Treating Parents with Kindness
The second directive is that parents should be treated with kindness. This directive is present in all divine scriptures. Besides, this verse, the Qur'an has also mentioned it elsewhere in 29:8, 31:14-15 and 46:15. There is no doubt in the fact that among human beings a person's foremost obligation is towards his parents. Thus after worshipping God, Muslims have been directed to fulfill it the foremost. The reason for this is that it is the parents who bring a person into existence and it is they who nourish and look after him. The way this directive is mentioned in 31:14-15 and 46:15 shows that among the parents it is the mother who has more right on the children:
وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَى وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ(14:31)
And We have counseled man to show kindness to his parents. His mother bore him with much [hardships which result in] weakness upon weakness, and he is not weaned before he is two years of age. We said: "Show gratitude to me and to your parents and towards Me is the return." (31:14)
In the upbringing of a child, a father too plays no less a role; however, the hardships which a mother bears during her pregnancy, at childbirth and then during breastfeeding are unparalleled. For this very reason, the Prophet (sws) has regarded a mother to have three times more right on her children than the father. However, regardless of this difference, the Almighty has counseled man to be thankful to both his parents the foremost after God. This gratitude is not to be expressed merely through the tongue. There are some essential requisites of this gratitude which the Qur'an has related in the above quoted verses of Surah Bani Isra'il.
The first thing mentioned is that a person should treat his parents in a manner that he shows respect to them not only outwardly but also from the depth of his heart. He should not show any aversion to them in his heart and also not say something before them which is against manners. In fact, he should treat them with love, affection and decency and in a manner that reflects his obedience to them. He should obey them and in the frailty of old age comfort them and be a means of re-assurance to them.
In these verses, the objective for which old age has been specially mentioned is explained thus by Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi:
It is this period in which those people regard their parents to be a burden who forget their sacrifices and selfless behaviour in their childhood. Obedient and respectful children remember that the way they were once nurtured by their parents when they were nothing but a lump of meat and bones, in a similar manner their parents have now been consigned to them when they are no more than skeletons; it is now their duty to repay them their favours. However, not everyone remembers this. These verses are in fact a reminder for this reality. In fact, the truth of the matter is that parents deserve love, respect and good behaviour whatever may be their age.
The second thing that is mentioned in this verse is that a person should always show obedience and compliance to his parents and this obedience should arise from his love and affection for them. The Qur'anic words used for this purpose are وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ. In it is the subtle insinuation that just as parents hide and protect their children the way birds do through their wings, in a similar manner, children too should hide and protect their parents in their wings of love and obedience. The reason is that if ever children can repay their parents for their care it is through this attitude.
The third thing that is mentioned besides the above behaviour is that a person should keep praying for his parents that the way his parents raised them with affection and care, the Almighty should shower His blessings on them in this old age. This prayer is a right of the parents on their children and it is also a reminder for a person to fulfill this right imposed on them. This prayer is also the motive for the feelings of love which the Almighty has demanded from the children in treating their parents with kindness. In Surah Luqman are mentioned the limits of this kind treatment. However, since they belong to the shari'ah, they shall be dealt in our book "The Social Shari'ah of Islam".
Following are the directives of the Prophet (sws) in this regard:
Ibn Mas'ud (rta) reports that he asked the Prophet (sws): "Which deed does the Almighty like the most?" He replied: "To pray on time." I asked: "Which after this?" He said: "Treating parents with kindness."
Abu Hurayrah (rta) reports that the Prophet (sws) said: "Humiliation is for that person. Humiliation is for that person. Humiliation is for that person. People asked: "For whom O Messenger of God?" He replied: "A person whose both parents or any of them reached old age in his presence and in spite of this he was not able to enter Paradise."
'Abdullah Ibn 'Umar(rta) says that once a person asked the Prophet (sws) to participate in jihad. At this, the Prophet (sws) inquired: "Are your parents alive?" The person replied in the affirmative. The Prophet (sws) then remarked: "Keep serving them. This is jihad."
Abu Sa'id Khudri (rta) says that a person from the people of Yemen migrated and came to the Prophet (sws) in order to participate in jihad. The Prophet (sws) asked: "Do you have any relative in Yemen?" He replied that he had his parents there. The Prophet (sws) remarked: "Did you seek their permission?" He said: "No." The Prophet (sws) then said: "Go back and seek their permission and if they grant permission then only can you take part in jihad, other wise keep serving them."
Mu'awiyyah narrated from his father Jahimahthat he came to the Prophet (sws) and said: "O Messenger of God! I would like to participate in jihad and have come to consult you [regarding this]." The Prophet asked: "Is your mother alive?" He said: "Yes." At this, the Prophet said: "Stay with her and serve her because Paradise is beneath her feet."
