Lesson 8 (Social conduct and mutual relations)

Chapter No.: 

Social conduct, good manners and respect for the rights of each other, again, form an important part of Islamic teachings. One can become a good and true Muslim only when one also observes faithfully the social code of Islam by which we mean the rules and regulations governing the modes and manners of behaviour between man and man and man and society as laid down by it. For instance, what should the attitude of parents be towards their children and of children towards their parents? What sort of conduct should prevail between brothers and between brothers and sisters? How should husband and wife live together? How are we to treat those who are older than ourselves and those that are younger? What are the rights of our neighbours on us? How should the rich behave towards the poor and the poor towards the rich? What mode of relationship should obtain between master and servant? And, so forth. Islam has provided us with a most precise and complete guidance on how are we to fulfill our social responsibilities and act in our dealings and relationships with all those individuals and groups with whom we come into contact, one way or the other, in the different walks of our daily life, and this is what we are going to discuss in the present chapter.

Rights of Parents

The most primary relationship in this world exists between man and his parents. In Islam the rights of parents have been described as next only to the rights of Allah. To quote from the Quran:

لَا تَجْعَلْ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَهًا آخَرَ فَتَقْعُدَ مَذْمُومًا مَخْذُولًا () وَقَضَى رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِنْدَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُلْ لَهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُلْ لَهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا () وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُلْ رَبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا ()

The Lord has ordained that ye worship none but Him; and to show kindness to your parents whether one or both of them attain to old age with thee; and say not to them "Fie!" neither reproach them; but speak to them both with respectful speech; and defer humbly to them out of tenderness; and say, "Lord! have compassion on them both, even as they reared me when I was little." (17:22-24)

Another verse of the holy Book goes on to tell that should the parents of a person be polytheists and want him also to follow their faith, he ought to decline to obey them, but even then he should continue to treat them well and to behave towards them with respect.

وَإِنْ جَاهَدَاكَ عَلَى أَنْ تُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا وَاتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَيَّ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

"But if they strive to make thee join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration)." (31:15)

Besides the Quran, in the Traditions also, a very great stress has been laid on rendering full devotion and obedience to one's parents. To disobey one's parents, to ignore their feelings, or to disregard their comfort or happiness in any other way has been characterized by the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) as a grievous sin. Take these Traditions, for example:

"In the pleasure of parents lies the pleasure of Allah, and in their displeasure, the displeasure of Allah."

Once a person enquired from the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), "What are the rights of parents?" The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) replies, "Parents are the heaven and hell of their children (meaning that salvation and paradise could be gained by serving one's parents well while disobedience to and ill-treatment of them could lead one to hell.)"

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) once observed. "Every time a dutiful son or daughter looks with affection and respect towards his or her father or mother Allah writes against his or her name the reward of an approved Hajj," Upon this, some of the Companions enquired, "Our Master! Suppose a person does so a hundred times each day, while he, even then, be given the reward of an approved Hajj for every glance he casts?" "Yes", the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) replied, "Allah is Most Great, Most Holy (meaning that the bounty of the Lord is boundless)."

"Heaven lies under the feet of the parents."

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) once said to the Companions that the most mortal sins in the world were three:

"To associate anyone with Allah, to disobey parents, and to give false evidence."

Again, "There are three types of men towards whom Allah will not look with mercy on the Day of Judgment, and one of them are those who disobey their parents."

Rights of Children

Islam has laid an equal stress on the rights of children on parents also. We will leave out here the responsibility of parents to feed and clothe their children since there is found in them an instinctive awareness of it and they carry it out normally and in the natural way. The rights of our children about which we are generally careless and neglectful are those concerning their moral and religious training and up-bringing. Islam has made it minding on us, as a matter of duty that we brought up our wards and children in such a way that they did not have to make their way to hell after death. We are required to be extremely careful in this respect. Says the Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا

O ye who believe! save yourselves And your families from the Fire of Hell. (66:6)

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has, in a Tradition, stressed the need of giving proper training to children in these words:

"No better gift can there be from a father to his children than the he brought them up properly."

Some parents are more fond of their sons than daughters. They take a great interest in the upbringing of their male issues while the welfare and training of the female ones is generally neglected by them. Daughters are, sometimes, considered to be a burden. For this reason, Islam has devoted particular attention to the proper upbringing of the girls and extolled it as an act of great virtue. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has said:

"Anyone who has a daughter or a sister and he treats her well and looks after her welfare and training carefully and marries her at the right place, Allah will reward him with Paradise."

