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The difference between Equity (ِalqist in Arabic) and Justice (ala’dl in Arabic)

The difference between Equity (ِalqist in Arabic) and Justice (ala’dl in Arabic)

The Almighty said that He gave mankind the Book and the balance That people may uphold justice﴿ (Holy Quran 57: 25). Is there any difference between equity and justice?

Equity – qist –  means manifesting justice by upholding fairness between parties, such that people are given their due rights, and they fulfill their obligations to others.

The Arabic verb qasata means was equitable. Qasata is the past tense verb, yaqsitu means to be just in the present, and qist is the base form.

However, the same word – qasata – also means was inequitable. This is because qasata is a word with two opposite meanings.[1] For example, it means equitable in the verse That people may uphold justice (quist)﴿ (Holy Quran 57: 25). On the other hand, it means inequitable in the verse But as for the unjust (qasitun), they will be, for Hell, kindling﴿ (Holy Quran 72: 15). Qasitun here means those who are inequitable or unjust, as they are compared to Muslims in the preceding verse Among us are those who are submitting (Muslims), and among us are the unjust. As for those who have submitted—it is they who pursue rectitude. But as for the unjust, they will be, for Hell, kindling﴿ (Holy Quran 72: 14-15).

Aqsata and its derivatives mean equity. The first letter in aqsata is called hamzat alizala, and it is a letter which is added to a verb to reduce the effect of the meaning conveyed by the verb. Once it has complied, reconcile between them with justice, and be equitable. Surely Allah loves the equitable﴿ (Holy Quran 49: 9). Be equitableaqsitu – in this verse means to achieve justice and put an end to any inequity.[2]

Justice and equity complement each other. The former is the desired outcome of having authority, and the latter means uprooting all factors that lead to inequity. Imam Al-Razi, commenting on the above-mentioned verse, says, iqsat means putting an end to injustice, and qasit means someone who is unjust or inequitable.[3]

More evidence for this difference in meaning can be found in the following verse, which explains how to uproot injustice in the Muslim community, as Allah says: The believers are brothers, so reconcile between your brothers, and remain conscious of God, so that you may receive mercy﴿ (Holy Quran 49: 10).

This verse presents five ways to uproot inequity:

True brotherhood which is based on complete faith in the Almighty. It also entails giving all brothers in Islam their due rights equitably. This brotherhood should be ideal, to the extent that Muslims feel that they all form one coherent whole.

Reconciliation between parties involved in disputes, which can be done by encouraging believers to give each other their due rights and convincing them to forgive each other.

There must be individuals responsible for reconciliation. They encourage filial relationships between Muslims, so that the devil cannot sow conflict between them, and therefore Muslims can be in peace and harmony.

④ Ridding one’s self of enmity can be achieved through belief in Allah and fearing Him.

Mercy is a criterion for interactions. Those who are merciful to others will have Allah’s mercy bestowed upon them, as the Prophet ﷺ said, “The One in Heaven will not have mercy upon you unless you have mercy on those who are on earth”.44

It should be noted that:

  • The word qist appears twenty-seven times in the Holy Quran. In every instance it means equity and uprooting inequity except for verses 14 and 15 of the chapter of al-Jinn (The Jinn).[4]
  • The word aqsitu only appears once, in verse 9 of the chapter of al-Hujurat (The Compartments).
  • Tuqsitu – the present tense of the verb to be equitable – occurs twice: in verse 3 of the chapter of an-Nisa’ (Women) and verse 8 of the chapter of al-Mumtahina (The Woman Tested).
  • Alqasitun – those who are inequitable – occurs twice, in verses 14 and 15 of the chapter of al-Jinn (The Jinn).
  • Aqsata – the past tense verb meaning uprooted inequity – is used in verse 282 of the chapter of al-Baqarah (The Cow) and verse 5 of the chapter of al-Ahzab (The Confederates).
  • Almuqsiteen –  the equitable – is used in verse 42 of al-Maiyda (The Table), verse 9 of al-Hujurat (The Compartments) and verse 8 of al-Mumtahina (The Woman Tested).

As the term qist means having equal shares, it is the ultimate objective of utilizing the balance. This is why another term for a scale in Arabic is qistas (القسطاس).

Moreover, justice is a universal principle, and equity is the practical application of this principle which is aimed at giving everyone their due rights. This is why the Almighty has ordered the believers to race towards upholding equity in such verses as:

  • Oh you who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses before Allah﴿ (Holy Quran 4: 135)
  • Stand firm for justice for orphans﴿ (Holy Quran 4: 127)
  • That humanity may uphold justice﴿ (Holy Quran 57: 25)

In light of these verses, it is clear that justice is intended to mean a universal, unchanging principle, and that it is more general than equity, which means justice in practice. Iqsat however means uprooting inequity. It is used in the Holy Quran when discussing the issue of reconciling between Muslims when Allah says, Once it has complied, reconcile between them with justice, and be equitable. Surely Allah loves the equitable﴿ (Holy Quran 49: 9).

Muslims are ordered to adhere to justice as a principle, and to put it to practice through equity, uprooting injustice, and giving people their due rights.

It should be noted that justice (adl) and equity (qist) have slightly different meanings when used together, while they have the same general meaning when considered independently. When equity alone is used, it refers to the general concept of justice – uprooting inequalities and giving people their due rights. However, when justice and equity are used in the same context, the latter is intended to mean putting an end to inequity. When justice is used alone, it means doing justice and uprooting inequity. When it is used with equity, however, justice refers to the overarching principle. Allah knows best.



[1] Another example of such words is the base form alqar, which means “the period of menstruation” as in the verse

Divorced women shall wait by themselves for three periods﴿.(Holy Quran 2: 228) Quru’ is the plural of qar’.

[2] Al-Taffsir al-Kabir by Al-Razi, Arabic Book Revival House (vol.28, p.129).

[3] Ibid.

[4] See (Holy Quran 3: 18, 21); (Holy Quran 4: 127, 135); (Holy Quran 5: 8,42); (Holy Quran 6: 52); (Holy Quran 7: 29); (Holy Quran 10: 4, 47, 54); (Holy Quran 11: 85); (Holy Quran 21: 47); (Holy Quran 55: 9); (Holy Quran 57: 25).


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