2. Equality before the Law
Islam's rulings concerning civil rights do not differ from its rulings concerning the aforementioned rights. Islam treats all people equally before the law and grants them equal civil rights without any discrimination between a beggar and a prince, or a nobleman and a man of modest birth.
The Second Rightly Guided Caliph, `Umar ben Al Khattab, who was responsible for organizing the administration of justice in the muslim state upon the firm foundation of the Holy Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet, said in his first speech after becoming Caliph: "O people I swear by God that there is no man among you as powerful as he who is helpless until I restore his rights to him, and there is no man amongst you as helpless as he who is powerful until I restore what he had usurped to its rightful owner".
`Umar ben Al Khattab's message to Abu Mousa Al Ash'ary concerning the administration of justice embodied the greater part of the rulings of the Faith of Islam on justice. He wrote "From the servant of God, `Umar ben Al Khattab, Commander of the Faithful, to the servant of God, Ibn Qays, Peace be upon you.
The administration of justice is a religious duty and a tradition from the Prophet to be observed, so understand thoroughly the cases presented before you and enforce the sentence that you know to be just, for declaring the truth without executing justice is not just. Treat all people who stand before you equally in the way you greet them, address them and judge them. By so doing no nobleman would expect or hope for an unjust sentence in his favour and no poor man would despair of your just ruling''.
Umar ben Al Khattab's last testament to his successor as Caliph was :
"Treat all people equally and do not be influenced by any person who deserves punishment, and take no notice of any person's censure provided you have pronounced a just sentence. Never allow your preference or partiality for any person to influence your judgement in the affairs of the people whom God has entrusted to our authority."
The matter of equality in Islam was not limited to merely declaring principles and establishing laws, but history records that these principles and laws were executed solemnly and conscientiously during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him, and during the reign of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs who succeeded him, during the Golden Age of Islam which represents the principles and spirit of Islam in every respect Usama ibn Zayd, one of the most beloved companions of the Prophet Muhammad, prayer and peace be upon him, once attempted to intercede with him on behalf of Fatima daughter of Al Aswad Al Makhzoumiya who had been sentenced to the punish- ment of theft for stealing velvet material and golden ornaments. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, refused Osama's intercession, in spite of his affection for him, and reprimanded him severely saying "How can you intercede with me concerning a penalty ordained by God Almighty Allah." Then he said to the people who had witnessed the matter : "Before the advent of Islam, people of noble descent were not punished if they were guilty of theft and poor indigent people were punished for the same crime. I swear by God Almighty, that if my daughter Fatima were guilty of the crime of theft, I would sentence her to the punishment ordained by God Almighty."
A Jew once lodged a complaint to the Caliph `Omar ben Al Khattab against `Ali Abu Talib. When they both stood before the Caliph `Omar, he addessed the Jew by his name and addressed `Ali Abu Talib by his appellation of Abu Al Hasan (the Father of Hasan) as he was accustomed to addressing him. `Ali showed signs of displeasure and the Caliph `Umar asked him if he had resented his adversary being a Jew with whom he had been obliged to stand on equal footing before the Caliph. `Ali Abu Talib replied that that had not been the cause of his displeasure, the reason being that the Caliph had addressed the Jew by his name whereas he had addressed him by his appellation of Abu Al Hasan, which is a sign of respect and veneration. `All ben Abu Talib had thus expressed his displeasure because `Umar ben Al Khattab had inadvertantly treated him with more respect than his adversary.