Justice and Violence in Islamic Political Thought
Violence and justice are among the most important human concerns, both in theory and practice. Existence of countless numbers of written works on these concepts, on the one hand, and their hefty costs, even in terms of human victims, on the other hand, indicate the importance and necessity of paying attention to this issue. Both victims of violence and those who have been victimized for the realization of justice or due to lack of justice are all victims of justice and violence. A more important issue is that some people resort to violence in order to establish justice in the society. The concept of justice is so powerful that it easily arouses human sentiments and makes lay people, especially the youth, inexperienced individuals and radical religious groups take action for the cause of justice. When that action is taken in the name of Islam and is combined with “divine commands” and the concept of “reward in the Afterworld,” people are much more motivated to take part. Naturally, if all that energy is directed toward violence, it would deal irreparable damages to human societies. All those damages are the result of efforts made to realize “justice,” whose indicators and dimensions are not well defined in the political thought of Islam and it is not clear how, in which way and through what process, it can be realized. The main question of this paper is “What relationship exists between justice and violence in the political thought of Islam, especially Shiism?” That question encompasses such auxiliary questions as:
1. How Islam has defined violence-oriented justice and justice-oriented violence?
2. How these two concepts are linked in the political thought of Islam?
3. Has Islam prescribed violence as a means of realizing justice?
4. Why some Islamist groups embark on assassination and violence in the name of justice?
5. To what extent the existing terrorism and violence launched by Islamist groups can be attributed to Islamic justice?
This paper will first define and explain the concepts of justice and violence in the political thought of Islam. Then, their relationship will be discussed from different viewpoints. Those discussions will be based on such theoretical foundations as Quran, Sunna, as well as the conduct of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and Imam Ali (AS) – as the first Shiite Imam. In conclusion, contemporary Islam and existing Islamist groups, who embark on violence in the name of justice, will be discussed.
Keywords: Justice, Violence, Islam, Political Thought of Islam, Contemporary Islam, Terrorism
Dr. Aliakbar Alikhani
Faculty member, Institute for Social and Cultural Studies, Ministry of Science, Research and Technology