Mutual Rights Between Husband and Wife

Conjugal relationship occupies a place of outstanding importance in the economy of human affairs. It is a most strong and intimate tie that binds husband and wife into a life­long partnership. Islam therefore, has furnished a complete guidance in respect of it as well. In a nutshell, Islam demands from wives to be scrupulously faithful to their husbands and to remain their best friends and true well wisher and never to betray their trusts. The Quran declares:

فَالصَّالِحَاتُ قَانِتَاتٌ حَافِظَاتٌ لِلْغَيْبِ

Therefore, the righteous women are Obedient, and guard (in the husband's) absence. (4:34)

And from husbands it requires that they should give of their love ungrudgingly to their wives, maintain them as best as they can within their means and leave nothing to be desired by way of their emotional contentment. Says, again, the Quran:

وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ

Live with your wives on a footing of kindness and equality. (4:19)

In keeping with these teachings of the Quran, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) used to attach profound importance to the harmony of married life among Muslim. He used to urge upon Muslim husbands and wives to keep each other happy and to attend to each other's needs and interests with loving care. Some of his Traditions in this connection read:

"If a man calls his wife to him and the wife refuses and he stays annoyed with her during the night, the angels will not cease to curse her name till day break."

"The woman who dies in such a state that her husband is pleased with her shall go to Heaven."

"By the Lord in whose power lies the life of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), no woman can fulfill the rights of Allah who does not fulfill the rights of her husbands."

"Charge you to be kind to your wives. Remember this advice of mine. See, they are subordinate to you and in your power."

"Good among you are those who are good to their wives."

"He is the most perfect believer (in Allah) who is perfect in his manners and most affectionate towards his wife and children."

Rights of Relatives

Besides our parents and children and husbands or wives there also exists a special tie of kinship between us and our other relatives. Islam has paid due attention to this aspect of our social existence, too, and evolved certain rights and duties in respect to it. Thus, in the Quran we are told to be kind to our kinsmen and one who disregards and pays no heed to the bonds of kinship has been condemned as transgressor and a sinner of the worst order.

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) once said, "He who violates the rights of kinsmen and shows no respect for the bonds of kinship in his conduct shall not go to heaven."

In this connection a special advice of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is that if a relative violates the ties of relationship with regard to us even then we should continue to fulfill, on our part, the obligations we have towards him. The exact words of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) are, "If a near relative treats you indifferently and ignores the bond of relationship do not turn your back on him but keep on discharging, on your part, the obligations of relationship towards him."

Rights of the Old on the Young and of the Young on the Old

It is a general principal of Islamic social behaviour that everyone should respect his elder and carry himself with due deference in their presence. In the same way, those who are older are required to treat those who are younger to them with kindness and affection, even if there be no relationship between them.

Said the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam): "He is not of us who is not affectionate to those who are younger than himself and respect to those who are older."

"For the young man who will honour an old man because of his years Allah will appoint men who will honour him in his old age."

Rights of Neighbours

Apart from relatives, there obtains a permanent association also between a man and his neighbours. In Islam full attention has, accordingly, been paid to it and definite instructions have been provided for our guidance in this behalf as well. The Quran calls upon us to be good and courteous in our behaviour towards our neighbour in the same way as it has commanded us to maintain the best of conduct towards our parents, brothers and sisters and towards our other near relatives:

وَالْجَارِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْجَارِ الْجُنُبِ وَالصَّاحِبِ بِالْجَنْبِ

Neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers, the companions by your side (4:36)

Three categories of neighbours have been spoken of in this verse and it is expected of us to maintain cordial relations with all of them.

The phrase 'neighbours who are near' denotes neighbours who may also happen to be our relatives; 'neighbours who are strangers' denotes those with whom we have no family ties, and 'companions by your side' means persons with whom we come into contact temporarily in the course of our daily activities, like a casual acquaintance, in intimate friend, a fellow-traveler, a classmate and a colleague, whatever their religious denomination. Islam reminds us that we have an obligation to be friendly and sympathetic towards all the three categories of neighbour. Says the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam):

"He who believes in Allah and the Day of Recompense will never harm his neighbour."

"He is not a Muslim who eats his fill and lets his neighbour go hungry."

It is narrated that the Apostle of Allah once emphatically exclaimed, "He- He is not a believer in Allah." The question was asked, "O Apostle of Allah! Who is not a believer in Allah? “The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) observed, "Whose neighbour does not feel secure on his account."

