CHAPTER SIX: `Relating to Allah's Creation
ALLAH has laid down certain rights and duties between people and between all of His living creation. Parents and children, wife and husband, brother and sister, neighbours, Muslim and non- Muslim, employer and employee, even animals are all included in this wide range of rights and obligations. In this interdependent world, every person is responsible for those under his care. The Prophet Muhammad said:
The Quran also informs us that we must be compassionate with each other and generous in our giving:
The injunctions of the Sharia or Islamic moral and legal code relating to rights and duties are usually divided into two categories: the rights of Allah together with our duties towards Him and the rights of Allah's servants together with their duties towards mankind. This classification is meant to simplify our understanding of our obligations but the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught us that Allah would Himself be claimant on behalf of those whose rights have not been honoured on the Day of Judgment. A hadith qudsi states:
So, Allah regards the rights and duties that He has defined between His creation as His rights and duties. The Messenger of Allah has said: `All creatures are Allah's family; and Allah loves most those who treat his family well and kindly.' (Bayhaqi)
In a hadith narrated by Sayyida Aisha, the Prophet said that all the deeds that we perform are written down in three registers:
The second register of deeds is especially important for us to consider because there is no Divine pardon in cases where personal rights have been violated. Forgiveness can only come from the person concerned - either directly or when Allah makes it possible for that person to grant a pardon. The Prophet Muhammad said in this regard:
Your first obligation after satisfying your personal needs is to your family: O you who believe! Save yourself and your family , from a fire whose fuel is men and stones. [at-Tahrim 66: 6]
Fulfillment of your responsibilities towards your family is certainly an onerous task which requires a considerable amount of effort and time on your part. This task can be made easier, more rewarding and indeed more satisfying if you are careful in following the guidelines set out by the Prophet in the selection of your marriage partners.
When choosing your prospective spouse, ensure that you check your niyya or intention. Remind yourself that in seeking to get married you are fulfilling an obligation [an-Nur 24: 32-33], and in so doing you are also following a very strong tradition of the Prophet. Imam Bukhari narrated that the Prophet strongly advised all young people who possess the means to get married, to do so. Marriage will in turn assist you in safeguarding your chastity and hopefully, increase your iman and commitment to Islam. The Prophet further commented on the benefits of a blessed marriage as follows: `Whoever is granted a righteous wife by Allah, Allah has helped him in half of his faith. So let him fear Allah in the remaining half.' (Tabarani.) This exhortation, of course, applies equally to both men and women.
Your choice of spouse should be based foremost on the merit of taqwa. Take time to make the best choice, for this too, is an investment in your future and that of your `future' children, insha'AllahAccordingly, the Messenger of God said:
Look for a partner who will bring comfort to your eyes, one who has a pure heart and one who will encourage you and participate in your dawa work [ar-Rum 30: 21]. In this way, not only will you benefit from the baraqa or blessing of Allah in your dawa efforts, but your home will also be filled with the Nur of Allah and become a source of inspiration for your efforts [al-Araf 7: 189]. For this reason, we are told in the Quran that the Ibadur Rahman or true Servants of the Most Gracious, make the dua:
Having chosen the most suitable spouse, remember that your responsibility to yourself and to your family has not ended. Rather, your obligations in this regard have just started. You must follow the Prophet and be the best uswa or example to your family. Sayyida Aisha, the Prophet's wife, narrated that he said: `The best of you is he who is best to his family, and I am the best among you towards my family'. (Tirmidhi.)
Within the family, both husband and wife have different but equal roles to play. Both parties must complement each other in the fulfillment of their responsibilities: They are garments for you while you are garments for them [al-Baqara 2:187].
To further deepen the love and to improve communication between members of your family - spouse, children, parents - you should aim to establish the following three activities in your home.
