By: Allamah Sayyid Sa'eed Akhtar Rizvi
Islam has great respect for the mutual rights and duties of the neighbors
“And (be good) to the neighbor who is your relative and to the neighbor who is not a relative ……” (Qur’an, 4:36).
Islam has great respect for the mutual rights and duties of the neighbors. The Holy Prophet (S.A.) has said: “Gabriel always used to advise me to be generous with the neighbors, till I thought that Allah was going to include the neighbors among the heirs of Muslim”.
The rights of neighborhood are not meant for Muslim neighbors only. Of course, a Muslim neighbor has one more claim upon us – that of Islamic brotherhood; but so far as the rights of neighborship and concerned, all are equal. Explaining it, the Holy Prophet (S.A.) said: “Neighbors are of three kinds:
(1) that one who has one right upon you;
(2) that who has got two rights upon you; and
(3) that one who has got three rights upon you.
“The neighbor having three rights upon you is the one who is also a Muslim and a relative. The neighbor having two rights is the one who is either a non-Muslim relative or a non-relative Muslim.
“The neighbor having one right is the one who is neither a Muslim nor a relative. Still he has got all the claims of neighborhood-rights upon you”.
Here are some more traditions which show the Islamic love towards the neighbors:- The Holy Prophet (S.A.) has said: “That man is not from me who sleeps contentedly while his neighbor sleeps hungry”
Imam Zainul-Abedeen (A.S.) (son of Imam Husain) (A.S.) has said: “These are your duties towards your neighbor: Protect his interests when he is absent; show him respect when he is present; help him when he is inflicted with any injustice. Do not remain on look-out to detect his faults; and if, by any chance, you happen to know any undesirable thing about him, hide it from others; and, at the same time, try to desist him from improper habits, if there is any chance that he will listen to you. Never leave him alone in any calamity. Forgive him, if he has done any wrong. In short live with him a noble life, based on the highest Islamic ethical code”.
Now, let us ask our self a very significant question; “Are we a good neighbor”.
Change of Heart
“O people, there has come to you a direction from your Lord, and a healing for the (diseases) in your hearts”. (Qur’an: 10:57)
People have started changing their hearts – literally. Still it is not easy for them to change their hearts – idiomatically.
Transplantation of an organ of a human body reflects the progress of science within the past few decades. But it also reminds us of the vast gap between our material progress and spiritual poverty. Nothing shows this more vividly than the fact that the first successful transplantation of heart was accomplished in the ‘Republic’ of South Africa – the standard-bearer of racialism.
Now is the time to reflect upon the healing power of a heavenly book like the Holy Qur’an. The above-quoted verse describes it as a “healing for the diseases in your hearts”. Nobody can guess how much change of heart has this book affected in how many people in all these long centuries.
I think the best explanation was given by one of my non-Muslim friends when he glanced through a few pages of a translation of the Holy Qur’an and said: “The key-word in this book is ‘Allah’.”
He was right. This book creates a confidence in Allah which subdues every other feeling. A Muslim should not long for anything but the love of Allah; he should not fear anything but the displeasure of Allah.
Once an enemy of the Holy Prophet (S.A.) found him asleep under a tree. He drew his sword; then thought it un-manly to kill a sleeping man. He awakened the Prophet, (S.A.) advanced towards him with sword in hand and asked contemptuously: “Tell me, who can save you now from me?” Calmly, the Holy Prophet (S.A.) replied: “My Allah.”
This calm confidence in Allah unnerved the pagan, and the sword fell from his hand. Deliberately, the Prophet (S.A.) picked the sword up, and now it was his turn to ask: “And who can save you from me now?” The pagan said: “Nobody”.
The Prophet (S.A.) threw the sword away and said: “No, you are wrong. The same Allah who is my protector is also your protector: He would save you too”.
The enemy of a few minutes ago was now a faithful follower of the Holy Prophet (S.A.). This is the change of heart which really matters.
To Acquire Knowledge
“And say, O’ My Lord, Increase my knowledge”. (Qur’an, 20:114).
Recently two functions were held in Tanzania. The Holy Prophet’s birthday and the Literacy Week. It was a very appropriate coincidence as the following paragraphs will show.
Day in and day out, the Holy Prophet urged his followers to strive to create divine attributes in themselves to the maximum extent possible; and over all the attributes he gave precedence to knowledge. He made its acquisition as a duty of every Muslim man and woman.
The Qur’an repeatedly and emphatically asks man to exercise his intellect to acquire knowledge by study of nature ad history; to travel through the land and observe things; to ponder and reflect over the laws of Universe; and to seek the help of God in acquiring knowledge by praying to Him. O’My Lord, Increase my knowledge.
The main purpose of the Qur’an, according to Dr. Iqbal, is to awaken in man the higher consciousness of the manifold relations with God and Universe. It was in view of this essential aspect of the Qur’anic teaching that Goethe, while making a general review of Islam as an educational force, said to Eckermann; “You see, this teaching never fails. With all our systems, we can not go, and generally speaking no man can go, farther than that”.
