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Ethics & Values New Muslims

Equality: Its Meaning and Roots in Islam

By Abdul-Rahman Al Sheha

Men and women are created equal in their basic humanity, and have all the shared linage and dignity of Allah’s creation and privilege of man over the other creatures of His creation. What does Islam say about equality?

Discrimination due to race, sex, color, lineage, class, region or language is vehemently prohibited in Islam to avoid the artificial barriers between the privileged and underprivileged.

Equality does not mean that all are exactly alike since there is no denial about natural differences. The two genders complement and complete each other. Allah says in the Qur’an:

O mankind! Fear and revere your Lord, Who created you from a single person, created from it its mate, and from them scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; so fear Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you. (An-Nisaa’ 4:1)

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

“O Mankind! Your Lord is One. Your father is one. All of you belong to Adam (peace be upon him). And Adam is created of soil. Truly, the most honorable person in the Sight of Your Lord, the Almighty Allah, is the most pious among you. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab. There is no superiority for a non-Arab over an Arab. There is no superiority for a red (race) person over a white person. Likewise, there is no superiority of a white over a red (race) person, except for the piety and God consciousness.” (Ahmad)

Human-based

All humanity, according to Islam, with all its races, has one original source, so how can some exploit others claiming superiority or special privilege? Islam does not tolerate false pride in lineage and social status. The Messenger of Allah said:

“The Almighty Allah has removed the false pride which was practiced in the pre-Islamic period wherein individuals took false pride in their ancestors. All mankind belongs to Adam. And Adam is created of soil.” (Abu Dawud)

Pride of race and class are rampant in some societies. For example, some Jews and Christians have considered themselves of a higher status, breed, race or class of people.

Allah the Exalted and Almighty has exposed the truth of this arrogance, as He states in the Qur’an:

The Jews and the Christians say: “We are sons of Allah, and His beloved.”  Say: “Why then does He punish you for your sins? Nay, you are but men, of the men He has created: He forgives whom He pleases, and He punishes whom He pleases: and to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between: and unto Him is the return (of all). (Al-Ma’idah 5:18)

Islam & Racism

The laws of Islam eradicate any misguided basis of racism. For instance, Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) once said to a black slave “O the son of a black lady!” Upon hearing this, the Messenger of Allah turned to Abu Dharr, and said to him:

“Are you insulting this man with his mother? Truly you possess some of the qualities of the era of Ignorance (pre-Islamic times). That time is finished and over. There is no virtue or merit for the son of a white woman over the son of a black woman, except through piety and righteousness, or by good deeds and actions.” (Ahmad)

It is reported that Abu Dharr upon hearing the comment of the Prophet, put his head down on the ground in humility for the slave to come and step on his head with his foot, as an expiation for his misdeed, although the Prophet did not command him to do so. Abu Dharr wanted to discipline himself by self-humiliation so that he would never repeat such a sin in the future.

In the Sight of Allah

All people in Islam are completely alike and equal in terms of the obligation to perform various acts of worship to Allah. The rich and the poor, the leader and the peasant, the white and the black, the one of dignified means and the one of lower means, all are alike and equal as humans before Allah; the most noble is the most righteous and most sincere and steadfast in worship and good deeds. As the Prophet said:

Allah doesn’t look at your bodies and your colors but at your acts and your hearts (i.e. outward deeds and inward intentions and sincerity.” (Muslim)

All commands of obligation and prohibition are applicable to all without any distinction because of class, social status or race:

Whoever works righteousness benefits his own soul; whoever works evil, it is against his own soul: nor is Your Lord ever unjust (in the least) to His slaves. (Fussilat 41:46)

The differentiation between individuals in the Sight of Allah is based on their levels of piety, righteousness, and compliance to the Commands of Allah, the Most Beneficent:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the Sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. In addition, Allah has full Knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

All individuals are equal before the Islamic code of law and the appointed Muslim judge. The penalties, judgments and legal sentences are applicable to all races and classes of people without any distinction and without any privileged person acquiring immunity.

