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Ethics & Values New Muslims

Islam & Individual Responsibility

By Zahid Aziz

Each individual bears his or her own responsibility and is treated by God as a person in his or her own right.

Each individual bears his or her own responsibility and is treated by God as a person in his or her own right.

A profound way in which Islam has dignified the individual is by making him or her responsible for his or her own beliefs and actions. The Qur’an says:

No bearer of a burden can bear the burden of another. (Al-An`am 6:164)

Each individual bears his or her own responsibility and is treated by God as a person in his or her own right. The individual is not treated as just one member of a group, with no identity of his own. Even if you belong to a group or nation whose members are committing wrong, you are not held responsible for their misdeeds if as an individual you do not commit those wrongful acts.

Likewise, if you are a wrong-doer you cannot escape responsibility for your actions by claiming to belong to a group of good and righteous people, and no one, however good and holy, can volunteer to bear your responsibility upon his shoulders. This principle means that each one of us matters as an individual.

Blind Following

Blind following of leaders is also condemned in the Qur’an. It says that if a wrong-doer puts forward in his defense the plea that he was only following and obeying orders, that is not an acceptable defense. Although the leaders do bear responsibility for misleading their followers, nonetheless each individual is expected to use his own sense and reason, to the extent of his capacity.

Similarly, blind following of one’s ancestors and of inherited beliefs and values is condemned by the Qur’an. It teaches that you should apply sense and reason to test whether your inherited beliefs are right or not. Again, these teachings of the Qur’an dignify the position of the individual because he is told not to blindly follow his leaders or forefathers.

Group Following

Another principle the Qur’an teaches is that an individual must not join in acts of wrong-doing with his community or his fellow-countrymen or brethren-in-faith. It says:

Help one another in righteousness and goodness, and help not one another in sin and aggression. (Al-Ma’idah 5:2)

It is not befitting a human being that he should just follow the crowd, even the crowd of his own people, without thinking about the right or the wrong of the matter. Rather, the individual should stand up for the right, even against his own people.

Principle of Consultation

In making decisions in the nation or the community, the Qur’an has taught the principle of consultation. It says that the affairs of the Muslims must be decided by consul among themselves.

Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation… (Ash-Shura 42:38)

Even the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was instructed to consult his followers, “so pass over (their faults), and ask for (Allah’s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in the affairs.” (Aal `Imran 3:159), and he was given this revelation when a decision about a battle which had been made on the basis of majority opinion had proved to be wrong.

The Prophet and some of his followers had been in favour of one course of action but the majority had been in favour of another course of action. The majority view was followed but it nearly led to disaster. Nonetheless Allah revealed to the Prophet to pardon his followers, and still consult them in decision-making as before.

The process of consultation dignifies the individual because each person has his or her view taken into account, while autocratic rule degrades the individual because one man’s opinion is supreme.

Value of the Least Individual

I will mention now two incidents recorded in the Qur’an which show the value attached to the most ordinary individual. In the early days of his mission, Prophet Muhammad was once explaining Islam to some chiefs of his tribe when a blind man came to him and interrupted him with a question. The Prophet frowned and turned away from him, as he was addressing important men. God then sent revelation to the Prophet, which is contained in the eightieth chapter of the Qur’an, expressing disapproval and telling him that may be it would be the blind man who would have benefitted from his teaching.

The revelation told him that those chiefs whom the Prophet was addressing did not even consider that they had any need to follow Islam, but the blind man had made the effort to come to him and was God-fearing. The blind man, according to the revelation, was more deserving of the Holy Prophet’s attention than the assembly of the chiefs of the tribe of Quraish. This shows how much an individual, even the most insignificant individual, is valued.

The other incident is of a woman who complained to the Prophet that her husband, following an Arab custom known as zihar, had broken off all relations with her but still she was not free to leave him. According to that custom, a man would place his wife in a state where she lost her position as wife but was not divorced from him either.

The woman pleaded with the Prophet to do something, but he was reluctant to interfere without a revelation. God then revealed to the Prophet, saying that He had heard the plea of the woman, and that He condemned husbands who indulged in that custom and prescribed a punishment of community service for any man maltreating his wife in that way.

Allah has heard the saying of her that disputes with you (Muhammad) concerning her husband, and complains unto Allah. And Allah hears your colloquy. Lo! Allah is Hearer, Knower. (Al-Mujadilah 58:1)

The complaint of an ordinary woman was heard by God Himself and He sent revelation in her favour to His Prophet.

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Source: muslim.org

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Rights of Non-Muslims in Islam

mosque_Islam

Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah illustrate that freedom of religion is available to members of the society under Islamic Shari`ah.

Some who do not know basic truths about Islam; whether, pseudo scholars, Orientalists or enemies of Islam, claim that Islam does not respect the legal rights of non-Muslims in the Islamic state.

