23 نوفمبر, 2017 - 5 Rabi' al-Awwal 1439

How Do We Interact with Each Other? Gems from the Quran: Surah Al Hujurat (Part 2)

How Do We Interact with Each Other? Gems from the Quran: Surah Al Hujurat (Part 2)

 At the heart of our lives in this world is the art of how to communicate, interact and live with each other. Islam often is berated for having verses that seemingly contradict having cordial relationships with others, however, when one delves further in the text with both context and insight, one comes to understand that the word of God is comprehensive in how it encourages us to have healthy relationships with each other. Humankind is wrought with internal conflicts, conflicts that if left unchecked morph into arguments, fighting and end in world wars that needlessly eradicate any semblances of peace and lead to the loss of life, peace and life being two primary objectives that Islamic law aims to preserve. In an effort to preserve life and peace, Islam, the divinely inspired path of God, instructs its servants to stray away from anything that may lead to disagreement and strife. It instructs the servants that when strife does occur, how they should competently bring light to a dilemma that might otherwise end in darkness. Surah Al Hujurat illuminates a few of the vital steps needed to accomplish the preservation of peace and life.

Leaving off from part 1 of this series, we now come to the 10th verse in this Surah in which God refreshes the memory of the believer that the Muslims are family. This exemplar is crucial due to it alluding to the fact that like family, the believers will disagree and there will be malice, envy, and contempt. However, despite these feelings, the family structure is integral to life itself and that without it, societies are fragmented and unable to achieve their greatest potential. “The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear God that you may receive mercy” (Quran 49:10). God throughout the Quran reminds the believers that we were created for the purpose of His worship, and a broken home cannot fulfill this goal. It is only through reconciliation that we arrive at the station of unity, and it is only through unity that we arrive at the essence of oneness, that is the Divine attribute of God.

Teasing

The goal for us all is to live and worship as a community, to forgive the shortcomings of each other and to continue progressing towards a life that outlives this one. In the following verses God speaks to the believers regarding how to secure unity in our communities, we must first abate the harm that we inflict on others. “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one's] faith. And whoever does not repent - then it is those who are the wrongdoers” (Quran 49:11). As mentioned earlier, a path to realizing unity in our communities is first by abating the harm that we ourselves cause to others. This is embodied in the Prophetic narration and fundamental principle in Islamic law, “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.” The verse cautions believers from causing emotional harm to others, this emotional harm being the fissure that is the root reason for the collapse of individual relationships and then the complete disintegration of a community.

It is commonplace in comedy that you find jokes are made at the expense of others, they may ridicule and mock others for the sake of amusement. In other cases, people ridicule others for the sake of putting others down and raising their own selves in rank in the sight of others. This practice is antithetical to the demeanor Islam calls us towards. One will find that the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon him) did not demean others whether he might have been joking or not for his character was that of the Quran, and the Quran does not call towards that type of behavior. One of the many reasons why Islam calls us not to look down upon others is because we are oblivious to their state with the Divine, in fact it might be that we jokingly or purposely demean someone when they hold the rank of being a friend of God. The repercussions of harming a friend of God can be catastrophic to one’s faith because God himself states in Hadith Qudsi, “Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him,” (Hadith Qudsi 25). As such, it is infinitely safer for the preservation of one’s own faith not to look down upon the faith of those around them, as it may also be a sign of the deficiency of one’s own faith.

Another critical note in this verse is that God mentions both men and women separately, whereas in most verses in the Quran you’ll find that both men and women are included within a single phrase, such as the oft occurring statement, “Oh you who believe.” Here, God makes it a point of making the same declaration to both men and women to affirm the verses’ importance. The purpose is to make certain that both sexes realize the importance of this order, and that none are exempt from it.

Assume the best

As we move forward we come to the verse, “O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear God; indeed, God is Accepting of repentance and Merciful” (Quran 49:12). It is commonplace that we will all come across individuals that we may have unfavorable feelings towards, we may even have a reason to do so. Therein, those negative feelings may cause a deliberate and irrational process of thinking of the sins that others have committed. One may even begin to do more than think, but begin to investigate the lives of others in an effort to prove their sins are correct. God instructs us not only to cease doing this, but that doing this amounts to sin itself.

The practice is so abhorred by God that He gives us a repugnant image that shows us the severity of this sin. The image of one of our own, a fellow believer and human being, dead. And instead of this death being respected and the person being left alone, the flesh of this person is being eaten. This is a scene that is sickening to envision, however, God wishes to show us that by investigating the sins of others, by backbiting them, we are doing precisely this, eating the flesh of our dead brother/sister in faith. In addition, to show the depth of the Arabic language, the word translated as “spying” gives a meaning of searching, and going deep into something to uncover its mysteries. On the other hand, the Quran has variant readings which were divinely revealed by the Angel Gabriel, the word “spying” in one of those variant readings can be read to imply a blind person reaching out trying to find a path or something to hold onto. Alluding to the one harboring negative thoughts, he has nothing truly to latch onto but will begin to search blindly until he finds something. This exhibits just how far some will go to unveil the sins of others, and how disgusting the act is.

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of God (God's peace and blessings upon him) said: “Whoever covers (the sin of) a Muslim, God will cover him (his sin) in this world and in the Hereafter.”

We are all equal

The culmination of these verses is found right after with the divine words, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. Indeed, God is Knowing and Acquainted” (Quran 49:13). Once more, God chooses to address the readers by calling on the believers. In this verse, He reminds the believers that He is our Creator and that He made us in both male and female. An observation to be made here is that God throughout the Quran often mentions things in dualities, male and female, land and sky, light and darkness. One should be mindful of this point because it shows that both halves are vital to the message that God has, integral to the perfection of His creation. There is no perfection of male without female and likewise there is no perfection of the female without male. It needs to be noted that while some may immediately think this insinuates that the perfection of man and woman is in their union (through marriage), I do not aim to make that point. Rather, God endowed the male with certain gender specific attributes and the female with certain gender specific attributes and it is not until we are able to inculcate them both do we attain the rank of perfection. For example, men are known for their strength and no examples need be given on this, while women are known for their mercy and care. In fact, throughout the Islamic tradition examples of women or mothers are used to illustrate mercy and care. The question then should be asked, does a man reached his perfected state if he has no mercy? The Prophet (God’s peace and blessings upon him) clearly disagreed with this absurd notion.

It was narrated that Aisha, said: "Some Bedouin people came to the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) and said: 'Do you kiss your children?' He said: 'Yes'. He said: 'But we, by God, never kiss (our children)'. The Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) said: 'What can I do if God has taken away mercy from you?'"

In this scene, the Prophet clearly makes it clear that mercy is an attribute that should reside in all human beings. Islam is a path of balance, straying to one side at the exclusion of another is extremism and leads to deficiencies in one’s faith and practice. The merging of the two halves, male and female, is of the many aspects of this world that gives the creation perfection.


God continues the verse with noting that He created humankind not only in the distinctions of male and female, but also in various peoples, groups and tribes and that these distinctions are for the purpose of knowing each other. When one knows another, they may begin to see themselves as equals, none being better than the other. However, if this feeling of inequality, of pride does seep into the heart of the believer, then God reminds the believer that none is better except those with consciousness of Him. These verses found in Surah Al Hujurat are filled with beneficial lessons and practices that if acted upon could change the way all Muslims interact with fellow human beings. These actions could be a source of raising the rank of the believers in the sight of God and gaining His pleasure, the result of which is Paradise. May God accept from us and cause us to embody His words, Ameen.