Yet another Tradition reads:

"He shall not go to Heaven from whose mischief his neighbour do not feel secure."

It is reported that once a Companion said to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), "Sir, there is a woman about whom it is said that she offers a great deal of prayers, observes a great deal of fasts and does a great deal of charity, but she also causes a great deal of trouble to her neighbour owing to the sharpness of her tongue." The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) observed: "She will go to Hell." The Companion then said, "O Apostle of Allah! There is another woman about whom it is said that she engages herself little in prayers, fasting and charity (that is, she observes the supererogatory prayers, fasts and charity less than the first woman) but never offends her neighbour by her tongue: " The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) observed, "She will be in Heaven."

Brothers, such are the rights of neighbours in Islam. Alas, how heedless have we now grown to them!

Rights of the Weak and Poor

So far we have dealt with the rights of men with whom we have an intimate personal connection of some kind, whether of family or neighborhood or business or friendship. In addition to these, Islam has conferred certain special rights on the weaker and the poorer sections of the society and on every kind of a needy person. It has been made the duty of all well-to-do people to look after their well-being and to serve them in whatever way they can. The more prosperous among Muslims should realize that their less fortunate brethren, too, have a share in their wealth and other capabilities. The Quran has enjoined at a number of places that the needs of the orphans, the weak and the indigent and other needy and destitute persons should be taken care of, the hungry should be fed, the ill-clad should be clothed, and, so on.

It is narrated that once the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) joined two of his fingers and showing them to the Companions said, "He who supports an orphan shall be as close to me in Heaven as are these fingers to each-other."

He is also reported to have observed: "He who endeavors to relieve the widow, the depressed and the needy is as one who strives in the service of Allah, and, in Divine reward, he is as one who permanently fasts during the day and spends one's nights in prayers."

"Feed the hungry, visit the sick and free the captives." "Help the distressed and be a guide to those who have lost their way." No distinction has been drawn in the above Traditions of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) between a Muslim and a none-Muslim. All poor and needy persons have a claim on us no matter to what religion they belong. We cannot withhold our helping hand from anyone on the ground that he is not a co­religionist. In some Traditions, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has exhorted us to show kindness also to animals and promised great reward to those who take pity on these dumb creatures of the Lord.

Islam, truly, is a blessing to the entire universe and the whole of creation, and our guide and master, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon whom), "a mercy to the worlds." The pity is that we ourselves have wandered away from his teachings. Would to Allah that we, too, became a mercy to the whole world by becoming true Muslims.

Rights of Muslims on Each-Other

Further, there is a special claim of Muslims on each-other which flows out of the common bond of Islam. ^

Said the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam): "Every Muslim is a Muslim's brother. He should neither harm him himself nor leave him alone (when someone else does so but try his best to help him and to protect him).

Whoever among you will fulfill the need of his brother Allah will take it upon Himself to fluffing his needs, and a Muslim who will remove the distress of a Muslim brother will, in, return find a distress of his removed by Allah on the Day of Requital, and anyone who will hide the shame of a Muslim, his sins will be hidden by Allah on the Last Day."

"Do not bear a grudge or enmity against each other, do not be jealous of each-other, and do not indulge in backbiting."

"Live like brothers and the servants of One Allah. It is not allowed to a Muslim to cease to be on talking terms with a Muslim for more than three days."

"The life, honour and property of a Muslim are sacred for another."

We will not close the present discussion on social relations and mutual rights and duties with the following Tradition, which alone is enough to fill our hearts with fear.

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is reported one day to have put the question to the Companion, "Who is a pauper?" The Companions replied, "Our master! A pauper is a person who is without a penny of his own." The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, "No. A pauper among us is a man who will appear on the Day of Recompense with a large stock of prayers, fasting and alms-giving but in the world he would have abused someone, slandered someone, beaten someone and cheated and transgressed against someone. When he will be made to stand at the Place of Reckoning those against whom he would have been guilty of these transgressions will come forward and they will be given from his good deeds what will be due to them till al the fund of his good deeds will be exhausted and, then, the sins of the aggrieved parties will be forced down upon him and he will, ultimately, be thrown into Hell."

Brothers, Ponder over this Tradition and think how utterly ruinous and disastrous it is for us to encroach upon the right of others and to indulge in back-biting, slander of abuse. If you have transgressed against anyone or usurped his rights, make amends for it in your lifetime, pay back to him what may be his due or seek his forgiveness, and resolve sincerely to be careful in future otherwise it is going to cost you very dear in the life to come.