Reply to the Misconception about Rights of Non-Muslims

The Islamic Shari`ah provides a different set of obligations and rights of the non-Muslim residents in the Islamic society. It may be sufficient in rebuttal of this misconception to quote the general ruling mentioned in the books of Islamic jurisprudence:

“Non-Muslims are entitled for that which Muslims are entitled. They are also obligated to do that which Muslims are obligated.” This is the general rule and from it emanates the just and equitable laws giving the non-Muslim residents in an Islamic state their rights to security, private property, religious observance, etc.

Islam permits religious discussions and dialogues with non-Muslims, commanding Muslims to adhere to the best methodology in any discussions and dialogues with the non-Muslims. Allah (the Exalted and Majestic) states in the Qur’an:

And dispute you not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, ‘We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)’. (Al-`Ankabut 29:46)

Allah (Exalted be He) addresses those of other faiths and religions, saying in the Qur’an:

Say: ‘Do you see what it is you invoke besides Allah? Show me what it is they have created on earth, or have they a share in the heavens bring me a book (revealed) before this, or any remnant of knowledge (you may have), if you are telling the truth! (Al-Ahqaf 46:4)

Islam forbids forceful measures to convert people from other faiths, as stated in the verse of the Qur’an:

If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! (Yunus 10:99)

Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah, (prophetic traditions of the Prophet) illustrate that freedom of religion is available to members of the society under Islamic Shari`ah. Muslim history has numerous examples of the tolerance shown to non-Muslim subjects, while many other societies were intolerant towards Muslims and even their own people.

Muslims must deal justly with all other humans who have not begun any hostilities with the Muslims. Allah states in the Qur’an:

Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8)

Those who wage war against Islam, show enmity and force the Muslims into exile, have a different treatment according to Islam. Allah states in the Qur’an:

Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:9)

Interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims are based on cordial and just manners. Commercial transactions are permitted with resident and non-resident non-Muslims of the Islamic society. A Muslim may eat the food of Jews and Christians. A male Muslim may marry a Jewish or a Christian woman as will be explained below. We must remember that Islam gives special attention and importance on raising a family. Allah states in the Qur’an:

This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time, when you give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good). (Al-Ma’idah 5:5)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Misconceptions on Human Rights in Islam”.

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What Does Islam Teach about Justice?

(Al-Ma’idah 5:8)

the justice ordained by Him calls for equal understanding and peaceable treatment of everyone, with no discrimination.

The true justice described in the Qur’an commands man to behave justly, not discriminating between people, protecting others’ rights and not permitting violence, no matter what the circumstances, to side with the oppressed against the oppressor and to help the needy.

This justice calls for the rights of both parties to be protected when reaching a decision in a dispute, assessing all aspects of an incident, setting aside all prejudices, being objective, honest, merciful and compassionate. In the event one fails to display any of these characteristics or attaches greater importance to a particular one, then it becomes hard to exercise true justice.

For instance, someone who cannot assess events in a moderate way, and who is swayed by his emotions and feelings, will fail to arrive at sound decisions and will remain under the influence of those feelings. However, someone who rules with justice needs to set all his personal feelings and views aside. He needs to treat all parties with justice when they ask for help, to side with what is right under all circumstances, and not to diverge from the path of honesty and truthfulness.

Justice in the Qur’an

A person should incorporate the values of the Qur’an into his soul in such a way that he may be able to consider the interests of other parties before his own and maintain justice, even if this harms his own interests.

You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of Allah, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to piety. Be careful of (your duty to) Allah. Allah is aware of what you do. (Al-Ma’idah 5:8)

As it is suggested in the above verse, Allah knows everything a man does. A person who fears Allah and who is aware that he will have to account for his deeds on the Day of Judgment, issues his commands in a just way in order to earn the good pleasure of Allah. He knows that all his words and thoughts will be judged on the Day of Judgment and will be rewarded accordingly.

For this reason, what one has to do to earn the good pleasure of Allah, to be saved from the torment of Hell and to attain the infinite favors of Paradise is to fully live by the Qur’an. In order to attain this morality, everyone must make personal efforts and set aside all his selfish desires and personal interests and adopt the guidance of justice, compassion, love and peace.

Allah gives a detailed description of true justice in the Qur’an and informs us that all sorts of disagreements can be solved by the maintenance of justice. In a society made up of righteous administrators and just people, it is obvious that all problems can be readily overcome.

In the Qur’an, Allah gives a detailed description of justice and informs believers of the attitude they have to adopt in the face of incidents they encounter and of the ways to exercise justice.

Such guidance is a great comfort to believers and a mercy from Allah. For this reason, those who believe are responsible for exercising justice in an undivided manner both to earn Allah‘s approval and to lead their lives in peace and security.

Justice Should Be Exercised Equally Among All People, With No Consideration of Language, Race, or Ethnicity

A close examination of developments all over the world reveals that the performance of justice varies according to place, time and people. For instance, in some societies, the color of someone’s skin influences decisions. Even under the very same circumstances, the same decision may not apply to a white and a black man.

