Superstructure of Various Aspects Social Relations as identified by Islam
By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
The superstructure of social relations denotes the details of the system of association as tackled by books of traditions (i.e. hadith). This system is composed of a set of obligatory laws on social etiquette and manners, deals with the various forms of association with others, and presents the ideal and most accurate outline for building social relations.
Islam has identified the aspects of this concept, outlined its foundations and rules and established (S)
In the coming chapters, we will briefly discuss the details of this concept and the relationship between these details and the two aspects of the Islamic concept of social relations. The correlation between the rules of the concept and its features on the one hand and the superstructure or details, on the other, will be made unmistakably clear.
However, details and demonstration of the outlines and elements of this concept is left for my independent book that is dedicated to the Islamic concept of social relations.1
This section is composed of two chapters. The first chapter deals with the superstructure, which confirms and clarifies different aspects of social relations.
The second chapter deals with the superstructure of the rules and foundations of the concept.
Additional Indications of Openness
With regard to openness in social relations, the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) demonstrate this aspect.
(1) Traditions emphasize exchanging greetings, because salutation is often the key to building good social relations with others.
Through a valid chain of authority, Shaykh al-Kulayni has reported Imam al-Baqir (‘a) as saying: Verily, Allah the Almighty and Majestic likes offering salutation.2
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: To greet everyone you meet is a sort of modesty.3
Instructing Imam ‘Ali (‘a), the Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said:
Three characteristics make amends for sins: (1) offering salutation, (2) feeding the needy, (3) offering prayers at night when others are asleep.4
(2) The Holy Imams (‘a) emphasized amity as a feature of true believers. In other words, a true believer must build good relations with all people and endear himself to them so that he is a well-liked person. Naturally, such amity is achievable only through wide-ranging relations and associations with others.
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) quoted the Holy Prophet (S) as saying: The best of you are those with the best manners, whose ‘sides are generously prepared’,5 who have close relationships with people and people have close relationships with them, and whose carpets are always trodden.6
(3) Traditions have emphasized the forbidding of alienation and rupture of relations between Muslims. Islam believes it is necessary to keep the door wide open in social relations even if one party is unhappy. Things forbidden in Islam have grave consequences.
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: There is no good in breaking away (from others).7
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) is reported as saying: I will definitely disavow any pair of believers who forsake each other for more than three days.
He was asked, “The wronging party deserves this, but why does this include the wronged party, too?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: Why did the wronged party not go to the wronging party and claim that he was the wronging party so that they would make peace?8
Al-Qasim ibn al-Rabi’ has reported that he heard Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), in his instruction to al-Mufadhdhal, saying: Whenever two men leave one another and become estranged, one of them must be worth disavowal and curse, and sometimes both parties are worthy of it.
Mu’attab said, “May Allah make me your sacrifice. One may curse the wronging party, but why is the wronged party then cursed, too?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: The wronged party may also be cursed because he does not call the other party to reconcile…I heard my father saying, “If two (of our Shi’ah) disagree with each other and one of them prevails over the other, the wronged party should come to the other and confess that he was wrong, so that their disagreement will come to an end. Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, is surely a fair Judge and will certainly judge for the benefit of the wronged party.”9
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) has also reported on the authority of his father that the Holy Prophet (S) said: Verily, any two Muslims that become estranged and refrain from reconciliation within three days will have certainly abandoned the religion of Islam, and their brotherhood-in-faith will be canceled. Hence, the party who precedes the other in making peace will also precede the other in entering Paradise.10
(5) Traditions have also highlighted the necessity of accepting the apologies of others. Hence, a true believer must accept the apology of those who had caused him pain. This trait reflects the significance of maintaining good social relations, blocking the door in the face of all sorts of rupture of relations, and eradicating the traces of the causes and effects of such dispute.
Islam has determined a set of exceptions in this field so that this concept is complete and the significance of openness emphasized.
