Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Quran Project - Man in Society

Commanding good and forbidding evil. This phrase, repeated constantly in the Quran, is the foundation for the moral society that the Quran says humans are destined to create. What are the characteristics of such a society? According to Fazlur Rahman, a society that commands good and forbids evil has many key characteristics, including: justice, a legal framework, and the promotion of active goodness.

A Just Society

For a society to be moral, it must also be just. One of the most basic ways to do this is create a society where people have equal rights and opportunities.

In the Quran, economic and social inequalities are sharply condemned. Wealth, although not a bad thing in itself, shouldn’t be hoarded by the rich – in fact, the Quran says that the poor and the needy actually have a right in the money of the rich. In order to protect society from economic inequality, usury was forbidden and zakat (a 2% tax meant to redistribute money to the state and the poor) was established. In addition, unjust social practices, like female infanticide and slavery, were either outlawed or began to be restricted in the Prophet’s time.

In reading the Quran, Islamic scholars and jurists stated that there were four rights that had to be protected in a society that commanded good and forbid evil: life, religion, property, and dignity. However, these rights also came with responsibilities – claiming rights without fulfilling responsibilities would lead to social decay and eventual corruption.

A Legal Society

In order for a society to function, it needs laws. The Quran’s views on creating laws is focused on principles. Whenever the Quran set down a law, it also explained (whether directly or indirectly) the reasoning behind that law, describing the principle that law was supposed to achieve. The principle is what matters, and the law set down by the Quran only stands as long as it establishes that principle. If at a later point in time the law set in the Quran no longer establishes the principle it was revealed to establish, then the law must be changed.

I love this concept because it shows how dynamic Islamic law is. It isn’t stuck in the past – in reality, it should always be changing to accommodate the new problems and issues society is facing. Of course, there are certain aspects of Islamic law relating to purely religious issues that don’t change. But the majority of Islamic law deals with societal issues – and the laws governing these issues should be always open towards revision.

It’s sad to see that many traditional Muslim scholars didn’t stick to the principles of the Quran’s laws, and instead stuck to the laws themselves. This made Islamic laws static, and unable to respond to the new needs of society. I hope we can see that changing in the future.

An Actively Good Society

According to the Quran, societies rise and fall according to morality. A society rises when it’s people are driven to doing good, and falls when people become corrupted by wealth and power.

How to prevent the fall of a society, and keep it just, moral, and prosperous? By taking the concept of taqwa (consciousness of God and our actions) to the social level. People in society shouldn’t just be good within themselves. They have to spread good and actively work to “prevent the rot” of society. There is little separation between the individual and society in the Quran, as neither can survive without the other. So when a person is good, they should spread that goodness in society. If that person doesn’t do so, and watches evil influence society without intervening in some way, that person is not considered “good.” According to the Quran, being good means spreading goodness to others.


That’s all for this post. More coming soon!

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Guess who?

Us again…Hehe..

Great post! MashaAllah and Jazaki Allah koli khair.

As you should know by now, we’re, of course, not done..LOL…Always
putting in our 4 halalas (2 for amina and 2 for mariam)…

This time, we wanted to comment first on the commanding good and
forbidding evil. Something that many Muslims fail to realize today is that Islam didn’t just say to do that…It showed us the “way” to do that.

In the Qur’an, Allah (Exalted is He), tells prophet Musa (peace and
blessings be upon him) to go to Pharaoh, who has set himself up as the Lord, and to remind him of his real Lord. In fact, what Allah actually says is:

“42. Go, both of you, to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed. (43)
And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah]." (Chapter 20, verses 42 and 43).

Allah told the prophet to speak GENTLY to a person who had called
himself the lord. Could there be a more evil/bad/person than that? And
yet, still, Allah shows His mercy and requests that Pharaoh be
reminded gently…not through force.

So yeah, this is something we just wanted to point out.

Also, about the “just society” part. One surah (chapter) that really comes to mind is Surat Al Mutafafeen, which is one of the only 2 surahs that begin with "Woe to". (This phrase in Arabic, is actually terrifying- it's almost like a curse on them.) Who are the Mutafafeen that have earned Allah's displeasure?

The Mutafafin are those who, when they have to receive measure from
others demand full measure and extra as well, but when they have to give by measure or weight to others, give less than due (meaning, they decrease a little).

You see, SubhanAllah, it's something many of us may not think of as a big sin, but in the sight of Allah, it is truly something wrong. Once you start taking a little extra and decreasing a little extra, then
that's just going to keep accumulating until bigger rights are lost.

*U guessed it...more to come in the next post*

Amina & Mariam

Anonymous said...

Also, on the concept of justice, this is one of my favorite verses:

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you
distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is
ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (135)

The sad reality of today is that so many countries that are
predominantly Muslim populated, are plagued with a corrupt system
based on "who knows who', known as "Wasta". For example, if somebody
gets into a car accident, s/he may not have to pay a ticket or
anything if s/he is related to "somebody in the
government/police/etc". This is NOT Islamic behavior. As the ayah
clearly says, we are supposed to be just even if it is against
ourselves or our family.

SubhanAllah, another example of this is the Prophet (peace and
blessings be upon him) famous hadith:

Narrated 'Aisha:

Usama approached the Prophet on behalf of a woman (who had
committed theft). The Prophet said, "The people before you were
destroyed because they used to inflict the legal punishments on the poor and forgive the rich. By Him in Whose Hand my soul is! If Fatima (the daughter of the Prophet ) did that (i.e. stole), I would cut off her hand." (Volume 8, Book 81, Number 778)

That's it :)

*mariamina* (did that on purpose)

Nour Merza said...

Hey girls!

It's great to hear from you again. Love the feedback. Especially the bit about being gentle. Thanks for reading, and do keep sharing your thoughts. We're all benefitting here.

Lots of love!

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