'Abdullah Ibn 'Umar (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): "The pleasure of the Almighty resides in the pleasure of the father and the wrath of the Almighty resides in the wrath of the father."
Abu Darda (rta) says that he heard the Prophet (sws) saying that the best door to Paradise is the father; so, if you want you can waste him and if you want you can protect him.
'Amr Ibn Shu'ayb narrates from his mother who narrates from her grandfather that once a person came to the Prophet (sws) and said: "I have some wealth and I also have children but my father needs this wealth." The Prophet (sws) replied: "Both you and your wealth belong to your father."
In relationships which develop with other people besides the parents, a person should have this same attitude in proportion to their closeness to him. At another place, the Qur'an has unequivocally stated this in the following words:
وَاعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ وَلاَ تُشْرِكُواْ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَبِذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْجَارِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْجَارِ الْجُنُبِ وَالصَّاحِبِ بِالجَنبِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ مُخْتَالاً فَخُورًا (36:4)
And serve God and associate none with Him. Show kindness to parents and the relatives and to orphans and to the destitute, to neighbours who are your relatives and those you do not know and to those that keep company with you and to the traveler and to the slaves also because God does not like the arrogant and the conceited. (4:36)
It is evident from the verse that after the parents a person's foremost obligation is towards his relatives and kindred. The expression silah rahmiis used for kind treatment of these people. The basis of a relationship between human beings can be multifarious: People can be class mates, neighbours, friends or companions; they can have common interests or common professions and this basis can even be being citizens of the same country; however, in all these relationships the greatest relationships are the blood relatives. This is the knot tied by the Almighty and it is not befitting for a human being to untie it. Thus safeguarding the rights of this relationship is a foremost obligation:
وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءلُونَ بِهِ وَالأَرْحَامَ إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا (1:4)
And fear God, in whose name you plead with one another, and beware about your relatives also. Indeed, God is ever watching you. (4:1)
The importance of this treatment of the kindred and near ones is also found in the narratives of the Prophet (sws).
Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates that the word is رحمoriginates from رحمان. Thus God has addressed it and said: "He who has joined you, I will join him with Me, and he who severed you, I will also dissociate from him."
Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates that at another instance, the Prophet (sws) adopted even more subtle words to describe this: When God had created His creation, رحم (womb) stood in His presence and said: "This is the place of the one who seeks your refuge from breaking relations." God said: "Indeed, are you not happy with the fact that the one who joins you, I will join him with Me, and he who severs you, I will also dissociate from him."
Abu Ayyub Ansari (rta) said that a person came to the Prophet (sws) and said: "O Messenger of God! Tell me something which can take me to Paradise." He replied: "Serve God and do not associate anyone with Him; be diligent in the prayer and pay zakah and fulfill the rights of the kindred."
Jubayr Ibn Mut'am (rta) reports from the Prophet (sws): "Any person who is guilty of breaking blood relations will not enter Paradise."
Anas (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) said that he who likes that his earnings increase and his life should be endowed with blessings should fulfill the right of blood relations.
The pinnacle of this fulfilling of rights is to fulfill them even for those who sever blood relations.
The Orphan and the Needy
After relatives and the kindred, the orphans and the needy are also included in the list. It follows from this that they too fall in the category of the kindred; hence every Muslim should regard them to be so and with this motivation patronize them and be of service to them. According to the Qur'an, the very first step of the objective of attaining piety and goodness a person has been asked to achieve in this world is to free slaves and fulfill the needs of the orphans and the needy:
فَلَا اقْتَحَمَ الْعَقَبَةَوَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْعَقَبَةُفَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ أَوْ إِطْعَامٌ فِي يَوْمٍ ذِي مَسْغَبَةٍيَتِيمًا ذَا أَوْ مِسْكِينًا ذَا مَتْرَبَةٍ (90: 11-16)
But he did not attempt the steep path. And what do you understand what this steep path is? [It is] the freeing of a slave or feeding, in days of famine, of an orphan near of kin or a needy [down] in the dust. (90:11-16)
The style adopted in the following verses of Surah Fajr show that the requirement is not merely helping the orphans and the needy but the real requirement is to give them a respectable status in the society:
كَلَّا بَل لَا تُكْرِمُونَ الْيَتِيمَ وَلَا تَحَاضُّونَ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ (89: 17-19)
Certainly Not! You do not show respect to the orphans and do not urge one another to feed the needy. (89:17-19)
The Prophet (sws) while referring to the reward of this treatment has said: "I and those who take care of the orphans financially will be close to one another in Paradise the way two fingers are close to one another."
