Muhammad proved by his own example that no one could be more just and equitable than the Messenger of Allah. As head of the state of Madinah, he decided all cases on merit with justice and equity, irrespective of the color, creed, or race of the defendants. Once a woman from the Quraysh was found guilty of stealing. Some people wanted to save her from punishment in order to protect the honor of the family of the Quraysh. They wanted to hush up the whole affair. They asked Usamah ibn Zayd, who was very dear to the Prophet, to intercede on her behalf. He requested the Prophet to forgive her. The Prophet furiously said, "The Children of Israel were ruined because of this. They applied the law to the poor and forgave the rich."
Once `Abdullah ibn Sahl went to Khaybar for the division of dates, accompanied by his cousin Muhayyisah. While walking in the street, `Abdullah was murdered by someone and his body thrown in the ditch. Muhayyisah complained to the Prophet. He asked him, "Can you swear that he was killed by the Jews?" He replied that he had not seen with his own eyes. The Prophet said that the Jews should be asked to take an oath. Muhayyisah said, "How can we trust their oath? They will take false oaths a hundred times." There was no one else living in Khaybar except the Jews and it was indisputably one of the Jews who had killed `Abdullah. But as there was no eye-witness, the Prophet did not ask anything of the Jews and paid one hundred camels as blood-money from the state treasury.
The Prophet was so well-known for his justice that even the Jews, who were his deadly enemies, brought their suits to him and he decided cases in accordance with their law. He very strictly followed the command of Allah: "If they come to you, either judge between them, or decline to interfere. If you decline, they cannot hurt you in the least. If you judge, judge in equity between them. For Allah loves those who judge in equity." (Al-Ma'idah: 45)
Justice demands that it should be upheld in all circumstances, even if it goes against one's own self or one's family or relations. "O You who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor." (An-Nisa': 135)
Allah's Messenger proved by his own example that no one could be firmer for justice than he was, even if it was against his own interest or the interest of those who were near and dear to him. He decided every case brought to him by friend or foe with justice, favoring neither the rich nor the poor.
His enemies brought their suits to him without any fear or hesitation, for they knew that they would get justice only from him. The Prophet did not distinguish between friend and foe in matters of justice. The Qur'an states: "O You who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to justice, and let not the enmity of others incite you to act contrary to justice. Be always just, that is next to piety. Be mindful of your duty to Allah." (Al-Ma'idah: 8)
It is surely meritorious to do justice among friends and in a favorable or neutral atmosphere, but real greatness lies in doing justice to people who are one's open enemies. The Prophet, as head of the Muslim state of Madinah, always treated his enemies, including Jews and disbelievers, with justice and equity. Almighty Allah says: "We have sent down to thee the book in truth, that thou mightest judge between people by that which Allah has shown thee; so be not an advocate for those who betray their trust." (An-Nisa': 105)
The Commentators explain this passage with reference to the case of Ta`ima ibn Ubayraq, who was nominally a Muslim but really a hypocrite, and given to all sorts of wicked deeds. He was suspected of having stolen a set of armor, and when the trail was hot, he planted the stolen property in the house of a Jew, where it was found. The Jew denied the charge and accused Tai`ma, but the sympathies of the Muslim community were with Tai`ma on account of his nominal profession of Islam. The case was brought to the Prophet, who acquitted the Jew according to the strict principle of justice, as "guided by Allah." Attempts were made to prejudice him and deceive him into using his authority to favor Ta`ima. When Ta`ima realized that his punishment was imminent he fled and turned apostate.
The general lesson is that the righteous man is faced with all sorts of subtle motivations; the wicked will try to appeal to his highest sympathies and most honorable motives to deceive him and use him as an instrument for defeating justice. The righteous should be careful and cautious and seek the help of Allah for protection against deception and for firmness in dealing the strictest justice without fear or favor. To do otherwise is to betray a sacred trust.