In some societies, race is of great importance to people. In the 20th century, Hitler’s annihilation of millions of people solely because he deemed the Aryan race superior to other races is a good example of this. In our day, too, there are people being subjected to cruel and unjust treatment because of the color of their skin or their race. In the United States and South Africa, black people were for many years treated as second-class citizens, and savage disputes raged in many Asian and African countries simply because of racial differences.

The fact is, however, that Allah reveals in the verses of the Qur’an that one of the pieces of wisdom behind the creation of different peoples and nations is to allow them “to come to know one another” (Al-Hujurat 49:13).

scale of Justice

Those who believe are responsible for exercising justice in an undivided manner both to earn Allah‘s approval, to lead their lives in peace and security.

Different nations or peoples, all of whom are the servants of Allah, should get to know one another, that is, learn about their different cultures, languages, traditions and abilities. In brief, the purpose of the creation of different races and nations is not conflict and war but cultural richness.

Such variation is a bounty of Allah‘s creation. The fact that someone is taller than someone else or that his skin is yellow or white neither makes him superior to others nor is something to feel ashamed of.

Every trait a person has is a result of Allah‘s purposeful creation, but in the sight of Allah, these variations have no ultimate importance. A believer knows that someone attains superiority only by fearing Allah and in the strength of his faith in Allah. This fact is related in the following verse:

Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allah’s sight is the one with the most piety. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

As Allah informs us in that verse, the justice ordained by Him calls for equal understanding and peaceable treatment of everyone, with no discrimination.

Perfect Exemplar of Justice

In his time, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) treated people of different races and places with the utmost justice. He severely criticized subjecting people to different treatment because of their race, and attributed such acts to the “morality of the ignorant.”

The Prophet Muhammad reminded his people that people in ignorant societies may harbour enmity towards other people because of their color or race, and warned all Muslims against such an attitude, which is described as “ugly” in the Qur’an.

1,400 years ago, all these primitive ideas were abolished through the Qur’an, which was sent to mankind as a mercy, and it was proclaimed that all people, regardless of their color, race and language, are equal. The Prophet Muhammad criticized the unbecoming practice of people of ignorant societies who assessed others according to their race and color.

He cautioned the Arab people in these words in his last address (Farewell Sermon) to them:

“An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”

With these words, the Prophet Muhammad once again reminded all mankind the fact related in Surat  Al-Hujurat verse 13; that superiority among people is attainable only through fear of Allah.

Islam, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also stresses, completely abolishes all these primitive ideas. In an environment where the values of Islam are established, a man cannot be accused, subjected to discriminatory treatment or oppressed because he is a Jew, a Christian, a black or an Indian.

Allah decides what race a person should belong to. He shaped man in the most perfect manner. Man’s duty is always to be just, loving, respectful, compassionate to and at peace with everyone.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Justice and Compassion in the Qur’an”. 

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The People of the Book in the Qur’an

Religion of Peace

the Qur'an

While they rely basically on Allah‘s revelation, the People of the Book- as the Qur’an reveals- have moral precepts and know what is lawful and what is not.

There are many nations in the world with different colors, creeds, and languages. These differences have been a cause of enmity throughout history in societies that did not live by religious moral values.

The perceived wisdom is that people can never manage to co-exist and that disputes arise wherever such differences exist.

However, this is a great misconception and the facts are otherwise. In fact, it is Allah Who created human beings in different communities and in the Qur’an, He calls all people to peace and security:

O You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He is an outright enemy to you. (Al-Baqarah 2:208)

Allah calls to the Abode of Peace and He guides whom He wills to a straight path. (Yunus 10:25)

All divine religions revealed through Allah‘s messengers summon people to have faith in Allah, recommend them to display moral perfection and warn them against bad morals.

Despite the fact that all divine religions, except for Islam, are distorted, it is evident today that some of their messages are fundamentally the same. That is why these conflicts, which are stirred up artificially, lack reasonable and logical grounds.

As stated in the verse above, the main reason for unrest among people is not complying with Allah‘s summoning but following in the ”footsteps of Satan.” (Al-Baqarah 2:208)

Believers’ harboring hostile feelings to other people who have faith in Allah is a moral weakness that displeases Allah, Who prohibits all believers from displaying such feelings. He calls on people to establish peace and friendship.

In the Qur’an revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, the last Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), Allah gives believers explicit commands and recommendations on this subject.

Their Status in the Qur’an

In the Qur’an, Jews and Christians, the members of the religions who abide by the Divine Books revealed by Allah, are called the ”People of the Book”. What Muslims’ views of the People of the Book should be, their relations, and the status of the People of the Book in social life are described in verses and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad in detail.

The People of the Book, while they rely basically on Allah‘s revelation, have moral precepts and know what is lawful and what is not. For this reason, if one of the People of the Book cooks some food, it is lawful for Muslims to eat it.

In the same way, permission has been given to a Muslim man to marry a woman from among the People of the Book. On this subject Allah commands:

Today all good things have been made lawful for you. And the food of those given the Book is also lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. So are chaste women from among the believers and chaste women of those given the Book before you, once you have given them their dowries in marriage, not in fornication or taking them as lovers. But as for anyone who disbelieves, his actions will come to nothing and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers. (Al-Ma’idah 5:5)

Throughout Islamic history, the People of the Book have been always treated with compassion in Muslim societies. This was particularly evident in the Ottoman Empire.

