Reflection on Surah Al Hujurat - a Discourse on Divine Ethics

This Khutba is about adab, which could roughly be translated as the proper ettiquettes or ethics required of the believer. The ethics of a...

This Khutba is about adab, which could roughly be translated as the
proper ettiquettes or ethics required of the believer. The ethics of a
believer are not just any format of ethics, the arbitrary constantly
evolving ethics that we see in the world today. In what could be called the
Western World, having long since having abandoned a relationship with
religious scripture; ethics though a buzzword is very much open to debate.

There are the ethics of Jeremy Bentham, the founder of modern
utilitarianism, who held that human beings naturally act to maximize their
“utility” – avoidance of pain and experiencing of pleasure.Then there are
the the ethics of Immanuel Kant, who argued for the concept of moral law
and duty. There are also the ethics of John Locke, known as the father of
classical liberalism. Then there is post modernism, probably the dominant
philosophy of today, which effectively says there is no universal
philosophy – its all relative. It seems almost as if in the absence of
religion, Europe today has molded itself to a new set of beliefs, that of
liberalism which in many ways has inverted what were previously
historically anti-Christian beliefs/perspectives into yardsticks by which
citizenship is judged.

But this Khutba is not about arbitrary ethics, it is about Divine Ethics.
This is because we take our Ethics from the Book and the one who
embodied the Book, namely, the Prophet. As Aisha (May Allah be
pleased with her) said, "His Character was the Qu'ran." Today's Khutba is
about a specific Surah which provides a mirco-cosm of the ethics a
Muslim should have, namely, Surah al Hujarat, which has been defined as
a commentary on the Islamic Moral System.

1 See: "Can Liberalism Tolerate Islam?", by Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad. Available from:
http://masud.co.uk/ISLAM/ahm/AHM-Can-Liberalism-tolerate-islam.htm


The Loss of Adab
Arabs say the key to all goodness is adab or proper manners/disposition.
One of contemporary Islam's greatest thinkers, the founder of the
Islamisization of Knowledge Project, Sayyid Naquib al-Attas, says that all
of the internal problems Muslims find themselves in today, all of them
can be reduced to one single factor - the crisis of a "loss of adab". Adab
according to him and our Scholars in general is "recognition and
acknowledgement of one's proper place" and the resultant behaviour. It
follows that the first thing is recognition, i.e. to know one's proper place
with regards to one's physical, intellectual, and spiritual capacities and
potential and then one's role in respect of the society and wider
community.

Adab and Surah Al Hujuraat
Surah Al Hujurat teaches us this lost adab, it summarizes the keys to true
adab by outlining the right adab with Allah, His Messenger (peace be
upon him), and with Allah’s creation. In just 18 verses, believers are
given a clear roadmap as to how to walk the Straight Path with excellence
in conduct and attitude.

The Meanings of Surah Al Hujuraat
The word Al Hujaraat literally means "The Private Apartments", in
reference to the rooms of the Prophet's wives, what functioned in effect as
their homes or apartments. The first five verses start with what it means
to have proper adab with Allah and His Messenger. The Surah starts:
O you who have believed, do not put [yourselves] before Allah and
His Messenger but fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and
Knowing.
[Qu'ran 49:1]

The first thing is to know that when it comes to the Qu'ran and the
Sunnah, is that we lower our intellects. This is not because we don't use
our intellects, but because we recognize its proper place. In other words
we give proper adab to the intellect with regards to Allah, which is that
we don't know Allah through our intellectual postulations but rather
through our heart, which is the locus of sincere faith (not the intellect).
As Allah says:
It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has
been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about
their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is
indeed on a clearly wrong.
[Qu'ran: 33:36]

Hence Surah Al Hujuraat continues:
O you who have believed, do not raise your voices above the voice of
the Prophet or be loud to him in speech like the loudness of some of
you to others, lest your deeds become worthless while you perceive
not. [Qu'ran 49:2]

And this was the way of the Sahaaba, the books of Shamaail say they
would have their heads lowered as if on their heads were birds. The
Sahabas were known to not stare at the Prophet because of the immense
awe they had for him, this being perhaps a deep seated reason as to why
most of the detailed descriptions of the Prophet often come from children
who perhaps owing to their age did not have this same commensurate
type of awe.

