Social Justice and the Challenges facing it from the Viewpoint of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi
Justice as one of the important values of human societies is adored and pursued by all human beings. Justice, in all its forms, has been of such significance that all the divinely-sent religions all throughout human history have emphasized and promoted it both on personal and social levels.
Yet, in order to be able to achieve true social justice mankind needs to surmount certain barriers and overcome certain challenges. This is because any deviation from the boundaries of justice will result in more injustice, leading man to fall in to excessive pleasure-seeking at the cost of doing harm to other people.
Moreover, in order to make sure that justice is served, the society must entrust its leadership only with someone who considers other people’s rights to be as important as his own rights. He must be firmly committed to ethics and must not allow his personal feelings affect his judgment for or against others.
This formidable task can be undertaken only by a person who has a great share of faith in Allah and human virtues, and a great love for humanity. Only a person like this would have enough strength to withstand powerful selfish urges such as profiteering and egotism which can confuse his fair judgment. It is individuals like this who are worthy of the titles “the perfect human beings” and “the best of the people”.
Obviously, very few worthy people, mostly divinely-sent prophets and their righteous successors, have enjoyed such sublime characteristic and were thus able to spread justice in the world. Most of the other rulers and sovereigns all throughout history have been either unwilling or unable to promote justice in the society which they ruled.
This is, however, not to say that the prophets and other righteous rulers have had no problems in spreading justice; they all faced numerous problems and obstacles while trying to pave the way for justice to be served.
These challenges and obstacles were mostly created by corrupt individuals or world powers who felt the promotion of justice was against their selfish interests; even today, the corrupt world powers only talk about their “interests” when announcing their decision to do or not to do something.
Since most of the conflicts and wars and much of the oppression, aggression, and bloodshed in the world stem from disregarding justice, it seems necessary to study the obstacles to the establishment of justice. Furthermore, we will also look in to the challenges facing the establishment of social justice in the human world; it is believed that these challenges constitute one of the major problems of the human society in the world of today.
Justice is defined as the state where everything is placed and utilized in its designated and true place:
“وضع الشىء فى موضعه”
In the human sense of the word, justice means to respect everyone’s rights and to give what is rightfully theirs. Given these basic definitions of justice, social justice can be defined as a state where everyone in the society is grated all that is rightfully theirs while, at the same time, social order is maintained. That is to say, social justice is established when the rights of all the members of a given society is respected and everyone gets a fair share of the blessings of that society.
This is because all human beings are entitled to equal shares of the blessings of a community and it is impermissible to unfairly discriminate against any members of the community merely due to their ethnicity, race, or culture.
The significance of the rules of justice within the framework of the teachings of Islam is to the extent where all Muslims are ordered to abide by them in their private and public relations, in international treaties and deals and even in their contracts with the non-Muslims.
Social justice is a blessing which the entire human world must enjoy, as it is the key factor in helping all human beings to be able to have a prosperous life which, in turn, paves the way for them to take the path to human perfection.
It should be noted that all the people must be given the opportunity to use the natural blessings of this world in social, economic, and political aspects of their lives. Therefore, under equal conditions, all human beings must be granted equal access to all of the public benefits and facilities.
As regards the economic blessings of the society, for instance, all the members of any given society must be granted equal opportunities to use the economic potentials of the society to make a living. This means that the rules of justice must be observed in all of the economic undertakings and relations and no one’s economic rights must be violated in the society.
This, however, should not be taken to mean that those members of the society who are able to get a greater share of the economic blessings of the society due to being more hardworking, more intelligent, or more skilled than others should be stripped of their wealth. It only means that no one must be allowed to achieve more wealth through special privileges and at the cost of the deprivation of other members of the society from an equal share of the economic blessings.
It should be noted that although development is embedded in the essence of human life and, hence, the laws concerning social development must be taken seriously in all times and eras, yet, the establishment of social justice is a key point in the realization of this dream.
The establishment of social justice will eliminate class discrimination and will thus create a favorable atmosphere in the society for all the people to develop and actualize their potentials. This way, all the people of the society will enjoy a reasonable level of welfare and comfort; this is the realistic view of social justice promoted by the divinely-sent religions.
Let us now consider what will happen to a society where social justice is not valued. A society where justice and ethics are discarded will soon turn in to a veritable battlefield for the people to fight over material gains and selfish financial interests. Such a society will gradually reduce the people’s way of life to that of the animals; this way of life, which we call “Social Darwinism”, is a sort of dog eat dog way of life for human beings, as the application of the principle of “the survival of the fittest” to the human society.
