A very important social law regarding general suffering for particular wrongs is laid down in the chapter Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War) of the Qur’an. The translation of the relevant verse is as follows: And beware of an affliction that will not smite exclusively those among you who have done wrong. Know that God is severe in exacting retribution. (8:25)
This Qur’anic verse refers to a situation when, in a society, some of its members are involved in corruption, while others remain silent and become indifferent. If this situation persists for long, the law of nature inflicts punishment upon that society. But this punishment is not only confined to those who are directly involved in corruption but covers the whole of society because, if some members have been directly involved in the corruption, others, on account of their silence, have been indirectly involved. In social matters, justice and human rights are not the criteria: in such matters, practical wisdom has to be taken into consideration. Often pragmatism has to be the deciding factor. This law also covers those situations in which some are engaged in violence against others, while the rest of society’s members have chosen to remain detached. But when the reaction comes from the afflicted party, it affects the whole of society and not just those who were directly engaged in violence. So, in every situation, people must look to the result of their actions.
Citing atrocities by the other party does not justify retaliatory action against ‘enemies’. It is certain that the other party will react after your action, so you have to keep your patience, instead of initiating such action, which, rather than solve any problems, will only create more.
One example of this kind is given in a verse in the chapter Al-Naml (The Ants) in the Qur’an. The story is narrated with silent appreciation. An apparent political injustice was about to be inflicted upon the nation of Sheba, but the inhabitants of that nation avoided a confrontational course of action because, in that situation, confrontation was bound to produce negative results. Their leader accepted the ‘injustice’ by saying: ‘Surely, when mighty kings invade a country, they despoil it and humiliate its noblest inhabitants—these men will do the same.’ (27:34)
This precedent narrated by the Qur’an gives us a very important principle. Sometimes you have to adjust to the situation, even if it seems that it is in violation of human rights. In social matters, justice and human rights are not the criteria: in such matters, practical wisdom has to be taken into consideration. Often pragmatism has to be the deciding factor. If you organize a group protest in the streets and some members of your group throw stones at the police, it is but natural that if the police are armed, they will open fire in retaliation. In such a situation it is not possible for the bullets to hit only those who had thrown stones, leaving the others unscathed. They will hit all of your group members, even if they were silent protesters. In such a situation, it is futile to say that this was a violation of human rights. It was, in fact, a violation of reason rather than human rights. You are paying the price of your own unwise policy. So, blame yourself and not others.