Finally, to ensure that your home is a place of comfort and relaxation, you need to manage the stress in your life by adopting a balanced approach to living. Some degree of stress is inevitable and good. It keeps you aware and responsive. However, too much stress can damage your health, your relationships, and your ability to work for the sake of Allah. If you are taking your daily work stress to your home, then you may be disrupting one of the most important sources of your well being. You must continually evaluate yourself by sitting with your family and discussing your performance. Discuss the responses to the following points with your family:
As a parent, you must treat your children with love and kindness. The Prophet Muhammad said, `He does not belong to us, Muslims, who is not kind to our young and does not respect our old'. (Tirmidhi.)Indeed, if people were to observe this single hadith in their inter personal relations, many of the evils and discords that plague society would be removed.
Each child has the right to a good name, good character, good training, a quality education, and to be married to a suitable and compatible spouse. The Prophet further emphasised, `No father can give a better gift to his children than providing them with a good education'. (Bayhaqi.)
Within the family, both mother and father have important roles to play in the growth and development of their children. But, mothers have an even more important role because they are the real teachers. The love and attention they can provide, the father cannot match. The father, of course, has to contribute as much as he can in spending quality time with his children and being the best role model for them. But, the real training will come primarily from the mother's affection, compassion, example and teaching.
We must also treat all of our children with the full care and attention that they deserve, be they male or female. However, in contemporary times, and a similar situation existed in the time of the Prophet, parents seem to give preferential treatment to their sons. This is why the Prophet has told us that we have a special obligation to our female off spring. Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that he said:
This is how he emphasised the rights and obligations towards our children with special regard towards our daughters. This is something we must consider carefully.
After your obligations to Allah, your parents have the greatest right over you. You should treat them with love, kindness and respect. Your Lord has decreed that you shall serve none but Him, and do good to your parents. Should one or both of them reach old age with you, never say 'Ugh' to them, nor scold either of them; but speak to them kindly and respectfully. [al-Isra 17: 23]
After every Prayer you should make dua for their well being. The Quran says, spread over them the wings of humility and mercy and say, My Lord, have merry upon them, as they raised me up when I was little. [al-Isra 17:24]
Even if your parents are non-Muslims and they insist on you participating in that which is unlawful, you still have an obligation to treat them with goodness and kindness. Remember that their cultural background may not make them easily receptive to your new faith. So, the best way you can present Islam to them is to become a loving, obedient and caring child. Your uswa or example to your parents should also reflect the message of the Quran and the conduct of the Prophet Muhammad. The Quran explains the attitude we must adopt as follows:
Hadith literature is also filled with many accounts and guidelines concerning the manner in which we should treat our parents even if they are non-Muslims. In one account, Asma, may Allah be pleased with her, recorded the advice of the Prophet when she turned to him, being unsure about the manner in which she should treat her mother who was still a non-Muslim:
The mother of Asma, the daughter of Abu Balr, was still a polytheist when she came to visit Asma during the time of the Muslims' peace treaty with the Quraysh. Asma asked the Prophet, `O Messenger of Allah, my mother has come to see me. Should I receive her and treat her with all the affection that is her due?' He said, `Yes, treat her with full affection.' (Bukhari. Muslim.)
Ukhuwwa, brotherhood in Islam, is primarily an ideological bond that binds Muslims to each other. [al-Hujurat 49: 10.] The Prophet said: `The strongest link of faith is to love someone in order to gain the pleasure of Allah and to hate someone for the sake of Allah'. (Ahmad). This relationship with your brother or sister should be based on the following:
There are also certain things that you should consider in order to preserve the relationship with your brother and to prevent its disintegration. These include:
You can also make the relationship with your brother stronger by:
As an employer, you have an obligation to care for your staff; provide the most suitable working environment; and ensure that they are fully compensated punctually, for all their services rendered: 'Give the labourer his wages before his sweat dries'. (Ibn Majah.) The Prophet also said that one of the persons he shall be against on the Day of judgment is the man who does not pay the right wages to his employees after their labours.
