Social Aspects Of Islam

Islamic Laws have regulated the mutual rights and duties of the members of society in order to ensure social stability. Such rights and duties are either special or general. Special rights and duties or obligations include:

People’s Obligations Towards the Ruler

It is stated in the Holy Qur’an, which meaning of is translated as:  O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad), and those of you who are in authority. (The Qur’an, An-Nisaa, 4:59). These obligations are as follows:

- To obey the ruler unless his orders are in conflict with Islam. This is in keeping with the Holy Prophet’s peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said: Listen and obey, even if an Abyssinian Negro is appointed as your prince (or governor), as long as he implements Allah’s Book (i.e.: The Qur’an) among you. (Narrated by the Major Hadith Imams, except Bukhari). Thus, obedience to the ruler, if he orders no sin, is part of obedience to Allah, hence disobedience to him, in this context, implies disobedience to Allah.
- To extend sincere advice to the ruler, gently and leniently, on things that are helpful to him and are in the interest of his subjects. Allah, glory to Him, instructed Moses and his brother Aaron, on sending them to Pharaoh to preach the true religion to him with the following verse which meaning of is translated as:  And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear (Allah). (The Qur’an, Ta-Ha, 20:44).
- To stand up for him in times of adversity or crises and not to rise against him or let him down, even though he does not pledge allegiance to him. According to the Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, saying:  If someone comes, while you are united under one leader, and he wants to stir up disorder among you or to disrupt your unity, just kill him.(Muslim).

The Ruler’s Obligations towards the Ruled

People’s rights or the ruler’s obligations toward them can be summed up in five items:

Absolute justice which is realized by giving everyone higher due. So a ruler is required to be fair in protecting others’ right. Performing his duties, distribution or allocation of responsibilities, and implementation or rules and decisions: All are equal before him, as person or group should be favored more than others. The Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said:  The nearest to Allah and most favored by Him is the fair ruler and the worst in torture and most disliked by Him is the unfair one. (Tirmidhi).

He should consult them regarding all affairs pertaining to their political, social and economic interests (Consultation is limited to those matters for which there is no explicit text from the Qur’an or Sunnah), allows them the chance to give their views and express themselves freely, and accept such views if they prove to be in the public interest. When the Holy Prophet in the battle of Badr, stopped at the nearest spring of Badr, one of his companions (i.e.: Al-Hubab ibn al-Munzir) asked him: ” Has Allah inspired you to choose this very spot or is it strategy of war?” The Prophet replied: “It is the strategy of war.” Al-Hubab said to the Prophet: ” This place is no good, let us go and encamp on the nearest water well to the enemy and make a basin full of water, then destroy all the wells so that the enemy should be deprived of water.” The Prophet approved of his plan and agreed to carry it out.”

Sharia, the Islamic Law, must be the source of the ruler’s decisions and constitution. This leaves no way for personal whims or off-hand decisions that may hit or miss the mark. Omar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, after assuming the Caliphate, said to Abu Maryam Al-Saluli, who had killed his brother Zaid ibn Al-Khattab (before he embraced Islam). “By Allah, I won’t like you until the earth likes blood.” Al-Saluli asked: “Will this deprive me of any of my rights?” Omar replied: “No” The man said: “No harm, only women will be unhappy if they are not liked.”

He should not conceal himself from his or lock his doors in their faces, nor should he look down upon them and place between himself and his subjects, mediators who allow some people in and debar others. The Gracious Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said:  Whoever is appointed, by Allah’s favor, as ruler or governor, then absents himself from them, thereby ignoring their needs and poverty, Allah will ignore his needs and destitution on the Day of Judgment. (Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi).

He should be merciful to his subjects. He should not assign to them unbearable or unaffordable tasks or constrict their way of living. Also he should treat the elderly as parents, the young as sons or daughters and those who are his age as brothers. Thus he respects his parents, shows mercy to his children and respects his brothers. The Glorious Qur’an says, which meaning of is translated as:  And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh hearted, they would have broken away from about you, so pass over (their faults), and ask (Allah’s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in the affairs.   (The Qur’an, Ali-Imran, 3:159). The Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said:  Allah shows His mercy to those who are merciful. Show mercy to those living on earth, and Allah will give you His mercy. (Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi). Omar ibn Al-Khattab indicated the importance of this aspect by saying: “By Allah, if a mule tripped over and fell in Iraq, I would be afraid that Allah will ask me about it why I did not level the road up for it.”

