Chapter 4; Section 4: Social Relationships


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Chapter 4; Section 4
 The Halal And The Haram In The Daily Life of The Muslim
Social Relationships

The relations among the members of the Islamic society are based on two fundamental principles: first, awareness of the strong bond of brotherhood which links one individual to another, and second, the protection of the rights of the individual and the sanctity of his life, honor, and property, as guaranteed by the Shari'ah of Islam.

Any words, deed, or behavior which contravene or threaten these two principles is prohibited by Islam, the degree of prohibition depending on the magnitude of material or moral injury which might result from it. In the following ayat we find some examples of those prohibited acts which are injurious to the brotherhood and sanctity of human beings. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala says: Verily, the Believers are brothers. Then set matters right between your brothers and be conscious of Allah in order that you may obtain mercy. O you who believe, let not some people mock at other people, for they may be better than themselves, nor (let) women (mock) at women who may be better than themselves. And do not slander yourselves, nor revile by (offensive) nicknames; evil is a name connoting wickedness after believing; and whoever does not turn away (from doing this), those are wrongdoers. O you who believe, avoid (indulging in) much suspicion; truly, some suspicion is a sin. And do not spy or backbite one another; would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor that. And be conscious of Allah; indeed, Allah is Relenting, Merciful. (49:10-12)

Here Allah proclaims that the Believers are indeed brothers to one another united through the brotherhood of Islam in addition to their brotherhood in humanity. This brotherly relationship requires that they get to know each other and do not avoid each other, that they establish ties and do not break them, that they love and do not hate, that they be sincere and not superficial, and that they come together and do not separate from one another. And the Prophet (peace be on him) says, Do not be envious of each other, nor backbite nor hate one another, but become brothers in the service of Allah. (Reported by al-Bukhari and others.)


The Unlawfulness of Severing Ties with a Fellow Muslim

It is haram for the Muslim to shun a brother Muslim, to break ties with him, or to turn away from him. If two Muslims quarrel with each other, they are allowed a cooling-off period of three days, after which they must seek out means of reconciliation and peace, overcoming their pride, anger and hatred. One of the characteristics of the believers praised in the Qur'an is that they are "humble toward the Believers." (5:57(54)). The Prophet (peace be on him) said, It is not permissible for a Muslim to keep apart from his brother for more than three days. If three days pass, he should meet him and greet him, and if he replies to it, they will both have shared in the reward, while if he does not reply, he will bear his sin while the Muslim (who offered him the greeting) will have been freed from the sin of keeping apart. (Reported by Abu Daoud.)

The prohibition of severing ties is even more emphatic in the case of blood relatives. Islam has made it obligatory upon Muslims to strengthen the ties of relationship (Literally, "the ties of the womb." (Trans.)), holding them sacred. Says Allah Ta'ala: And be conscious of Allah, in Whom you claim your rights of one another, and of the wombs (that bore you); indeed, Allah is Watcher over you. (4:1)

Using picturesque language, the Prophet (peace be on him) emphasized the value of this relationship in the sight of Allah by The womb is tied to the Throne (of Allah) and it says, 'With him who keeps me united, Allah will keep connection, but with him who severs me, Allah will sever connection.' (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
He also said, "One who cuts will not enter Paradise."
(Reported by al-Bukhari.)
In explaining the meaning of this, some scholars say it means one who cuts the ties of relationship," while others say that it means "one who cuts the road," that is, the highway robber. The Prophet's ahadith imply that both pertain to the same category.

Joining the ties of relationship does not merely mean returning a visit for a visit or one good turn for another, since this much is quite natural and to be expected; rather, it means to persist in friendly relations even with those relatives who shun you. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, The one who joins the ties of relationship is not the one who merely requites others, but he is the one who joins such ties (even) when they are severed by others. (Reported by al-Bukhari)

This applies as long as such shunning or boycotting is not for the sake of Allah, while if it is for the sake of Allah and in the cause of justice these injunctions do not apply. The strongest bond among the believers is established through loving for the sake of Allah and hating for the sake of Allah.

For fifty days the Prophet (peace be on him) and his Companions boycotted three men who stayed behind from the Battle of Tabuk. This boycott was so total that the three did not know what to do or where to turn, and felt that the earth, in spite of its vastness had become a prison to them. No one visited them, spoke to them, or greeted them. This boycott continued until Allah accepted their repentance and revealed to the Prophet (peace be on him) that He had pardoned them. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) On another occasion, the Prophet (peace be on him) stayed away from some of his wives for forty days.