In our discussion of the fourth aspect of the Islamic concept of social relations, we referred to some of these exceptions under general social relations. Hereinafter, we will refer to these exceptions generally by summing them in the following four points:
Avoidance of situations that cause one to lose one’s reputation
Relations with people with bad reputations and suspicion must be avoided, because they injure the reputations of the person who wants to build relations with them. Examples of such relations are the following:
A. Relationships that bring accusations of sinful behavior or committing of illegal deeds, such as associations with certain women—and even certain men and children, are the first example. The same is applicable to associations with certain rich and luxury-loving people. Accusations can arise from the origin, form, or nature of these relations. Some traditions forbid such associations.
For instance, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) has reported on the authority of his fathers that the Holy Prophet (S) said:
Association with the following three categories of people desensitizes hearts: (1) sitting with dishonest or unscrupulous people, (2) talking to women, and (3) sitting with the rich.11
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) has also reported Imam ‘Ali the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) as saying: Whoever engages himself in situations of accusation should not blame those who have a bad idea about him. Whoever conceals his secrets will have public decisions in his hand.12
Imam al-Ridha (‘a) is reported to have quoted Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Avoid situations that bring about ill reputation. Avoid stopping even with your mothers in public places, because not everyone knows that this woman is your mother.13
B. Another example is relations that arouse accusations of doctrinal, ideological, or political deviation, such as accompanying, sitting with, studying under, and receiving from people who are heretical or aberrant. Some traditions warn against this.
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said: Do not accompany heretics and do not participate in their sessions, lest people equate you with them. The Messenger of Allah (S) has said, “Man follows the religion of his friend and companion.”14
Keeping away from wicked associates
It is advisable to keep away from wicked individuals known for corruptive behavior. By accompanying such individuals, nothing is gained except harm and grievance. Besides, one is influenced by the company one keeps.
Imam ‘Ali the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) is reported to have quoted the Holy Prophet (S) as saying: Inspect those with whom you exchange discourses. At the hour of death, Almighty Allah will display everyone’s companions before him. If righteous was their companion, they will be shown righteousness, but if evil was their companion, they will be shown evil. At the hour of everyone’s death, I will be shown to him, too.15
Imam al-Ridha (‘a) is reported to have said: Jesus (‘a) said: Truly, an evil companion infects and a wicked associate leads to perdition. So, inspect those whom you keep company with.16
On the other hand, associations with such corrupt individuals may be acceptable when the purpose is to guide them to the truth or to achieve a private legal interest that is intended for a worldly or religious benefit.
Wicked associates mentioned in traditions by descriptions or qualities are the following:
A. Those morally deviated from the path of religion, such as corrupt (sinful) people, liars, those who break off family ties, stingy people, cowards, and foolish people.
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) has reported the following: Whenever he ascended the minbar (to deliver a speech), Imam ‘Ali (‘a) would say, “A Muslim should avoid befriending three categories of people: the sinful, the foolish, and the liars. The sinful shows you his evil acts as good deeds, wants you to be like him, and does not assist you in the affairs of your religion and your life to come. It is offensive and arduous to befriend such an individual whose visit to you brings you dishonor. The foolish can neither advise you nor save you from any problem even if he does his best. Moreover, he may harm you although he intends to benefit you. His death is better than his life, his silence is better than his words, and his remoteness is better than his closeness. The liar deprives you of any pleasurable association. He tells others of your conduct and relates the conduct of others to you. Whenever he finishes telling one lie, he invents another so much so that even his true statements seem untrue. He sows enmity between people to plant malice in their hearts. Fear Allah and consider your own good.17
B. The socially ignoble and lowly, mentally and culturally retarded, such as the insane, the idiot, the mean, the timorous, the vile, the uncivilized, and the illegitimate.
‘Ammar ibn Musa has reported that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) advised him saying: O ‘Ammar, if you want graces to be poured on you constantly, manliness to be perfected for you, and livelihood to be stable for you, you must not share your affairs with servants and the lowly. If you entrust them with anything, they will betray you; if they speak to you, they will lie to you; if you are exposed to a misfortune, they will let you down; and if they promise you anything, they will fail to fulfill it.
