By Uzma Saeed
As I was leaving the parking lot of a local shopping center in Virginia, I noticed a woman sitting on a bench with a shopping cart full of belongings. She appeared homeless. All the shops were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. Needless to say it was a cold day in November. I felt something break in my heart. For many people homeless are a regular sight. Here in Virginia, we rarely see them, not that they don’t exist. I open Youtube and before I can watch the selected video, the ad featuring starving children pops up. I desperately wait to skip the ad as the sight is unbearable for me.
I ask myself; am I better than them…. If not, then why are they left out in rain and cold while I have a roof over my head? Why are these innocent babies starving and dying while an average person like myself can pick and choose out of hundreds of food products? Are they the children of lesser God? Or maybe we are more beloved to God? But then what could we have done to deserve the special treatment from Him?
I keep pondering until I reach the same conclusion every time; that life on this earth is just a test and not always fair. There has to be a day where everything is reconciled and the result of every deed must be announced. Isn’t that what happens in school? We are tested for how much we learned over time. At work too there is a performance review and the result is then shared with the employee and the person is given a return at par with their performance.
So is it possible to live our life and just die away in old age and there is no outcome, no performance review, no reconciliation? Are we to believe that the innocent suffered for no reason and the tyrant got away with their tyranny and injustice? The logical mind demands that there be some mechanism where a victim can be vindicated. The suffering be it social, economic or personal can be addressed and the perpetrator is punished in an exactly the same manner to which the victim was subjected to.
If we analyze our own self and the environment around us, we find that we can easily spot injustice when we see it happening. If we didn’t have the concept of justice within us, the lack of justice and fairness would not catch our attention. Humans have an inner desire for justice and anything short of that leaves us frustrated and resentful.
How do we tackle grievance, injury, and wrong? Do we have a mechanism in this world that would prevent unfairness or give retribution to the perpetrator in a measurable amount? One might argue that man made laws are sufficient to keep human behavior in check. I for one would assert that such an argument is in fact giving more credence to the necessity of a judgment day.
Every country has a legal system in place so why is there no peace? For example, one might state that the USA has an effective justice system. True…for the most part. It is much better than most of the countries around the world. Is it perfect though? When this system fails to deliver, it creates victims who suffer and have nowhere to go to get relieve against the miscarriage of justice. Take the case of the prison system in the USA. The legal system punishes criminals but there are also many wrongful convictions. Where do the people who are wrongfully imprisoned go to get justice? They are as much a victim as any other person who is wronged.
According to the Innocence Project, which advocates for wrongly convicted inmates, approximately 20,000 inmates in the US prison population are falsely convicted. Some of these people serve decades. Even if they are proven innocent sometime later, justice can never be done to the full extent. Why? Well, let’s say a young man was falsely charged for murder in his teens and he is sentenced to 80 years but then he gets lucky and is proven innocent and released with serving just 16 years. Should he be happy that he at least got his freedom albeit a little late or should he look back at the lost 16 youthful years and get bitter? To me it seems more like miscarriage of justice rather than justice itself. Does this world have a tool to undo the damage to someone’s life or return the lost years?
In this world justice can only be carried out in a limited form. We will have to acknowledge the limitations of man-made laws and the biases of human judgment. Take the notorious cases of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy who killed numerous times. Dahmer despite taking 17 innocent lives only got life imprisonment. What was the fault of his victims that they died while he was kept alive by law? Ted Bundy had confessed to committing 30 murders although the actual victims count is believed to be much higher. He was eventually executed through an electric chair. The argument here is that he, despite torturing and killing at least 30 humans, was only killed once. That essentially means that he only paid the price of killing a single person. So where is justice for the other 29 victims? Is that truly “Justice Served”?
My motivation for writing this article was to enable humans to ponder on the fact that it would not be logical to assume that this world is complete with its imperfect justice. We can all see the disparity between people; some suffer endlessly while some others rejoice, some have so much while others are starving and there is no relief for the victims as their pleas go unanswered.
It seems only rational that there must be some accountability somewhere for those who transgress and take the rights of others. Since this world does not have it, therefore, there must be a continuation, more like a part two, where the record will be set straight and the balance of justice will not tilt towards the powerful; where the tiniest of wrongs will be addressed and compensated in a precisely measurable quantity.
It is exactly at this point where one realizes the limitations of science which can somewhat tell about the end of the world but cannot say definitely how or when. Additionally, it cannot even be certain as to what ensues after the destruction of the world and what will happen to the humans who have turned to dust. So now we have to turn towards religious texts as they discuss this aspect in varying degrees. Islam actually discusses the descruction and the aftermath of the universe in great lengths. It is by design that everything will end here and the next phase will be established where deeds will be evaluated and matters will be settled. In short, the purpose of a judgment day in Islam is to let justice prevail as it is the inner desire of humans.