On World Day of Social Justice, we explain why social justice is so important to our work, and how it is central to all our programmes.
In Islam, the concept of justice embraces all aspects of life, and social justice is founded on the understandings of freedom, human rights, equality, solidarity and sustainability. It is intrinsically linked to the concept of wellbeing, and in Islam, wellbeing can be achieved through the provision of essential needs, the protection of the weak and vulnerable and equitable distribution of resources.
“Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice; as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kind, and whether it be (against) rich or poor.” – Qur’an, 4:135
Scholars have also identified five dimensions of deprivation that need to be addressed in order to ensure true wellbeing. These are faith, life, intellect, posterity and wealth, and are known jointly as the Maqasid.
The Maqasid gives prominence to faith as an essential dimension of wellbeing and human development because it brings meaning and purpose to life. This means people have a right to freedom of worship and freedom of belief. Life relates to aspects of the physical self, including physical needs such as food and clothes, the right to freedom from fear and the right of a healthy environment. This guides our programmes on basic needs for refugees and following disasters.
Firas Abdul-Khalik, an aid worker at Islamic Relief’s office in Iraq, believes that with God’s help, Islamic Relief is bringing dignity to people through its response to the emergency there currently.
In a world that is rich in resources and technology, our sense of social justice is outraged that more than a billion people are living in extreme poverty with dire consequences to their lives and livelihoods.
For now and the future
The third dimension is intellect, and the role of education, freedom of thought and expression in Islam. Islamic Relief believes knowledge is the foundation of building capabilities and human freedom. It is linked to freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Education is one of our priorities and we run education programmes in Ethiopia, Kenya, Gaza and Afghanistan, among others.
The fourth objective is posterity, protecting future generations. The rights of the child, the right to freedom from social exclusion and the right to dignity and self-respect are among these. We support children in our work, including meeting the needs of orphans and teaching people about child protection. We also advocate for environmental justice. We consider it unjust that the over-consumption, over-production and waste generation of a few is responsible for extreme hardships and disasters that affect billions of people across the world.
Our duties to others
The final dimension is wealth; which is seen as being held in trust for God, and those with wealth are encouraged to use it to help those less fortunate than themselves. Everyone has the right to economic inclusion. Our work in livelihoods and microfinance are central to enabling poor people around the world to build better lives for themselves.
Dr Muhtari Aminu-Kano, senior policy advisor at Islamic Relief, said: “Human dignity originates from God, who has singled out humankind from other creations. It is our duty to establish justice among ourselves and with other creations. The Masaqid therefore is a good framework for our work in development.”
World Social Justice Day is an UN annual event that supports work carried out internationally to eradicate poverty, build gender equity and improve social wellbeing.