As an employee, you must perform your job with diligence and proficiency. `Verily, Allah loves that when anyone of you does a job he should perfect it' (al-Bayhaqi.) The Quran also declares: Work because Allah, the Prophet and the Believers will witness your work [at-Tawba 9: 105.] Know that the best food is that which comes from your own efforts: `No one eats better food than what he earns by the labour of his own hands'. (Bukhari.)
Neighbours have rights, be they Muslims or non-Muslims. The Prophet of Allah said: `He is not a true Believer who eats his fill while his neighbour is hungry'. (Bayhaqi.)
Thus, the quality of your Din and fate in the Akhira will also be determined by how well you fulfill your obligations towards your neighbours. In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, a man said:
The Quran defines the neighbour in a very wide sense. [an-Nisa 4: 36-37.] One class of neighbours is our relatives. Another class are those who are not our relatives and the third class of neighbours are those who sit with us, even for a few minutes. This third class of neighbours is a very wide group and includes those who sit by your side. If you are travelling in a taxi, bus, train or aeroplane the person who is sitting by your side is your neighbour. If you are in the office, your co-worker is your neighbour. If you are at school, your classmate is your neighbour. The Prophet gave a comprehensive account of our duties towards our neighbours when requested to do so by one of his Companions:
Among the rights of your neighbour is that his life, property and honour must be protected. Violation of any of them is haram or unlawful. His life is inviolable. To kill someone - be he Muslim or non-Mushin - is such a great crime that if someone commits first degree murder Allah says that person will live in Jahannam forever and ever. Of course, if the death was accidental, one can pay compensation to the victim's family.
Remember that the life of a non-Muslim is as important as that of a Muslim. The Prophet Muhammad said that `One who kills a non-Muslim whose protection is pledged will never smell the fragrance of Janna, even though it reaches as far as 40 years distance'. (Bukhari, Muslim.)
So the life of the non-Muslim is also inviolable, as is his property and his honour. All must be respected and safeguarded. This is especially important for us to consider because we live in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society and, unfortunately, there are many misconceptions prevailing among Muslims about the extent of their obligations towards non-Muslims. The Prophet himself used to pay special attention to the needs of non-Muslims even when there was poverty, hardship and difficulties in the Muslim community.
Animals have rights, for all of Allah's creatures comprise His `family'. Sahl ibn Amr narrated that once the Messenger of Allah, passed by a camel who was so emaciated that his belly seemed to have disappeared. He said, `Fear Allah regarding the animals who cannot speak. Ride on them while they are healthy, and eat of them when they are healthy'. (Abu Dawud.)
A famous hadith says that `a woman was punished and thrown into Hell-fire on account of her cat. She kept it tied up till it died of hunger: she neither gave it something to eat nor drink, nor let it go so that it could eat things on earth'. (Bukhari, Muslim.) The Prophet also said:
If Allah commands us not to treat animals in this way, you can well imagine the extent of our obligations exhibited by someone, the dearer that person is to Allah.
All creatures are Allah's family; and Allah loves most those who treat His family well and kindly. Our responsibility to others is especially important for us to consider for there is no Divine pardon in cases where personal rights have been violated.
Your primary obligation after satisfying your personal needs is towards your family. Indeed, after Allah, your parents have the greatest right over you. Fulfill your obligations towards your spouse and treat your children with love and kindness.
When it comes to the obligations to your fellow Muslims, know that the strongest link of faith is to love someone in order to gain the pleasure of Allah.
As an employer, know that you have an important responsibility towards your employees. Similarly, as an employee, you must perform your work with proficiency.
Your fate in the Akhira will also be determined by how well you fulfill your obligations to your neighbours be they Muslims or non-Muslims. The Prophet used to pay particular attention to the needs of non-Muslims even when there were difficulties in the Muslim community.
Animals have rights for all of Allah's creatures comprise His `family': `Fear Allah regarding the animals who cannot speak. Ride on them while they are healthy, and eat of them when they are healthy.'
May Allah enable us all to fulfill our obligations to the members of His family.