The Rights of the Street

The meaning of tariq is all roads, streets, pathways, alleys, markets or malls where people pass by. In this context, it also includes sitt...

The meaning of tariq is all roads, streets, pathways, alleys, markets or malls where people pass by. In this context, it also includes sitting in kiosks or by windows which open on to the street. The Prophet (sas) ordered us not to sit in such places for fear that we would fall short in upholding our obligations to Allah known as "the rights of the street." When the Companions pointed out that sometimes there is a necessity to be in such places - for example someone who has a business in a shopping mall or one who needs to go to some place to purchase something - he (sas) allowed this but warned about the tests which a Muslim confronts in such a context and spelled out his/her obligations.

Qaala: Iyaakum wa al-juloos fiy at-turuqaat. Qaaloo: Yaa rasool Allah maa lana min majaalisna budd natahaddathu fihaa. Faqaala Rasul Allah: "Fa idhaa abaitum illa al-majlis, fa a'too at-tariq haqqahu."
Qaaloo: Wa maa haqqu at-tariq yaa rasool Allah? Qaala: "Ghadhu al-basar wa kaffu al-adhaa wa radd as-salaami wa al-amr bi al-ma'roof wa an-nahiy 'an al-munkar."

The Prophet (sas) said: "Stay away from sitting in the ways." They said: O Allah's Messenger our sittings are necessary to us that is where we discuss things. The Prophet (sas) said: "If you have refused not to sit there, then give the street its right." They said: And what is the right of the street, O Messenger of Allah? He (sas) said: "To lower your gaze, to withold all harm from others, to return the greeting of salaam and to command what is right and to prohibit what is wrong." Muslim & Bukhari
Commanding right and prohibiting wrong is an obligation on every Muslim.

It becomes an absolute obligation upon the individual Muslim who witnesses wrongdoing and is capable of doing something to oppose it. Allah said:

{Let there be among you a nation who calls to good they command what is right and prohibit what is wrong. These are the successful ones.} Aal 'Imraan: 104

The Prophet (sas) made this a specific obligation on the one who witnesses wrongdoing and allowe only one of three courses of action:

Qaala Rasool Allah: Man ra'a minkum munkaran fal yughairriruhu bi yadihi. Fa in lam yastiti' fa bi lisaanihi. Fa in lam yastiti' fa bi qalbihi wa laisa waraa'a dhalika habba khardalin min imaan.

The Prophet (sas) said: "Whoever among you witnesses wrongdoing, let him correct it with his hand. If he is unable, then let him correct it with his tongue. If he is unable [to do that], then let him correct it with his heart and beyond that there is not a single mustard seed's weight of faith."

A Muslim who witnesses wrongdoing must fulfill one of these three actions in response to it:

1.Change it with his hand. Prevent the wrongdoing by physical intervention where appropriate and where the individual has the ability to do so.
2.Change it with his tongue. Through warning, preaching and reminder. To remind the disobedient with the verses of Allah and the statements of the Prophet (sas) as to the wickedness of what they are doing or neglecting.
3.Change it with his heart. This does NOT mean to continue to mix and socialize with the wrongdoers while "rejecting" their wrongdoing secretly in one's heart. This in fact is what the Prophet (sas) has warned us about when he cautioned us about not falling into one of the traps the Jews fell into before us: the scholars ordered and prohibited but the people ignored them and continued in their foolishness.
Then, the Prophet (sas) said: "...but they continued to eat with them, drink with them and sit with them and so Allah made their hearts one and the same." Rather, the meaning of "changing" evil with your heart means that as a last resort you must use your emotional and social relationships to turn the disobedient back from their wrongdoing by cutting yourself off from them and refusing to have any relationship with them until they change their ways. If you fail to do so, Allah may make your heart and their hearts the same as the Prophet (sas) informed us.

The greeting if "As-salaamu alaikum" and its response of "Wa alaikum as-salaam" is one of the symbols of Islam. It is something which the Prophet (sas) informed us that if we spread it far and wide that Allah will place love between our hearts. To give the salaam upon seeing a Muslim is highly desired. To return the salaam once it has been given is an absolute obligation. Even though this obligation is so easy and only requires a few words to roll off the tongue, how many times have we seen Muslims who reject and disobey in this simple obligation? Because of foolishness like jealousy, hatred, nationalism or a prior disagreement. Allah said:
{When you are greeted with a greeting, then greet back with something better or just return it. Allah is taking account of all things.} An-Nisaa: 86

The "street" or going out can be a test for Muslim and many of them are failing it. When Muslims begin enjoying going to the mall and such places just for the "action" and the stimulation of going there, they fall into something hated by Allah and his Prophet (sas). If they realized what was upon them in that context:

Lowering the gaze. Not looking at anything forbidden and Allah knows that almost everything your eyes rest upon in the mall is something forbidden.

Witholding all harm. Not speaking about anyone, insulting anyone, hurting their feelings, etc. This and the previous item constitutes most of what the youth who spend their time in the mall are in fact doing. Returning the salaam. How many Muslims have you seen who feel intimidated to return the greeting of a Muslim when they are in the mall or other public place?
Enjoining right and forbidding wrong. Now there's a mouthful. How could you possibly keep up with this in a place which is 99.9% munkar?

These are places of fulfilling needs or of some specific benefit - for example if some Muslims set of a da'wah booth to inform about Islam in such places. On the other hand, going out can be filled with reward and blessing if one is up to its requirements:

The Prophet (sas) said: "Every body part of people is a sadaqa on every day on which the sun comes up. If you make justice between two it is a sadaqa. If you help a man with his load carrying it for him or lifting it onto his mount that is a sadaqa. A kind word is a sadaqa. Every step which you take walking to the prayer is a sadaqa. And, to remove something harmful from the way is a sadaqa."
(Muslim & Bukhari).


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Islamic Finder: The Rights of the Street
The Rights of the Street
Islamic Finder
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