Our Duty of Being Witnesses Over Mankind, and the Necessary Attribute of Justice in its Fulfillment

Focusing on a ‘back to basics’ approach is something that Madina finds extremely important.  It may be that many Muslims focus on the secondary and tertiary elements of our religion, rather than focusing an adequate amount of time and energy in learning its foundational aspects.

For instance, were one to ask you, “what are some of your duties as a Muslim?” – a question that is fundamental in the attempt to be the best Muslims we can be – would you be able to answer?

While this question may seem simple to most, it could be that a lot of Muslims do not know the answer to this question. For me, it was a contemporary thinker who elaborated on this topic and shed light on what one of my duties as a Muslim is, of which I was not previously aware. This is my attempt to briefly touch on the duty of being witnesses over mankind.

Although we know that Allah Ta’aala created us to worship Him, what specific duties do we have in our interaction with the rest of humanity?  Allah Ta’aala says in part of a verse [which may mean]:

وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا ۗ

“And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you […]”

In light of this verse, it’s clear that one of our duties as Muslims is to be witnesses over mankind.  This is not something we can opt out of, nor is it something we can ignore; it is crucial in our living up to our full potential as Muslims and living a life that is pleasing to Him.

While we recognize that as our duty, what does this entail?  It entails that we understand that the nature of a duty is that it is given to someone who is capable of keeping it – someone who has the traits necessary to fulfill this particular duty.  Were we to be incapable of doing the duty, we would not have been made into a nation which has the duty of being these witnesses.  It also entails that we adorn ourselves with the necessary attributes to fulfill this duty properly, and when we examine what the necessary qualities of a witness are, we will find that they are truthfulness, uprightness, justice, and the like.  As such, we Muslims have the capacity to live the necessary qualities of witnesses over mankind and have the needed legislative sources (i.e., the Qur’an and the Sunnah), to be able to fulfill this duty.  In other words, we have what it takes.

But, this duty requires us to complete our obligations by fulfilling the demands of this trust given by Allah, in order to be those true, appropriate witnesses.  What is an example of one of these qualities?

Justice is one of the foremost qualities needed in being a witness over mankind.  Allah says [which may mean]:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ ۚ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَىٰ بِهِمَا ۖ فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا ۚ وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا – 4:135

“O you who believe, be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness for Allah, even though it be against your own selves or (your) parents or near relatives — whether he be rich or poor, Allah has a better right over them both. So follow not (your) low desires, lest you deviate. And if you distort or turn away from (truth), surely Allah is ever Aware of what you do.”


As such, everything we do, whether it be interacting with our neighbours, co-workers, family members, friends, and whether they be Muslim or not, must be done in accordance with justice.  That is to say, we cannot fall short in giving what is due, nor can we violate the rights of other people.  This entails that we must overcome the lowly passions of the self, our selfish desires, and our biases – whether they be ethnic, nationalistic, or cultural – to achieve a form of self-transcendence where what we think, say, or do is in alignment with the pleasure of Allah.

It is in fulfilling our duties as Muslims that we will achieve happiness.  Why? Because the scholars – from a maqasidi perspective – have said that the reason for the revelation is our happiness as people, which means that the further we deviate away from the message of Islam, away from learning and living it, the farther away we will drift from happiness and find ourselves in reversal and decline.  How, then, could we ever find happiness in not fulfilling our duties? How could we find happiness in not adorning ourselves with the attributes of justice and the other necessary traits of witnesses over the rest of mankind? We simply couldn’t.  Our happiness can only come from following the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and fulfilling our duties thereby.

I remind myself and you to adorn yourself with justice, truthfulness, transparency, and nobility and to take very seriously this duty which has been gifted to you – a tremendous gift indeed, for whatever brings you closer to Him is a treasure beyond comprehension and beyond value.