Neighbour, Traveler and Slave
After this, neighbours, travelers and slaves are mentioned in the verse and Muslims are asked to treat them kindly too. In spite of the change in society, even today travelers become needy in some respect or another; however, slavery no longer exists. The measures adopted by Islam in eradicating it are mentioned in my book "The Social Shari'ah of Islam".
With regard to one's neighbours the view of the Qur'an is unique in the history of religion and morality. It is generally considered that a neighbour is a person who lives next door or nearby; however, the Qur'an says that a neighbour is of three types:
First, someone who is one's neighbour and also one's relative. The Qur'anic words used are الْجَارِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى and it is mentioned the foremost. It means that among other neighbours he is more worthy of kind treatment.
Second, someone who is not one's relative, yet he is one's neighbour. The words used are الْجَارِ الْجُنُبِ (unfamiliar neighbour). This unfamiliarity can be on the basis of being a relative and also on the basis of having a different religion. After a neighbour who is a relative, comes this neighbour.
Third, a person who accompanies us in travel or while being stationed somewhere. الصَّاحِبِ بِالجَنْبِ are the words used for such a person. Muslims have been directed to treat him kindly too the way other neighbours should be.
Following are the narratives of the Prophet (sws) regarding this treatment:
Abu Shurayh (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): "By God! He shall not be a believer; by God! He shall not be a disbeliever." People asked: "Who? O Messenger of God!" The Prophet said: "A person whose neighbour is not secure from his mischief."
He also narrates: "He who believes in God and in the Hereafter should respect his neighbour."
'A%'ishah (rta) reports from the Prophet (sws): "Gabriel emphasized upon me the rights of a neighbour so much that I thought that soon he would make him a share holder in the inheritance [of a person]."
Abu Dharr Ghaffari (rta) says that the Prophet (sws) advised: "O Abu Dharr! When you cook curry put more water in it and remain aware about your neighbours."
Abu Hurayrah (rta) said that the Prophet (sws) similarly advised women and said: "Muslim Wives! No one should consider a gift to a lady who lives in the neighbourhood to be meager even though it may the hoof of a goat."
Spending in Way of God
The third directive is to spend in the way of God. This means that just as a person spends on himself the blessings bestowed upon him by God, he should also spend them on his fellow brethren after fulfilling his personal and business needs. It is evident from the Qur'an that two things are required for a person if he is to become a true servant of God: Firstly, one's relationship with God should be established on right footings. Secondly, this relationship with other human beings should also be established on the right footings. The first thing is achieved through the prayer which is the foremost expression of one's love for God, and the second through spending in the way of God for this is the foremost expression of one's love for one's fellow human beings. The reward for this spending is also God's love because whatever one spends he has it saved in the heavens and in the words of the Prophet Jesus (sws), his heart too remains occupied at this place, (Matthew, 6:19-21). The Qur'an has urged man to this at various instances in very effective styles. At one instance, it says:
وَأَنفِقُوا مِن مَّا رَزَقْنَاكُم مِّن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ فَيَقُولَ رَبِّ لَوْلَا أَخَّرْتَنِي إِلَى أَجَلٍ قَرِيبٍ فَأَصَّدَّقَ وَأَكُن مِّنَ الصَّالِحِينَ (10:63)
And spend of that which We have given you before death befalls any of you and he says: "Why did you give me such a brief respite that I may have given in charity and [as a result] could have been among your pious people." (63:10)
This spending in the way of God is the right of one's relatives, orphans and the needy which must necessarily be fulfilled. In the verse of the Qur'an under discussion this fact is clearly mentioned. It is evident from this mention that any slackness in fulfilling this right can make a person a criminal who extorts the rights of people. Thus, at another instance, the Qur'an has clearly stated that if a person starts amassing wealth while remaining indifferent to these rights then this is hoarding and its punishment is the fire of Hell – from which every believer should seek refuge with the Almighty:
وَالَّذِينَ يَكْنِزُونَ الذَّهَبَ وَالْفِضَّةَ وَلاَ يُنفِقُونَهَا فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ فَبَشِّرْهُم بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ يَوْمَ يُحْمَى عَلَيْهَا فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ فَتُكْوَى بِهَا جِبَاهُهُمْ وَجُنوبُهُمْ وَظُهُورُهُمْ هَـذَا مَا كَنَزْتُمْ لأَنفُسِكُمْ فَذُوقُواْ مَا كُنتُمْ تَكْنِزُونَ (9: 34-35)
And those that hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of God, give them glad tidings of a horrible punishment on the day when these [treasures of] gold and silver shall be heated in the fire of Hell, and their foreheads, sides, and backs branded with them. "These are the riches which you hoarded. Taste then what you were hoarding." (9:34-35)
It is for this very nature of the directive that if people who are bound to fulfill this right are for some reason compelled to disregard the needs of a deserving person at some time and it is expected that in future their circumstances would improve then they should kindly treat the deserving person and promise him with help in future. The words وَإِمَّا تُعْرِضَنَّ عَنْهُمُ ابْتِغَاء رَحْمَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكَ تَرْجُوهَا فَقُل لَّهُمْ قَوْلاً مَّيْسُورًا point to this aspect.
