Poverty and Wealth, Harmful Acts, Entangled Rope

Issue 1017 » September 21, 2018 - Muharram 11, 1440

Living The Quran

Poverty and Wealth
Ya Sin (Ya Sin) - Chapter 36: Verse 47

"And when it is said unto them, 'Spend of that wherewith God has provided you,' those who disbelieve say to those who believe, 'Are we to feed one whom, if God willed, He would feed him? You are in nought but manifest error.'"

Although there are several different accounts identifying the subject of this verse, they all agree that it responds to those who scoffed at the injunction to spend in the way of God — to feed the poor —found throughout the Quran. It is said that some disbelievers among the Quraysh said to Abu Bakr, who used to feed the destitute from his own wealth, "O Abu Bakr, do you claim that God is able to feed these people?" He replied, "Yes." To which they replied, "So why is it that he does not feed them?" He said, "Some people are tried with poverty, others with wealth. The poor are commanded to be patient, and the wealthy are commanded to give." So they replied, "O Abu Bakr, surely you are in error. Do you claim that God is able to feed these people, yet He does not feed them, then you feed them?" Then this verse was revealed.

It is God who feeds and provides. All the provisions that people receive on earth are created by God. They cannot create any of that; indeed, they cannot create anything whatsoever. It is God's will that people should have needs which they cannot attain to without hard work, such as planting the earth, extracting its raw material to manufacture things, transporting its produce from place to place, offering such produce in return for other products or for money, etc. It is also God's will that people differ in their talents and abilities to ensure that everything needed to fulfil man's task of building human life on earth is available. The accomplishment of this task not only needs talents and abilities that earn money and produce wealth; it also requires others that can meet different human needs, without earning money. This makes for a complex human society, in which people have different lots in a bustling world, and across generations. However, the resulting differences in the means available to different people do not lead to the ruination of life and society. In fact, it is a by-product of life's movement.

Therefore, Islam addresses the individual, requiring those who have plenty to relinquish a portion of their money, which is given to the poor to provide for their food and other needs. By doing so, Islam reforms a great many people, rich and poor alike. This portion is zakat, which, by definition, implies purification. Islam makes it one of its acts of worship, and uses it to establish cordial and caring relations between the rich and the poor in the unique society it establishes.

Compiled From:
"The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary" - Seyyed Hossein Nasr
"In The Shade of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 14, pp. 217, 218

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Harmful Acts

Abu Said Sad bin Malik bin Sinan al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "harm (darar) may neither be inflicted nor reciprocated." [Ibn Majah]

This hadith has been adopted into a legal maxim in precisely the same wording as the hadith itself. The ruling it contains subsumes all harmful acts and abusive exploitation of resources, even if by the owner, in a way that manifestly harms others, damages the environment, and violate the limits of moderation. The harm so inflicted must be manifest and exorbitant, which means that negligible harm is usually tolerated, especially when it emanates from the normal exercise of one's rights, say of ownership, but harms another person. The owner's exercise of ownership rights may cause some harm to another person/s, but unless it is manifest and exorbitant, no legal action may be taken. Yet the owner's use of his own property may be captured by the rules of darar if it inflicts harm on others. When the owner builds a structure, for instance, that blocks sunlight from the neighbour's living quarters, when he digs a well so close to the neighbour's house that it weakens or endangers its safety, or when his manner of use pollutes the neighbour's living quarters, and so on, the owner may in all these cases be stopped or ordered to indemnify the harm so inflicted.

The renowned Syrian scholar Mustafa Ahmad al-Zarqa (d. 1999) wrote: "This hadith lays down one of the pillars of the Shariah and provides a basis for prevention of all harmful action. But once committed, harm must be indemnified, be it in financial or in punitive terms, just as it provides support for the promotion and encouragement of its opposite, namely all that which benefit the people and protect them against prejudice must be sought after and secured." Zarqa adds that the hadith-cum-legal maxim subsumes harm inflicted to persons, property, and personal rights, to labour relations, commercial transactions, and the like. The owner of an animal, for instance, is accountable for the damage the animal inflicts on another's person or property, and so is the owner of dangerous weapons and instruments that are not properly guarded or used. An unqualified physician is held responsible for the harm his treatment has inflicted on the patient, and so is a witness who gives erroneous testimony that leads to harming its victim. Market operators and restaurateurs are responsible for keeping the market a safe place for the people, and so are food providers who are responsible for the purity and safety of their supplies. Both the principal actor and one who causes harm indirectly are held responsible, and there are rules that apply to inchoate harm that has begun but that remains incomplete.

Compiled From:
"The Middle Path of Moderation in Islam: The Qur'anic Principle of Wasatiyyah (Religion and Global Politics)" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali, pp. 124, 125


Entangled Rope

When a rope is totally entangled, you try to find its end so that it can gradually be unravelled. Today our life is tied in knots much like this entangled rope - in its economy, in its politics, in its society, in our day to day affairs, in our psychological issues, in our societal affairs, and in our homes. There are innumerable knots which have enmeshed our rope of life. We need to find at least one end of this rope from some side. We must ensure that after we find an end, we do not procrastinate. We must unravel the mesh completely.

The end of the rope for mankind is their qalb. Whenever we see that this rope has managed to escape from our grip and our lives have escaped from our grasp and taken a wrong turn, we need to return to the same starting point and begin our work once again. We must guard over it and keep it under our watchful eyes. These are the aspects we need to be anxious about. We need to remember our upcoming meeting with Allah as many times as possible throughout the day. And with Allah's Grace, we must recite The Quran as much as possible. In fact, there is no difference between these two acts, since a greater part of Quran reminds us of death and invites us to prepare for our life in the Hereafter. Thus, both these actions are mutually integrated.

It becomes apparent that it is these very principles that became the bedrock for the great revolution in human history that occurred within the 23 years of the Prophet's mission. He was able to make his followers realize that unless they cleanse their hearts and follow the dictates of the law, they would remain in a state of ignorance and sin. This change of heart eventually gave them the leadership of the world within one generation.

Compiled From:
"A Righteous Heart: The Axis of One's Deeds" - Khurram Murad