In such a society, it will be impossible to facilitate the people’s intellectual, moral, and social development because the people are constantly preoccupied with their constant fight for survival.
According to the Darwinian principle of “the survival of the fittest”, applied to the human society, all the bloodshed in the first and second World Wars and the constant aggression of the world powers against other nations are quiet natural events and necessary for the process of social evolution!
Such an approach has degraded man to a level way below that of the animals; wild predators do not attack other animals unless they are hungry and they do not take more than they really need to sustain themselves. However, based on this principle, the corrupt world powers have constantly violated other nations’ rights, attacked and slaughtered them, and robbed them of their natural resources merely in order to further advance their own selfish interests and to satisfy their insatiable hunger for more power and more wealth.
Belief in Darwinism and its social application have been used as a pretext by the imperialist powers to justify their heinous crimes against humanity and their political, social, and economic oppression of the entire world.
Naturally, then, the victory in this egoistic fight belongs to the individuals who are more powerful than others, equipped with deadlier weapons, and ready to use much harsher and more inhumane measures in order to secure their victory. This means that the powerful individuals and nations will survive and live happily while the share of the less powerful classes and nations will be ruin and extinction.
One of the modern systems which has been clearly constructed based on the social aspect of the Darwinian principle, “survival of the fittest”, is the economic system of the west, i.e. capitalism.
With regard to this issue Hobbs has made the following remarks: “Nothing can incentivize man to take action except personal interests. This is because man’s instrumental rationality is, in the end, subordinate to his interests; in fact, the only task of man’s instrumental rationality is to search for and find ways to further his interests. ”
The western proponents of the theory of social evolutionism have always used it as a weapon to silence all the voices that call for justice and, when necessary, they were always prepared to use military force, based on the principle of the “survival of the fittest”, against the less fortunate people and the seekers of justice.
All of these efforts have been made in order to ensure the further economic development of huge corporates and cartels, with a total disregard for that of the masses. Social Darwinism, in the sense that is being promoted by warmongers today, is the main reason behind the weakening of the human society and the destruction of the collective power and grandeur of human beings.
Today, mankind is at a crossroads: we must either embrace social justice and moral values or Social Darwinism and its principle of the “survival of the fittest”. If mankind chooses the first approach, the world will be run based on the principle of “collaboration for survival” based on ethics and with the purpose of establishing social justice.
However, if the second approach is chosen by mankind the world will be left at the mercy of warmongers who will then do their best to destroy man’s social life as we know it, based on the principle of the survival of the fittest.
If we choose the first course of action, it will lead to the creation of a world where everyone feels he owes an obligation to his society to share some of his means with the less fortunate and to give without expecting anything in return.
The modern man is chasing mirages in many respects of his life; one of these mirages which man chases today is what is promoted as “freedom” in the west at the cost of the elimination of social justice and the establishment of moral anarchy within the human society.
A quick glance at the current conditions of the western world clearly indicates that what the people are being fed in the west is just a mirage of freedom not real freedom. This is because the west promotes an unbounded and unrestrained sort of freedom which is obviously against the basic meaning of justice.
On the social level, western liberal democracy promotes total freedom in financial competitions among the people and, on the personal level, it calls for a complete and unlimited freedom of all sorts of sexual pleasure-seeking by the people.
Needless to say that liberal freedom has “human lower desires” as its basis and has downgraded human being to the level of an animal with only physical and sexual needs.
Furthermore, the proponents of liberal freedom view moral values either as personal issues which people must attend to individually, or as spiritual issues which is a totally otherworldly issue and irrelevant to man’s life in this world. This is while all the moral values and virtues have direct effects on the physical and spiritual aspects of man’s social life in this world.
Additionally, the kind of freedom which is not held in check by moral values and teachings will let man’s enormous capabilities and potentials be wasted and will turn security and freedom in to a tool in the hands of pleasure-seekers and perverts.
Under such conditions, human life will become void of true meaning as he does not find any sublime purpose to whatever he does. On the other hand, moral values together with freedom can channel all of man’s enormous powers and inclinations, including his lower desires, toward guiding him to the path to eternal felicity.
Today, the unrestrained form of freedom that is promoted in the west has turned in to the principal reason behind sexual promiscuity and the root of all the contradictions and shortcomings within the western communities. This is because justice is a completely neglected issue in the west and the people have been sidetracked from ethics, moral values, and moral teachings.