Whether such spending is done in open or in secret, the Almighty says that every bit of it is in His knowledge. This means that He will also definitely reward a person as per His promise:
وَمَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّن نَّفَقَةٍ أَوْ نَذَرْتُم مِّن نَّذْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ يَعْلَمُهُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ إِن تُبْدُواْ الصَّدَقَاتِ فَنِعِمَّا هِيَ وَإِن تُخْفُوهَا وَتُؤْتُوهَا الْفُقَرَاء فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لُّكُمْ وَيُكَفِّرُ عَنكُم مِّن سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ (271)
And [rest assured] that whatever you spend and whatever vows you make [you shall be fully rewarded for them] because God is fully aware of them and [those who turn away from the guidance of God and] wrong their souls will have none to help them [in the presence of God]. If you spend openly then this too is a good thing, but to give to the poor and to give it secretly is better. [Through this], God will wipe out your sins and [there is absolutely no doubt that] God has knowledge of all your deeds. (270-71)
Consequently, the Qur'an says that the Almighty blesses this spending and with His favour transforms a mole into a mountain:
مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ فِي كُلِّ سُنبُلَةٍ مِّئَةُ حَبَّةٍ وَاللّهُ يُضَاعِفُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ (261:2)
Those who spend their wealth in the way of God can be compared to a grain of corn which brings forth seven ears, each bearing a hundred grains. God [in accordance with His wisdom] provides in abundance [in this manner] to whom He wills; [In reality] God is munificent and all-knowing. (2:261)
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
This is a parable which depicts the manifold increase in the reward for spending wealth in the way of God. It is said that just as seven ears sprout from a corn and each ear will have a hundred grains, similarly the reward of a deed given to a person can be up to seven hundred times. Some Hadith narratives also explain this theme. It is reported that the Prophet (sws) said that the reward of a good deed ranges from ten times to seven hundred times. This variation obviously depends on the nature of the deed, the time in which it is done and the internal and external circumstances of those who do the deed. If a good deed is done in difficult circumstances and with straitened resources, it will earn more reward and if a good deed is done in times of ease and with ample resources, its reward will be relatively less. The feelings of the people who do the deed also count. A good deed maybe done with complete willingness of heart and enthusiasm and it may also be done half-heartedly and under compulsion. Obviously both would earn different reward. The verse depicts the maximum reward and it is said: "God provides in abundance [in this manner] to whom He wills." This is a reference to the principle we have alluded to. Allah's will is never against justice and wisdom. Hence this manifold reward is willed by Him only in favour of those who prove themselves worthy in accordance with the principle set for them.
This is further explained by saying that if this spending is done to please God and to discipline the soul then this is the example of the person who plants an orchard not on land which is washed away by floods but on such high and even ground where the climate is also favourable so that if there is rain it bears double the fruit and if there is no rain, a light drizzle is sufficient to bear fruit because of conducive land and climatic conditions:
وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمُ ابْتِغَاء مَرْضَاتِ اللّهِ وَتَثْبِيتًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ كَمَثَلِ جَنَّةٍ بِرَبْوَةٍ أَصَابَهَا وَابِلٌ فَآتَتْ أُكُلَهَا ضِعْفَيْنِ فَإِن لَّمْ يُصِبْهَا وَابِلٌ فَطَلٌّ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ (2: 265)
ِAnd those who spend their wealth to please God and to firmly attach their own souls [to the truth] are like an orchard which is on a high and level ground: if a heavy shower falls upon it, it yields up twice its normal produce; and even if a heavy shower does not fall on it, a drizzle is enough [to produce fruit. Keep this example in mind] and [rest assured that] God knows whatever you do. (2:265)
