CONCEPTIONS OF JUSTICE FROM ISLAM TO THE PRESENT
  • Book Title:
 Conceptions Of Justice From Islam To The Present
  • Book Author:
Hossein Askari
  • Total Pages
304
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CONCEPTIONS OF JUSTICE FROM ISLAM TO THE PRESENT – Book Sample

  • Introduction and Summary of the Conception of Justice in Islam 1
  • 2 Contemporary Muslim Scholars and Philosophers on
  • Justice in Islam 17
  • 3 Conception of Justice in the Age of Enlightenment 33
  • 4 The Utilitarian Conception of Justice and Its Critics
  • (Bentham to Hayek) 131
  • 5 Conception of Justice from Rawls to Sen to the Present 155
  • 6 The State of Justice and Impediments to a More Just
  • Muslim World 185
  • 7 Concluding Remarks 259
  • Bibliography 267

Introduction and Summary   of the Conception of Justice in Islam

Few observers would object to the observation that humanity is facing a growing set of problems that is affecting all life on this planet. Near the top of these problems is the idea that contemporary globaliza-tion has had an asymmetric distributional impact on the lives of people everywhere. Rather than leveling the “haves” vs. “have-nots” playing field, globalization and the technological advances that accompanied it have deepened the divide.

They have exacerbated and intensified income and wealth inequalities. A few have accumulated unprecedented wealth and power while most of humanity have been left behind over the last fifty years with reduced hope for a better future. Numerous academics have been alerting the world to what has been going on before our eyes but to no avail. Former US President Obama’s declaration that inequal-ity has become “the defining issue of our time” is not an exaggeration. Nor is there any hope of ways and means to reverse course anytime soon. Evidence, supported by empirical research, suggests that, if anything, the problem of inequality is expected to intensify.

One such evidence was provided by Thomas Piketty in his popular book (2014).1 Piketty is not very optimistic that the challenge of inequality can be addressed within the present configuration of the “free market” capitalism, given the pre-vailing political dominance of capital.

2  H. ASKARI AND A. MIRAKHOR

There is little disagreement that a high degree of economic inequality is detrimental to the proper functioning of a society. And more often than not, political inequality accompanies economic inequality. Significant inequality that concentrates economic resources in the hands of a few affords them vastly disproportionate political power.

This, in turn, provides an economically powerful means to change, implicitly or explicitly, established rules leading to the emergence of two sets of rules and laws: one for the powerful and one for everyone else. The powerful develop the attitude that laws that apply for others are not relevant for them. As a result, the rest of society develops a sense of helplessness that comes from being overwhelmed by the political and economic power of the rich.2

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Concurrent with the pain of growing poverty, high levels of inequality erode the sense of community and strengthen an increasing sense of injustice. When massive inequality3 and poverty are perceived as both the precedent and antecedent of injustice, demand for justice becomes a battle cry for change. While extreme inequality is generally considered as unjust, few would argue that justice and equality are one and the same or that a just society is one in which all are economically equal.4

Evidently, existence of some degree of inequality need not be considered as evidence of injustice so long as the Jeffersonian “palpable truth” is prevalent and acknowledged in society. To Thomas Jefferson, “truth” meant “that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.”5 The implication here, and supported by the words of moral philosophers over two centuries ago, is that all human beings are equal in value and worthy of dignity, respect, and equal protection by society. The clear perception is that this is not the case in most societies in the world today.

If it is accepted that a large and growing income and wealth inequality is inherently unjust, then restoring justice becomes an imperative lest an exacerbated sense of injustice, unleashes destructive forces that threaten the very fabric of societies.6 Extreme inequality and growing poverty are in 2018 the most serious challenges for justice to prevail.

There are, however, many conceptions of justice, including inter alia: justice as virtue of individuals, as virtue of social institutions, as norms, as entitlement, as responsibility, as desert, as fairness, as reciprocity, as benevolence, as agape love, as retribution, as abiding by the law of the society, as social, as greatest happiness (utility), as political and economic equality, and as freedom.7 The question then arises as which conception of justice should be used not only as the benchmark against which the degree and intensity of injustice should be measured but also for select-ing and designing the policies to alleviate injustice.