A Muslim ruler must be as described in a letter which Imam Al-Hassan Al-Basri sent to Omar ibn Abdul-Aziz, Allah’s mercy be on him, in which he said: “O Prince of the Faithful, be informed that Allah has made the fair ruler a prop for supporting what is tilted (not upright), a restraint on oppressors, a reformation of perverted people, strength for the weak, justice to the oppressed, and a refuge for the afflicted. A fair ruler, O Prince of the Faithful, is like a shepherd who is kind to his camels, so he looks for the best pasture and drives them away from the areas of danger, wild animals and hot or cold weather. The just ruler, O Prince of the Faithful, is like a caring father who toils for the sake of his children, educate them as they grow up, supports them and keeps for them what he leaves to them after his death. O Prince of the Faithful, a just ruler is like an affectionate mother who has loving care for her son. She bore him with hardship. She cared for him when he was a little child; she sat up late with him when he stayed awake at night, and became calm when he was peaceful, at times feeding him, and at other times weaning him, felling happy about his good health and unhappy about his complaints. O Prince of the Faithful, a just ruler is the guardian of orphans and sponsor of the needy, he cares for the young and provides for the old. A just ruler, O Prince of the Faithful, is like a heart within the ribs, when the heart is healthy the ribs become healthy, but when it is sick they grow unhealthy. A just ruler, O Prince of the Faithful, stands between Allah and His servants, He hears the word of Allah and conveys it to them, looks forward to Allah (with his heart) and makes them look forward to Him, submit his will to his Lord and leads them to Him. O Prince of the Faithful, don’t be, in what Allah has bestowed upon you, like a slave who was entrusted by his master with his wealth and family, but he wasted the master’s wealth and made his children homeless and destitute. As you know, Prince of the Faithful, Allah has prescribed punishments (stipulated in the Qur’an) to deter his servants from deadly sins and evils, what if the one in charge of such punishments commits such sins? Allah has also stipulated retaliation to protect people’s lives, what then if the one who is in charge of retaliation commits murder? O Prince of the Faithful, recall death and after, and the futility of your supporters and followers in the face of death, so get ready for it and the horrors that follow. O Prince of the Faithful! You should know that, apart from your present residence, there is still another one where your sleep will last long, and your friends will part company with you and leave you alone at the bottom of that place. Therefore, provide yourself with what keeps you company “on the days when a man flees from his brother, and his mother and his father, and his wife and his children?” Remember also the time, when the contents of the graves are poured fourth: and the secrets of the breasts are made known.? Thus secrets are out, and there is “a book.. that leaves not a small thing but has counted it.” Now there is still time for you before death comes and hopes are shattered and lost. O Prince of the Faithful! Do not judge between them in the way of ignorant people. Do not lead them in the way of the wrong-doers. Do not give proud people power over feeble ones, as they observe towards a believer neither pact nor honor, so that you should not bear the burdens of other sins besides yours. Do not be deceived by those who enjoy those things that lead to your misery, and devour the good things while depriving you of the good things of the Hereafter. Do not think of your power today; think of it tomorrow when you become the captive of death. Then stand on the Day of Judgment before Almighty Allah in the presence of an assembly of angels, prophets and messengers, when “faces humble themselves before the Living and Eternal” Allah, glory be to Him. O Prince of the Faithful! I have not attained with my advice the level of wise preachers or men or reason and wisdom before me; but I have done my best to be sincere in my advice to you. So take my message to you as a medicine given by a loving person to his favorite friend, though it has bitter taste, in the hope of his cure. Peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you.

Parent’s Rights

They have a claim on our obedience to them (unless a sin is involved) and responding to their orders. We should extend our kindness and generosity to them, and provide them with their necessities, including food, drink, clothes and accommodation. We are required to speak to them leniently and humbly, to serve them patiently, and to respect their feelings, no words should be addressed to them that hurt their feeling. The Qur’an recommends in this respect by saying which meaning of is translated as: And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young. (The Qur’an, Bani Israil, 17:23-24). And the great Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, says:  Allah’s pleasure originates from parent’s pleasure, and His wrath originates from parent’s anger.   (Tirmidhi). The rights are due to parents even if they were non-Muslims in the light of Ayesha’s tradition in which she said:  My mother visited me when she was an idolater. I inquired with Allah’s Messenger peace be upon him, saying: O Messenger of Allah! My mother has visited me willingly. Shall I receive her? He answered: Yes, receive and honor her.”(Bukhari & Muslim). The Mother is given priority over the father in matters of kind treatment and good companionship. This is understood from the tradition which states: “That a man came to Allah’s Messenger peace be upon him, and asked: O Messenger of Allah, which person of all the people is best entitled to kind treatment and the good companionship for me? He answered: Your mother. The man asked: and then? He said: Your mother. And after her? He said: Your mother. And after her? The Holy Prophet peace be upon him said: Your father.  The Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, accorded the mother three rights and the father one right, because the former bears hardships and suffering that the latter cannot afford to bear. As described in the Holy Qur’an, which meaning of is translated as:  His mother bears him with hardship, and brings him forth with hardship.(The Qur’an, Al-Ahqaf, 46:15). She suffers from hardship when she bears him in her womb, when she brings him forth, and when she feeds and cares for him after delivery.