However, this reward is for spending done from ones clean and pure wealth and which is not accompanied by hurting the person on whom it is spent and by emphasizing it as a favour. Presenting to God something which a person does not like for himself is a very mean act. Whatever we have is given to us by God. If we give something to Him in His way and adopt a mean attitude in this then in the words of Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, there is a strong chance that a person instead of pleasing the Almighty and disciplining his soul ends up distancing himself from the Almighty. Similarly, if a person keeps boasting of his favour on the recipient and hurts him then this means that he does not have magnanimity because after being blessed with the motivation of spending on the poor such an attitude can only be adopted by petty-minded people – people who think that those on whom they have spent should always live under the burden of their generosity. Consequently, when this wish of theirs is not fulfilled they always want to humiliate that person by taunting him. The Qur'an says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَنفِقُواْ مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا كَسَبْتُمْ وَمِمَّا أَخْرَجْنَا لَكُم مِّنَ الأَرْضِ وَلاَ تَيَمَّمُواْ الْخَبِيثَ مِنْهُ تُنفِقُونَ وَلَسْتُم بِآخِذِيهِ إِلاَّ أَن تُغْمِضُواْ فِيهِ وَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّ اللّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ (2: 267)
Believers! spend from your pure wealth and from that which We have brought out of the earth for you, and don't even think of spending something worthless [in the way of God] which you yourselves would not receive but with closed eyes. You should know that God does not need [such spending from you] and He is glorious. (2:267)
At another place, the Qur'an says:
الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ ثُمَّ لاَ يُتْبِعُونَ مَا أَنفَقُواُ مَنًّا وَلاَ أَذًى لَّهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ قَوْلٌ مَّعْرُوفٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِّن صَدَقَةٍ يَتْبَعُهَآ أَذًى وَاللّهُ غَنِيٌّ حَلِيمٌ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تُبْطِلُواْ صَدَقَاتِكُم بِالْمَنِّ وَالأذَى كَالَّذِي يُنفِقُ مَالَهُ رِئَاء النَّاسِ وَلاَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ صَفْوَانٍ عَلَيْهِ تُرَابٌ فَأَصَابَهُ وَابِلٌ فَتَرَكَهُ صَلْدًا لاَّ يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَى شَيْءٍ مِّمَّا كَسَبُواْ وَاللّهُ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمُ ابْتِغَاء مَرْضَاتِ اللّهِ وَتَثْبِيتًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ كَمَثَلِ جَنَّةٍ بِرَبْوَةٍ أَصَابَهَا وَابِلٌ فَآتَتْ أُكُلَهَا ضِعْفَيْنِ فَإِن لَّمْ يُصِبْهَا وَابِلٌ فَطَلٌّ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن تَكُونَ لَهُ جَنَّةٌ مِّن نَّخِيلٍ وَأَعْنَابٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الأَنْهَارُ لَهُ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَأَصَابَهُ الْكِبَرُ وَلَهُ ذُرِّيَّةٌ ضُعَفَاء فَأَصَابَهَا إِعْصَارٌ فِيهِ نَارٌ فَاحْتَرَقَتْ كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللّهُ لَكُمُ الآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ (2: 262-266)
Those who spend their wealth in the way of God and do not follow this spending by reminders of their generosity and insults have their reward with their Lord; they shall have nothing to fear [there] nor will they be sorrowful. A kind word and forgiveness [at unpleasant instances] is better than charity followed by inflicting hurt. [You should know that] God is self-sufficient [from such charity] and [on such an attitude from you, He deprives you; however, besides this] He is very gracious. Believers! do not mar your charity by reminders of generosity and by hurting others like those who spend their wealth to show off before others and believe neither in God nor in the Last Day. Such men are like a rock covered with soil: a shower falls upon it and leaves it hard and bare. [On the Day of Judgement], they shall gain nothing from what they earned. And [in reality], God does not guide such ungrateful people. Those who spend their wealth to please God and to firmly attach their own souls [to the truth] are like an orchard which is on a high and level ground: if a heavy shower falls upon it, it yields up twice its normal produce; and even if a severe shower does not fall on it, a drizzle is enough [to produce fruit. Keep this example in mind] and [rest assured that] God knows whatever you do. Would any one of you who has an orchard of dates and grapes underneath which streams of water flow, in which are fruits of all kinds and he grows old and his children are feeble wish that this orchard be blasted by a fiery whirlwind and it burn to ashes? [This will be the condition of people on the Day of Judgement who mar their spending in the way of Allah by reminders of generosity and by hurting others]. In this manner does God explain to you His revelations so that you may reflect. (2: 262-266)
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, while explaining these verses, writes:
This is the parable of a person who has planted an orchard of grapes beneath which a canal flows to keep it blossoming. There were other types of fruit also in the orchard and it also produced various crops. The owner of the orchard grew old and all his children were young. Meanwhile a fiery whirlwind passed through the orchard and totally destroyed it. The Qur'an says that a similar fate will await the charity spending of a person who did not protect it from destructive calamities. The lightning which destroys their residence is hidden right in their own precincts and it will appear exactly at the time when they will not be left with the option of obtaining what they have lost.