Equality in Punishment

One outstanding example will be cited reported that the Quraysh were deeply concerned when a noble woman of the Makhzum clan stole, and Allah’s Messenger wanted to apply the due punishment in her case by amputating her hand. The Quraysh consulted among themselves and said: ‘the best person to talk to the Prophet about the Makhzumi woman thief is his beloved Companion (and the son of his beloved Companion) Usamah ibn Zayd (may Allah be pleased with him).’

Therefore they sent Usamah to speak to the Prophet to intercede on behalf of this Makhzumi woman. Upon listening to Usamah, the Prophet  said:

“O Usamah! Are you coming to intercede concerning a punishment set by Allah?” Allah’s Messenger  stood up, as soon as he finished his conversation with Usamah and delivered a speech saying: “The people (or nations) before you were destroyed due to the fact that when a noble person among them would steal, they let him go unpunished, but if a poor, weak and insignificant person among them stole, they would apply the punishment on him. By Allah! If Fatimah ; the daughter of Muhammad stole, I shall cut off her hand.”

None has the right to monopolize, abuse or act for his personal Interest on national resources. All members of the nation have the right to benefit from the national resources, each according to just and equitable rights and obligations.

However, they will not be equal in terms of the work and the benefit they present for the public good. The Islamic government must exert every effort to secure job opportunities for its constituents and organize the utilization of national resources.

Islam declares all people equal in terms of human values yet every individual is rewarded according to what he presents to his society and community. The only distinction between people is on the basis of service that they offer. For instance, it does not look at a hardworking individual and a sluggish individual on equal footing in terms of pay and financial rewards:

To all are degrees (or ranks) according to their deeds: for Your Lord is not unmindful of anything that they do. (Al-An`am 6:132)

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Source: The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Human Rights in Islam and Common Misconceptions”.

 

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Muslim Lifestyle New Muslims

Peace, Security and Other Basic Human Rights in Islam

By Abdul-Rahman Al Sheha

The right of security and protection to a person and all his family is the most basic of all human rights. All citizens in the Muslim society legally must not be frightened or threatened by words, actions or weapons of any type.

Peace, Security and Other Basic Human Rights in Islam

The right of security and protection to a person and all his family is the most basic of all human rights.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) says:

“It is not allowed for a Muslim to frighten another Muslim.” (Abu Dawud and Ahmad)

Feeling secure enables individuals of a society to have freedom of mobility and movement in order to work and earn an honest living. Corporal and capital punishment have been laid down and established in order to impose strict penalties on those who attempt to cause disruption to the peace, security and stability of a Muslim’s society. Allah’s Messenger stated in his farewell speech:

“Truly, your body, honor, and your wealth are unlawful to one another. They are unlawful to tamper with like it is unlawful to tamper with this (honorable and sacred) Day (the Day of `Arafah during Hajj), in this Sacred Month (the month of hajj “Dthul-Hijjah”), and in this Sacred Town (the city of Makkah). (Al-Bukhari)

Sustenance, Wholesome Food & Drink for All

Wholesome sustenance is to be secured for all people in an Islamic society by availing decent and suitable work opportunities for the work force in the society.

Availability of  suitable opportunities of trades and work is crucial for people in order to satisfy their basic needs. Those who cannot work due to old age, disabilities, chronic disease, or the lack of bread-earner in the family, become entitled to public aid from the Islamic government.

Zakah, (obligatory alms and charity) given by the wealthier people of the society, is to be made available to the needy that cannot earn a decent income because of legitimate reasons. Zakah is an obligatory charity that is taken from the rich and given to specific categories of the society.

This is based on the hadith of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) in his advice to his Companion Mu`adh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) while sending him on the mission to call to Islam in Yemen saying,

“…Tell the people of Yemen … that Allah has prescribed a certain percentage of their wealth as zakah (obligatory charity) to be taken from the rich members among them and given to the poor and needy ones. (Muslim)

Other voluntary donations, gifts, financial commitments and the like are given in good cause to please the Almighty Allah, and extended willingly to the poor and needy members of the society. This is also based on many scriptures including the hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him),

“One is not a believer who satisfies himself while his neighbor is hungry.” (Al-Bukhari)

These poor and needy people are also entitled to a fair right and share of the Islamic Treasury. This is also based on the hadith of the Prophet:

“Whoever leaves behind a legacy (wealth and estates), will become the right of his heirs. As for the person who leaves behind poor and needy members of his family, Allah, and His Messenger will take care of them.” (Al-Bukhari)

Proper & Adequate Health Facilities

Islam prohibits all such reasons that may cause detrimental effect to public health. Islam bans all types of harmful drugs and intoxicants. Islam bans eating blood, carrion, unclean animals, unwholesome meats like swine, and all their byproducts, etc.