One of the adverse consequences of the liberal concept of freedom has been the crisis of marriage and the decline of the institution of marriage within the western communities. In these communities, as the number of marriage declines the age of beginning extramarital sexual relations has also sharply declined, something which has led to serious social crises in the west.
Furthermore, the use of women as mere means for sexual gratification in the western societies has caused the sex industry to emerge as a sophisticated and modern kind of slavery. It should be noted that, not only does sexual freedom threaten the institution of marriage and the security of families, it is the root of many crimes which have devastated the western societies. Moreover, it is a source of constant tension which can lead to various psychological disorders; it is also the main factor in the destruction of traditional families and the degradation of the woman to a veritable “sex toy”.
Another problem created by liberal concept of freedom was the expectation created in women to take up jobs that were formerly occupied by men; this issue also created many social problems and also problems within the families, the most serious of which was the children losing their emotional support as their mother was at work when they needed her.
The western governments have gone so far in spreading their own twisted impression of freedom, which is in sharp contrast with true justice, as to legalize homosexual relations, abortion, and other similar sins in their countries. The representatives of the people in these countries who run their government have taken on the role of the dispensers of liberal freedom not the dispensers of justice and the protectors of the people’s interests.
Liberal freedom is, therefore, considered a deviant way of life as it seriously threatens the institution of marriage and family which is the most fundamental element of the society and a key factor in the establishment of social justice.
Liberal freedom eliminates the most elemental factor of man’s social life, i.e. justice, from the society and promotes supremacism and the oppressive domination of others under the name of “freedom” among the people.
Development is not merely the increase in production and revenue; it is also success in the eradication of poverty and deprivation, and the improvement of public welfare through creating equal job opportunities for all the people and the fair distribution of wealth in the society. Naturally, the establishment of justice is a key factor in the promotion of sustainable development in human societies.
It should be noted that some believe that the end justifies the means and that injustice is justifiable if it leads to a better future for the people; this view is totally wrong because injustice cannot be justified on any grounds.
However, the officials who are responsible for the implementation of the western model of development have theorized injustice in order to further their selfish interests and promise the establishment of justice for the indefinite future.
Within the framework of the western model of development, businesses seek to maximize their revenues and the people try to maximize desirability [i.e. satisfaction at consuming the purchased products]. These two factors cause the economy to grow and flourish. 
Therefore, the proponents of the western model of development believe that, in order for the society to develop and grow, some people will inevitably be sacrificed in order for the economic policies to yield the desirable results. They believe that for development to take place, some people may be crushed under its wheels to facilitate it and that trying to establish justice in the society where the rights and interests of all members are observed and protected will impede development in its capitalistic sense.
The philosophers and theoreticians of the new imperialistic western economy justify various other misdeeds on the grounds that they can facilitate development and growth. For instance, not only do not they consider usury impermissible, they consider it some sort of boost for the economy!
They believe that, considering the recent economic developments of the world, dealing in usury is quite permissible because the banks can give out loans to the people and earn some interest on their loans and this can significantly improve the financial conditions of the manufacturers and producers.
These people, however, neglect the fact that development without justice, culture, morality, and spirituality will be detrimental to the society. This is because sacrificing the human culture and virtues on the altar of economic development paves the way for social and moral anarchism in the human society.
It might be argued that although the liberal model of development requires justice to be put aside for some time, in the long run the economic growth and prosperity that is achieved through it will eradicate poverty and deprivation. However, the evidence from the western development in the world of today proves this claim as baseless; it is now a known fact that liberal development has never been meant to eradicate poverty rather to make the rich richer by taking away more from the less fortunate people.
The western experts have also confessed that the liberal model of development results only in the masses being sacrificed for advancing the interests of the well-off. For instance, Adelman & Morris have made the following remarks, citing official statistics as evidence: “Economic development results not only in a modest decline in the relative income of the entire society, but also in a decline in the average absolute income of the poor.” 
One of the pieces of evidence in this regard comes from the constant efforts of the great economic powers made toward the automation of all of their industries. They state that through the automation of their industries they would have less need to workforce and they would not have to pay considerable amounts of their revenue as salary to their workers.
This is another piece of evidence indicating that the industrial development of the world has never been meant as a means of establishing justice, even in the long run. It has always been meant as a way of furthering the selfish interests of the wealthy, not a solution to the poverty and deprivation of the masses.
