Injustice, Rich Rewards, Persuasive Authority

Issue 1028 » December 7, 2018 - Rabi al-Awwal 29, 1440

Living The Quran

Al-Nisa (Women) - Chapter 4: Verse 40 (partial)

"Truly God commits not so much as a mote's weight of wrong."

This verse is one of many affirming that God does not engage in even the slightest injustice. Some commentators assert that it is impossible to attribute injustice to God, as to be unjust means to transgress boundaries or the rights of others, and since God is Creator, He has no boundaries. Rather, it is He who establishes these rights and boundaries and so cannot be said to transgress them; according to certain theologians, He is capable of injustice, but proscribes it for Himself and has prescribed Mercy for Himself.

Mote's weight translates mithqal dharrah, which conveys something so small that it has no apparent weight at all. Dharrah can also mean "particle," "speck," or "atom" and is frequently glossed as referring to the tiniest of red ants or the smallest of seeds.

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

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Rich Rewards

The Prophet (peace be upon him) encourages kindness to others in every way. He shows us that such kindness is always richly rewarded by God. Whatever we do in this life affects our standing on that Day. Hence, we should always seek and do what improves our position and refrain from what is likely to have a negative effect.

Al-Bara ibn Azib reports that the Prophet said: "Whoever lends another something to use, or guides another down a lane - or he said a path - will have a reward similar to that of freeing a slave". [Bukhari]

Sometimes the Prophet tells us that God promises a very rich reward for an action that does not appear, in our estimation, to deserve such treatment. This is not for us to question, because God rewards a good action with at least ten times its value. He may increase that reward up to 700 times as much, and even more, if He so wishes. Besides, when the action is likely to cement social relations within the Muslim community, then God rewards it very richly. Hence we need not be surprised at the reward promised in this hadith.

The rich reward promised is for lending something to be returned after use, but the hadith phraseology refers mostly to a cow, a she-camel, a sheep, etc. or to a useful article. Such animals used to be given to a family to use for a while, making use of their milk, or for riding in the case of a camel or a horse, and for them to return after a while. Thus the benefit given by such an offer is stretched over a period of time. Hence, it is so richly rewarded. On the other hand, a person who shows the way to someone in unfamiliar surroundings gives badly needed assistance. Hence, it deserves a rich reward.

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


Persuasive Authority

Deferring to God and honouring the text (instructions), requires a human being to exercise self-restraint in speaking for God and the text. But discharging the obligations of human agency mandates that the reader (agent) take his or her role very seriously by aggressively and vigorously investigating both God and God's instructions. "God knows best" is not an invitation to intellectual complacency and smugness, but, as the Quran states, to realize that "over every knowledgeable person is a One more knowledgeable." (12:76)

Submission to God is at the core of the Islamic creed, but it does not mean blind submission to those who claim to represent God's law, and it does not mean submitting to the contentment and comfort of arrogant self-reference. Submission to God means the will and act of engaging the intellect and body in the pursuit of God, but also the humility of knowing that no intellect or body can ever fully represent God. The Quran sums up this point by reminding the Prophet that even he has not been sent to control or dominate people, but to admonish and teach. (88:21-22)

This reminder is particularly pertinent to those who place themselves in the position of the devoted sages of the Divine instructions. Those special agents accept the responsibility of doing what is not feasible for everyone to do, and that is devote a lifetime to the study of the instructions. As the Quran states, the task of these special agents is to study the instructions and to share the results of their search with the common agents who ultimately bear the responsibility of acting according to the dictates of their conscience. (9:122) The authority of these special agents is not inherent or institutional - it is persuasive. The common agents will and should defer to the determinations of those special agents, but only to the extent that the special agents are honestly and diligently representing what the special agents believe to be the Will of the instructions.

Compiled From:
"Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women" - Khaled Abou El Fadl