It is a well known fact that the Jews, whose rights were denied and were exiled by the Catholic Kingdom of Spain, took refuge in the lands of the Ottoman Empire.

When Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror captured Istanbul, he granted both Christians and Jews all their fundamental rights. Throughout Ottoman history, Jews were regarded as a People of the Book and enjoyed peaceful coexistence with Muslims.

How Should a Muslim Regard Judaism?

As exemplified above, throughout his life, the Prophet (peace be upon him) treated the People of the Book with the utmost understanding and justice.

As a result of this noble attitude, Abdullah ibn Salam, a prominent rabbi, and his friends converted to Islam and came to believe in his prophethood.

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Source: The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Justice and Compassion in the Qur’an”.

 

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How to Deal with Unjust People?

flower among thorns

A person of faith knows that he will attain the pleasure of Allah only when he acts justly.

Hatred Felt Towards a Community Does Not Prevent Believers From Exercising Justice

Hatred and anger are the major sources of evil, and are likely to prevent people from making just decisions, thinking soundly and conducting themselves rationally.

Some people can readily inflict all kinds of injustice on people for whom they feel enmity. They may accuse these people of acts they have never committed or bear false witness against them, although their innocence is known to them.

Only on account of such enmity, many people may be subjected to unbearable oppression. Some people avoid bearing witness in favor of people they disagree with, although they know they are innocent, and they keep evidence which would reveal their innocence hidden.

Furthermore, they take pleasure in the misery these people face, their encounters with injustice or great suffering. Their greatest worry, on the other hand, is that justice should be done and these peoples’ innocence proved.

For these reasons, it is very hard for people in corrupt societies to trust one another. People worry about being harmed by someone else all the time.

Having lost mutual trust, they also lose their human feelings, such as compassion, brotherhood and co-operation, and start hating one another.

According to God’s Commands

However, the feelings someone holds in his heart towards a person or community should never influence a believer’s decisions.

No matter how immoral or hostile the person he is considering may be, the believer sets all these feelings aside and acts and makes his decisions justly and recommends that which is just. His feelings towards that person cast no shadow over his wisdom and conscience. His conscience always inspires him to comply with Allah‘s commands and advice, and not to abandon good manners, because this is Allah‘s command in the Qur’an. In Surat Al-Ma’idah, it is related as follows:

You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of Allah, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to faith. Heed Allah (alone). Allah is aware of what you do. (Al-Ma’idah 5:8)

As is related in the verse, displaying a just attitude is what most reflects having fear of Allah. A person of faith knows that he will attain the pleasure of Allah only when he acts justly.

Every person who witnesses his or her good manners will trust this person, feel comfortable in their presence and trust them with any responsibility or task. Such people are treated with respect even by their enemies. Their attitude may even lead some people to have faith in Allah.

Our Exemplar

gentle flower

A Muslim is responsible for being understanding, forgiving, just and humane towards people, regardless of whom they may be.

The best example to follow for believers in our day is also the actions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as described in the Qur’an. Similar to the blessed period of the first community of Islam – an age of well-being when people in general adhered to the Qur’an – in our day, too, people of different  beliefs such as Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, idolaters and pagans live together.

A Muslim is responsible for being understanding, forgiving, just and humane towards people, regardless of whom they may be. It is probable that in time everyone will place his faith in Allah, become a Muslim and surrender himself to Allah.

A believer should always bear this fact in mind. The responsibility of a believer is to summon people to Allah‘s religion with a favorable, peaceful attitude.

The decision to follow divine guidance and have faith rests with another party. Compelling a person to have faith and forcing him to do things are against the Qur’an.

Allah states the following about this:

There is no compulsion in religion. True guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false deities and has belief in Allah has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Al-Baqarah 2: 256)

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Source: The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Justice and Compassion in the Qur’an”. 

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Does Islam Teach Terrorism?

Does Islam allow the killing of innocent people? Does Islam permit terrorism? Can Islam be judged by what some people do?

To know the answer to these questions, watch this Show.

 

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Source: Taken with kind permission from thedeenshow.com.

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The Slavery System in Religious History and Practices

slavery

The system of slavery was a worldwide phenomenon with many vital sectors of livelihood dependent on slave labor.

The slavery system among Muslims in many aspects was different from other societies, and what many people envision about slavery according to practices among the Greeks, Romans and European colonialists.