In the verses of Surah Bani Isra'il under discussion, the Almighty has explained that only people who adopt a balanced attitude in their spending and consider the sustenance they have been given by God a blessing and not a result of their own planning are afforded with the urge and will to spend in this manner. Consequently, two further things are stated: Wealth should not be squandered for it is a blessing of God and the right attitude in this regard is that a person should spend it in a balanced and efficient way and whatever he saves he should consider that he has been entrusted with it as a share for its rightful recipients and with full caution discharge this duty of handing it over to them. The reason for this is that a person who does not adopt a balanced attitude regarding his needs is not able to even find time from his pastimes and pursuits to fulfill such duties. The Qur'an says that people who squander their wealth are Satan's brothers and Satan is very ungrateful to his Lord. He allures people to his ways and entices them to spend on things which earn the displeasure of God. While explaining the balanced attitude in this matter, the Qur'an says that a person should neither be miserly nor prodigal so that when he needs his wealth, he ends up yearning for wealth and is reduced to indigence; on the other hand, he should spend in a balanced way and always save something so that he is able to help others whenever needed. The Qur'anic words used for this are: َلاَ تَجْعَلْ يَدَكَ مَغْلُولَةً إِلَى عُنُقِكَ وَلاَ تَبْسُطْهَا كُلَّ الْبَسْطِ فَتَقْعُدَ مَلُومًا مَّحْسُورًا .
The other thing is that it is the wisdom and will of God which governs the financial circumstances of a person. He may be blessed in abundance in this regard or he may have to live hand to mouth. The only responsibility of a person is that he should work hard to create opportunities for his livelihood. People who do not understand this, not only do not spend on others, but many a time become so callous as to even kill their children for fear of poverty. The Qur'anic verse of Surah Bani Isra'il quoted above which mentions this specially alludes to the evil Arab custom of burying alive infant girls in the time of jahiliyyah. The psyche behind this was that since a woman is not an earning member of the family, why should one bear the burden of her up-bringing. The Qur'an forbade this heinous practice and said that it is the Almighty who provides for these innocent girls and also those who indulge in this practice. They should rest assured that the Almighty is ever watching the circumstances His servants are going through; He was not un-aware of them.
At another instance, this aspect is explained thus in the Qur'an:
الشَّيْطَانُ يَعِدُكُمُ الْفَقْرَ وَيَأْمُرُكُم بِالْفَحْشَاء وَاللّهُ يَعِدُكُم مَّغْفِرَةً مِّنْهُ وَفَضْلاً وَاللّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ يُؤتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَاء وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلاَّ أُوْلُواْ الأَلْبَابِ (268:2-269)
Satan threatens you with poverty and tempts you to [spend on] lewd things and God promises you His forgiveness and His bounty and God is munificent and all-knowing. He [according to His law] gives an awareness of [this promise of] wisdom to whom He pleases, and he who receives this awareness indeed receives a treasure of great good. Yet none but men of sense receive a reminder [from such things]. (2:268-269)
Chastity and Modesty
The fourth directive mentioned is that no one should even go near fornication. The reason stated for this is that it is open lewdness and a very dreadful practice. The implication is that no argument is required to prove its awfulness and lewdness. Human nature has always regarded it to be a grave sin and a terrible crime. It is an indubitable reality that the institution of family is as essential a need for a person as air and water are. This institution can only sustain on natural feelings and emotions if the relationship between the spouses is permanent. If this aspect is missing then a society can only consist of a bunch of animals which are devoid of natural and spiritual feelings and emotions; it cannot be founded on the right footings. Mawlana Abu al-A'la Mawdudi writes:
The fact that this act is immoral or a religious sin or against social norms is something which has been universally acknowledged in all times and no one save a few people who have surrendered their intellect to base desires or who in their madness invent novel things and then philosophize them have differed in this regard. The reason for this universal consensus is that human nature itself requires that fornication be prohibited. The survival of human race and the establishment of a human society both require that a man and a woman should not be free to merely sexually gratify themselves and then split away; on the contrary, the relationship between them should be of a permanent contract in which they remain sincere to one another – a relationship which is known and acknowledged in the society and is also given protection by it. Without this, human race cannot survive a single day because a child needs several years of care and affection for his upbringing and a woman single-handedly can never be able to bear this responsibility unless the man who was responsible for bringing the child into existence is ready to support and help her. Similarly, without such a contract, human society also cannot remain intact because society itself has been created through the union of a man and a woman in the form of a family and then through relationships between various families with one another. If a man and a woman, while disregarding a family set-up, come together to merely sexually gratify themselves for sometime, human beings will end up dispersed from one another, the roots of collective life will be severed and the very foundation on which the edifice of the society was built would be razed to ground. For these reasons, an informal relationship between a man and a woman which is not based on a contract of sincerity that is known and recognized in the society is against human nature. Consequently, man has always regarded fornication as a grave folly and an act of great immorality and, in religious terms, an atrocious sin.