'Abdullah bin 'Umar boycotted one of his sons for the remainder of his life because his son did not abide by the hadith, narrated to him by his father, in which the Prophet (peace be on him) prohibited men to prevent their women from going to the mosque. (Reported by Ahmad. Al-Suyuti wrote an article entitled, "Al-zajar lei al-hajar," ("Punishment by Boycott"), justifying it on the basis of several ahadith and actions of the Prophet's companions.)

Estrangement and enmity between Muslims must never be for any worldly reason, for in the sight of Allah and the Muslim, the whole world is of such little value that it is not worth abandoning and breaking the relationship with a brother Muslim. How can it be otherwise, when the penalty of such rancor is the deprivation of the forgiveness and mercy of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala? The Prophet (peace be on him) said: The gates of the Garden are opened on Mondays and Thursdays, and Allah forgives every person who does not associate anything with Allah excepting a man between whom and his brother there is enmity. Thrice the command will be given: 'Leave the two of them until they are reconciled.' (Reported by Muslim)

It should suffice for the aggrieved person that his brother come to him and apologize; he must then accept the apology and be reconciled. It is haram for him to rebuff his brother by not accepting his apology. The Prophet (peace be on him) warned against this by saying that the one who does so will not meet him, the Prophet, at the Fountain in Paradise on the Day of Resurrection. (Reported by al-Tabarani.)


Settling Disputes

While it is incumbent upon the disputants to settle their differences in a brotherly fashion, the Muslim community also has a responsibility in this regard. As the Muslim society is based upon mutual caring and cooperation, it cannot stand passively by watching its members disputing and quarreling, permitting the conflict to grow larger. It is the responsibility of those who command respect and authority in the community to come forward in order to set things right, with absolute impartiality and without allowing themselves to become emotionally involved with one side or the other. Allah Ta'ala says, Verily, the Believers are brothers. Then set matters right between your brothers and be conscious of Allah in order that you may obtain mercy. (49:10)
The Prophet (peace be on him), explaining the merit of such mediation and the danger of conflict and hostility, said, 'Shall I not inform you of something more excellent in degree than fasting, charity and salat?' On receiving the reply, 'Certainly,' he said, 'It is puthings right betpeople, for to incite people to dispute is like a razor. And I do not mean that is shaves off the hair but that is shears the religion. (Reported by al-Tirmidhi and others.)


"Let Not Some People Mock at Other People"

In verses 49:10-12, Allah has prescribed a number of things related to the preservation of brotherhood and what this implies with regard to what is to be held sacred among human beings. The first among these is the prohibition of mocking, deriding, and scoffing at others. The Believer who fears Allah and hopes to attain the Garden in the Hereafter will not scoff at any individual nor make people the object of his jokes, scorn, sarcasm or mockery, because this is nothing but pride, arrogance, and contempt for others, as well as ignorance of the scale by which Allah measures goodness. Says Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala: Let not some people mock at other people, for they may be better than themselves, nor (let) women (mock) at women who may better than themselves. (49:11)

In the scale of Allah, goodness is measured by faith, sincerity, and the quality of the relationship with Allah Ta'ala, not by physical appearance, wealth, or power. Said the Prophet (peace be on him). Allah does not look at your physical features or your wealth, but He looks at your hearts and your deeds. (Reported by Muslim.)

How, then, can it be permissible for a person to laugh at someone's physical handicap, deformity, or poverty? It is reported that 'Abdullah bin Mas'ood had thin, weak legs. Once, upon seeing his leg uncovered, some people laughed, whereupon the Prophet (peace be on him) said, Are you laughing at the frailty of his legs? By Him in Whose hand is my soul, in the scale of Allah they are weightier than Mount Uhud. (Reported by al-Tiyalisi and Ahmad.)

The Qur'an speaks of how the criminal idolaters used to laugh at the faithful Muslims, especially at the weak and oppressed ones like Bilal and 'Ammar, and how the tables will be turned on the Day of Reckoning, when the mockers will become the mocked: Verily, the criminals used to laugh at those who believed and wink at one another when they passed them, and when they returned to their families they would return joking (about them). And when they saw them they would say, 'Surely these people are astray.' But they had not been sent as watchers over them. Then on this day those who believe will laugh at the disbelievers. (83:29-34)

Although it has already been implied in the first part of the verse 49:11, nevertheless this ayah goes on to state explicitly that women should not mock at other women. This emphasis is due to the fact that mocking at others is quite common among women.


"Do Not Slander"

The second of these prohibitions is against lamz, which literally means "piercing and stabbing." Here it is used to mean finding faults, as the person who finds faults in others is doing something similar to piercing them with a sword or stabbing them with a dagger—and perhaps the wound inflicted by the tongue is more lasting. A poet has said,
The wounds of blades may heal one day,
But the wounds of the tongue? They never may.