Islam initially accepted the slavery system because it was an accepted and necessary part of the economic and social conditions in those times. The system of slavery was a worldwide phenomenon with many vital sectors of livelihood dependent on slave labor. Slavery was accepted and recognized in the previous religions. As it is stated in the Bible:

“10. When you came nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. 11. And it shall be, if it make your answer of peace, and open unto you, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto you, and they shall serve you. 12. And if it will make no peace with you, but it will make war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13. And when the Lord your God has delivered it into your hands, you shall smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword. 14. But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shall you take unto yourself, and you shall eat the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you. 15. Thus shall you do unto all the cities which are very far off from you, which are not of the cities of these nations. 16. But of the cities of these people, which the Lord your God does give you for an inheritance, you shall save alive that breathes. 17. But you shall utterly destroy them.” (Deuteronomy 20:10-17)

And a master in the Judaic Law could even beat his slave to death as this next text states:

And if a man smites his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.

Notwithstanding, if he [the slave] continues (to live) a day or two, he (the slave owner) shall not be punished: for he (the slave) is his money (property). (King James Version Exodus 21:20-21)

Nowhere are there any indications in the Bible about the prohibition of slavery and this lead many to boldly proclaim, as Jefferson Davis the president of the Confederate States of America said:

“(Slavery) was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.” (Dunbar Rowland quoting Jefferson Davis in “Jefferson Davis”)

Considering this world environment, Islamic law followed a long-term and gradual plan to eliminate slavery from society.

We do not find any direct command to abruptly stop all dealings with slavery but, rather wisely, the sources of slavery were gradually restricted and diminished and emancipation of slaves encouraged. Moreover, strict rules of fair and honorable conduct were applied in dealing with slaves and allowing them o buy their own freedom.

The first stage was liberating themselves from within their hearts and minds. They were instructed to feel strong, healthy and capable within, and discouraged from feeling weak and inferior. Islam reconstructed the human feeling and integrity in the hearts and minds of the slaves by calling them brethren to their masters and owners.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

“Your workers are your brethren. The Almighty Allah placed them under you (for your services). Whosoever has one (of his brethren) under him (working for him), he must feed him of what he eats, clothe him of what he clothes himself and do not assign them to do what they cannot do. If you do, then help them.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Slaves have established rights. The commandments of the Qur’an and Sunnah order Muslims to be kind and good to their male slaves and maiden servants. The Almighty Allah states in the Qur’an:

Worship Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are your kin, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet) and what your right hands possess (slaves): for Allah loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious. (An-Nisaa’ 4:36)

The Prophets longstanding concern about the slaves is evidence by the fact that on his deathbed, the Messenger of Allah ordered the Muslims as a dying request to guard their prayers and the rights of the slaves.

He (peace be upon him) is also reported to have said:

“Whosoever castrated a slave we will castrate him.” (Al-Hakim)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Misconceptions on Human Rights in Islam”.

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Shura: The Meaning of Democracy in Islam

By Lamya Hamad 

Is Shura something known to Islam? Is it compatible with Islamic principles? What style of leadership does Islam encourage?

The onset of 2011 witnessed an unexpected wave of protests that swept through the Middle East. Citizens struggled to topple authoritarian and tyrannical governments that had trampled on their rights for decades.

The domino effect that ensued after the first protests in Tunis caught the world by surprise. The desire for democracy and justice were undoubtedly the driving forces behind this movement. Some countries in the region have already begun shaping their legislation in a way that reflects democratic values.

Although the process will take time, the expected outcome is a system that allows all citizens to actively participate in the development of their country’s legislation and government.

Islam & Democracy

There is no universally accepted and defining model for democracy, which leaves room for nations to mold and customize their governments in a way that mirrors democratic concepts in each nation’s cultural and religious contexts.

Democratic values have been present for thousands of years, embedded in cultural and religious practices that might have been lost to history. In Islam, there are many documented instances of active participation of the people with the leaders of their time. This began with the Prophet Muhhammad (peace be upon him) as he was directed by God to seek consultation from his followers and companions while making important decisions.

Consultation is an integral concept in Islamic leadership and is known as shura.

Modern Middle Eastern countries have been blind to this key concept in Islam, which ultimately protects governments from regressing into corruptive and totalitarian regimes because of the continuous and direct involvement of the people.

As Michael Hamilton Morgan writes in Lost History, “Shura was the tradition Muhammad valued, according to which decisions that affect the community are to be made in consultation with members of the community.

In fact, one chapter of the Qur’an is named Ash-Shura, referring to a verse that states that those close to God should conduct their affairs by due consultation with others: “and those who conduct their affairs with consultation among themselves.” (Ash-Shura 42:38)

Now, the Middle East has a chance to form new governments and modify constitutions. It is the perfect time to re-establish shura, a cornerstone teaching of Islam that was once inherently implemented in governance from the time of the Prophet (pbuh), and his close companions.

Shura in the Political Sphere

Shura is a crucial part of the Islamic political system. It allows common people to participate in the decision-making process. It helps create a society that engages actively with leaders.

