A General Look into the Theory of Justice in Ancient Times & Modern West

An excerpt from Theory of Justice

by Ayatullah Sayyid Imam Ruhallah Musawi Khomeini

First Discourse: Concepts and Theories of ‘idalah in the Orient – Development of attitude to ‘idalah in history and man’s primitive civilizations
Some researchers believe that the birth of rational and deductive approach to subjects and phenomena originate from ancient Greece.1 Naturally, the birth and emergence of political philosophy became perceptible at a specific time after the fall of the monarchical dynasty.

Consequently, the product of Greek civilization and its evolution is traceable to the 5th and 6th centuries B.C.2 However, despite this conviction, civilization is the product of man’s rational outlook. And rational and deductive outlook and attempt to discover the Truth is a human affair associated with his life on the planet earth and thus not privileged by a certain group, race or tribe. This type of outlook has not emerged at a given time or location on the earth either, but is rather a human process, formation of which has been gradually actualized.

The question of ‘idalah is, on the one hand , an issue the understanding and implementing of which man, as an intelligent and truth-seeking being and at the same time free and autonomous, has constantly been in pursuit of while on the other hand, his human nature from within his selfpushes him towards ‘idalah and ‘idalah-seeking. He has always detested and abhorred oppression and injustice, and loved ‘idalah like a beloved would.

For this reason, the subject of ‘idalah is in the depth of man’s rational outlook and in the heart of the nature of ‘idalah-seeking and instinct of philanthropy, altruism, seeking order and even the instinct of self-love (egoism) in man who has hated the feeling of inequality and injustice or oppression against himself or others.

And his inequality with others and the prevalence of discrimination between him and other fellow human beings has been intolerable to him. And this is a human subject in the sense that for all human beings enjoying a healthy nature and sound intellect is perceived in more or less equal form.

Therefore, in the same way that the approach to the subject of ‘idalah and the tendency and attempt to realize it has been a human and public drive, in man’s primary civilizations attention and invitation to ‘idalah in all its different dimensions and the struggle to materialize it in cities and societies are among the affairs that have engaged the attention of thinkers and informed individuals. Based on the extant literature in clay tablets dating back to 3000 BC, Orokajina who was in command in Lagash,3 issued commandments in which signs of the instances of ‘idalah were found. For instance in one of them the following commandment stipulated: “The chief priest is not hereinafter entitled to enter the garden of the poor mother and pick wood therein or collect taxes on its fruits.”

Also in Orangor Law Book,5 the first book of laws in known history, we read: ”I laid the foundation of ‘idalah for the good based on the competent and just laws of Shemesh.”6 Around 18th century BC, Hammurabi7 carved one of the greatest collections of law on a tablet with the aim of establishing social ‘idalah in Babel community, still extant today, and in which there are laws commenting on the methods of attaining ‘idalah.8 In the preamble to the Hammurabi Code we read: ”So that I can dispense and ensure ‘idalah on the land and eradicate evil and inequity, lest the strong would colonize the weak.”

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