Islam bans all immoral acts such as fornication, adultery, and homosexual activities. Islam imposes a quarantine in the time of plague for both incoming and outgoing traffic of people in order to make sure that no epidemic or harmful diseases are spread in the wider community. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said:

“If you hear about an epidemic in a country, do not enter it, and if you are in a place that has an epidemic disease, do not leave it.” (Ahmad)

And he (peace be upon him) said:

“A sick person must not be brought to visit a recovering person.” (Al-Bukhari)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s Human Rights in Islam and Common Misconceptions.

 

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The Social System in Islam: Foundations and Practices

By Abul A`La Mawdudi

The foundations of the social system of Islam rest on the belief that all human beings are equal and constitute one single fraternity.

The Social System in Islam

In Islam, if there is any real difference between man and man it cannot be one of race, color, or language, but of ideas, beliefs and principles.

Equality of Mankind

God created a human couple to herald the beginning of the life of mankind on earth, and everybody living in the world today originates from this couple. The progeny of this couple were initially a single group with one religion and the same language.

But as their numbers gradually increased, they spread all over the earth and, as a natural result of their diversification and growth, were divided into various tribes and nationalities. They came to speak different languages; their modes of dress varied; and their ways of living also differed widely. Climates and environments affected their color and physical features.

All these differences exist in the world of reality and Islam does not seek to ignore them. But it disapproves of the prejudices which have arisen among mankind because of these differences in race, color, language and nationality.

Islam makes clear to all men that they have come from the same parents and are therefore brothers and equal as human beings.

Islam says that if there is any real difference between man and man it cannot be one of race, color, country or language, but of ideas, beliefs and principles.

Two children of the same mother, though they may be equal from the point of view of a common ancestry, will have to go their different ways in life if their beliefs and moral conduct differ.

On the contrary, two people, one in the East and the other in the West, even though geographically and outwardly separated by vast distances, will tread the same path in life if they share the same code of moral behaviour.

On the basis of this fundamental tenet, Islam seeks to build a principled and ideological society very different from the racial, nationalistic and parochial societies existing in the world today.

The basis of co-operative effort among men in such a society is not the place of one’s birth but a creed and a moral principle. Anyone, if he believes in God as his Master and Lord and accepts the guidance of the Prophets as the law of his life, can join this community, whether he is a resident of America or Africa, whether he belongs to the Semitic race or the Aryan, whether he is black or fair-skinned, whether he speaks a European language or Arabic.

All those who join this community will have the same rights and social status. They will not be subjects to any racial, national or class distinctions. No one will be regarded as high or low. There will be no untouchability. There will be no special restrictions upon them in making marriages, eating and drinking and social contacts. No one will be looked down upon because of his birth of work. No one will claim any distinctive rights by virtue of his caste, community or ancestry.

Islamic Criterion

Man’s merit will not depend on his family connections or riches, but only on whether he is better than others in moral conduct or excels others in piety and righteousness.

Such social order, transcending as it does geographical boundaries and the barriers of race, color and language, is appropriate for all parts of the world; on its foundations can be raised the universal brotherhood of man.

In societies based on race or nationality only those people can join who belong to a particular race or nation, but in Islam anyone who accepts its creed and moral standards can become a member, possessing equal rights with everyone else.

Those who do not accept this creed, while obviously not being received into the community, are treated with tolerance and humanity and guaranteed all the basic human rights.

It is clear that if two children of the same mother differ in their ideas, their ways of life will be different; but this does not mean that they cease to be brothers.

In the same way, if two nations or two groups of people living in the same country differ in their fundamental beliefs, principles and ideology, their societies will also certainly differ; yet they will continue to share the common ties of humanity.

Hence, the Islamic society offers to non-Muslim societies and group the maximum social and cultural rights that can possibly be accorded.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book “The Islamic Way of Life”.

