Favouritism, No Harm, Inherently Equal

Issue 923 » December 2, 2016 - Rabi Al-Awwal 3, 1438

Living The Quran

Muhammad (Muhammad) - Chapter 47: Verse 4 (partial)

"... and had God so willed, He could have indeed put them down [those who stubbornly denied the truth] Himself; but He willed to test you all through one another."

There may be certain moral values which are agreed upon by all human beings, or most of them, in different times and places, and which can be included in the "common sense," but they may be understood and practiced in different ways. Since Islam is the last of God's messages to humankind, as Muslims believe, it provides the permanent principles and the dynamics for responding to the human change. Change follows the general natural laws of God. The human societies have their natural laws, and the succession of social or political powers follows certain laws, just like the succession of day and night. With regard to the general natural laws, God does not treat Muslim individuals or societies exceptionally or with favouritism.

Muslims have to struggle, suffer and persevere according to the natural laws. Their religiosity and sincerity would definitely be rewarded in the life to come, but in this world they obtain the best through the individual and social peacefulness balance, and steadfastness as a result of the belief in the One God and the life to come. Praying to God for something beneficial in this world life may be positively answered, according to the Prophets tradition, by granting the person who has prayed something good rather than what he/(she) has prayed for, in this life or in the life to come.

Compiled From:
"Islam and Dynamics of Change" - Fathi Osman

Understanding The Prophet's Life

No Harm

Abu Said Al Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said, "No harm nor harming." [Ibn Majah]

Be aware that people who harm their brothers and sisters are being unjust to them and injustice is haram. Some said that 'harm' and 'harming' mean the same but the Prophet repeated the word for emphasis. Ibn Habib said that, according to Arabic linguists, harm (in Arabic) is the noun and harming (in Arabic) is the verb. So 'no harm' means no one is to cause harm to anybody else and 'no harming' means do not harm each other.

Al-Mahasini said that harm is what benefits you and hurts others (and harming is what doesn't benefit you but hurts others.)

Some said that harm is harming someone who didn't harm you. And harming is harming someone who harmed you by means other than obtaining equal retribution and remuneration.

The important thing to know is that people are not allowed to harm their brothers and sisters, regardless whether they harmed them or not. However, they are permitted to exact retribution and punishment in accordance with the sunna, if they can, for such action is not a form of injustice or harm.

Compiled From:
"Ibn-Daqiq's Commentary on the Nawawi Forty Hadiths" - Ibn Daqiq Al-Eid


Inherently Equal

When various social systems determine differences between men and women, they conclude these differences as indications of different values as well. There is no indication that the Quran intends for us to understand that there is a primordial distinction between males and females with regard to spiritual potential. Therefore, whatever differences existing between males and females could not indicate an inherent value, or else free will would be meaningless. The problem arises in trying to determine when and how these differences come into being.

Sayyid Qutb says that 'the fitrah [primordial nature] makes the man a man, and the woman a woman', but he goes on to emphasize that this distinction has no inherent value. Al-Zamakhshari, on the other hand, says that men are 'preferred' by Allah over women in terms of 'intelligence, physical constitution, determination and physical strength', although he cites no place in the text which states this. Such an assertion cannot be erased by saying that 'men have no right to overcome women by coercion, or display arrogant behaviour towards them'. Al-Aqqad says that men deserve preference over women.

This demonstrate the negative effects of interpretations which place an inherent distinction between males and females and then give values to those distinctions. Such interpretations assume that men represent the norm and are therefore fully human. Women, by implication, are less human than men. They are limited and therefore of less value. Such interpretations encourage the stereotypes about women and men which severely hamper the potential of each. In addition, these interpretations justify the restrictions placed on the woman's right to pursue personal happiness within the context of Islam. Most troubling is the tendency to attribute these interpretations to the Quran itself rather than to the authors who hold them.

It is interesting to note that even those Muslim authors who issue these interpretations accept that the Quran aims to establish social justice. However, it is obvious that their interpretation of social justice does not extend fully to women. It is like Thomas Jefferson and the writers of the American Constitution saying that 'All men are created equal' without intending in the least to include equality between black men and white men.

The Quran depicts human individuals as having inherently equal value by looking at three stages in human existence. First, in the creation of humans, the Quran emphasizes the single origin of all humankind: 'He created you (all) from a single nafs' (4:1). Second, with regard to development here on earth, the Quran emphasizes that the potential for change, growth and development lies within the nafs of the individual (or the group) as well: 'Allah does not change the condition of a folk until they (first) change what is in their anfus' (13:11). Finally, all human activity is given recompense on the basis of what the individual earns (4.-124).

Compiled From:
"Quran and Woman" - Amina Wadud, pp. 35, 36