The form of prohibition expressed in this verse is very subtle, saying, "Do not slander yourselves," that is, one another. For the Qur'an regards the community of Muslims as one body in its mutual concerns and responsibilities, so that whoever slanders his brother in effect slanders himself.


"Do Not Revile by Nicknames"

One form of slandering is calling others by derogatory nicknames of the sort which highlight some defect and are used to mock and deride a person. A Muslim should not call his brother by a name which is offensive to him, thereby causing him pain and thus trampling on the feelings of Islamic brotherliness.



Islam aims at establishing its society on clearness of conscience and mutual trust, not on doubts, suspicions, accusations and mistrust. Hence this ayah mentions the fourth prohibition by which what is to be held sacred among people is safeguarded: O you who believe, avoid (indulging in) much suspicion; truly some suspicion is a sin. (49:12)

The kind of suspicion which is a sin is the ascribing of evil motives, and it is not permissible for a Muslim to impute such motives to his brother Muslim without justification and clear evidence. Because the basic assumption concerning people is that they are innocent, a mere suspicion should not be allowed to result in the accusation of an innocent person. Regarding this the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "Avoid suspicion, for airing suspicion is the most lying form of speech." (Reported by al-Bukhari and others.)

Human weakness is such that no one is free of suspicion and wrong thoughts especially concerning those with whom relationships are not good. However, one must not give in to such thoughts nor go beyond thoughts to action, as stated in the hadith, "If you have a suspicion, do not pursue it." (Reported by al-Tabarani.)



Inwardly, mistrust of others produces evil thoughts in the mind while outwardly it leads a person toward spying. But Islam establishes its society on the purity of both what is inner and what is outer. Therefore, just as spying follows suspicion, the prohibition of spying comes immediately after that of suspicion.

Prying into other peoples' private affairs and spying on their secrets is not permitted, even if they are engaged in sin, as long as they do it privately and not openly.

Abu Haitham, the scribe of 'Uqbah bin 'Amir, a Companion of the Prophet (peace be on him) narrated, "I said to 'Uqbah bin 'Amir, 'Some of our neighbors drink wine, and I am going to call the police and have them arrested.' He said, 'Do not do so, but advise them and warn them.' I said, 'I told them to stop it but they do not listen to me. I am therefore going to inform the police and have them arrested.' 'Uqbah then said, 'Woe to you! Do not do that, for I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) say, If one conceals the private affairs (of others), it is like reviving a girl who has been buried alive from her grave. (Reported by Abu Daoud' al-Nisai, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, and al-Hakim. The wording is from Ibn Hibban.)

The Prophet (peace be on him) classified those who search out other peoples' faults as being among the hypocrites, who proclaim their belief with their tongues while their hearts do not confirm what they say. He denounced such people publicly. Ibn 'Umar narrated, "Allah's Messenger (peace be on him) mounted the pulpit and called out in a loud voice, O you who declare Islam with your tongues but whose hearts have not been reached by faith, do not annoy the Muslims nor seek out the* faults, for he who seeks out the faults of his brother Muslim will have his faults sought out by Allah, and when Allah seeks out someone's faults, He exposes them, even though he should be in the interior of his house. (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah has reported something similar.)

In order to safeguard peoples' privacy, the Prophet (peace be on him) strictly forbade that anyone should look into other peoples' houses without their permission and absolved the residents for any injury they might inflict upon one who so looks. He said, If someone peeps into the house of a people without their permission, it becomes allowable to them to gouge out his eye. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Likewise, he prohibited listening clandestinely to peoples' conversation without their knowledge or approval, saying, He who listens clandestinely to peoples' conversation against their wishes will have molten lead poured into his ears on the Day of Resurrection. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala has made it obligatory on the person who wants to visit someone at his home not to enter the house until permission is given and he has greeted its inhabitants: O you who believe, do not enter houses other than your own until you have asked permission and offered salam (greeting) to its people; that is best for you in order that you may be heedful. And if you do not find anyone therein, do not enter until permission is given to you. And if you are to, 'Withdraw,' then do 60; that is purer for y; and Allah knows what you do. (24: 27-28)
Said the Prophet (peace be on him), He who pulls the curtain and l looks into a house before he is granted permission to E enter has committed an offense. (Reported by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi.)

The texts prohibiting spying and searching out people' faults apply equally to the government and to individuals. Mu'awiyah reported the Prophet (peace be on him) as saying, "If you seek out peoples' faults, you will corrupt them, or bring them very near to corruption" (Reported by Abu Daoud and by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih.), and Abu Imamah reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) said, The ruler who sows suspicion among the people corrupts them. (Reported by Abu Daoud.)