In contrast to the adab of the Sahaba, the Desert Arabs would come and
raise their voices as if they were speaking to just anyone. The Prophet
himself did not reproach them for this, understanding it to be their nature
– but this lack of adab from them was corrected by Allah Himself
wherein He said: "lest your deeds become worthless while you
perceive not."

How could a slip in manners from them cause all of their deeds to
become worthless? The answer lies in understanding who the Prophet
represents. To show bad manners to him, is to show bad manners to
Allah, because the Prophet is the Messenger of Allah and a Messenger's
role is to represent the One who sent him. This is a Key principle.
Whenever we show bad adab to that which is representative of Allah, we
show bad adab to Allah Himself, the greater the representation, the
greater the affront and the greater the conseqeunces. Likewise showing
adab to that which represents Allah is a way of bringing us closer to Him.
This is the deep secret behind Allah instructed us to have Wudhu before
holding His book or entering into prayer with His communion because
outward purity symbolizes that which is inward, i.e. a proper adab, a
proper state.


Surah Al Hujuraat continues:
Indeed, those who lower their voices before the Messenger of Allah -
they are the ones whose hearts Allah has tested for righteousness. For
them is forgiveness and great reward. [Qu'ran 49:3]

So the lowering of the voice is the way of adab and adab is ultimately the
way of Taqwa or righteousness. Thus it is that the lowering of our voices,
both the outward and the inward chatter, in essence our attitude towards
the Messenger of Allah is a test of Taqwa. It is necessary that our attitude
and conduct reflect the reality of Rasoolullah. From this it follows
automatically that a heart which is devoid of reverence for the Holy
Prophet is, in fact, devoid of Taqwa, and a person's raising his voice
louder than the Holy Prophet's is not only an uncivilized act outwardly
but also a sign of the absence of Taqwa in his heart. In summary our
Taqwa is commensurate to our reverence of the Prophet.
Allah continues:
Those who shout out to thee from behing the chambers - most of
them lack understanding. [Qu'ran 49:4]

Some of the desert Arabs having travelled long distances would set forth
in the morning from their locations when the heat was at its lowest and as
a result they would arrive in the afternoon time while the Prophet was
resting, the time of the Qaylula, the afternoon rest (perhaps a neglected
sunnah!). Arriving at these inopurtune times they would come and call
out, "Ya Muhammad!" causing the Prophet distress who himself would
always respond courteously to this wrong adab, though it was difficult,
because the definition of good adab is to react as such in the face of bad
adab. However Allah Himself instructed them that this was not the way:
And if they had been patient until you [could] come out to them, it
would have been better for them. But Allah is Forgiving and
Merciful. [Qu'ran 49:5]

Adab for those who don't have much may require a period of training.
The correct attitude when one doesn’t know the best way to be is to ask -
there is a proper manner in Islam for everything, right down to visting
others. Namely seeking permission by knocking or ringing, pausing
(sufficient for the person to have heard), then knock/ringing once more,
pausing again , knocking/ringing a third time, pausing and then leaving.
Not peering to see if he/she is in, or trying to loiter about in case they
come out. This is because Islam recognizes the right to people's privacy
should they so need it as well as that of honoring the guest and every
situation has its own etiquette, just as the host should treat the guest fairly
so should the guest treat the host fairly.

Verses 6 to 9 of Surah Al Hujuraat speak about essential facets for
healthy community realtions:
O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one
with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance
and become, over what you have done, regretful. [Qu'ran 49:6]
This verse had specific application to a false case of a claim that a tribe
was not paying Zakat, whereas they had not received a delegation to
collect it. However the verse also has general application in that a lot of
the information we receive is subjective. Commensurately there is a need
for us an Ummah to think how we digest information as practically all the
information we recive through popular news outlets has an agenda from
those who sponsor the new outlets. This added to the fact that we live in
the digital age, wherein information can pass from one place all around
the world with just a click of a few buttons – should entail even greater
vigilance on our part.