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Islam and Preservation of Human Life

Physical Security and Protection

life nature-flower

One’s soul or own body is a sacred entity entrusted to him by God on a temporary basis.

Human life is sacred and a gift from Allah, the Creator. For the protection of human life Islam has legislated capital and corporal punishments and retribution unto those transgressing criminals who murder and physically harm others. Killing falls into three types: intentional and/or premeditated murder,manslaughter, and total mistake.

Islam commands the execution of anyone who commits premeditated murder of an innocent person, seeking to place as strong a deterrent as possible to eradicate the temptation of intentional murder.

Unintentional manslaughter and mistaken killings are separate categories with separate lesser sentences and blood money is paid to the close relatives of the victim. The family or the heirs of the killed victim are given a diyyah (blood money) unless they choose to forgive the killer. The killer must repent to Allah and make atonement by the freeing a Muslim slave, and if this is not possible, by fasting for two consecutive months.

All such penalties are for preservation of life. No one has the right to possessions or estate without legitimate cause. All oppressive or abusive must be warned against unjust killing, victimizing or harassing other innocent members of the Islamic society, and these strict punishments should be made clear. If the retaliation is not similar to the crime itself, criminals become emboldened in their criminal activities.

All other corporal punishments have the same rationale, wherein the punishment is proportionate to the crime with specific measurements of retribution predetermined to stop all arguments and confusion.

All capital and corporal punishments are oriented for the preservation of human life and property in an Islamic society. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

And there is (a saving of) life for you in al-qisas (the law of equality in punishment), O men of understanding,that you may become pious. (Al-Baqarah 2:179)

The penalty of the Hereafter for the intentional murderer who does not repent will be the wrath of Allah. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (forever): and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him. (An-Nisaa’ 4:9)

Prescribed Duties

Islam has imposed certain specific duties on everyone in respect to protection of human life. The following are some of these duties:

1-Man does not own his soul or his own body: rather it is a sacred entity entrusted to him on a temporary basis. It is not allowed for anyone to intentionally torture or harm himself, or carry-out any type of suicidal crime or reckless act leading to his destruction.

Life is only given in sacrifice for the cause of Allah. Allah says:

O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly: but let there be among you trade by mutual good-will: nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah has been to you Most Merciful! (An-Nisaa’ 4:29)

2-Man must maintain proper nutritional care to satisfy the minimum requirements essential for decent health. He is not allowed to deprive himself of permissible food, drink, clothing, marriage and proper care under any pretexts, if that causes him harm. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah,which He has produced for His servants, and the things,clean and pure, (which He has provided) for sustenance?
Say, they are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Requital.
Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand.
(Al-A`raf 7:32)

flowers-nature

Man may enjoy the lawful bounties offered by Allah to man on earth in moderation within the limits of the Islamic laws and without wastage

Halal in Moderation

Allah, the Exalted, admonished the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he abstained from eating honey in order to please one of his wives, and this became an eternal lesson for all Muslims. Allah states in the Qur’an:

O Prophet! Why do you make forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to you? You seek to please your wives but Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (At-Tahrim 66:1)

Moderation is between stinginess and extravagance. Man may enjoy the lawful bounties offered by Allah to man on earth in moderation within the limits of the Islamic laws and without wastage. Allah states in the Qur’an:

O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters. (Al-A`raf 7:31)

It is forbidden to neglect the physical needs of the body and cause harm through negligence or self-torture:

On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than itcan bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

It is reported that Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said that, “Three men came to the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) mosque to inquire about the worship of the Prophet. When they were informed, they considered their worship insignificant and said: ”Where are we in comparison with the Prophet while Allah has forgiven his past sins and future sins“. One of them said: ”As for me, I shall offer salah all night long.” Another said:”I shall observe sawm (fasting) continuously and shall not break it”. The third one said: ”I shall abstain from women and shall never marry.”

The Prophet came to them and said,“Are you the people who said such and such things? By Allah, I fear Allah more than you do, and I am the most obedient and dutiful among you to Him, but still I observe fasting and break it; perform salah and sleep at night and take wives. So whoever turns away from my Sunnah does not belong to me.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s Human Rights in Islam and Common Misconceptions.