The sixth evil prohibited in the verses cited above is backbiting (gheeba): And do not...backbite one another. (49:12)

The Prophet (peace be on him) wanted to drive home the meaning of backbiting to his Companions through questions and answers. He asked them, 'Do you know what backbiting is?' They replied, 'Allah and His Messenger know best'. He said, 'It is saying something about your brother which he would dislike'. Someone asked 'What if I say something about my brother which is true?' The Prophet (peace be on him) replied, 'If what you say of him is true, it is backbiting and if it is not true you have slandered him.' (Reported by Muslim, Abu Daoud al-Tirmidhi, and al-Nisai.)

When a person dislikes someone, he is likely to find faults in his appearance, behavior, lineage, and anything else which pertains to him. 'Aishah narrated that she said to the Prophet (peace be on him), "Do you see that Safiyyah (another wife of the Prophet) is such and such?" meaning that she was short. The Prophet (peace be on him) replied, "You have spoken a word such that, if it were mixed in the water of the ocean, it would darken it." (Reported by Abu Daoud, al-Tirmidhi, and al-Bayheqi.)

Backbiting is nothing but a desire to belittle people, to slander their honor, and to deride their accomplishments in their absence. Since this is stabbing in the back, it is an expression of narrow-mindedness and cowardice. Backbiting is a negative trait, and only those engage in it who themselves are not achievers. It is a tool of destruction, for one who is addicted to it leaves no one without throwing a dart at him and wounding him.

It is no wonder then, that the Qur'an paints such a repulsive picture of this vile habit as would make people shrink from it in horror: And do not...backbite one anther; would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor that. (49:12)

Since one feels sick at the very thought of eating human flesh, how much more revolting it is to think of eating the flesh of one's dead brother!

Whenever an opportunity arose, the Prophet (peace be on him) stressed this Qur'anic imagery in order to imprint it on peoples' hearts and minds. Ibn Mas'ood narrated, "We were sitting with the Prophet (peace be on him). Then a man got up and left. Whereupon another person spoke ill of him. The Prophet (peace be on him) told him, 'Pick your teeth.' The man replied, 'Why? I haven't eaten any meat.' The Prophet (peace be on him) replied, 'You have eaten your brother's flesh.' " (Reported by al-Tabarani on sound authority.)

Jabir narrated, "While we were with the Prophet (peace be on him) the wind brought a foul odor in our direction, whereupon the Prophet (peace be on him) said, 'Do you know what this odor is? It is the odor of those who backbite the Believers.' " (Reported by Ahmad on reliable authority.)

All these textual quotations demonstrate the sanctity and dignity which is accorded to one in Islam. However, scholars have listed some exceptions, necessarily limited to certain circumstances, when talking about a person in his absence is permitted. Among these exceptions is the instance of a person who has been wronged and who complains about the wrongdoer. While he must then speak about what the other dislikes, it is his right to do so in order to secure justice; consequently, he is given permission to describe the wrong he has suffered. Allah Ta'ala says: Allah does not like the announcing of evil in public speech except by one who has been wronged; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing. (4:148)

If someone wants to investigate the character or suitability of a person with whom he wants to enter into partnership, who has asked for his daughter in marriage, or who is seeking employment with him, it is permissible for those who have been asked to give their frank and honest opinion. Here there is a conflict between two obligations: one, to give good advice to the person who seeks the information, and two, to protect the honor of the person about whom the opinion is sought. But the first obligation takes precedence over the second, as it is more important and more sacred. Fatimah bint Qais asked the Prophet (peace be on him) about two men who had asked for her hand in marriage. The Prophet (peace be on him) told her about one of them, "He is good for nothing and has no property," and about the other, "He does not put his stick down from his shoulder," meaning that he frequently beat the women of his household.

It is also permissible to speak about a person without his knowledge if a legal opinion or religious ruling is required concerning him or if help is needed to combat some evil he may be causing, or to refer to him by a name, title, or characteristic which he dislikes but without which he cannot be identified, as for example, "the lame person" or "the person with one eye." Likewise, cross-questioning a witness or criticizing the reporters of ahadith and news is permissible. (See al-Ghazzali's discussion of the uses and abuses of speech in his Ihya; al-Nawawi's Commentary on the Sahih of Muslim; and al-Shawkani's treatise on what is permissible and what is prohibited in talking behind the backs of others.)

The general rule concerning the permissibility of speaking about someone in his absence is governed by two considerations: (1) the need and (2) the intention.

