Since antiquity, the question of ‘idalah (justice) and equity has been man’s most fundamental concerns and his most important ideal on the Earth. ‘idalah has been among the issues each and every high-minded individual has given careful attention to. Discussions about ‘idalah and equity, its nature and quality as well as the procedure for its materialization and enforcement in human societies and within man’s soul have always been regarded as primary needs in man’s life. Moreover, the tendency to ‘idalah and ‘idalah seeking are not merely a demand and a need sought by man; they are, in fact, an aspect of man’s natural and rational predispositions without which his humanity cannot find meaning.
‘idalah is a virtue on which an improvement in man’s life and human societies is dependent. This virtue engenders perseverance and temperance in man as an individual and steadfastness, equality, moderation and freedom in human societies as well. The absence of ‘idalah in society leads to discrimination, oppression and corruption and deficiency of public concord, consequently transforming a healthy society into one resting on inequality, injustice and incoherence.
By looking into the sacred scriptures and history of Divine religions, we come to realize that prophets (peace be upon them) had been delegated to dispense ‘idalah and equity in society. Their mission was aimed at helping people rise up for ‘idalah and equity. Therefore, one of the noblest goals of divine religions had been the dispensation of equity and ‘idalah in the human society and in man’s self. Succeeding the prophets, the Immaculate Imams (A) and reformers have endeavored to materialize this significant concept. A survey of the history of political thought since time immemorial up to the present day is expressive of the fact that the optimal ideals and genuine aspirations of the world’s great thinkers and philosophers have been to explicate ‘idalah and dispense it in human society. Hence, it can be admitted that equity and ‘idalah is a principle that injects life and meaning to human society. It is like water that invigorates the tree of man’s existence (individual) and his collective existence (society) keeping them alive, stable and verdant. Without ‘idalah they wither and lose freshness and life. As such, every vigilant and liberal thinker has been, one way or another, in quest of the attainment of the real meaning and concept of ‘idalah and its materialization in society. From the theoretical aspect, the subject of ‘idalah has been treated as an important question in political thought, in general, and political philosophy, in particular, in the Islamic, oriental and occidental world.
Many of the prominent ancient philosophers, particularly the Greek philosophers, defined ‘idalah as putting things in their proper natural place and station. Consequently, just and natural properties were looked upon by most of them as synonymous and equal. Moreover, they thought of this natural position and status as being desirable and ideal.
In contemporary Western liberalistic thought, ‘idalah denotes retaining and preserving the individual’s fundamental rights, assuming a descriptive aspect, resulting in a type of utilitarian mentality. In this attitude, therefore, one may perhaps take a just and humanistic attribute a synonymous with each other. In a socialist thought and attitude, the concept of social ‘idalah is maintained as fundamental pillars and principles, yet socialists propound distributive ‘idalah as ‘idalah in the distribution of products, resources and outputs. In more precise terms, the equation of ‘idalah in this mentality assumes a purely economic aspect and is settled simply by rational economy.
‘idalah in this perspective is inclined towards the just and equal distribution of wealth. This notion of ‘idalah is inspired by need and countenances the negation of private ownership in absolute terms. The socialist outlook ecplises and immolates the freedom of human beings and fails to materialize and dispense social ‘idalah in practice.
In the world of Islam and the sphere of Islamic thought and civilization too, different theories and viewpoints have been put forward on the question of ‘idalah and its implications. Shi’ah and Sunni schools, Ahl al-Hadith (traditionalists), mafovedeh and qadarites have presented varying viewpoints. Generally speaking, in Islamic thinking, ‘idalah has been maintained as the foundation and fundamental axis of all social affairs. In contrast to other religions as well as Greek philosophers, who had given a personal, individual and, at times, natural tint and dedicated their energy to individual salvation and deliverance, Islam has devoted most of its attempts to the provision of social and human ‘idalah, the public salvation and deliverance of human beings.
Of course, all religions and most of the philosophers eventually seek the individual’s salvation, deliverance and happiness. However, in Islam and Islamic theosophy, individual salvation and happiness actualize in society in light of the realization of virtue, particularly ‘idalah and equity. Generally speaking, from the Islamic viewpoint, man will become happy when he dedicates himself to the service of public interests by dispensing ‘idalah and equity in society.
The present collection unfolds before the esteemed reader in three chapters drawn up in view of the necessity and fundamental standing of ‘idalah, the quality of its dispensation in society and individual and the presentation of an epitome of the viewpoints on the subject. The first chapter presents a compendious study of the viewpoints propounded on the theory of ‘idalah in ancient times, the orient and modern west. The second chapter dissects the different dimensions of the concept of ‘idalah in Islam in view of its noble source, the Holy Qur’an. The third chapter attempts to expound on the viewpoints of one of the greatest and most striking contemporary thinkers and political leaders of the world of Islam, Hadrat Imam Khomeini (r), providing an overview of the issue of ‘idalah within the frame of a special theory.
The Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works