This is why in western concept of development, the emphasis is constantly placed on quantitative economic parameters such as annual income and GDP, which must gradually go up every year. This model of development, however, neglects the fact that true development and advancement must include intellectual and social development as well.
True development is, therefore, a multidimensional process which is far more extensive in scope than the western model of development, as it includes a complete transformation of the social structures in addition to the improvement of production and revenue. 
As regards its purposes, development must aim at the qualitative transformation of the society in addition to increasing the amount of products and services which generate income. This means that true development aims at the transformation of the social structure, fair distribution of wealth and income, eradication of poverty, creating jobs, promotion of public welfare, cultural growth, improvement of security, establishment of justice, and the spread of spirituality. 
One way out of the problems caused by the western model of development is the establishment of a kind of justice which has all the people as its focus not the welfare of a few rich and powerful ones. This kind of justice is not a hindrance to development but an effective factor which can ensure a sustainable development.
This is because the establishment of justice will encourage public participation and will decrease the costs of inequality and the oppression caused by egoism within the community.
Socialism as the rival theory of capitalism does no better to the social justice. Socialism, as a political and economic theory, rejects private ownership in general and also the private ownership of production means. The governments which first adopted it began nationalizing production based on the motto “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. The assumption was that based on this view, the government would be given a greater role in ensuring the establishment of justice in the society. 
The emergence of socialist governments in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was, in effect, a reaction to the development and expansion of capitalism in the west. Socialism completely rejected the concept of private ownership and put the government in charge of major financial undertakings. Socialist governments are, therefore, in control of all resources necessary for production and are the veritable owners of everything in their countries!
Clearly, then, a single-party socialist government would be a dangerous system where the entire political, economic, and social powers are irrationally concentrated in one place and in the hands of very few individuals. In other words, there is no guarantee that all of the public properties are not utilized toward the selfish ambitions of the socialist leaders and against the interests of the public.
For instance, Stalin used to hold full sway over the economy of the Soviet Union during his reign over it; he would use huge amounts of public money toward achieving his personal ambitions, suppressing his rivals, and widespread publicity about himself in the mass media.
What occurred in the Soviet Union was, in effect, a socialist system which combined political power with social, economic, and military power, and finally resulted in some sort of brutal state-controlled capitalism.
During the peak of their power, socialist governments would strip their nations of their right to private ownership through military force, social pressure, and also by using the mass media to brainwash them. This, however, led to the retrogression of their societies in every aspect, as the rejection of private ownership is, in fact, rejecting the very basic human nature.
Therefore, since the logical connection between “the amount of work” and “the amount of income” was lost, the economic movement of the society, which should have become more dynamic every day, began to decline. This was because the people were discouraged from investing all of their intellectual and physical powers in their work, as they saw no personal benefit in that, and this had very adverse consequences for the economy.
The rejection of private ownership disincentivized the people in both economic and social arenas, eradicating ingenuity and innovation from the society, and finally leading the socialist communities to a deadlock.
One of the great problems which still plagues human societies despite all the industrial and technological advancements is that of class discrimination. This means that human societies are divided in to two sections: on the one hand there is extreme poverty and on the other there is huge amounts of amassed wealth.
Therefore, there are some people in all the societies who are unable to keep count of their huge wealth and there are some others who live in a state of sheer destitution; this is a serious challenge which arises from capitalism.
In western economy, the ultimate goal of production is the generation of maximum profit with minimum costs. Therefore, all members of the western societies are after “more profit with less work” without being bound by any moral or spiritual bounds.
This is why almost “anything” that can yield profit is being produced in the west even if it undermines the moral and human virtues and spreads various sorts of corruption in the society.
In the meantime, capitalism has parted ways with the society as a whole by choosing to serve the interests of a small group of wealthy individuals over public interests, widening the gap between the few wealthy people and the rest of the society.
This cruel system strives for exclusive production, exclusive representatives, and exclusive consumer markets under a new concept called globalization. Simply put, globalization involves the joining of huge corporates and the creation of even greater multi-national corporatesin order to increase their “capital” and generate even more profit.
The fact that there is no control over these corporates in capitalist systems causes their owners to become richer every day and the ordinary people to become poorer, thus aggravating the problem of class discrimination in the society.
Considering these problems, the best course of action for all of the nations of the world, seeking true freedom and independence, would be to make comprehensive plans to eliminate class discrimination. Obviously, the materialistic nature of the western economic system would not accept such a thing; western capitalists are already move in the opposite direction, justifying their economic misdeeds by legalizing them.