  1. When there is no compelling need to mention the third person in a manner in whicl1 he would dislike, one must refrain from violating the sanctity of his personality and honor. If there is a need to mention him but the need can be met by an indirect reference, one must not be explicit. If a general discussion is sufficient, the mentioning of specific persons must be avoided. For example, in seeking a juristic opinion, one can phrase the question as, "What would your opinion be if someone did such and such a thing?" rather than, "This person is doing such and such. What do you think about it?" Again, if one must identify the person, he must mention only what is true, since ascribing anything false to him is haram.

  2. In any event, the intention is the decisive factor. The speaker knows his own motives better than anyone else—whether it constitutes a genuine complaint against wrongdoing or mere spite, an inquiry concerning an issue or a slander, a scholarly criticism or envious backbiting, 9. piece of good advice or the spreading of a rumor. It is said in this connection that the Believer is a sterner judge of himself than a tyrannical ruler or a greedy partner could be.

Islam has decreed 1hat the listener is the partner of the one who is absent, and he must defend his absent brother by repudiating the slander being spoke!,.

The Prophet (peace, be on him) said, If anyone defends his brother who is slandered in his absence, it will be (his) due from Allah to set him free from the Fire. (Reported by Ahmad on good authority.)
And again, If anyone defends his brother's honor in this world, Allah will shield his face from the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.
(Reported by al Tirmidhi on sound authority.)
If a person does not have the courage to speak out in defense of his brother against malicious tongues, the least he can do is to withdraw from such company until they turn to some other topic otherwise, the verse, "Truly, you would then be like them" (4:140) would apply to him.


Spreading Gossip

Another bad , which usually accompanies backbiting and is strictly prohibited by Isla, is gossiping. This means passing on to others what you hear from someone in such a manner that will cause dissension among people, sour their relationships, or increase already-existing bitterness between them.

From the very early Makkah period of revelation, the Qur'an condemned this trait saying, And do not obey any despicable man, ready with oaths, a slanderer, going among the people with calumnies. (68: 10-11)
And the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "The one who spreads gossip which he has overheard will not enter the Garden" (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.), and, The most evil among Allah's slaves are those who go about spreading gossip dividing those who love each other and desiring to defame those who are innocent. (Reported by Ahmad.)

In order to foster peace and reconciliation, Islam permits a mediator to conceal the bad words said by one person against another and permits him to add some good words which, in fact, neither of them has said. This is not considered to be lying, for the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "He is not a liar who makes peace between two persons, saying what is good or adding something good." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Islam's anger is particularly directed against those people who, as soon as they hear something bad, hasten to recount it for the sake of currying favor or merely out of love of causing trouble and dissension. Indeed, many such people are not satisfied to simply repeat what they have heard but add to it or invent something of their own. As a poet has said,
If they hear a good word they hide it,
And if a bad word they shout it,
And if nothing is heard they make up a lie.

A man came to 'Umar bin 'Abd al-'Aziz and told him something about another person which the latter would have disliked being mentioned. Thereupon 'Umar said to him, "Let us examine your case: If you are lying, you are one of those who is mentioned in the ayah, 'If a wicked person brings you some news, investigate it' (49:6) and if you are telling the truth, you are one of those mentioned in the ayah, 'A slanderer, going among the people with calumnies.' (68:11) But if you wish we may forgive you." The man replied, Please forgive me, O Ameer al-Mu'mineen (Leader of the Believers). I shall never do it again.


The Sacredness of Honor

We have noted that the Islamic teachings safeguard human dignity and honor, regarding them, in fact, as inviolable and sacred. Once, while looking at the Ka'aba, 'Abdullah bin Umar remarked, "How great and sacred you are! But the sanctity of the Believer is greater than yours"—and the sanctity of the Muslim includes the sanctity of his life, his honor, and his property.

During the Farewell Pilgrimage the Prophet (peace be on him) addressed the assembly of Muslims, saying, Your lives, your honor, and your property are as sacred to each other as the sacredness of this your day, in this your month, and in this your city. (Reported by Muslim.)

Islam safeguards the sanctity of a person's honor against backbiting even if what is said about him is true. How much more abhorrent it is, then, if what is said is false and baseless; this is a sheer wrong and a great sin. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, If anyone says something about a person which is not true in order to defame him, Allah will confine him in the fire of Hell until it extinguishes his utterance. (Reported by al-Tabarani)

'Aishah reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) said to his Companions, 'Do you know what the worst form of usury is in the sight of Allah?' They said, 'Allah and His Messenger know best' The Prophet (peace be on him) replied, 'The worst form of usury is the violation of the personal honor of a Muslim.' He then recited, 'Those who harm believing men and believing women undeservedly have laid upon themselves a calumny and a manifest sin.' (33:58) (Reported by Ibn Abu Hatim, Ibn Murdawai and al-Bayhaqi.)