The current spread of anti-Islam propoganda is a case in point. While
admittedly a handful of muslims have not done a great job in portraying a
good image of Islam, a careful analysis of many popular news outlets
cannot fail to reveal an almost deliberate potrayal of anything connected
to Islam with fear and there are very deliberate strategic reasons for this.
The report Fear, Inc. details the role of seven foundations who provided
$42.6 million to Islamophobia think tanks over the last ten years in a
deliberate attempt to support a handful of 'experts' in generating patently
false facts and materials against Islam that can be used by political
leaders, grassroots groups, and the media. The result has suprisingly been
very effective. Today you see "model legislation" bills banning Sharia
law have been cut and pasted into bills in South Carolina, Texas, and
Alaska! In September 2010, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed
that 49 percent of Americans held an unfavorable view of Islam. It may
have been easily forgotten but when Obama was running for presidency
there was a huge debate and counter campaign by the likes Senator
McCain as to whether he was Muslim and it took Collin Powell to
actually ask, "So what?" The current discourse with regards to Islam
would struggle to be tolerated with regards to any other community and
yet Muslims/Islam become easy game. It is imperative for Muslim
leaders to reach out and engage within this environment, for civil leaders
to build bridges for otherwise fear begets fear and we result in exactly the
sort of vicious cycle that extremists on both sides of the divide want to
perpetrate.


Allah continues:
And know that among you is the Messenger of Allah. If he were to
obey you in much of the matter, you would be in difficulty, but Allah
has endeared to you faith and has made it pleasing in your hearts and
has made hateful to you disbelief, defiance and disobedience. Those
are the [rightly] guided.
A Grace and Favour from Allah. And Allah is full of Knowledge and
Wisdom.
[Qu'ran 49:7-8]

These verses speak about the presence of the Messenger of Allah
amongst the Sahaba. No doubt the physical presence of the Prophet in
their midst was a great favour and from the infinite grace of Allah. But
the bigger grace was that Allah had in turn made endearing to the hearts
of the Sahaba to incline towards the way of the Prophet, thus allowing for
them to recognize him and follow his sunnah. In that sense, the presence
of the Prophet in our midst does not die, until the desire and love for his
sunnah dies in our hearts. These verses allude to the essentual ingredients
of any community in Islam – hearts that are founded sincerely on a
following of the Prophet.

Having spoken about the ideal, as the Qu'ran speaks to people at all
different levels it doesn’t rule out the contingency of when things can go
wrong. In that regards the following verses touch upon the factor of
dispute resolution within Islam. What to do when two sets of believers
end up disputing or even fighting. In many ways this is realistic guidance
for even the Sahaba themselves had dispute amongst themselves after the
death of the Prophet so we are in even more need, given the propensity
for dispute and differences of opinion in our time. What the Qu'ran
basically says is that instead of loving the spectacle (as the Nafs is
inclined) we should reconcile people and their hearts:
And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make
settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other,
then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the
ordinance of Allah. And if it returns, then make settlement between
them in justice and act justly. Indeed, Allah loves those who act
justly.
[Qu'ran 49:9]

It is important to stress that the word "ta 'ifah" has been used here for a
group instead of firqah, the former implies a small group instead of a
large one. Hence the Qu'ran is most definitely stating this is not some sort
of norm, but is an exceptional scenario relegated to a small fraction of
believer. However if it does happen, the correct adab is not just to sit and
watch the clash when two groups of our own community have fallen to
mutual fighting but to actively strive to resolve the dispute. Such desire to
resolve this sad situation should create arousal to the degree that all the
believers should become concerned and should do whatever they can to
bring about peace and reconciliation between the parties. If it is clear that
there is a blatant agresseor involved, then the Muslims should not just
allow the aggressor to continue his aggression and leave the victim alone,
rather the agressor should be actively dissuaded, if necessary by
commensurate agression. It is important to note that the command to
"fight" the aggressor does not necessarily mean that he should be fought
physcially, but it implies the use of force (if necessary) against him, the
real object being the removal of his aggression. For this object whatever
force is necessary to curtail the agression should be used,without
transgressing any bounds and such force should only be used to what is
absolutely necessary without any peaceful alteranative.

