is their morals, not their race nor their colours. Similarly, the sanctity of human life has been emphatically established in the Qur’an:

[…] That if anyone slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – It would be as if he slew the whole people: And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people […] (Al-Ma’idah 5:32).

Preservation of mal, according to Alim (1991), is concerned with four main principles. First is circulation of assets (tadawul) and this involves prohibiting usury, hoarding money and monopoly of the market. The second principle is clarity or frankness (wuduh) which is ascertained by having clear, plain contracts in all market dealings through written contracts or through reliable witnesses to the agreement. The third principle is protection from transgression (al muhafazah’ala al mal) by punishing theft and any transgression of other’s property such as fraud, corruption and bribery. The fourth principle is seeking economic justice (adl). This can be achieved by avoiding usury, israf (extravagance), ihtiyal (fraud), khiyana (dishonesty), tanajush (collusion), qimar (gambling) and all forms of gharar (speculative) activities, practicing i’tidal (moderate) in consumption and fulfilling obligations to society by paying zakat, other form of taxes required by the state, as well as saddaqa (charity).

Consequences of Arab spring on Islamic financial institutions

From the preceding discussion, it can be seen that social activism in the Arab world arose due to the discontentment with violations of many of the fundamental rights of society. Injustice cannot continue and there is now a real opportunity to demand for social justice and a different form of governance and institutions. A better system of accountability is needed.

The call for political, legal and economic reform (islah) may have implications on Islamic financial institutions. The dependence on aids from abroad that are often in the form of debts for the country’s development should lessen. Instead, there should be a curb on capital flights abroad and more capital investments not debts flying in. Islamic financial institutions should play a major role in facilitating this as they are deemed to be more ethical and just. There should be a shift from mudarabah-based (debt-financing) to more musharakah-based (profit and loss) financing projects that will enhance the real economy of the countries.

Reform towards fairer political and legal systems means that the rights of shareholders, investors, creditors, employees and other stakeholders can be better protected. Trust in better legal and governance system should, in turn, encourage free flow of funds and trigger growth of more Islamic financial institutions to serve the needs of society for a more just financial system. Islamic capital markets may be able to expand as there will be more companies seeking funds for their business and the government issuing sukuks to help fund developments.

The control of businesses by a group of elites with close relations with the power that be and financiers will now have to face open competition. Given the huge natural and human resources in this part of the world, there will now be better opportunities for new entrepreneurs to enter the market as they can now compete at level playing field. Business corruption and nepotism can be reduced when there is a fair legal system to protect the interests of all parties to the contract. Islamic financial institutions can develop more innovative products to serve the needs of the new entrants to the market.

In short, the dawn of Arab spring brings with it hope for social justice. A change in the political and legal system will facilitate economic reform that is just. We believe Islamic financial institutions could play a major role in meeting the new demands and expectations. The Qur’an provides a powerful social law for change, applicable equally to the individuals, to the societies, to the nations and to the world as a whole:

Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves […] (Al-Rad: 13:11).

The self refers to the power of the mind to take physical action such as to fight injustice. At the microscopic level is the mind of individuals and at the macroscopic level there is the collective mind of the society, of a nation and of the world as a whole. In short, the collective mind of the societies and of the nations determines their future prosperity and decides their rise and fall on the world scene. It is still early days to speculate but, like the societies in those nations, we remain optimistic that justice prevails.

This is the title of the book by Sayed Qotb. see Qotb, S. (2002), Al Adala Al Ijtemaeya fel Islam, Dar Al Shorouk, Cairo.

This is the title of the book by Sayed Qotb. see Qotb, S. (2002), Al Adala Al Ijtemaeya fel Islam, Dar Al Shorouk, Cairo.

The other two dimensions are aqidah (faith) and akhlaq (ethics).

Roszaini Haniffa, Mohammad Hudaib


Alim, Y.H. (1991), Al-Maqasid al Ammah li al Shari’ah al Islamiyah (The end goals of the Islamic Shariah), International Institute of Islamic Thought, Herndon, VA

Kamali, M.H. (2002), The Dignity of Man: An Islamic Perspective, The Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge

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