It should be noted that a healthy economy which is created to serve the interests of all the people is not so “free” as to allow some few rich people to do whatever they want toward “maximizing profits with less work”. Similarly, it would not legalize indecency by recognizing sex and porn industries as legitimate taxpayers; it would also not be so strict as to place all of the resources for production at the disposal of the government, making the whole nation slaves to the state.
A healthy economy, therefore, takes a moderate route: it recognizes different sorts of ownership, i.e. private, public, and group ownership which are based on the different natural needs and demands of the people.
The creation of such a system will be a great step taken toward the realization of social justice within all human societies.
Researched and edited by: the news editorial of the website of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi’s office.
 Fifty Lessons in the Basic Articles of Faith for the Youth, p. 313.
 Tafsīr Nemūneh, vol. 4, p. 164.
 Ibid, vol. 6, p. 158.
 One hundred and Fifty Life Lessons [in Farsi], p. 44.
 The Message of Imam Amir Al Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 15, p. 713.
 The Message of the Quran, vol. 7, p. 38.
 The Message of Imam Amir Al Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 2, p. 345.
 Tafsīr Nemūneh, vol. 6, p. 143.
 Surah “al-A‘rāf”, v. 29 [Tafsīr Nemūneh, vol. 6, p. 177].
 The Message of Imam Amīr al-Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 15, p. 485.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 278.
 The Message of the Quran, vol. 8, p. 278.
 The Message of Imam Amīr al-Mu’minīn (‘a), vol. 15, p. 485.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 452.
 Ibid, p. 131.
 Ibid, p. 452.
 Religious Q&As, p. 101.
 Ibid, p. 224.
 Islam and the Contributions of the People, p. 52.
 The Creator of the World, p. 28.
 Ibid, p. 29.
 Fake Philosophers, p. 147.
 The Creator of the World, p. 29.
 Fake Philosophers, p. 147.
 Islamic Ethics as reflected in the Book Nahj Al Balāghah [based on the Muttaqīn Sermon], vol. 2, p. 31.
 Tafsīr Nemūneh, vol. 2, p. 249.
 Fake Philosophers, p. 147.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 137.
 For more information in this regard, refer to: A Survey of the Evolution of the Science and the Methodology of Economics, p. 391.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 138.
 The Message of the Quran, vol. 8, p. 387.
 Fake Philosophers, p. 148.
 Tafsīr Nemūneh, vol. 1, p. 75.
 Beautiful Parables of the Quran, vol. 2, p. 134.
 Guidelines of the Islamic Economy, p. 34.
 Ibid, p. 18.
 Ethics in the Quran, vol. 1, p. 45.
 Ibid, p. 94.
 Guidelines of the Islamic Economy, p. 35.
 The Creator of the World, p. 220.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 1, p. 86.
 Ethics in the Quran, vol. 2, p. 320.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 1, p. 89.
 The Message of the Quran, vol. 10, p. 33.
 Guidelines of the Islamic Economy, p. 1.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 229.
 Ibid, p. 234.
 For more information refer to: The Economy of Growth: a New Model, p. 14 & 25.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 319.
 Ibid, p. 227.
 Guidelines of the Islamic Economy, p. 110.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 234.
 Ibid, p. 230.
 Ibid, p. 233.
 Islamic Economy Quarterly, No. 16, p. 163.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 232.
 Ibid, p. 233.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 208.
 An Introduction to the Sociology of Rural Development, p. 18.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 208.
 For more information, refer to: The Development Deadlock in the Third World, p. 19.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 126.
 Ibid, p. 233.
 Ibid, p. 56.
 Guidelines of the Islamic Economy, p. 33.
 During the Great Depression which began in 1929, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” theory proved to be ineffective in solving the worldwide economic crisis. This was why J. M. Keynes, the British economist, put forward the theory of the “visible hand”, i.e. the government intervention, for resolving the economic crisis of the world [Economy of Development, a new Model, p. 60].
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 57.
 Ibid, p. 278.
 Guidelines of Islamic Ethics, p. 44.
 Ibid, p. 45.
 Ibid, p. 51.
 Ibid, p. 56.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 278.
 Tafsīr Nemūneh, vol. 2, p. 315.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 333.
 Guidelines of the Islamic Economy, p. 39.
 Guidelines of the Islamic Economy, p. 40.
 The Encyclopedia of Comparative Fiqh, vol. 2, p. 18.
 Guidelines of the Islamic Economy, p. 74.