The vilest kind of attack on personal honor is that of accusing a virtuous believing woman of immorality. Such an accusation not only ruins her reputation and that of her family, destroying her future, but also broadcasts scandals within the Muslim society. This is why the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) listed it among the seven most heinous sins and the Qur'an threatened its perpetrators with dire punishments: Those who accuse chaste but careless (or indiscreet) believing women shall be accursed in this world and in the Hereafter, and theirs will be a grievous punishment on the Day when their tongues, their hands, and their feet will bear witness against them concerning what they did. On that Day Allah will pay them in full their just due, and they will show that Allah is indeed the manifest Truth. (24:23-25) Indeed, these who love that a scandal should be spread concerning those who believe will have a painful punishment in this world and in the Hereafter, and Allah knows and you do not know. (24:19)


The Sacredness of Life

Islam has made human life sacred and has safeguarded its preservation. According to its teachings, aggression against human life is the second greatest sin in the sight of Allah, second only to denial of Him. The Qur'an declares, .. If anyone kills a person for any reason other than for (the killing of) a person or for sowing corruption in the land, it will be as if he had killed the whole of mankind....(5:35 (32) )
Because the human race constitutes a single family, an offense against one of its members is in fact an offense against the whole of humanity. The crime is more serious if the slain is a believer in Allah. And for the one who kills a Believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein; and the wrath of Allah is upon him and His curse, and a tremendous punishment has been prepared for him. (4:93)

The Prophet (peace be on him) said, "The passing away of the world would mean less to Allah than the murder of a Muslim man." (Reported by Muslim, al-Nisai, and al-Tirmidhi.)
He also said, "A Believer remains within the scope of his religion as long as he does not kill anyone unlawfully.
(Reported by al-Bukhari.)
And again, Allah may forgive every sin except in the case of one who dies a mushrik or one who kills a Believer intentionally. (Reported by Abu Daoud, Ibn Hibban, and al-Hakim.)

On the basis of these verses and ahadith, Ibn 'Abbas deduced that the repentance of the murder will not be accepted by Allah. For, he argued, since in the case of an offense against another individual, the wrongdoer's repentance is not accepted unless the wrong done to others is righted or their satisfaction secured, the question is how, in the case of murder, one can restore the murdered person to life or secure his satisfaction. Others say that sincere repentance is accepted by Allah; if it erases even the greatest sin, that of shirk or ascribing partners to Allah, why not lesser sins? Allah Ta'ala says: ...Those who do not invoke, together with Allah, any other deity, nor take the life which Allah has made sacred except in (the course of) justice, nor commit zina. And whoever does that shall pay the price (of his sin). The punishment shall be doubled for him on the Day of Resurrection and he will abide in it in disgrace, except for him who repents and believes and does righteous deeds. As for them, Allah will change their evil deeds to good deeds, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (25:68-70)


"The Murderer and the Murdered Will Be in Hell"

The Prophet (peace be on him) considered a Muslim's fighting another Muslim to be a door to unbelief and a deed pertaining to pre-Islamic jahiliyyah, during which people used to wage wars and shed blood over a camel or a horse. He said, "Insulting the Muslim is wickedness and fighting him is unbelief." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) "Do not become unbelievers after I pass away, killing one another." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
He further said, 'When two Muslims draw weapons against each other, they are at the brink of Hell. If one of them kills the other, they both enter it together.' Someone asked, 'O Messenger of Allah, this one wthe murderer, but what was the fault of the murdered?' He replied, 'He was eager to kill the oth.' (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Because of this the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade any act which might lead to murder or to a fight, even pointing a weapon, saying, None of you should point a weapon at his brother. Perhaps Satan may make his hand slip and then he will fall into the pit of Fire. (Reported by al-Bukhari.)
He also said, If anyone points a piece of iron at his brother, the angels curse him until he stops doing it, even if he is his real brother.
(Reported by Muslim.)
He even went so far as to say, "It is not permissible for the Muslim to frighten his brother." (Reported by Abu Daoud as well as by al-Tabarani on reliable authority.)

The sin of murder is not limited to the murderer alone. Each individual who participated in this crime, by deed, or by word, will be the recipient of Allah's punishment in proportion to his share in it; even a person who happened to be at the scene of the murder will receive a share of the sin. A hadith states, None of you should remain in a place where a man is being killed unjustly, for the curse (of Allah) descends on anyone who was present and did not defend him. (Reported by al-Tabarani and by al-Bayhaqi on good authority.)


The Sanctity of the Lives of Allies and Non-Muslim Residents

Thus far we have quoted those texts which warn Muslims against killing or fighting fellow Muslims. But let no one get the impression that the life of a non-Muslim is not safe in a Muslim society, for Allah has declared the life of every human being to be sacred, and He has safeguarded it.