Consultation is important in building a solid relationship between the leader and the people ensuring that the leader does not go astray or regress into an authoritarian government. God encouraged the Prophet to use shura:

Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for sustenance. (Ash_Shura 42:38)

There are several examples of the Prophet taking counsel from his companions and following their opinions.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) held many councils of war before going into battle. At one point, he believed that they should fight only if the enemy entered Madinah. However, his companions opined that they should go out and meet the army. He accepted the latter opinion even though they lost. Despite this, God revealed shortly afterwards a verse which stressed the importance of shura:

It is part of the mercy of Allah that you deal gently with them. Were you severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you: so pass over (their faults), and ask for (Allah’s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when you has taken a decision put your trust in Allah. For Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him). (Aal `Imran 3:159)

In the next battle, the Muslims decided to stay put in Madinah. The Prophet again consulted his people regarding the best way to protect themselves against the enemy. Many suggestions came, including one which required the building of an extensive trench. The Prophet agreed to this option and actively participated in its construction. This time, they won.

The Prophet used both consultation as well as consensus when making decisions. However, the opinion of the majority was not always taken if it conflicted with the tenets of the faith or went against the overall benefit of the people.

At the same time, when the Prophet acted according to the commands of God, he did not heed to opposing viewpoints. For instance, when a seemingly disadvantageous treaty was signed with the Makkans, his people vehemently opposed it. However, the Prophet stuck to the decision and eventually his companions realized that the treaty worked in their favor.

This indicates a key principle in shura: it must not contradict or override the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, known as Sunnah.

The Qur’an and Sunnah combined represent a binding constitution for Muslims, much like the constitution of countries. Just as governments adhere to the constitution when passing new laws, the constitution being the superior document, a similar process is at work here.

The basic tenets of this divine constitution cannot be violated by anyone, not even leaders or popular movements. This means that the powerful cannot manipulate the system to their own advantage. Certain rules and principles must be upheld and cannot be overruled, such as, basic human rights like equality.

The Ethics of Leadership

The Prophet and his close companions all maintained strong moral ethics while in positions of authority. `Umar, the second Caliph, has particularly left a legacy of leadership which modern leaders can learn much from.

Upon assuming the role of Caliph, he said: “In the performance of my duties, I will seek guidance from the Book (the Qur’an), and will follow the examples set by the Prophet and Abu Bakr (the first Caliph). In this task, I seek your assistance. If I follow the right path, follow me. If I deviate from the right path, correct me so that we are not led astray.”

Addressing the needs and concerns of the people was no doubt paramount in his reign and under the rule of other close companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). In fact, `Umar was even keen on safeguarding the well-being of animals, he would say, “If a mule stumbled in Iraq, I would be afraid that Allah (God) would ask me, why did you not pave the road for it `Umar?”

As illustrated in “A History of Muslim Civilization” by Abiva and Durkee, `Umar “expected his leaders to live up to ethical standards.” The list below shows some of the criteria a leader should have according to `Umar:

1- No nepotism or hereditary succession.

2- The people should be able to reach the leader easily to voice any of their concerns or suggestions.

3- The ruler should seek counsel, accept criticism, and be willing to rectify his mistakes.

4- The army exists to protect the people of the nation, not protect the leader from the people.

The above examples of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and `Umar give us priceless models in governance. Not only was shura and consultation key in their rule, they also upheld high morals and ethics.

Every living entity was given importance, be it animal or human, which created an empowered society where the rights of its subjects were paramount and people were given the opportunity to thrive. These standards are especially relevant for our world today in our quest for democracy.

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Source: new-uslims.info

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How Did Islam Fight Racial Discrimination? (Part 1)

How does Islam stand up against racial discrimination?

Dr. Wael Hamza

I am better than him: You created me from fire and You created him from clay. (Saad 38:76)

Racial Discrimination

Racial pride results in criminal acts against others in the form of racial discrimination, enslavement, and even killing.

This was an infamous racist statement made by Satan, or the Devil, in his arrogance and disobedience to Allah. The story of Satan and Adam is a clear demonstration of how dangerous racial superiority can be –it led Satan to disobey a clear order from his Creator and established his permanent place in the Hellfire.

Racial Pride

But racial pride has far worse consequences when people act on it. Not only does it create a personality that lives a life of arrogance and deceit, but also results in criminal acts against others in the form of racial discrimination, enslavement, and even killing.

The issue of supremacy is an old one for humanity: some people think they are better because of their gender, clan, color, race, political position, age, and interestingly even religion. Throughout history, this ugly issue showed itself in the form of mass murder and mass enslavement, and, more subtly, in the form of discrimination.

Although the world now strongly condemns all forms of discrimination, the practices of many societies are to the contrary. When the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America clearly stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” black Americans suffered a brutal period of discrimination on the very same land. Although the current President of the United States has black origin and the law strictly forbids all forms of discrimination, African Americans along with other minority groups still face the consequences of racial discrimination.

All of these forms of discrimination are diseases in the society that stem from spiritual and social illnesses of individuals. Fighting discrimination in general, and racial discrimination in particular, should be a priority for any free person, group, or nation.

A Turning Point in History

The world was at its worst before Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). All forms of racial discrimination existed. In places such as Persia and India, a very unjust caste system existed, in which the majority of the people were oppressed and discriminated against because they belonged to a lower caste.