A Wife’s Obligations towards her Husband

1. To acknowledge her husband’s headship and management of the family’s affairs in the best interest of the family. However, this headship does not involve absolute authority or superiority. The Qur’an says, which meaning of is translated as:  Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women).(The Qur’an, An-Nisaa, 4:34). That is because men generally use their minds in dealing with events, in contrast to women whose conduct are predominated by emotions.
2. To obey him unless his orders or requests are in conflict with Allah’s commands. When the Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, was asked by Ayesha about the one who has the greatest claim on a woman’s obedience, He replied:  Her husband. When asked who has the greatest claim on a man’s obedience and kindness, he replied: His mother.(Al-Hakim).
3. She should not refuse to go with her husband when he calls her to bed. The Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said:  If a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses, and he spend the night in anger with her, the angels will keep cursing her till the morning.(Bukhari & Muslim).
4. She should not request things that are unaffordable by her husband. It is her duty to protect his money, children and reputation, not to go out of his house without his permission; and not to allow into his house anyone whom he dislikes. The Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said:  The best of women is the one who pleases her husband when he looks at her, obeys him if he orders her, and preserves herself (her chastity) and his property in his absence.(Tabarani). Early Muslims used to put such instructions into effect. A woman[13] gave this piece of advice to her daughter on her wedding day: “My daughter, you have parted with your home where you have grown up, to a man you have not been familiar with. So be his maid and he will be your slave. Observe for him ten qualities, and he will be a treasure for you: contentment, obedience, taking care of your beauty and pleasant smell, taking heed of the time of his sleep and meals, taking care of his money and children, refraining from disobedience to him, and keeping his secrets. Don’t show pleasure to him when he is worried or grief when he is pleased.

A Husband’s Obligations towards his Wife

1. The Dower(or Mahr): A woman has a right to a dower which should be stated when concluding the marriage contract. It is an essential part of the marriage contract and cannot be conceded or given away by the wife until the contract has been concluded. The Qur’an states, which meaning of is translated as: And give unto the woman (whom you marry) free gift of their marriage portions; but if they of their own accord remit unto you a part thereof, then you are welcome to abort it (in your wealth).(The Qur’an, An-Nisaa, 4:4).
2. Justice and Equality: If a man has more than one wife, he is required to be fair in their treatment, including food, drink, dress, residence and stay, in the light of the Holy Prophet’s peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said:  If a man has two wives yet does not treat them equally, he will come on the day of Judgment with one side tilted.(Tirmidhi).
3. Spending on his Wife and Children: A husband is required to provide an appropriate residence, living requirements (Including food, drink and dress), as well as money within his means. The Qur’an says, which meaning of is translated as:  Let the rich man spend according to his means; and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him.(The Qur’an, At-Talaq, 65:7).
4. Overnight Stay and Sexual Intercourse: It is one of the husbands’ important obligations. As a wife, she is in need of a loving heart and a husband who sports with her, caresses her and satisfies her desire to protect her from undesired consequences.
5. Keeping her Secrets: He should keep private (intimate) relationship secrets, and refrain from exposing her secrets, shortcomings and other things he notices or hears from her. According to the Gracious Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said:  The worst of people in the sight of Allah, on the Day of Judgment, is the man or woman who goes with his/her spouse, then divulges her/his secret.   (Muslim).
6. Good Treatment: A husband should treat his wife with kindness. He should be patient with her and tolerate her slips and nuisance. Besides, he should consult her about mutual everyday matters, provide her with the means of happiness and comfort by joking and playing with her.
7. Protecting her Jealousy: He protects her from places of evil and corruption. In this regard, Allah, glory to Him, orders us by saying which meaning of is translated as:  O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones.(The Qur’an, At-Tahrim, 66:6).
8. Preserving her own Money or Property: He should not take anything that belongs to her unless she gives him permission, nor should be disposes without her approval.

