May 15, 2003 Thursday Rabi-ul-Awwal 12, 1424
Prophet's (pbuh) vision of society
By Dr Fazlur Rahman
It was his first and the last pilgrimage. He stood engulfed by a sea of the faithful. More than a hundred thousand ears were cocked to what he was going to utter. The message came sharp and loud and clear: The sanctity of human life, honour and property is as inviolable as is the sanctity of the holy city of God, the city of Makkah, and the holy month of Haj. None is to be held responsible for the crime committed by the other. Don't, after me, revert to infidelity by slitting the throats of one another.
The first-ever declaration, couched in most piercing words, equating the sanctity of human life, honour and property with that of the holiest of the holy in Islam, laid down for the first time in the history of mankind, the foundation stone of a just, humane, judicious, and virtuous society, an Islamic society. The Prophet of Islam had in unequivocal words enunciated that the killer of an innocent soul, was throwing himself out of the fold of Islam by committing an act of infidelity. A society could claim to be Islamic only when it preserves the sanctity of human life, honour and property, otherwise not.
Any venture which may expose the life, honour and property of the members of society to the ravages of armed conflicts and thereby disturb its internal peace and security or let the difference of opinion or conflict of interest develop into blood feuds whether among individuals, groups or sections is very strongly condemned by the holy Prophet. He declared: Whosoever commits armed aggression against us does not belong to us. The words are unambiguous. The message is unmistakably clear and unambiguous. The Founder of Islam refuses to accept the claim of an aggressor standing in arms against Muslim society to be a member of the Muslim community.
Islamic society is raised strictly upon moral principles which if contravened threaten the very justification of its existence. The mutual relationships of the individuals and the groups within an Islamic society have to be guided and channelled by moral considerations. They have to be conducted with perfect confidence that one would get his due and would not be deceived, beguiled or cheated. The Prophet (pbuh) attached so much importance to this peculiarity of the Islamic society that he asserted Whoever defrauds us does not belong to us meaning thereby that a swindler, a cheat, by playing fraud on a member of the society severs his relationship with the Muslim community though he may still claim to be a part of it.
Generation gap poses some serious problems to the basic texture of a society. The older ones, the more advanced in age who had been breathing in a different atmosphere and whose mores and habits, modes of thinking and patterns of behaviour had been conditioned and framed by certain circumstances obtaining at a particular time, may not find themselves very comfortable to and in perfect agreement with the new, the upcoming generation.
On the other hand, the new generation, despite being in total conformity with their elders with regard to ultimate objectives of life and immutable religious and moral values may find itself, due to irresistible natural social and political forces of change and adjustment, at logger heads with the older generation. This may cause, a swelling cleavage of interests, a widening gap of behavioural patterns and an ever-increasing schism between the two integral parts of society.
This development if not checked at the opportune time may virtually let loose the forces of social disintegration. The situation if allowed to worsen is bound to develop in colossal mutual disrespect, veiled hatred, intolerance and an altogether effacement, from society, of the sentiments of love, compassion and mercy.
The Prophet, seems to have been very alive to the devastative prospects and ravages of the extreme forms of generation gap. He declared in most forceful words: Those who are not filled with compassion for our younger ones, and also those who do not pay respect to our elders, do not belong to us. Be he an elder or a younger one, he is debarred by the Prophet, from being qualified as a Muslim, as a believer, by his indulgence in the counter productive and nefarious activity of destabilizing the Islamic society.
The corner-stone of an Islamic society is mutual love and consideration for each other. The significance of these two, as the force cementing the components of an Islamic society, is highlighted by the Prophet in these words: None of you could claim to be a believer unless he desires the same for his Muslim brother that which he would have desired for himself, had he been in the same situation as his Muslim brother is. The conditionality attached to a person's claim of being acceptable as a believer in the eyes of the Founder of Islam, is his unconditional love and consideration for other members of the Islamic society.
Man's earliest social contact after birth begins with his mother, father and other blood relations. He has no choice whatsoever in selecting his blood relatives. They are divinely ordained and man has to respect and honour this choice for the rest of his life. These relationships form the genesis of family. A morally healthy family is the nucleus of a morally oriented society. The Prophet has immaculately elaborated the mutual rights, duties and responsibilities of the parents, children and other family members and relatives.
The parents are promised the reward of Paradise for proper care, moral upbringing and purposeful education, especially of the female children. Conversely, the children have been told in plain words to note that the most grievous sin after Shirk (Belief in more than one god) is recalcitrance of parents. They are required to maintain the attitude of love, respect and kindliness toward their parents, especially when they become old, frail and infirm in mind and body. The Prophet, when asked as to which one of the two, the father or the mother, was more entitled to one's care and consideration, replied the mother, the mother, the mother, and then your father.
Regarding other relatives the Prophet has instructed to preserve genealogical details of the family to enable one to be in the full know about the nature and extent of relationship. He stressed to fulfil one's moral, social and financial responsibilities towards the relatives to the extent that he is under moral compulsion to carry out these obligations even if they are not reciprocated by his relatives. Describing the resultant blessings and benedictions of maintaining cordial relations with the relatives he exhorted Whoever loves to enjoy long life coupled with an increase in prosperity he should maintain and nurture good relations with his relatives.
Neighbours play an important role in the daily life of a man. They have an intimate relationship with each other's private and public life. They share each other's sorrows and happy moments. They cannot be sidetracked or ignored. An ideal society has to nurture sincerity, sense of proportion, propriety and balance among the neighbours to maintain and develop an atmosphere of love, fellow feeling, friendliness and understanding.
The Prophet recognized the crucial role of the institution of neighbourhood in the establishment, preservation and continuity of a healthy society. Thrice he swore that a man cannot be said to be a believer unless his neighbour feels secure from him. He also declared that a person who had filled his belly while his neighbour had to sleep hungry could not claim to be a believer. A person who professes to believe in Allah and the Day of Judgment had to be, according to the Messenger of Allah, generous and respectful towards his neighbours.
He said that one had to be very mindful about the fulfilment of one's duties towards the neighbours as the archangel Gabriel did so much stress the rights of the neighbours that he thought perhaps the neighbour was going to be allotted a share in one's inheritance. Moreover the Prophet made it crystal clear that a person to qualify as a neighbour need not be a Muslim. He may be a relative, a Muslim, a non-Muslim, even a stranger who keeps regular company only for a short while. The Prophet so emphasized the importance of maintaining considerate and sympathetic relations with the neighbours as to instruct that one must direct his children not to throw the skins and remnants of the fruits in such a way that they are noticed by the poorer neighbours' children who may feel depressed by a sense of deprivation and inferiority complex.
Living among others, especially when some of them may not hold identical views or follow different social customs and practices, is always difficult and poses serious problems. It needs much of patience, profound sense of proportion, love for humanity and a deep regard for others' views and sensitivities coupled with a strong commitment to truth.
Nevertheless, not infrequently the sentiments may take the better of reason, the tempers may be frayed, the nerves may become strained resulting in a severance of relations and bad blood among the individuals, family members or groups.
The greatest humanitarian service under these circumstances would be to remove misunderstandings, eliminate causes of friction, eradicate roots of tension and strive to heal up the wounds inflicted. The Prophet (pbuh) enunciated: That which has precedence over, and is more preferable to fasting, praying and alms-giving is the removal of enmity between the parties and restoration of mutual good relations.
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