In the context of establishing justice, all institutions and schools of thought have their roots in the history of religion – the institution that first gave the concept of right and wrong. It was precisely this distinction between right and wrong that laid the foundation for civilisation in human society, which today the world is very proud of; so proud that the world has forgotten its very foundation.
Relationship between religion and civilisation
Historically, mutual conflicts had their origin in the way livelihoods were earned. When the resulting disputes could not be resolved through mutual understanding – as humans, by nature, tend to think they are in the right – an external authority was required. Such authority was available to God’s messengers through divine revelation. Thus, religion and civilisation are inseparable, both in meaning and in practice.
The history of religion shows that in every age, religious and spiritual leaders have guided their followers on mutual conflicts. And it is also known that the most detailed guidance in this matter has been given by Islam.
The system of divine law revealed at the hands of the Holy Prophetsa served first for the individual and then, when the state of Medina was established, tribes and nations in case of conflicts. The judiciary came into being, legal procedures were devised and a penal code was set up.
The purpose of all of this was and is to maintain peace in society through justice. The primary purpose of all this was and still is the reformation of wrongdoers. The purpose of all of this was to work as a deterrent and remains so to this day.
The present age and the role of religions in establishing peace
The number of religions increased over time. The known history of religion shows that the followers of each religion associated to it an element of finality. Moreover, these religions were for specific times and regions. They were limited to a certain audience in a given period of time. God Almighty continued to guide mankind through the periods of intellectual and spiritual evolution.
Thus, when so many systems of divine law – as each religion took it to be – encountered each other, conflict resolution became impossible.
Since the followers of these religions were considered citizens of one state or another, they were bound by their respective state laws.
Therefore, the only possibility of conflict resolution through religious laws narrowed down to reconciliation and arbitration; and that too in matters of civil nature that do not legally require involving the law of the land. In general, the arbitration systems of religious communities refrained from interfering in criminal offences. It has now become a generally accepted rule within religious communities to honour the state law and is now seen as unacceptable and unethical for any member of the public, a religious community or its leader or even a spiritual head to decide cases of criminal nature.
Arbitration system of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat
The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, interpreted the Islamic system of divine law according to the changing times to resolve mutual conflicts and gave guidance – ranging from personal affairs to matters of transnational nature. The same continued in the time of his successors and still does. However, a body with the name of Dar-ul-Qaza – of no legal standing but functioning only by way of arbitration – has been set up to resolve day to day matters that are legally allowed to be resolved thus.
Formal establishment of Dar-ul-Qaza
As the Community progressed, the number of people continued to multiply; growing to the extent where all mutual conflicts could not be decided by the Khalifa alone – especially for a thorough investigation to be carried out before any decision was served.
In view of these circumstances, and the fact that every disputed matter should be carefully heard, all evidence be carefully examined, witnesses appear before the arbiter and the right judgment be passed, the Second Khalifa to the Promised Messiahas, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra established the institution of Dar-ul-Qaza (or Dar-ul-Qada – arbitration council) in 1919.
From the very beginning, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra issued detailed instructions for Dar-ul-Qaza, whose task was to arbitrate in conflicts arising from the day-to-day affairs (of civil nature) of Community members. For criminal matters, he instructed from the beginning that the parties should turn to the country’s courts of law. Civil cases are however brought before Dar-ul-Qaza by Ahmadis who abide by its decision.
The founder of Dar-ul-Qaza in the Ahmadiyya Community, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, described its philosophy as such:
“There are certain areas of the Islamic law that infringe into the legal and political system, but the government does not demand them to be seen as such. For instance, in Qadian, there is the office of qaza where the government has itself given permission to resolve such cases internally and tends not to interfere in matters that do not legally require the involvement of the police.
“Therefore, it is our duty to establish within the Community a procedure of conflict resolution, under Islamic law, in matters where the government does not interfere and over which the government has given us the freedom to decide in any way we deem fit. And if we are able to establish a part of the system of divine law, but abstain from doing so, then that would essentially mean that we are desecrating the system of Islamic law. So, we must now take practical steps for this very important and necessary purpose which God Almighty has placed in our discretion and should have no regard for the weakness or stumbling of any individual in the Community.” (Inqilab-e-Haqiqi, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 15, p. 106)
Procedures of Dar-ul-Qaza
Access to this arbitration system in the Ahmadiyya Jamaat is completely free of charge and Dar-ul-Qaza does not receive any remuneration from the parties.