It is this very terrible nature of fornication because of which the Almighty has not merely forbidden it; He has said to not even go near it. This means that one should keep away from things that may lead to it or may ultimately entice a person to it.The etiquette of gender interaction mentioned in Surah Nur is stated for these very reasons. A summary of this etiquette is that a man a woman with regard to their physical and psychological needs should guard their gazes and properly cover their private parts and should not do something that rouses sexual emotions. The reason for this is that when Satan wants to give currency to fornication in a society, he first of all begins from these places. It is evident from the Qur'an that it was through this very way that he had attacked Adam and Eve:
يَا بَنِي آدَمَ لاَ يَفْتِنَنَّكُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ كَمَا أَخْرَجَ أَبَوَيْكُم مِّنَ الْجَنَّةِ يَنزِعُ عَنْهُمَا لِبَاسَهُمَا لِيُرِيَهُمَا سَوْءَاتِهِمَا إِنَّهُ يَرَاكُمْ هُوَ وَقَبِيلُهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لاَ تَرَوْنَهُمْ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا الشَّيَاطِينَ أَوْلِيَاء لِلَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ (27:7)
Children of Adam! let not Satan tempt you again the way he had expelled your parents from the orchard [in which they were living] stripping them of their garments in order to reveal their private parts to them. He and his associates see you from where you cannot see them. Indeed, We have made such devils associates of those who do not profess faith. (7:27)
What sort of an attack was this? Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
… he first strips a person of his apparel of piety and virtue – the apparel which the Almighty had blessed him with together with his real apparel to elevate his inner-self. When this inner apparel is taken off, modesty and chastity, which are the actual motives for the real apparel, fade away. Then this real apparel starts becoming burdensome. Immodesty and profligacy induce a person to expose body parts which hold an attraction for the opposite gender -- parts whose concealment is a requirement of human nature. Then comes fashion to support this tendency; it provokes a person to wear clothes in such a bizarre way that he or she appears to be naked inspite of being adorned with clothes, and in this way – concealment of the body – the very objective of clothes is sacrificed. The only thing left in these clothes now is embellishment and the real objective is now to enhance the degree of nudity as much as possible. Then gradually human intellect is overwhelmed and nudity is now dubbed as culture and covering the body is considered to be an old fashioned act which exudes abhorrence. Then educated ruffians come to the scene and present the philosophy in the light of history that nudity is real human nature. Clothing has become in vogue because of restrictions of customs and etiquette. It is at this stage that shamelessness overcomes people and the whole society is poisoned with lust and licentiousness.
On this very basis, popularizing fornication and creating opportunities which lead to it are regarded a crime by the Almighty. The Qur'an says that when the Hypocrites and miscreants of Madinah in the time of the Prophet (sws) adopted these ways, the Almighty said:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ أَن تَشِيعَ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (19:24)
Indeed those who like shamelessness and lust to spread among Muslims shall be sternly punished in this life and in the life to come. [They only deserve this] and God knows [them], but you know not. (24:19)
For this very objective, the Prophet (sws) forbade Muslim women from putting on pungent perfumes when going out, from sitting alone with men and from traveling alone. When people asked about the brother-in-law, the Prophet (sws) told them that sitting alone with them is tantamount to death.
The wisdom in the directive of taking a mahram relative along in long journeys is no different. Turning away one's gaze from ladies after the first sight is also for this purpose. Certain types of music have been prohibited for the very reason that they may lead a person to this sin. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said that the children of Adam necessarily get some share from fornication. Thus ogling women is the fornication of the eye, lustful talk is the fornication of the tongue, amusing oneself with such talk is the fornication of the ears, touching and walking for this purpose is the fornication of the hands and the feet. Then the heart and the mind show their yearning and one's private parts sometimes confirm this and sometimes negate it.
All these directives are meant to nip the evil of fornication in its bud.
Sanctity of Human Life
The fifth directive is that no one should kill any one. This is a mention of the sanctity of human life which it always has had as per morality and religion. The Qur'an has informed us that prior to this, the Israelites were also given this directive and the Almighty had ordained that killing one human being is like killing whole mankind. This directive has been preserved in the Talmud in these very words even today. The Qur'an has referred to it in Surah Ma'idah in the following words:
مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَى بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا (32:5)
That was why we laid it down for the Israelites that hewho killed a human being without the latter being guilty of killing another or of spreading anarchy in the land should be looked upon as if he killed all mankind. (5:32)
It is evident from the above mentioned directive that the life of a human being can only be taken in two circumstances: when a person has killed someone or when a person while rebelling against the collective system goes after the life, wealth or honour of others. The words "spreading anarchy in the land" refer to this latter practice. Apart from these two circumstances, every killing is an unjustified act the punishment of which is eternal Hell according to the Qur'an (25:68-69). Muslims, who perpetrate this crime against other Muslims, are warned thus by the Qur'an:
وَمَن يَقْتُلْ مُؤْمِنًا مُّتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَآؤُهُ جَهَنَّمُ خَالِدًا فِيهَا وَغَضِبَ اللّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَلَعَنَهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ عَذَابًا عَظِيمًا (93:4)
And he who intentionally kills a believer, his reward is Hell. He shall abide therein forever, and the wrath and the curse of God are upon him. He has prepared for him a dreadful doom. (4:93)
The Qur'an has also clarified that the perpetrators of this crime will not only have to face God in this manner, they will also have to reckon with the heirs of the slain person and God has given them full authority in this regard, and no court of justice can show any leniency to the murderer without the consent of his heirs. Its responsibility is that if they insist on qisas, it should help them and should implement with full force whatever they want.
