The Even and The Odd, Social Responsibility, Dominance vs. Prestige

Issue 1020 » October 12, 2018 - Safar 3, 1440

Living The Quran

The Even and The Odd
Al-Fajr (The Dawn) - Chapter 89: Verse 3

"By the even and the odd!"

By the even! By all the creatures of the cosmos! For God created them all in pairs, two by two, whether linked to each other or opposed to each other, like male and female, day and night, light and darkness, heaven and earth, ocean and land, sun and moon, jinn and mankind, obedience and disobedience, felicity and wretchedness, exaltation and abasement, power and incapacity, strength and weakness, knowledge and ignorance, life and death.

God created the attributes of creatures like this—opposed to each other or paired with each other—so that they would not resemble the attributes of the Creator, for God's exaltation has no abasement, God's power no incapacity, God's strength no weakness, God's knowledge no ignorance, God's life no death, and God's subsistence no annihilation. Hence, God is the odd: alone and unique. The rest are all the even: paired with each other.

Some of the scholars have said that the even are Mount Safa and Mount Marwa, and the odd is the Kabah. The even are the Holy Mosque and the mosque of Medina, and the odd is the Aqsa Mosque. The even are day and night, paired with each other, and the odd is the Day of Resurrection, which has no day and night. The even are the soul and spirit, which are linked today, and the odd is the spirit tomorrow when it is separate from the frame. The even are desire and intention, and the odd is aspiration, a stranger without anyone. The even are the renouncer and the worshiper, each other's comrades, and the odd is the desirer, who travels alone, without comrade and companion.

Compiled From:
"Kashf al-Asrar wa Uddat al-Abrar" - Rashid al-Din Maybudi. p. 542

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Social Responsibility

At times, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was very specific, singling out a very simple, ordinary action and describing it as a charitable act or even something that leads to heaven:

Abu Barzah al-Aslami reports: 'I said: "Messenger of God, indicate to me an action which will admit me to heaven". He said: "Remove offensive objects from people's path".' [Ahmad, Muslim, Ibn Majah]

The Arabic word adha, translated as 'offensive objects', includes anything which causes harm or disgust. No one would imagine that the removal of such objects from people's pathway was an action that earns very high reward. The Prophet's statement shows that it does. It is a commendable, social deed which reflects genuine concern about the welfare of the community. Hence, its reward is high in relation to the simplicity of the action itself. However, it should be pointed out that, by itself, such an action is not enough to take any person into heaven. Its reward is high when the doer is a good believer who does not hesitate to undertake any action which serves the cause of Islam when he is required to do so. Abu Barzah, who put the question to the Prophet, was a man who fought with the Prophet on seven occasions, a fact that reflects his readiness to sacrifice his life for the cause of Islam. Hence, the Prophet's answer indicated an action which might be classified under the finer manners of Muslims.

The Prophet praised the same action on more than one occasion:

Abu Hurayrah reports that the Prophet said: 'A man found a branch of a thorny tree in a lane. He said: "I will remove this thorny branch, lest it should harm a Muslim". [For this action] he was granted forgiveness of his sins'.[Bukhari, Muslim]

The Prophet's statement and the incident itself stress the social aspect in this simple action of removing an offensive object from people's pathways. When such an action comes to a person naturally, they reflect a keen sense of social responsibility. It is this sense that makes a person undertake the trouble of removing dirt and other offensive objects when it is not his duty to do so.

Compiled From:
"Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary: A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality" - Adil Salahi


Dominance vs. Prestige

In our species, the attainment of social status, and the mating benefits that come along with it, can be accomplished through compassion and cooperation just as much (if not more so) as through aggression and intimidation. Scholars across ethnography, ethology, sociology, and sociolinguistics believe that at least two routes to social status — dominance and prestige — arose in evolutionary history at different times and for different purposes.

The dominance route is paved with intimidation, threats, and coercion, and is fueled by hubristic pride. Hubristic pride is associated with arrogance, conceit, anti-social behaviours, unstable relationships, low levels of conscientiousness and high levels of disagreeableness, neuroticism, narcissism, and poor mental health outcomes. Hubristic pride, along with its associated feelings of superiority and arrogance, facilitates dominance by motivating behaviours such as aggression, hostility, and manipulation.

In contrast, prestige is paved with the emotional rush of accomplishment, confidence, and success, and is fueled by authentic pride. Authentic pride is associated with pro-social and achievement-oriented behaviours, agreeableness, conscientiousness, satisfying interpersonal relationships, and positive mental health. Critically, authentic pride is associated with genuine self-esteem (considering yourself a person of value, not considering yourself superior to others). Authentic pride, along with its associated feelings of confidence and accomplishment, facilitates behaviours that are associated with attaining prestige. People who are confident, agreeable, hard-working, energetic, kind, empathic, nondogmatic, and high in genuine self-esteem inspire others and cause others to want to emulate them.

Compiled From:
"The Myth of the Alpha Male" - Scott Barry Kaufman