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Summary of 7.2 "Human Brotherhood and Equality II"

 

In the second program we continued the discussion about the common origin of mankind.  We quoted a passage in the Quran with the story of creation and we analyzed the story with its emphasis on the trusteeship of mankind on earth, the dignified position of the human race and the origin of creation (Adam was created from clay and subsequent generations came from fertilized ovum) is the same which leaves no room for distinctions.

 

We emphasized that the Quran addresses in many verses mankind at large.  It uses the term alnas in Arabic which means “mankind” without addressing Muslims or believers because there is a unity of origin, unity of the purpose of creation and unity of the ultimate destiny that is shared by all mankind.

 

We also indicated that the Quran does not recognize the superiority of any individual or a group of people over another by any criteria that people may use.  There is a divine criteria and that is a person’s taqwa which is a person’s God consciousness, good deeds, moral character and beneficence to the rest of mankind.

 

In one of the commentaries about the Quran by Al Alusi he said there are some creators who were created for earth, others that were created for heavens and others which were created for both.  And he said that animals were created for earth, angels for the heavens and human beings were created for both the earth and the heavens.  A human being is like animals in their basic carnal desires and is like angels in terms of intellect and worship of God.  If the human was created without the intellect he would not have been capable of truly worshipping God and if humans did not have carnal desires life would not have started on earth.

 

7.3  Human Brotherhood and Equality III

 

Host:  What was the attitude of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) regarding the issue of human equality?

 

Jamal Badawi

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came in the seventh century (Christian era) in a time when the world was dominated by religious establishments (not referring to one faith or the other).  At this time many of the clergy claimed authority which h was almost divine authority.  They presumed themselves to be spokesmen for God.  The Islamic attitude is that while jurists and scholars are deserving of respect and have the right like everyone else to interpret the scriptures they can not equate their own interpretation with the word of God.  They can not claim that they are speaking for God outside of the specific divine revelation that was revealed to them.

 

In Islam the Prophet took away the concept of Church (a group of religious specialists who alone have the right to interpret the scriptures) or religious domination of a group of people.  Another thing he emphasized is that this kind of equality should not apply to people in religious positions only but it applies to Prophets themselves.  He himself as the last Prophet of God forbade people to over adore him.  In Bukhari for example he warned people not to over adore the Prophet because over adoration could lead to deification.  He warned people against falling into this trap and he said that when he is mentioned that one say “The servant of God and his messenger.”  The other thing he taught people was that the basic equality of the human race meant that a human should never kneel before any other human being.  The only one to kneel to is the Lord of all human beings regardless of their status.

 

In Abu Dawood and Al Tirmithi he said “Whoever of you feels so happy and proud that people are standing up in respect for him; let him take his seat in hell.”  In his personal character, whenever he came to a place where people were sitting he did not push people around or going to sit in the forefront but rather he sat where ever there was space available.  He also tried to demolish all false façades of aristocracy based on wealth, race, color or nobility of decent.  In one narration in Al Tabari he says God does not look into the nobility of your decent, nor does He look into your lineage, nor does he look at your bodies, nor does he look into your property but he looks into your heart; whoever has a pious heart God will have compassion on him; you are all the children of Adam and the most beloved of you in the sight of God is the most pious.”

 

In another narration by Abu Dawood and Al Timothy “Let him stop those people who are boasting about their parents who died; maybe those parents are the fuel of hell fire.  God has relieved you of the shame of the days of ignorance the boasting of parents.  People are of two types: a pious believer or miserable deviant.  You all belong to Adam and Adam is created from clay!”