This applies as long as the non-Muslim does not fight against the Muslims; if he does so, shedding blood is permissible. However, if the non-Muslim is of a people with whom there is a treaty or if he is a dhimmi (a non-Muslim resident of an Islamic state), his life is sacred, and it is unlawful for the Muslim to attack him. In this regard the Prophet (peace be on him) has said, Anyone who kills a person from among the people with whom there is a treaty will not smell the fragrance of the Garden, although its fragrance reaches to a walking distance of forty years. (Reported by al-Bukhari and others.) "Anyone who kills a dhimmi will not smell the fragrance of the Garden." (Reported by al-Nisai.)


Capital Punishment

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala says, ...Do not take the life which Allah has made sacred except in (the course of) justice....(6:151)

Allah has mentioned three crimes for which the death penalty is justified:

  1. Unjust murder. Murder which has been proved demands retaliation by taking the life of the murderer—a life for a life, a like return for an evil committed, as the initiator of the killing is the initiator of the wrongdoing. As the Qur'an states, In the law of qisas (retaliation) there is life for you, O people of understanding....(2:179)

  2. Publicly committing zina with a person who is not one's spouse if at least four upright people have actually witnessed intercourse taking place and testified before the court that they saw it. The death penalty applies to either of the two who is married. Confession, repeated four times before the court by the adulterer or adulteress, is equivalent to the testimony of four witnesses.

  3. Apostasy from Islam after willingly accepting it and subsequently declaring an open revolt against it in such a manner which threatens the solidarity of the Muslim community is a crime punishable by death. No one is compelled to accept Islam, but at the same time no one is permitted to play tricks with it, as some Jews did during the Prophet's time: A party of the People of the Book say, 'Believe in what has been revealed to the Believers' at the beginning of the day and reject it at the end of it, in order that they may turn back (from Islam). (3:72)

The Prophet (peace be on him) limited capital punishment to these three crimes only, saying, The shedding of the blood of a Muslim is not lawful except for one of three reasons: a life for a life, a married person who commits zina, and one who turns aside from his religion and abandons the community. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

In any of these instances, the death penalty can be implemented only by the proper authority after due process of law prescribed by the Shari'ah; individuals cannot take the law into their own hands, becoming judges and executioners, since this would result in absolute chaos and disorder. However, the judge may turn the murderer over to the victim's next-of-kin to be executed in his presence so that their hearts may be eased and the desire for revenge extinguished. This is in obedience to the saying of Allah Ta'ala, ...And whoever is killed wrongfully, We have given authority to the heir; but let him not go to excess in killing (by way of retaliation), for indeed he will be helped. (17:33)



Whatever applies to the crime of murder likewise applies to committing suicide. Whoever takes his life by any means whatsoever has unjustly taken a life which Allah has made sacred. For since he did not create himself, nor even so much as a single cell of his body, the life of an individual does not belong to him; it is a trust given to him by Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. He is not allowed to diminish it, let alone to harm or destroy it. Allah Ta'ala says: ...Do not kill yourselves; indeed, Allah is merciful to you. (4:29)

The Islamic teachings require the Muslim to be resolute in facing hardships; he is not permitted to give up and to run away from the vicissitudes of life when a tragedy befalls or some of his hopes are dashed. Indeed, the believer is created for striving, not for sitting idle; for combat, not for escape. His faith and character do not permit him to run away from the battlefield of life, and he possesses a weapon which never fails and ammunition which is never exhausted: the weapon of his unshakable faith and the ammunition of his moral steadfastness.

The Prophet (peace be on him) warned that anyone who commits the crime of suicide will be deprived of the mercy of Allah and will not enter the Garden; he will deserve Allah's wrath and be cast into the Fire. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, 'In the time before you, a man was wounded. His wounds troubled him so much that he took a knife and cut his wrist and bled himself to death. Thereupon Allah said, 'My slave hurried in the matter of his life.' therefore, he is deprived of the Garden.' (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

If a person is deprived of the Garden because he cannot bear the pain of his wounds and so kills himself, what about the one who takes his life because he has suffered a loss, whether great or small in his business, has failed an examination, or has been rejected by a woman. Let those people who are weak of will pay careful attention to the following hadith. He who throws himself down from a rock and commits suicide will be throwing himself into the fire of Hell; he who drinks poison and kills himself will have the poison in his hand, drinking it forever in the fire of Hell and he who kills himself with a weapon will have that weapon in his hand, stabbing himself forever in the fire of Hell. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)