Rights of Relatives

Islam has urged well to do people to help their relatives by complying with their needs, inquiring about their conditions, treating them with kindness and sympathy and sharing their joys and sorrows. The Qur’an says which meaning of is translated as:  And fear Allah through Whom you demand (your mutual rights), and do not cut the relations of the wombs (kinship).(The Qur’an, An-Nisaa, 4:1). Islam has urged good treatment of one’s close relatives even though they do not treat him kindly, forgiving them even though they wrong him, seeking their friendship even though they are unfriendly with him. The Noble Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said:  To be kind to your close relatives in the full meaning of the word, it is not sufficient to match them in kindness; but to be kind to hem when they cut relation with you.(Bukhari). Islam has also warned against cutting the relations of kinship and considered it one of the major sins. In the Qur’an it is stated in which meaning of is translated as:  Would you then, if you were given the authority, do mischief in the land, and sever your ties of kinship?(The Qur’an, Muhammad, 47:22).

Rights of Children

Children have the right to safeguard their lives and have appropriate names. This is made clear in the Prophet’s peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said: You will be called by your given names and father’s names, so have beautiful names.   (Imam Ahmed). We should also take care of them, provide their needs (such as food, drink, clothes and dwelling), give them proper education and good manners (such as modesty, respect for elders, truthfulness, honesty, obedience to parents, etc.), and keeping them away from bad words or acts (such as telling lies, fraud and deceit, dishonesty, robbery, disobedience to parents, etc.). The Noble Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said:  It suffices a man to be a sinner that he ruins him whom he supports.(Abu Dawood & Nas’e). He peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, also said:  Everyone of you is a protector and guardian (of his immediate charge) and is responsible for (the action of) those persons who are committed to his charge.(Bukhari & Muslim). Children should be treated equally and no discrimination should be made between them as to gifts or kind treatment, because such discrimination would cause  hatred. Once a man came to Allah’s Messenger peace be upon him, to make him a witness to a gift he intended to make to one of his children without the others. The Prophet however, asked him: “Have you made a similar gifts to each of your children? He said: No; whereupon the Prophet said: Then make someone else a witness to this, for I do not wan to be a witness to an injustice. Fear Allah and be fair to your children (by treating them equally).(Bukhari & Muslim).

Rights of Neighbors

Islam has enjoyed kindness to neighbors and refraining from causing them any physical or psychological inconvenience, such as by raising one’s voice, offending his sight with hateful things or his nose with harmful smell. Allah, glory to Him, says which meaning of is translated as:  And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents, and unto near kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and unto the neighbor who is of kin (unto you) and the neighbor who is not of kin, and the fellow traveler and the wayfarer and (the Slaves) whom your right hand possess. Lo! Allah loves not such as are proud and boastful.   (The Qur’an, An-Nisaa, 4:36). In another tradition, the Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him states a neighbor’s rights:  Do you know what a neighbor’s rights are? If he asks you for help, you should provide help for him, if he falls ill you should visit him, if something good happens to him you should congratulate him, if something bad happens to him you should console him; if he dies you should participate in his funeral procession. You should not raise your building so high that you obstruct the passage of wind to him unless he gives his permission; you should not hurt him with the smell of your cooking pot unless you send him some of the food; and if you buy fruit send him some as a gift, otherwise you have to bring it into your house secretly and not allow your children to take it out to vex his children with it.(Al-Khara’iti). A Muslim should bear the trouble caused by his neighbor and extend kindness to him. One man came to Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas and said to him: “A neighbor of mine causes me a lot of trouble, insults me and causes me inconvenience”. Ibn Abbass replied: “If he disobeys Allah (by hurting you), Obey Allah (by being kind to him).” (Imam Ghazali, Ihyaa Ulum-ud-Din, Vol.2, p.212). He should respect his neighbor, even in case he places a rafter on his wall he should not prevent him, as understood from the Prophet’s peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him said: Let not a neighbor forbid his immediate neighbor placing his rafter on his own wall.(Bukhari & Muslim). He should not sell or lease a property that is adjacent to him before he offers it to him or seek his advice in this regard. This is based on the Holy Prophet’s peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him said:  If one has a neighbor or partner in a farm or garden, let him not sell it until he offers him to purchase it first. (Hakem). There are three kinds of neighbors:

- A neighbor who is a relative: He has three rights: as a relative, as a neighbor and as a Muslim.
- A Muslim neighbor: He has two rights: as a neighbor and as a Muslim.
- A non-Muslim neighbor: He has one right, i.e.: as a neighbor.