 

In the Farewell Pilgrimage, Prophet Muhammad shortly before his death tried to emphasize this point again.  In one saying he says “Oh mankind, your God is one, your father is one, there is no superiority of an Arab over a none-Arab nor of a red (white) over a black except in taqwa.”  This is a very important declaration of human rights and equality of all races under the same God and descending from the same parents.  These teachings were not just words but were translated into the life and behavior of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

 

One indication of this is that among his closest companions (first to embrace Islam) there were all kinds of people.  Some of them were noble Arabs who were rich like Abu Bakr and a lot who were poor like Abd Allah Ibn Um Maktumah; a very famous companion of the prophet who was not only very poor but also blind.  In addition Suhibe, a Roman, Salman, who was Persian, and Billal, the Muathin (made the call to prayer) for the Prophet was from Ethiopia.  This gives a cross representation of the variety of races and social economic status of people all regarded equally as one brotherhood around the Prophet (PBUH).

 

In the early stages of the Prophet’s mission we find that the rich and powerful among the Qurishite Arabs used say they would follow him but  then they would ask why he kept the company of “Those poor and downtrodden people of lower social classes.”  He refused this and once he said “Oh God, let me live as a poor person, die as a poor person and resurrect me on the Day of Judgment in the company of those who are poor.”  He was only echoing what the Quran emphases that one should not be lowered as found in (18:28) “Let not thine eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this Life” and that one should keep company and persevere in the company of those who are sincere and who seek to please God.

 

Host:  Are none-Muslims to receive equal treatment as Muslims?

 

Jamal Badawi

Yes, with evidence that is implied and implicit.  It is implied in the point that we raised in the second program in the series that the Quran doesn’t only address Muslims or believers but all of mankind.  This implies clearly that in a matter of basic human compassion and kind treatment the it is not addressed to Muslims but to mankind.  There are lots of implied evidence found in the Quran, Prophetic tradition as well as in the behavior of early Muslims who were true to the faith and really implemented the teachings of Islam.  In the Quran in (4:92) it talks about involuntary man slaughter, and it says that if the person who was involuntarily killed was a believer the penalty who did the act is to free a slave and to give consolation money to the family of the deceased.  Then in the same verse it says that if the person who was killed was not a believer/Muslim but belong to people who have a peaceful relationships with Muslims then the penalty is to free a slave and to pay consolation money to the family.  This means the penalty is exactly the same regardless of the identity of the person who was involuntarily killed.  This stands in contrast to many of the mistaken notions that people may have about Islam because of distorted literature.

 

I flew from Montreal to Halifax last week and sitting by me was an airline captain, who was on vacation, and we were chatting and he said “I have one problem with Islam.”  I asked what it was and he replied “I was lead to believe that Muslims believe that if they kill someone who is not a Muslim that it is ok.”  I said “Brother you have not been lead to understand but have been mislead to understand” and I started to explain to him the fact of the matter.

 

An example that brightly expresses this is found in one of the Prophetic traditions, when he said “Whoever hurts a none Muslim who is living under Muslim protection (have peaceful coexistence with Muslims) also hurt me.”  This means that the Prophet put the sanctity, human right and justice to a none Muslim at the level of himself.

 

Omar, the second Caliph after the Prophet (PBUH), who was walking in Medina and found a blind old Jew begging.  He took him to his home, gave him provisions, and then he over the person in charge of the Muslim treasury and he told him to “Look after this person and people like him; we would not be fair to them if they pay taxes in their youth then we neglect them when they are in need.”  He then ordered that he be given a regular salary from the Muslim treasury.

 

In another occasion when he was traveling in Syria and he came across some Lepers, they were probably Christians as there were not too many Muslims in that area, and he immediately ordered that regular support would be paid to them.  In another incident Khalid, one of the early heroes of Islam, made a treaty with the people of one territory that if any person becomes old (regardless of faith), faced disaster in their life or were rich and became poor that the taxes would be alleviated and that he and his children would be supported from the Muslim treasury.  There are many similar examples that can be found in Islamic history.