In Arabia, where noble character was promoted, people were categorized based on their color and tribal affiliation. All societies, with no exception, lived a tough life of oppression due to this disease.

Prophet Muhammad brought the final message to humanity with a cure for all of humanity’s problems, including that of racial discrimination. As mentioned above, the Prophet had to deal with racial discrimination at its worst –he was even victimized by it when the disbelievers in Makkah accused him of being a regular person and not from the “noble” people:

And they said, had this Qur’an been sent down to a great man from the two villages, (we would have believed). (Az-Zukhruf 43:31)

Islam’s arrival was really a turning point in the battle against discrimination. Islam was able to change people’s beliefs and behavior to a huge extent. A few decades after the death of the Prophet, leaders from all spheres of the Muslim community, whether political, scientific, or spiritual, were from different tribes and nations without regard for their color, or racial origin.

It behooves us to study how Islam was able to effect these changes. Humanity is in dire need for such a blessed guidance to eradicate the discrimination that continues in our society today. Educators, political leaders, and community leaders have a rich pool of resources to use in the battle against discrimination.

In the remainder of this article, the author will share a few reflections about Islam’s cure for the serious problem of discrimination, in particular racial discrimination.

A Change of Beliefs and a Cure for the Intellect

The Quran is a cure to that which is in the heart. As Allah said,

Mankind! Now there has come to you an exhortation from your Lord, a healing for the ailments of the hearts, and a guidance and mercy for those who believe. (Yunus 10:57)

The first step towards fighting discrimination was to touch the hearts, change beliefs, and re-orient the intellect.

Islam built the spiritual and intellectual foundation of the believers through the divine words of the Quran and the eloquent tradition of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). It was quite miraculous to see how the rock of discrimination began to crack when exposed to small drops of understanding.

Although simple, the ideas presented in the Quran and the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were extremely effective. An example of that is the brief speech the Prophet delivered during his last year while performing the Hajj (pilgrimage). He eloquently and concisely delivered a strong message against discrimination and racism:

O People! Listen to my words and pay attention to them, for I may not meet you again after this year.

O People! Your Lord is One. Your father is one. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab nor for a white person over a black person except by piety.

You all belong to Adam and Adam is from dust.

Your individual wealth, blood, and honor are as sacred to you as this day of yours in this land of yours in this month of yours.

In the following few sections, we will reflect on a list of simple, yet strong messages that constitute the spiritual and intellectual foundations of curing racism.

Racial Discrimination

Monotheism is the fundamental message of Islam: “Your Lord is One.”

Your Lord is One and Your Father is One

Monotheism is the fundamental message of Islam: “Your Lord is One.” He is the one who created all humans and created them equal. He created them from a single male and female.

O Mankind! Be conscious of your Lord who created you from one soul and created from it its mate… (An-Nisa’ 4:1)

The idea is repeated in the Quran and the words of the Prophet. The Prophet said,

“O People, Allah has elevated from you the arrogance of the era of ignorance and taking pride in family and clan… Humans are the children of Adam and Adam is from dust.” (At-Tirmidhi & Abu Dawud)

Then he recited:

O People, We have created you from a male and a female and we made you into tribes and nation to know one another, the best of you is the most conscious of Allah … (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

Although a simple message, it was foundational for fighting racism.

Mind What Counts

The short speech above brings to attention what really counts in the eyes of Allah. It is not our color, wealth, or family. It is not our physical appearance. Rather, it is our hearts and our actions. As the Prophet said above and in many other hadiths, and as Allah said in the Qur’an, “The best of you before Allah is the person of highest taqwa (God Consciousness)” (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

The Prophet also said,

“Allah does not look at your appearances or your financial status, but He looks at your hearts and your actions.” (Al-Bukhari)

Even wealth and clan have no value:

It is not your riches nor your children that draw you closer to Allah, except for him who has faith and acts righteously … (Saba’ 34:37)

People like to compete with one another towards success. Islam redefined success to be that which is with Allah. The competition is not based on anything but faith and action.

Even that, no one can judge except Allah. Value was removed from race, family, socioeconomic status, and was placed on righteousness and good deeds.

Beware of Arrogance: It is a Severe Sin

Racism is a vicious cycle: racism creates pride and pride feeds racism. In order for this vicious cycle to end, Allah made pride a severe sin, an atom-weight of which deprives one of Paradise. The Prophet said,

He whose heart has an atom-weight of kibr (pride and arrogance) will not enter Paradise. (Muslim)

He later explained kibr to his companions saying, “Kibr is rejecting the truth and looking down on people.” (Muslim)

Removing kibr from the hearts of people was like drying the substance that fuels racism.

Difference in Races is a Sign to Reflect on

Another idea that was brought to people’s attention is the scientific and artistic nature of creation. Allah says,

And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colors. Indeed there are signs in this for the men of knowledge. (Ar-Rum 30:22)

Instead of considering race something to fuel supremacy, this verse encourages the reflective minds and hearts to think of the beauty and miracle of creation:

– How have all these races came out of one family? (genealogy)

– How did people develop into nations and tribes , all speaking different languages? (anthropology)

– How would the world look if humanity been all one race? (sociology) This positive way of thinking about race creates not only awe of Allah and His ultimate power, but also respect to people that are different.

