Corruption, Absolute Justice, Muslim Identity

Issue 939 » March 24, 2017 - Jumada al-Thani 25, 1438

Living The Quran

Al-Rum (The Byzantines) Sura 30: Verse 41

"Corruption has appeared on land and sea because of that which men's hands have earned, that He may let them taste some of that which they have done, that haply they might return."

Corruption (fasad) implies all manner of decadence and injustice, in regard to both rebelling against God and oppressing others, thus failing to recognize the rights of all. It is often understood by commentators to mean open disobedience toward God. In both 2: 27 and 13: 25, corruption is presented as part and parcel of breaking the covenant; and in 5: 33 working corruption is linked to rejecting God's messengers. In general, when human caprice is followed rather than Divine ordinances, corruption ensues, as in 23: 71. As such, corruption can be linked to all manner of iniquity, such as arrogance (see 7: 74), oppression (26: 183; 28: 4), and failing to honour family relations (47: 22). Though working corruption is an accusation made against several specific human collectivities, such as the Children of Israel (17: 4) and the pre-Islamic Arabian tribes of Thamud (26: 152) and Midian (7: 85: 29: 36), it is recognized as a general human shortcoming (2: 30). Working corruption implies a combination of spiritual and worldly corruption (e.g., 2: 27; 7: 74, 85-86, 103; 11: 85; 13: 25); and it is implicitly or explicitly connected to physical violence in several verses (e.g., 2: 205; 5: 64; 26: 183; 27: 48-49; 28: 4). The opposite of working corruption (ifsad) is islah, "setting things aright" or "making amends," and elsewhere corruption is put in direct contrast to performing righteous deeds (salihat) (38: 28).

In the present verse corruption is said to appear because of that which men's hands have earned while elsewhere it is said that it is through the works of men that corruption is repelled (2: 251). The final ends of those who work corruption and those who oppose it are thus divergent. Heaven is ordained for the latter (28: 83); and punishment for the former (16: 88). That God will let them taste some of that which they have done means that God will allow them to experience some form of trial or punishment in this life in hopes that it may help them turn toward repentance and thus be forgiven and absolved of experiencing the full punishment in the Hereafter. That haply they might return thus implies that they might repent and refrain from committing acts of disobedience in the future.

Compiled From:
"The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary" - Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Absolute Justice

The Prophet (peace be upon him) made it clear that if anyone is awarded something unfairly and knows it to be unfair, they are accountable for such injustice. He warned his Companions when they put their disputes to him, reminding them that he was only human: "some of you may be able to present a better case and I rule in their favour. If I give anyone something that belongs to his brother, I am only giving him a brand of fire. He may take it or leave it." [Bukhari]

The Prophet, in addition to explaining the message of Islam and calling on people to believe in it, sought to show how it should be implemented. His statement above (about winning something unfairly by the support of a court of law) makes every individual the final arbiter with regard to what is fair. Some may be able to submit a strong case, supported by documents and evidence, and the Prophet or any judge may rule in their favour on the basis of the evidence provided. However, if deep down such people are aware that what was obtained through that ruling does not rightly belong to them, they are actually offered a spark of fire in their hands. The Prophet tells that such people have the choice of taking it and being burnt, or leaving it and saving themselves. Thus, the Prophet recruits people's consciences and their sense of faith in support of absolute justice.

Compiled From:
"Muhammad: His Character and Conduct" - Adil Salahi


Muslim Identity

On the one hand, Muslim identities relate to their origins, whether this is African, Turkish, Asian, or other, and on the other hand it represents a type of prison that by its very nature inhibits integration because Muslims are different. Even Muslims use the term without care. Yet the question is of the utmost importance since our involvement depends on the clarity of the direction our identity gives us. So what is the Muslim identity? Four fundamental elements of the necessary response can be identified: [Muslims are those who]

1) live a faith, a religious practice and spirituality;
2) develop an understanding from basic texts and from life's context;
3) educate and bear witness; and
4) act and participate.

Every Muslim, man and woman, from any country, must be able to bring these four elements that constitute his being to life and see to it that they flourish. It is his or her "right to an identity" that every country that respects freedom allows its nationals and residents: this right is generally accepted throughout the West.

It must be noted that the definition of identity that is set out here is anything but closed and secular. Although the first element, which gives a foundation to faith and its practice, is fixed, the same cannot be said of the other three, which oblige us to consider the times we live in and our society so that we can have a better understanding of our life context, adapt our education, improve the transition, know how to act, and refine our involvement in society. We must clearly state and repeat that we want, with all our heart and soul, to live our faith, practice our religion, and give spirituality its [proper] place since these give value to our daily lives. These are the roots that ground us, strong and solid; through these roots we derive nourishment from the soil we live in, we develop a better understanding of our environment, thereby completing the harmony of our being. So our identity is open and dynamic, in constant dialogue with our context and society. It reflects upon and masters its evolution and allows for adaptations that are required for us to remain faithful.

Compiled From:
"Western Muslims: From Integration to Contribution" - Tariq Ramadan