The emphasis of the Holy Prophet of Islam on acquisition of knowledge was directly responsible for the fact that, in the words of George Sarton, “When the West was sufficiently mature to feel the need of deeper knowledge ….. it turned its attention first of all, not to Greek sources, but to the Arabic (i.e. Muslim) ones”. (Introduction to the History of the Sciences).
Brifault says in “Making of Humanity”: “The debt of our science to that of Arabs does not consist only in starting discoveries or revolutionary theories: science owes a great deal more to Arab culture; It owes its very existence. Science is the most momentous contribution of Arab (i.e. Muslim) civilization to the modern world”.
The Great Fellowship
“All who obey Allah and the Apostles, are with those on whom is the Grace of Allah – the Prophets and the sincere ones and the witnesses and the righteous; and what a beautiful companions they are!” (Qur’an, 4:69).
It is an ayat of the deepest spiritual meaning. Even the humblest man who accepts Islam and obeys Allah and His Prophet, by doing good, becomes at once an accepted member of a great and beautiful spiritual fellowship. It is a company which lives perpetually in the sunshine of Allah’s Grace. It is the glorious hierarchy of which four grades are specified:
1. The highest is that of the prophets or apostles, who got direct inspiration from Allah and taught mankind by providing perfect examples from their own lives. The highest position of that highest rank is held by the Prophet of Islam.
2. The next are those whose badge is sincerity and truth, they love and support the truth with their person, their means, their influence and all that is theirs. That rank, in Islam, was held by the special companions of the Holy Prophet.
3. The next come the noble army of witnesses, who testify to the truth. The testimony may be by martyrdom, or it may be by the tongue of the true preacher or the pen of a devoted scholar.
4. Lastly, there is the large company of the righteous people, the common folk who do their ordinary business, but always in a righteous way.
This is the beautiful fellowship in which each has his place; but at the same time derives from the common association.
Obligations of a Believer
“Those who establish prayers, and hand over ‘zakat’ and believe in the life hereafter”. (Qur’an, 48:3).
These attributes of the believers refer to the three main aspects of religious obligation is Islam.
A Muslim must fulfill his obligations towards God, toward fellow human beings and towards himself.
In this ‘ayat’, prayer is the symbol of the obligations towards God. It is considered so important that “if a man’s prayers would be worthy of acceptance by God, his all other virtuous performances would be accepted; but if his prayers are rejected (because of his base intentions), all other acts would be rejected”.
The right of the fellow human beings is symbolized by giving the religious monetary dues. It should be enough to say that, in more than 80 places in the Qur’an, the exhortation to establish prayers is followed by that of paying the ‘zakat’.
Last, but not the least, is a man’s responsibility towards himself. I do not mean his right to the worldly enjoyments, though it may be considered a part of the over-all picture, within the limits of the religious laws. What I mean, and Islam means, by this phrase is that a man owes it to himself to save his soul from disgrace when all will be assembled together on the day of reckoning. Hence the mention of that belief in the above-quoted verse.
According to Islam, if a man commits a sin which does no harm to any other person in any way, he fails in his duty towards God (by disobeying Him) and towards himself (by putting himself liable to the displeasure of God). Yet, such a man has more hope of being forgiven by God than the one who has committed a sin against another person. The latter has failed in all three aspects of his duty: he has displeased God, has harmed another person and has disgraced himself. Such a person will not be forgiven by Allah unless he is pardoned by the person whom he had wronged.
“Verily, Allah commands you to return the ‘Amanat’ to their owners”. (Qur’an, Sura 4:58).
‘Amanat’ (the word used in the ayat mentioned above) means keeping the trust faithfully and returning it without any change or alteration whenever demanded by the person who gave it to you. It is one of the highly emphasized virtues in Islam. The Holy Prophet himself was the embodiment of ‘Amanat’. Long before he received the call from Allah to declare his Prophethood, he was popularly known as ‘As-Sadiq-ul-Amin’ (The Truthful and Trustworthy) among the people of Arabia.
It is very revealing to see that after the declaration of his Prophethood (at the age of 40) his opponents accused him of everything from being a poet or sorcerer to being possessed by a genie; but never once, in this long period of conflict, did they accuse him of being untruthful or untrustworthy.
On the contrary, that very person, who was conspiring to silence the voice of God by killing him, continued to deposit their valuables with him – the very man whose destruction was the only aim of their life.
When the Holy Prophet had to leave Mecca because of the said plots, he left his cousin, Ali bin Abi Talib, behind, instructing him to return all those things to their rightful owners before joining the Holy Prophet at Medina.
Imam Zainul Abedeen, son of Imam Husain, used to say: “If the murderer of my father gives me in trust the sword which he used in killing my father (martyred at Karbala), I will return it to him whenever he comes back demanding its return”.