Dealing Nobly, Dignity of Individuals, Public Safety
Issue 741 » June 7, 2013 - Rajab 28, 1434
Al-Hujurat (The Chambers) - Chapter 49 : Verse 11 (partial)
"O you who believe, do not let people mock another people; for it may be that these are better than them; nor should women mock other women, for it may be that these are better than them. And do not taunt one another nor insult each other with nicknames."
Mocking people is a form of ignorance, whether it is lampooning, caricaturing, or name calling. Humour and levity are important in human life. But levity as a way of life harms the spiritual heart. And laughter and amusement at the expense of the dignity of others is wholly inappropriate.
Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "Do not belittle anyone, for he may be a saint of God." Even if one sees a man inebriated and bellicose, vomiting in the street, one should not ridicule him, for one does not know what his future holds. Imam al-Qurtubi once said, "When he was bowing down to idols in Makkah, Umar ibn al-Khattab was still beloved to God." Only God knows the seal of people and their destinies. A Moroccan proverb says, "Never mock any creature of God, for it might be beloved to He who created it."
There is strength in dealing nobly with people. It is simply a better way to live. The essence of mockery is to humiliate people. Those who mock people in this life shall be mocked in the Hereafter, for it is a divine law that God recompenses people with the like of what they have done.
"Purification of The Heart" - Hamza Yusuf, pp. 141-143
Dignity of Individuals
Justice is a condition for peace, and the Prophet, peace be upon him, kept insisting that one cannot experience the taste of equity if one is unable to respect the dignity of individuals. He set slaves free and recommended that Muslims pledge to do so constantly: the faith community of believers had to be a community of free beings. Revelation showed him the way, and, as we have often seen, he never ceased to give particular attention to slaves, the poor, and the lowly in society. He invited them to assert their dignity, to demand their rights, and to get rid of any feeling of inferiority; the message was a call for religious, social, and political liberation. At the close of his mission, in the plain lying at the foot of the Mount of Mercy (Jabal ar-Rahmah), men and women of all races, cultures, and colours, rich and poor, were present and listened to this message, which stressed that the best among people are so through their hearts, which are determined neither by class nor by colour or culture. "The best among you is the best toward people," he had once said [Bayhaqi].
In the name of human brotherhood - addressing not just Muslims but all people (an-nas), as he did during the farewell sermon - he taught each conscience to transcend the appearances that might hinder its progress towards the Just (al-adl). In the presence of God, nothing could justify discrimination, social injustice, or racism. In the Muslim community, a black man called the believers to prayer, and a slave's son commanded the army; faith had freed the believers from judgements based on deceptive appearances (linked to origin and social status) that stimulate unwise passions and dehumanize them.
"In The Footsteps of The Prophet" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 212, 213
It is street life and connected neighbours that make a neighbourhood safe. We think the Police can keep us safe. In our concern for safety, we too often defer to the professionals. Police are not the answer. They are needed for crime; they cannot produce safety.
There is in every neighbourhood structures for citizens to volunteer: Citizens on Patrol, Neighbourhood Watch, safety meetings, educational pamphlets hung on people's front doors by the police. These go under the title of crime prevention. They are a useful warning system and help us watch out for criminals, loitering, strangers hanging out in the neighbourhood, but they still function within the retributive mindset.
The shift is to realize that safety occurs through neighbourhood relatedness. The efforts that move in this direction focus on identifying neighbourhood assets. On creating occasions for citizens to know each other through clean-up campaigns, block parties, and citizen activist movements to confront irresponsible landlords, and abandoned houses and lots. Anything that helps neighbours to know who lives on the street. Every neighbourhood has certain connector people who know everyone else's going on. We need ways to recognize these people and others.
If we looked at the assets of the neighbourhood, we would realize that youth are on the streets in the afternoon, and retired people and shut-ins have the time to watch what is going on. When we recognize the gifts of these people, safety will be produced.
"Community: The Structure of Belonging" - Peter Block, pp. 166, 167