No special form or application on any special type of paper is required to access this system of arbitration. The application is filed in writing and the system comes into operation. It should be noted that this legal system performs the functions of arbitration and mediation which is carried out only if both parties agree in writing to seek the help of this system.
In the first stage of the proceedings, the parties present their case before an arbiter (qazi) appointed by Dar-ul-Qaza. This hearing may take place in one session but can spread over several, depending on the nature of the case.
Since both parties have made a written agreement at the beginning, the decision of Dar-ul-Qaza is in principle acceptable to both. If both or one of the parties feel the need to appeal the decision, they can do so and the case is referred to the appellate arbitral tribunal (murafa‘ah-e-ula). If any of the parties still feel the need to appeal against the decision made by the murfa‘ah-e-ula, the matter is referred to the higher arbitral tribunal (murafa‘ah-e-aliyah), i.e. a board in which the arbiters involved decide on the basis of testimonies and evidence all over again.
(Usually, the murafa‘ah-e-ula precedes the murafa‘ah-e-aliyah. However, in order to expedite the resolution of matrimonial conflicts, the murafa‘ah-e-aliyah comes directly after the first arbiter [qazi-e-awal].)
If the disagreement from a party or both still persists, they may appeal to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih. If Hazrat Khalifatul Masih notices any deficiency in the case or how it has been dealt with (gathered from the evidence and other supporting material in the file), he may ask Dar-ul-Qaza to revisit the whole case.
At this stage, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, having reviewed the case, may uphold the decision, or he may instruct Dar-ul-Qaza to make necessary amendments.
Criminal offences and Dar-ul-Qaza
In all matters related to criminal offences, the law enforcement authorities have to be contacted in the first instance and told to follow the legal procedure as advised by the authorities in accordance with the laws of the country. In such matters, Dar-ul-Qaza does not interfere in any way at any stage, and all these steps are determined in accordance with the laws of the country.
For instance, if an Ahmadi’s house is robbed, the Ahmadi will not be expected to get in touch with Dar-ul-Qaza. They will automatically know that they must immediately go to the police, follow their instructions, cooperate with the law of the land and then comply with the outcome.
In all matters of criminal nature, no Ahmadi would go and complain directly to Khalifatul Masih. They may, however, ask for prayers in an audience or through a letter, or ask for advice and follow it.
Those who send Hazrat Khalifatul Masih the details of their ongoing cases in writing or present them during an audience are all witness to the fact that Hazrat Khalifatul Masih never passes judgement on the case and always advises to cooperate with the law of the land.
Some instructions from Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa regarding Dar-ul-Qaza
Right from the onset of Dar-ul-Qaza to this day, all Khulafa (plural of Khalifa) have urged Dar-ul-Qaza to settle conflicts in light of Islamic teachings. They have kept a watchful eye on the code of Dar-ul-Qaza so that no principle is formulated that contradicts the Islamic system of divine law.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih is keen on ensuring that not even a word from Dar-ul-Qaza is such that it may hurt a party’s self-esteem. On one occasion, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa instructed the nazim (official in charge) of Dar-ul-Qaza:
“Instruct arbiters to use words in their judgments that generally do not offend anyone.” (Instruction of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa to the nazim of Dar-ul-Qaza)
In the very early days of his Khilafat, in 2003, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa addressed the Dar-ul-Qaza officials and said:
“We have a system of Qaza in the Community, both at a local and central level. Dar-ul-Qaza cases are also such where every arbiter should set off impartially and with prayers. Neither party should ever get the impression that the arbiter listened more closely to the other, or that their stance was not fully considered in the decision, or that the other party was given any favours. Even though the person against whom the judgement is rendered will usually complain, the matter of the arbiter himself should be completely flawless. The Holy Prophetsa said that a judge who decided after a thorough investigation and whose judgement turned out to be correct would receive two rewards, and if he made a wrong judgement despite his best efforts, he would receive one reward for his efforts and good intentions.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-I‘tisam, Bab Ajr al-hakim idh ijtahada fa-asaba au akhta‘a) (Friday Sermon, delivered by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa, 5 December 2003)
The last two decades have shown that Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa has seen the establishment of justice, at all levels of society, to be the precursor of peace and has emphatically delivered this message to not only members of the Jamaat but also to world leaders. For instance, he said:
“Allah the Almighty has commanded justice, and justice is something that is essential to be established in everything; from the basic unit of the society, i.e. the home, to international affairs. This is the very thing that can bring peace to the world at all levels.” (Friday Sermon, 25 October 2013, Khutbat-e-Masroor, Vol. 11, p. 586)
In light of this same Islamic teaching, he said in a directive to Dar-ul-Qaza:
“Qaza only has the task of protecting rights. So just ensure that rights are protected.” (Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V ke Qazai Faislay wa Irshadat, Vol. 1, p. 400)
In the last two decades, hundreds of conflicts have been submitted to Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa by way of appeal, and he has ensured that the rights of the innocent are not violated. If, in line with the sunnah (practice) of the Holy Prophetsa, forgiveness can bring about reform, he has reminded the claimant of this option. He has, where the culprit is found to have exhibited cruelty, instructed Dar-ul-Qaza to ensure that the innocent is recompensed and justice is served to both the innocent and the perpetrator. We must remind everyone that Hazrat Khalifatul Masih does not decide on any matters of criminal nature, but only civil cases that filter through for his consideration.