Abdullah ibn Umar had a sheep slaughtered, then asked his family: Have you sent our Jewish neighbor some of it as a present? I heard Allah’s Messenger peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him say: Gabriel kept exhorting me about (obligations towards) the neighbor so much that I imagined that he would include him among theirs.(Tirmidhi & Abu Dawood).

Rights of Friends and Companions

Islam has taken great care of friends’ rights and prescribed certain rights that should fulfilled for a friend, such as kind treatment and sincere advice. The Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said:  The best friend in the sight of Allah is he who is the well-wisher of his companions, and the best neighbor is he who behaves best towards his neighbors.(Tirmidhi).

Rights of Guests

Guests have a right to entertainment. This is based on the Noble Prophet’s peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said: One who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment should honor his guest according to his right. He was asked: O Messenger of Allah! What is his right? He said: A day and night (of good feasting) and hospitality for three days. Thereafter it is an act of charity.(Bukhari & Muslim). A guest, however, should take the conditions of his host into consideration, not burdening him with what he cannot afford. The Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said which meaning of is translated as:  It is lawful for a Muslim to stay so long with his brother (as a guest) as to involve him in sin? He was asked as to how he could be involved in sin? He answered: By prolonging his stay with his host when he was left in his house with nothing to entertain him with.   (Muslim). Imam Ghazali, in his book, “Ihyaa Ulum-ud-Din” (i.e.: Revival of Religious Sciences), wrote about Prophet Muhammad peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, who is an example to all Muslims: “The Holy Prophet used to honor his guests, he even spread his garment for a non-relative guest to sit on it. He used to offer his guest his own cushion and insist on him to accept it until the latter accepts it from him. No one came to him as a guest but thought that he was the most generous of people. He gave each one of his companions sitting with him his due portion of his attention, so he directed his listening, talking, looks and attention to all his companions. His meeting were characterized by modesty, humbleness and honesty. He used to call his companions by their favorite nickname to honor them. He was the farthest from being angry and the easiest to be contented.”

General Rights and Obligations

Islam requires a Muslim to take care of his Muslim brothers by extending help to them and trying to improve their conditions wherever they are. This is stressed by the following Hadith which meaning of is translated as: Muslims, in their mutual love, kindness and compassion, are like the human body: If one of its parts is in agony, the entire body feels the pain both in sleeplessness and fever.(Bukhari & Muslim). Another Hadith says which meaning of is translated as:  The bonds of brotherhood between two Muslims are like parts of a house, one part strengthens and holds the other. He crossed the fingers of one hand between those of the other (to elucidate and illustrate the point).(Bukhari & Muslim). Another Hadith also says which meaning of is translated as:  None of you is a perfect believer until he loves for his brother Muslim that which he loves for himself.(Bukhari). In the field of labor, for example, Islam has enacted rules and criteria that determine the employer and employee relationship.

Labor’s Rights

The employer – labor relationship must be based on brotherhood and equality in human dignity. Prophet Muhammad peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him said: Your servants are your brothers whom Allah the most High has placed under your authority. Therefore, a person who has a brother under his authority, should feed him out of that which he eats himself and should dress him with the same kind of clothes which he wears himself; he should not assign work to him which is beyond his capacity, and if you do so, then help him in his work.   (Bukhari). Islam has preserved for the workman his honor and dignity when the Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said which meaning of is translated as:  The best gain is that of the workman who works to earn his living if he sticks to honesty.(Ahmad). It ordained that workman’s wages should be made clear before he commences his work, for the Prophet peace be upon him, required the employer to make the workman’s wage clear before he hires him, (Ahmad). It confirmed the workman’s right to his wages. Allah the The Almighty, said: There will be three people against whom I will stand on the Day of Judgment:

- The person who makes a promise with an oath in My name and then breaks it.
- The person who sells a free man as a slave and appropriates his sale proceed.
- And the person who engages a workman and having taken full work from him fails to pay him his dues.(Bukhari).

It required that he should be given his wages immediately after he completed his work. The Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him, said which meaning of is translated as:  Give a worker his wages before his sweat dries.(Ibn Majah). It also required employers not to give them work that is beyond their ability. If they give them such heavy work they should help them materially by increasing their wages, or physically by helping them with their work. The Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him said:  Do not give them work that is beyond their capacity and if you do so, then help them with their work. (Bukhari).

The Employers Rights

As Islam required the employer to care for his employee’s due rights, it required the employees, in return, to observe the employer’s rights by carrying out their work in the best manner. The Holy Prophet peace and pleasings of Allah be upon him said: Allah likes, if one of you perform a job well. This means that a Muslim who is entrusted with a job should do it well as this means gaining favor with his Almighty Lord.

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