Gifted, Best Among Us, Offenses
Issue 846 » June 12, 2015 - Shaban 25, 1436
Al-Anam (The Cattle) - Chapter 6: Verse 165
"And it is He who has made you vicegerents on Earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in punishment; but indeed, He is forgiving and merciful."
A gift is a test and a responsibility. This verse tells us three things:
1. Each of us is a vicegerent on Earth, so we are all gifted in one way or another
2. We differ in the degrees of our abilities
3. We are all being tested in what we are given and are held responsible for it
Gifts are like treasures in many ways. They are rare. In truth, all people are gifted in one way or another, but this is only realised if their gifts are discovered and encouraged, and they are in an environment that is conducive to their developing those gifts. Teachers can play a vital role in encouraging these gifts, and it is important that schools and families work together to help children realise their maximum potentials.
Gifts are also hidden. They are abilities, physical or mental, that lie latent in an individual. It takes expertise to identify those abilities and effort to draw them forth. Older cognitive theories discuss mental gifts in general. More recent theories refer to a wide range of abilities and aptitudes, like creativity, leadership skills, proficiencies, and initiative.
How does being gifted relate to creativity? Gifts are specific abilities, like drawing or memorisation. Creativity is coming up with something new. It is the result of the active use of one’s gifts. Psychologists look to the future of a gifted person and look to the past of those who have shown themselves to be creative. Being gifted is a promise while creativity is its fulfilment.
Fear is the enemy of gifts. Many gifted people, fearing failure and non-acceptance, withdraw into themselves. It takes courage for people to turn their gifts into creative success. Inner strength is the ground from where the trees of success grow tall.
"Gifts & Talents Are Treasures" - Salman al-Oadah
Best Among Us
Islam views itself as a middle way between the life of this world and the world to come. It is related on the authority of Anas b. Malik that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
"The best among you are not those who neglect this life for the life to come, nor those who neglect the life to come for the sake of this life. Rather each of them serves as a path leading to the other. Hence blame accrues when one exceeds the limits of need and those of sufficiency." [Suyuti]
This hadith evidently advises everyone to earn their living, attend to their worldly affairs, and avoid exceeding the limits of sufficiency and need in this earthly life. Poverty and deprivation are evils that eat not only in the material assets of people but also into their moral integrity and faith. This is the clear message of another hadith in which the Prophet made the following supplication:
"O God! I seek refuge to Thee from poverty and from disbelief." [Nasai]
"The Middle Path of Moderation in Islam: The Qur'anic Principle of Wasatiyyah" - Hashim Kamali
In the Shariah, offenses were divided into those against God and those against man. Crimes against God violated His Hudud, or ‘boundaries,’ and were offenses whose punishments were specified by the Quran and, in some cases, the Hadiths, such as the punishment of certain kinds of theft by amputating a hand, punishing adultery by stoning and sexual slander by lashing. Because these offenses were affronts against a merciful God, the evidentiary standards were often impossibly high. Moreover, the Prophet ordered Muslim judges to ‘ward off the Hudud [punishments] by ambiguities.’ The severe Hudud punishments were meant to convey the gravity of those offenses against God and to deter, not to be carried out. If a thief refused to confess, or if a confessed adulterer retracted his confession, the Hudud punishments would be waived.
This did not entail that the culprit escaped justice. Circumstantial evidence, such as a witness to the theft or finding the stolen good in the thief’s possession, could lead the judge to find him guilty of wrongful appropriation (ghasb). The wronged party could reclaim their possession or receive compensation for its value plus damages entailed. This coexistence of two legal wrongs identical in fact but subject to two very different standards of evidence and punishment is analogous to the relationship between the crime of theft and the tort of conversion in common law. While the first requires evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and can be punished with prison, the second only needs a preponderance of evidence and carries monetary damages. In cases that fell below the Hudud category in the Shariah, judges regularly assigned lesser punishments such as a beating, prison or public humiliation.
Shariah judges did not perceive applying lighter punishments as compensation for a design flaw in God’s law. Rather, they felt they were obeying the Prophet’s infallible command to find some means to move a crime from the harsh realm of the Hudud to the lower level of offenses that a judge could punish at his discretion. This was a priority for the ulama. In fifteenth-century Cairo, when the Mamluk sultan’s men caught a royal administrator ‘embracing’ a mistress, and the couple confessed to fornicating, the sultan himself took an interest in the impending execution. When the couple then retracted their confession, the senior Shariah judge in Cairo was sent into exile for insisting – correctly, other ulama affirmed – that the couple’s sentence had to be commuted and that ‘whoever executes them should be executed in turn.’
Offenses against man included murder, manslaughter, injuring someone intentionally or accidentally or damaging property. These were not necessarily less serious than offenses against God in terms of the harm they caused; murder is arguably more grievous than slander, yet the latter is a Hudud offense and the former is not. God could forgive wrongs against Himself, but offenses against man involved a person whose rights had been infringed. Earthly torts must be redressed. In the adjudication of injuries, victims or their kin won either the right to request retaliatory punishment against the perpetrator (a murderer would be executed by the court) or, more often, financial compensation from the perpetrator (the family of a murder victim received one thousand gold coins, for example). If an injured party did not want to accept monetary compensation for their injury, he could request that the court inflict an ‘eye for an eye’ punishment on the offender.
"Misquoting Muhammad" - Jonathan A.C. Brown, pp. 179-181