Muhammad the Prophet of Mercy
On One Ship
Those abiding by
Allah’s Laws in comparison to those who violate them are like people who drew
lots for their seats on a ship. Some of them got seats on the upper deck and some
on the lower. When the ones below needed water, they had to go to the upper
deck to get it (which troubled those on the upper deck), so they said, “Let us
make a hole in our part of the ship to get water and save those above us from
trouble.” If the people on the upper deck allow them to do what they have
suggested, everyone on the ship will drown; but if they prevent them, all the
people will be safe.1
The whole community, as the Prophet r
depicts it, is this one ship on board which are the good and the evil, the
heedful and the heedless, and it is carrying them all towards one destination.
Its safety and stability amid the restless waves are bound by the awareness of
every person to their own and others’ duties and the consequences of their own
and others’ actions.
Most people forget this reality… the ship of life or community.
They imagine that they stand firm on a stable land that nothing can shake or
cause them to perish, and therefore they sin and transgress.
The Prophet r, fully aware of their
heedlessness, warns them using this analogy of a ship that is affected by its
passengers, who must pay attention to every step taken on board for their own
safety and the safety of others.
Everything one does as an individual affects the whole. An
individual is not just one person free to do as they please without legal or
moral authority – just a drop in the ocean – for a drop of poison can cause the
death of the body. 2
The upper deck passengers, the righteous who live within the
bounds of Allah’s
Law, will go down with the lower deck passengers, the sinners who violate Allah’s
Law, if they sit idly by while they are being violated. That is, if they allow
them to make a hole and do not prevent it. The ship with a hole will drown them
fear a trial which will not strike those of you who do wrong exclusively (but
it may afflict all – the good and the bad), and know that Allah is Severe in
The law of the Prophet’s new righteous world forbids passivity
and inaction. Evil is to be resisted; injustice is to be removed; and truth is
to be spoken. “Anyone of you
who sees something evil, let them change it with their hand (by taking action);
if they cannot, then with their tongue (by speaking out); and if they cannot,
then with their heart (by hating it and feeling that it is wrong); and that is
the weakest of faith.”4 Anything less is no faith.
“By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, you
will enjoin righteousness and forbid evil, or Allah is on the verge of sending
a punishment upon you from Him, then you will supplicate to Him, but He will
not answer your supplication.”5
Narrated by An-Nu‘man
bin Bashir: Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Partnership, Hadith no. 2313; similar
versions of the Hadith are also reported by Al-Bukhary (2489), At-Tirmidhy (2099), and Ahmad (17638,
17647, 17653, 17685).
Adapted from Muhammad Qutb, Qabasat min
Ar-Rasul (Gleams from
the Messenger r), chapter of Ship of Community, Dar Al-Shorouk.
Translated meanings of Al-Anfal 8: 25.
4 Narrated by Abu Sa‘id Al-Khudri: Sahih
Muslim, Book of Iman, Hadith no. 70.
Narrated by Hudhaifah bin Al-Yaman: Sunnan At-Tirmidhy, Book of Al-Fitan
(Trials), Hadith no. 2095.