The Believers are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and
reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear
Allah, that ye may receive Mercy.
[Qu'ran 49:10]

The above verse is a key. To emphasize that faith is a collective, that all
belivers are united in a single brotherhood. When our bonds of fraternity
are actualized it is not easy to show signs of enmity to show signs of
trying to get one over each other. For we all our brothers (and by
extension this includes the sisterhood). How are you to your own family
members, do you seek to trick them, do you seek to compete with them?
The family of Islam, the family of faith is deeper than the relationship of
blood.

But how often we find that as muslims our primary identities cease to be
the fraternal bond of faith but the contingent elements of race, nationality,
social class, elements that many of us often use to divide the very
brotherhood that the Qu'ran alludes to in the previous verse. It is for this
reason that the Qu'ran says:
O You who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people;
perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule
[other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not
insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive]
nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one's] faith.
And whoever does not repent - then it is those who are the
wrongdoers.
[Qu'ran 49:11]


We all need to ask ourselves – how much are we following this verse.
Today it is not uncommon to see racism profuse within the ummah of the
Prophet wherein labels are attached to nationalities and unfair stereotypes
proliferate. Is this us following our Prophet? The root case of all of this is
negative assumption, the fact that we don’t keep track of our thoughts –
keeping track of what is for us and what is against us. As Allah says:
O You who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed,
some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other.
Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You
would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of
repentance and Merciful.
[Qu'ran 49:12]

The importance of having a good opinion is essential for every muslim.
How many a bad outcome was preceded by a bad thought and if that
thought had been nipped in the bud, nipped before it had fruition then the
bad outcomes would not have materialized. For it is thought that gives
rise to feelings/emotions and emotions that give rise to actions. If
muslims resolutely decide upon not entertaining the bad, to always make
an excuse for the other, then the all to often cannonball effect of violence
can be stopped.

Even if we see something manifestly bad we should make an excuse for
our brothers, for do we not have any faults? Perhaps the fault that has
become apparent is a minor blemmish in the vast sea of goodness this
person has, Allah knows and you don’t. Allah can change anyone, we all
have the good and bad, those who are good are because Allah has made
their bad traits inoperative and those who are bad are because that is not
the case. However we have to realize that as Muslims we believe human
beings are intrinsically inclined to the good, for when we believe that the
fitrah when actualized is good. It is also important to see how much we
percieve to be good and bad may at times be conditioned by our own
cultural settings, as Allah says:
O Mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and
made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed,
the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of
you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.
[Qu'ran 49:13]

The verb to "know one another" or Ta'arafu, is reflexive, which means
that while the peoples and tribes may know the other, they also get a
chance to know themselves, through the other. This is because how many
a time there may be detrimental attributes that exist within communities
but because of their widespread use, these attributes do not come to the
fore and it is only when these attributes interact with other communities
that such inward focus can develop.

May Allah allow such inward focus to develop amongst us all. True adab
and manners cannot come about until we work on ourselves, i.e. work on
our nufoos/selfish egoes until we begin to see the Prophetic Nur or light
shine through us – it is then that we can lay claim to have actualized our
Iman, or true faith. May Allah give that to us and you.

The bedouins say, "We have believed." Say, "You have not [yet]
believed; but say [instead], 'We have submitted,' for faith has not yet
entered your hearts. And if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He
will not deprive you from your deeds of anything. Indeed, Allah is
Forgiving and Merciful.

The believers are only the ones who have believed in Allah and His
Messenger and then doubt not but strive with their properties and
their lives in the cause of Allah. It is those who are the truthful.
Say, "Would you acquaint Allah with your religion while Allah
knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth, and
Allah is Knowing of all things?

They consider it a favor to you that they have accepted Islam. Say,
"Do not consider your Islam a favor to me. Rather, Allah has
conferred favor upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if you
should be truthful.

Indeed, Allah knows the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the
earth. And Allah is Seeing of what you do.
[Qu'ran 49:14-18]


Khutba Paper Courtesy of
UAEKhutba.com
Delivered on: 26-April -2013

http://uaekhutba.com/index.php/khutba-papers/283-reflection-on-surah-al-hujurat-a-discourse-on-divine-ethics


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