 

This is why I was really surprised to read in a recent book by Wilfred Cantwell Smith a famous writer on world religions.  He wrote in a book “Towards a World Theology” that Muslims should really rethink Islamic law so that they realize that God doesn’t only want us to regulate relationships between ourselves and God or just within the community of believers (Ummah) but it should take into account the relationship between Muslims and none Muslims.  This surprised me a great deal because a professor like Smith should know better, because in Islamic law there is a whole body of literature dealing with the organization and regulation of relationships between Muslims and none Muslims.  Insinuating that Islamic law does not take this into consideration is a grave mistake that needs to be corrected.  There are volumes upon volumes in Islamic law that deal with the relationship of Muslims with none Muslims and that deal with treaties between them and all other aspects of international relations.

 

Host:  The Quran also addresses Muslims in particular, can you explain this as some Muslims may think that this somehow undermines the concept of brotherhood?

 

Jamal Badawi

There is no conflict between both.  When the Quran addresses the believers to perform certain religious duties pertaining to their faith there is no sense in it addressing all of mankind.  Of course the Quran does say “Oh mankind worship your Lord” in the general sense but when it comes to the five daily prayers there is no sense in addressing somebody who doesn’t believe in it.  Another example would be if the Quran addresses Muslims to fast, it would not make sense to direct this to all mankind.  In terms of specific religious duties there is no need for the Quran to address all of mankind.

 

When the Quran talks about brotherhood in faith it does not substitute it for broader human brotherhood.  This type of brotherhood is within the boundaries of larger human brotherhood.  When we talk about the brotherhood of believers, it is not a chauvinistic or exclusive type of brotherhood.  An example of how Islam corrected previous notions of this is found in (3:75) in the Quran where it condemned the attitude of people before Islam who believed that it was God’s revelation to not take usury from co-religions but that it was ok to take it from others.  This again indicates that moral behavior is not contingent on whether the person you are dealing with is Muslim or none Muslim.

 

Brotherhood of faith in an Islamic context we are addressing something that is consistent with human brotherhood and supportive of human brotherhood.  This doesn’t negate the enhancement of human brotherhood when people share the same faith.  The belief in one God, in a final message, in the final Prophet, in the final Scripture and in a set of principles that are enshrined in the Scripture can help.  The Quran teaches Muslims tolerance and in one verse it says that if God willed it He could have made all of mankind of one group.  As we mentioned in the last part of the previous program humankind is like a mosaic, as God willed it, and one has to learn to live within this mosaic.

Host:  Sometimes people make distinctions between people who are converts or people who are born into a particular faith, what is the position of Islam regarding this subject?

 

Jamal Badawi

First, I would like to comment on the term convert, because a person who accepts Islam is not a convert.  The word conversion might give the sense of changing the nature of things but the Quran describes it in (30:30) “So set thou thy face steadily and truly to the Faith: (establish) Allah’s handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind: no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by Allah that is the standard Religion: but most among mankind understand not.”  Islam means to submit to the will of God and follow His path, the mission of all prophets throughout history has been to follow this path.  Every child’s yearning towards his creator; knowledge of God and spirituality is breathed into them.  On this basis when a person becomes a Muslim, he is not converting to Islam but is simply embracing Islam and being embraced by Islam.  A person is returning to their nature and perhaps a better term would be a revert than a convert.

 

In Islam there should be absolutely no distinction between people because of how they embraced their faith, whether by being born into it or through one parent or because they are reverts.  When a person becomes a Muslim in Islam they don not have to go to a priest (there is no priesthood in Islam) as one doesn’t need someone else to give them this status because it is something between that person and God.  This is a reflection of human equality; why should a person have the right to tell someone that they are accepted or excommunicated from the faith.  Faith is between the person and his Creator.  No body can make one believe or stop them from belonging to a faith.

 

The final example is found in (9:11) it talks about people who might have at one point fought Muslims as ardent enemies “But (even so), if  they repent, establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity,- they are brethren in Faith: (thus) do We explain the Signs in detail, for those who understand.”

 

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