Injustice is Strictly Forbidden

A final fundamental point in fighting racism is banning of any form of injustice. Allah said in the divine (qudsi) hadith:

“O my servants, I made injustice forbidden on Myself and I made it forbidden amongst you; so do not commit injustice to one another” (Muslim)

As the Prophet said in his speech above, “…your blood, wealth, and honor are sacred …” When Abu Bakr was elected to lead, he clearly stated that:

“…the weak are strong before me until I bring them their rights, and the strong are weak before me until I make them deliver the rights of others.”

Racial discrimination is an ugly form of injustice and those who are unjust suffer severe consequences on “the Day when excuses offered by the unjust shall not avail them. Theirs shall be the curse and a woeful abode.” (Ghafir 40:52)

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Source: aboutislam.net

 

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Coexistence in Islam: Between Concept & Practice

We know that Islam secures freedom of belief. This is clear from many Qur’anic verses, but did Prophet Muhammad really force people to become Muslims? If not, then why did he fight non-Muslims? Is the principle of coexistence practically manifested in Islam?

coexistence in Islam

Allah commands Muslims to treat other people kindly provided they do not manifestly declare malice towards them.

The principle of coexistence underlying the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is coexistence.

Allah commands Muslims to treat other people kindly provided they do not manifestly declare malice towards them and to think well of all of people alike. A person who thoroughly explores the verses of the Noble Qur`an will find that, in its entirety, it presents an integrated Qur’anic methodology concerning the treatment of non-Muslims.

It is noteworthy to mention that the variation in the manner of treating non-Muslims does not stem from a methodological inconsistency; rather, it depends on the different attitudes of the people we deal with.

People are different (with respect to behavior) and thus they must not be judged alike. It is considered a methodical injustice to generalize what has been made specific or to specify what has been left general in legal texts.

Just as there are individuals who accept Muslims’ beliefs, there are others who differ with them. Among this latter group, there are some who merely present their opinions or beliefs and those who go as far as to attack those who differ with them. Therefore, both groups are treated differently.

Coexistence in the Qur’an

There are many verses in the Qur’an, whether those revealed in Makkah or Madinah, that urge Muslims to be tolerant towards others and to treat them kindly. These include:

So pardon and overlook until Allah delivers His command. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent. (Al-Baqarah 2:109)

There shall be no compulsion in (acceptance of) the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut (false deities) and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing. (Al-Baqarah 2:256)

Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8)

The above verses from Surat Al-Baqarah and Al-Mumtahanah were revealed in Madinah and all of them exhort Muslims to be kind and merciful to their fellow men.

As for the legal texts, Qur’an and Sunnah, that command Muslims to be harsh towards some people, they can be compared to the previous verses as two integrated methodologies that deal with two different types of people:

The first methodology, which is the general case, enjoins Muslims to treat all people with kindness through dialogue and respect of freedom (of faith). This is the correct basis for inviting others to Islam; this does not abrogate a Qur’anic verse nor has it been abrogated though some jurists claim the contrary. Allah says:

And speak to people good (words) and establish prayer and give zakah. (Al-Baqarah 2:83)

In another verse, Allah instructs those who call others to His way on how they should invite others according to the different types of people:

Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is (rightly) guided. (An-Nahl 16:125)

Allah says about the People of the Book:

And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims (in submission) to Him. (Al-`Ankabut 29:46)

The second methodology is concerned with those who attack Muslims, in which case it is necessary to defend oneself even in a harsh manner. Allah Almighty says:

(Fighting in) the sacred month is for (aggression committed in) the sacred month, and for (all) violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him. (Al-Baqarah 2:194)

No Compulsion

Unlike the policy followed by some countries, Muslims do not treat others based on whether they are with or against them. Rather, Islam teaches its followers that people are different and must therefore be treated accordingly with respect to time and type of person.

Based on the above, one can understand the hadith which exhorts fighting non-Muslims until they testify that there is no god but Allah as fighting the aggressors who attack Muslims and not people in general. It also means that Muslims must merely deliver the message of Islam to them and not compel them to embrace the faith as per the words of Allah Almighty Who says:

Fight them until there is no (more) temptation (fitnah) and (until) worship is (acknowledged to be) for Allah. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors. (Al-Baqarah 2:193)

In the hadith mentioned above, the Prophet (peace be upon him) refers to the apostates led by Musailamah who attempted to destroy the Islamic state and deviate from its general order. This was clearly a case of high treason, a charge that carries the death penalty according to penal codes and international laws.

The same applies to the above noble verse which speaks about a group of oppressors who share the same abominable characteristics. At that time, the Romans started to mobilize armies to fight the Prophet. The Muslims did not fight them except after they learned that the Romans wanted to abolish the Islamic state.

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Source: ali-gomaa.com.

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