‘Ammar ibn Musa has also reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: The love of the righteous for the righteous is a reward for the righteous. The love of the sinful for the righteous is a merit for the righteous. The hatred of the sinful for the righteous is adornment for the righteous. The hatred of the righteous for the sinful is disgrace for the sinful.18
The Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said:
The following five categories of people must be avoided under all circumstances: (1) the leprous, (2) the mycobacterial,19 (3) the insane, (4) the illegitimately born, and (5) the uncivilized.20
Keeping Away from Those of Forbidden Occupations
Traditions have also warned against associating with people who work in forbidden occupations and corrupt jobs and mock at religious laws and the manners of Islam, such as those mentioned in the following traditions:
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) has reported his fathers (‘a) as saying:
The following six categories of people must not be saluted: (1) the Jews, (2) the Nazerites, (3) men while discharging excrement, (4) men sitting at tables where wine is served, (5) poets who traduce honorable women, and (6) those who mock the mothers of other people.21
Seemingly, salutation in the previous tradition means the traditional salutation of Islam (i.e. salam). However, to salute these categories of people with other forms of greetings (such as good morning and the like) is permissible.
Similarly, al-Asbagh ibn Nubatah has reported Imam ‘Ali the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) as saying:
The following six categories of people must not be saluted: (1) the Jews and the Nazerites, (2) those playing backgammon and chess, (3) those addicted to intoxicants, (4) those playing lutes and mandolins, (4) those who mock the mothers of others, and (5) poets.22
Apparently, poets mentioned in the previous traditions are intended to mean exclusively those who traduce honorable women or violate the religious laws and regulations, such as poets who praise tyrannical rulers and corrupt people. This exclusiveness is deduced from the Holy Qur'an that reads: As for poets, the erring people follow them. Have you not seen how they stray in every valley? And, how they say that which they do not do, save those who believe and do good works, and remember Allah much, and vindicate themselves after they have been wronged. Those who do wrong will come to know by what a great reverse they will be overturned. (26:224-227)
Keeping Away from Those Afflicted by Infectious Diseases
Other traditions have warned against associating with those afflicted by infectious diseases, as has been noticed in a previously mentioned narration as well as the following one.
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), in the famous tradition of prohibitions (hadith al-manahi), is reported to has said: It is recommended for men to speak to a leprous individual from a distance of one arm between them.
He (‘a) is also reported to have said: Flee from the leprous as you flee from a lion.23
1. - Basically, I have depended upon traditions quoted from al-Hurr al-’Amili’s comprehensive and voluminous book of Wasa'il al-Shi’ah (in full, Tafsil Wasa'il al-Shi’ah ila Tahsil Masa'il al-Shari’ah); Volume Eight: Kitab al-Hajj, Sections: Ahkam al-’Ishrah (Laws of Association), as well as some other parts from Volume Eleven: Kitab al-Jihad, Sections: Jihad al-Nafs, al-Amr bi’l-Ma’ruf wa’l-Nahy ‘an al-Munkar.
2. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah, 8:438, S. 34, H. 1.
3. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah, 8:438, S. 34, H. 4.
4. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah, 8:439, S. 34, H. 5.
5. - This is an Arab proverb indicating lenience, generosity, and hospitality.
6. - Carpets of those who have good relations with others are usually trodden; i.e. they are frequently visited by people. See Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi 2:102. The tradition is also recorded in al-Hurr al-’Amili’s Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:510, S. 105, H. 1.
7. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:584, S. 144, H. 2.
8. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:586, S. 144, H. 10.
9. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:584, S. 144, H. 3.
10. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:585, S. 144, H. 5.
11. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:421, S. 18, H. 1.
12. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:422, S. 19, H. 1.
13. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:423, S. 19, H. 5.
14. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:430, S. 27, H. 1.
15. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:411, S. 11, H. 1.
16. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:411, S. 11, H. 2.
17. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:416, S. 15, H. 1.
18. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:418, S. 16, H. 1.
19. - Mycobacterium: Gram-positive, aerobic, filament-forming bacteria of the genus Mycobacterium, or the family Mycobacteriaceae, which include the agents of tuberculosis and leprosy. (Oxford Talking Dictionary)
20. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:431, S. 28, H. 4.
21. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:432, S. 28, H. 5.
22. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:432, S. 28, H. 6.
23. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 8:431, S. 28, H. 2.