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Prophet Muhammad on the Elimination of all Forms of Racism

nature

In the sight of Allah, all people are equal.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) upheld justice in his time and rejected the ignorant belief which considered some people superior to others because of their language, race, social status or ethnicity. That is because such discrimination is severely condemned in the Qur’an.

‘Racism,’ as defined in our day, is an idea Allah prohibits in the Qur’an, but which receives extensive support in ignorant societies. As mentioned in the Qur’an, one of the divine purposes in the creation of the different races is “that they should come to know each other”. (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

Humanity-based

In the sight of Allah, all people are equal, and the only superiority anyone can have over anyone else is his fear of Allah and faith in Him.

The Prophet Muhammad also declared to his people, who committed racism, that ethnic differences had no importance and that everyone was equal in the eyes of Allah.

He repeatedly underlined that all that mattered was having sincere faith. While summoning his people to have faith, the Prophet Muhammad commanded them not to discriminate in his last sermon:

“O people! Your Allah is One and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety. Indeed the noblest among you is the one who is deeply conscious of Allah.” (Ahmad)

The Prophet Muhammad also told people that Allah created man from nothing, that everyone is created equal and that everyone will give account of his deeds all alone before Allah. For this reason, he added that it would be a great wrong to look for superiority in one’s descent.

The Prophet commanded thus:

(All of) you are children of Adam, and Adam is from dust. Let some men cease to take pride in others.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

He (peace be upon him) stated that no criteria except for heedfulness are acceptable:

“Your descent is nothing to be proud of. Nor does it bring you superiority. O people! All of you are the children of Adam. You are like equal wheat grains in a bowl … No one has any superiority over anyone else, except in religion and heedfulness. In order to consider someone a wicked person, it suffices that he humiliates other people, is mean with money, bad-tempered and exceeds the limits.” (Ahmad)

The Formula… the Qur’an

Throughout his life, the Prophet Muhammad advised his people to set aside their ignorant and perverse values and to live by the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, racist attitudes are defined as “fanatical rage,” and people’s ambitious attitudes are criticized. A related verse reads:

Those who disbelieve filled their hearts with fanatical rage- the fanatical rage of the Time of Ignorance- and Allah sent down serenity to His Messenger and to the believers, and obliged them to respect the formula of heedfulness which they had most right to and were most entitled to. Allah has knowledge of all things. (Al-Fath 48:26)

Muslims who obeyed Allah‘s call in the above verse led their lives in peace and security, both during the blessed period of the first community of Islam and in succeeding ages when just administrators reigned.

In the Period of the Prophet Muhammad, contracts signed with the People of the Book and the pagans secured justice in society.

After the migration of the Prophet from Makkah to Medina, he encountered many different communities. At that period, Jews, Christians and pagans who held power were all living together.

Under such circumstances, the Prophet Muhammad united the cosmopolitan structure to secure social unity and peace by making social agreements- either by sending letters or holding face-to-face meetings- with more than a hundred communities, and thus achieved social compromise.

Prof. Thomas Arnold stresses the importance of the social unity established by the Prophet Muhammad in these words: Arabia that had never before obeyed one prince, suddenly exhibits a political unity and swears allegiance to the will of an absolute ruler. Out of the numerous tribes, big and small, of a hundred different kinds that were incessantly at feud with one another, Muhammad’s word created a nation. (Thomas Arnold, The Spread of Islam in the World, Goodword Books)

Islam and Other Religions

As is related in many verses in the Qur’an, living in peace with people of other religions is perceived as good by Islam.

In one verse, Allah commands Muslims to believe in all the holy books revealed by Him and respect their beliefs:

So call and go straight as you have been ordered to. Do not follow their whims and desires but say, “I believe in whatever Allah has sent down (in the form) of a Book and I am ordered to be just between you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. We have our actions and you have your actions.

There is no debate between us and you. Allah will gather us all together. He is our final destination. (Ash-Shura 42:15)

The above verse describes the relations a Muslim should establish with people of other religions. Muslims are also held responsible for adopting the morality of the Prophet and being compassionate and just towards other people. This person can be anyone, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian or even an atheist.

Such honest and just attitudes will make a very positive impact on their hearts, no matter what or who they believe in- or even if they have no beliefs at all- and they will become a means to make them feel closer to Islam.

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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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