However, for an actual arbitration system to be successful, it is also necessary that it be based on a clearly defined jurisdiction. This, in the case of the Dar-ul-Qaza, is established under Islamic law and overseen by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih. This ensured, Dar-ul-Qaza then functions independently within its remits.
One community member wrote about their case to Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, asking for his advice. The reply of Huzooraa is given below:
“I have received your letter. Your case is still pending with Qaza and I do not interfere in matters of Qaza. May Allah help you to cooperate with Qaza in this matter with righteousness. Amin.” (Ibid, p. 404)
This means that until the matter has not passed through all stages and reached the stage where the parties may appeal to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, Huzooraa has allowed the legal system to freely continue in its jurisdiction.
It is important to reiterate here that cases presented to Dar-ul-Qaza are not of criminal offences which are always for the law of the land to decide; this is common knowledge for every Ahmadi. The example of a robbery presented above is sufficient to prove this point.
Dar-ul-Qaza: The first point of reference
It is commonly known among members of the Ahmadiyya Community that should there be a conflict, they can contact Dar-ul-Qaza and let their case go through the steps described above. It is, however, a matter of choice in the first place.
Since the very purpose of this institution is to ensure justice and impartiality, every case presented before it is given thorough consideration.
Even if a person presents their case to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, Huzooraa would instruct them to contact Dar-ul-Qaza to ensure the protection of the rights of both the claimant and the defendant.
Let us take the example of a woman who complains directly to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih about her husband not taking care of her and their children and only spending their wealth on himself. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, while graciously giving her and her husband advice, will also direct her to take her case to Dar-ul-Qaza so that all details of the matter can be presented to the arbiter and an impartial decision be secured.
When a case is referred to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, which is not a civil conflict but falls under criminal law, there is a standing instruction that it must be forwarded to the law enforcement agencies of the country. We have said above that this is a standing instruction that need not be reiterated on every occasion. However, the following commandment of the Holy Quran is never to be disregarded:
وَ لَا تَقۡرَبُوا الۡفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَہَرَ مِنۡہَا وَ مَا بَطَنَ
“[…] and that you approach not foul deeds, whether open or secret”. (Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.152)
A tradition of Sunan Abi Dawud tells us that the Holy Prophetsa said:
إِنَّ اللّٰهَ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْفَاحِشَ الْمُتَفَحِّشَ
“Allah does not love anyone who is obscene and vulgar.”
Thus, if allegations are of criminal nature and presented to the law of the land, but spread obscenity if discussed in public, then Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, as the leading proponent of Islamic teachings, may advise that obscenity should not be made public as it benefits no one but harms society in general. This, however, does not mean that the matter should not be subjected to state law.
Similarly, if Hazrat Khalifatul Masih advises someone not to lodge or pursue the case on the Community’s platform (owing to its criminal nature), it would be wrong to imply that his advice means dropping the case altogether. It will still remain the claimant’s choice to pursue the law of the land.
Hence, the Ahmadiyya justice system aims to guarantee the establishment of justice under the supervision of Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa. Thousands of people are benefitting from this justice system. However, in cases of criminal nature, Ahmadis are advised to seek justice through the law of the land.
Note: This is a broad introduction to the system in general. Ahmadis should directly seek guidance on individual matters and exceptions with Dar-ul-Qaza.
(Prepared by and published under the responsibility of Al Hakam)