The daunting challenge here is the variety of conceptions and principles of justice. This has led some to liken justice to the proverbial elephant in a roomful of blind people attempting to describe it. Chaim Perelman, echoing Hume, says that justice is simply a confused concept.8 Moreover, some have argued that recent theorizing about justice exacerbates the emergence of a clear understanding of justice or its conception as a unified idea.

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This has re-enforced the confused state of knowledge about justice even further.9 Robert Solomon complained that the discussions of justice have become “so specialized and so academic and so utterly unbearable that it has become just another intellectual puzzle, a conceptual Gordian knot waiting its academic Alexander.”10 While the wide variation of competing ideas of justice makes the emergence of a consensus on what constitutes justice challenging, Michael Waltzer sug-gests that “justice is a human construct, and it is doubtful that it can be made in only one way.”11

Some have argued12 that there is no urgent need to focus on the nature and conception of justice. Instead the focus should be on doing whatever possible to remove injustice in the society. Immanuel Kant13 maintained that justice “is just the principle of equality, by which the pointer of scale of justice is made to incline no more to the one side than the other.”14 This kind of argument begs the question of by what prin-ciple or conception should the “scale of justice” be established? Within the rubric of the law, Kant’s answer is: by treating everyone equally. This is simple enough, but what of overall justice in society? Without a con-crete conception of non-legal justice (social, political, and economic), the answer becomes complex.

At the beginning of their book, What is Justice, Solomon and Murphy15 list a large number of questions regarding issues and prob-lems that any conception of justice would have to address. Some of these questions are abstract such as, what is a good society? What is a legitimate government? What sort of creatures are humans supposed to be?

 What do humans owe one another and why? But there are also questions regarding day-to-day problems like income inequality, fairness of social arrangements, distribution and redistribution of income and wealth, gender inequality in the workplace and inheritance. These and other equality, and as freedom.7 The question then arises as which conception of justice should be used not only as the benchmark against which the degree and intensity of injustice should be measured but also for select-ing and designing the policies to alleviate injustice.

The daunting challenge here is the variety of conceptions and prin-ciples of justice. This has led some to liken justice to the proverbial ele-phant in a roomful of blind people attempting to describe it. Chaim Perelman, echoing Hume, says that justice is simply a confused concept.8 Moreover, some have argued that recent theorizing about justice exacer-bates the emergence of a clear understanding of justice or its conception as a unified idea. This has re-enforced the confused state of knowledge about justice even further.9 Robert Solomon complained that the dis-cussions of justice have become “so specialized and so academic and so utterly unbearable that it has become just another intellectual puzzle, a conceptual Gordian knot waiting its academic Alexander.”10 While the wide variation of competing ideas of justice makes the emergence of a consensus on what constitutes justice challenging, Michael Waltzer sug-gests that “justice is a human construct, and it is doubtful that it can be made in only one way.”11

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Some have argued12 that there is no urgent need to focus on the nature and conception of justice. Instead the focus should be on doing whatever possible to remove injustice in the society. Immanuel Kant13 maintained that justice “is just the principle of equality, by which the pointer of scale of justice is made to incline no more to the one side than the other.”14

This kind of argument begs the question of by what principle or conception should the “scale of justice” be established? Within the rubric of the law, Kant’s answer is: by treating everyone equally. This is simple enough, but what of overall justice in society? Without a concrete conception of non-legal justice (social, political, and economic), the answer becomes complex.

At the beginning of their book, What is Justice, Solomon and Murphy15 list a large number of questions regarding issues and prob-lems that any conception of justice would have to address. Some of these questions are abstract such as, what is a good society? What is a legitimate government? What sort of creatures are humans supposed to be? What do humans owe one another and why? But there are also questions regarding day-to-day problems like income inequality, fairness of social arrangements, distribution and redistribution of income and wealth, gender inequality in the workplace and inheritance. These and other

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