However, this does not at all mean that if at some place a formal government does not exist and the matter of qisas is solely left to the discretion of the heirs of the accused, then they, in their capacity as heirs, should exceed the limits and, for example, slay others besides the slayer in frenzy of revenge or out of prejudice for their status and superiority demand the execution of a free person in place of a slave or a man in place of a woman, or kill the criminal by torturing him, or take out their venom on his dead body or adopt those methods of killing which have been prohibited by the Almighty. The words فَلاَ يُسْرِفْ فِي القَتْل point to this aspect.
It is evident from this that on the Day of Judgement the slain person shall have the same authority and without his consent the slayer will not be granted any leniency.
Misappropriating the Wealth of Orphans
The sixth directive is that the wealth of orphans should not be misappropriated. The words of this directive are the same as those of fornication earlier: "Do not approach the wealth of orphans except for their welfare and betterment." The implication is that one should only use the wealth of the orphans for their development and protection and this too should be done till the time when orphans reach maturity and can be entrusted with their wealth. In Surah Nisa, the Almighty has given certain guidelines in this matter; however, since they relate to the shari'ah, they shall be mentioned in my book "The Social Shari 'ah of Islam".Here, this much should remain clear that in the given verse what one has been prohibited regarding orphans is a grave crime and one should not consider it to be trivial. Consequently, the Qur'an says:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَالَ الْيَتَامَى ظُلْمًا إِنَّمَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ نَارًا وَسَيَصْلَوْنَ سَعِيرًا (10:4)
Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly, swallow fire into their bellies; and soon shall they be caste into the raging fire of Hell. (4:10)
The seventh directive is that promises should be kept at all costs. The Qur'an here says that one shall be held accountable for promises. In Surah Baqarah, this directive has been mentioned with great stress and emphasis in the following words: (2: 177) وَالْمُوْفُوْن بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا(And when they make promises, they keep them, (2:177)). Promises here imply all kinds and sorts of promises. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi says:
Keeping promises includes all small and big obligations whether they are related to God or to His creation, whether they come into existence through written means or whether through some relation and association, whether they are declared or are considered to be understood in a good society. We are tied in some sort of a contract with God and the Prophet (sws), our father and mother, our wife and kids, with our near and distant relatives, our clan and family, our neighbours and neighbourhood, teachers and students, masters and servants and with our peoples and nations. It is an essential requirement of piety and fulfillment of oaths that we fulfill these rights. In other words, the real spirit of keeping promises is fulfillment of rights and fulfillment of rights encompasses all big and small obligations.
At some other instances in the Qur'an (eg. 23:8, 70:32) as well, this directive of keeping promises is mentioned with the same emphasis. At the time of armed jihad also, the most important directive which is stated in the Qur'an is this keeping of promises. Surah Tawbah is the surah of punishment. In it, the Prophet (sws) and the Muslims have been directed to end their treaties with the Idolaters of Arabia and launch the final onslaught. However, this much has been clearly stated in it (9:4) that treaties which are time-bound must be honoured till the time period expires. Similarly, in Surah Anfal, it has been stated that if a nation with whom Muslims are bound in a pact is oppressing the Muslims, then these Muslims cannot be helped in breach of this pact. The Qur'an says:
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَلَمْ يُهَاجِرُواْ مَا لَكُم مِّن وَلاَيَتِهِم مِّن شَيْءٍ حَتَّى يُهَاجِرُواْ وَإِنِ اسْتَنصَرُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ فَعَلَيْكُمُ النَّصْرُ إِلاَّ عَلَى قَوْمٍ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُم مِّيثَاقٌ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ (72:8)
And to those who accepted faith but did not migrate [to Madinah], you owe no duty of protection until they migrate; but if they seek your help in religion, it is your duty to help them except against a people with whom you have a treaty; and [in reality] Allah sees what you do. (8:72)