The Sanctity of Property

The Muslim is permitted to acquire wealth, as much as he desires, as long as he acquires it through lawful means and increases it through lawful investments. While in another religion it is said, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (The author refers here to a quotation that the New Testament attributes to Jesus (pbuh). This does not imply that there is sufficient evidence that he actually said it. According to the Qur'an there has been only one true, authentic faith, Al-Islam. Islam means the attainment of peace through conscientious and loving submission to the Will and Guidance of Allah. This was the mission of all Prophets and Messengers in human history. It is the same fundamental faith which was revealed to Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them). The original revelations givento Moses and Jesus are no longer available in their complete, original and unadulterated form. The Qur'an is the only revelation which was meticulously preserved in it's complete, original, and unadulterated form. As such, it is to be used as the criterion to judge the authenticity of the present forms of previous revelations.), in Islam it is Said, "What an excellent thing is lawfully earned wealth in the hands of a good man." (Reported by Ahmad.)

Since the Islamic Shari'ah sanctions the right to personal property, it protects it, both by means of moral exhortation and legislation, from robbery, theft, and fraud. The Prophet (peace tee on him) mentioned the sanctity of property in the same sentence with the sanctity of life and honor and considered stealing as contradictory to faith, saying, "A thief is not a Believer while he is engaged in stealing." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Says Allah Ta'ala: As for the male and female thief, cut off their hands, a recompense for what they earned, punishment from Allah; and Allah is Mighty, Wise. (5:41 (38))
And the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "It is haram for the Muslim to take (so much as) a stick without the consent of its owner" (Reported by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih.), thus emphasizing what Allah has prohibited to the Muslim in respect of other peoples' property.
Allah the Great and Glorious says: O you who believe, do not consume your property among yourselves wrongfully, but let there be trade by mutual consent....(4:29)


The Prohibition of Bribery

Taking a bribe is one way of consuming someone else's wealth wrongfully. A bribe refers to any kind of property which is offered to a judge or public servant in order to obtain a decision in favor of oneself or against a rival, to expedite one's own affair, or to delay that of one's competition, and so on.

Islam has prohibited the Muslim to approach the officials of a government or their subordinates for the purpose of offering them a bribe; it has prohibited the latter to accept it; and it has prohibited that any third person should arrange matters between the givers and the takers of the bribe. Allah Ta'ala says: And do not consume your property among yourselves wrongfully, nor seek access to judges by means of it in order that you may sinfully consume a portion of peoples' wealth, while you know (what you do). (2:188)
The Prophet (peace be on him) said, "Allah's curse is on the one who offers the bribe and on the judge who accepts it."
(Reported by Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Hibban in his
Thawban said, The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) cursed the one who offers the bribe, the one who receives it, and the one who arranges it. (Reported by Ahmad and al-Hakim.)

If the recipient of the bribe accepts it in order to do injustice, his sin is the greater, while if he intended to do justice, it was his simple duty for which no payment was needed.

The Prophet (peace be on him) sent 'Abdullah bin Rawahah to the Jews to estimate what they owed as taxes on their palm trees. The Jews offered him some money as a gift. He told them, "What you have offered as a bribe is haram and we do not accept it." (Reported by Malik)

It is not surprising that Islam has prohibited bribery and that it is severe against all those who participate in it. The proliferation of bribery in a society leads to corruption and oppression: unjust decisions are made and just ones are blocked, undeserving persons are given chances and deserving ones are passed over, and the spirit of greed permeates the society in place of the spirit of dutifulness.


Gifts to Officials

The intention of the Islamic Shari'ah is to prohibit bribery in any shape or form. Thus, referring to a bribe as a "gift" does not transfer it from the realm of the haram to that of the halal. A hadith states, When we (the Prophet) appoint a person to a position, we take care of his provision. If he takes anything beyond that, it is an illegal gain. (Reported by Abu Daoud.)

Caliph 'Umar bin 'Abd al-'Aziz was given a gift which he refused. On being told that the Prophet (peace be on him) had accepted gifts, he said, "To him it was a gift, but to us it is a bribe."

The Prophet (peace be on him) sent a man to collect zakat from the Azd tribe. On returning to the Prophet (peace be on him) he kept something for himself, telling the Prophet (peace be on him), "That is for you and this is for me as a gift." Thereupon the Prophet (peace be on him) became angry and said, If what you say is right, would these gifts have reached you if you had remained in your father's or your mother's house? He then continued, Why should a person employed by me say, 'That is for you and this is for me as a gift?' Did gifts reach him while he lived in his mother's house? By Him in Whose hand is my soul, no one takes something wrongfully without Allah's making him carry it on the Day of Resurrection. So let none of you come on the day of Resurrection carrying a braying camel, a mooing cow, or a bleating goat (which he received in this manner). He then raised his hands high in supplication and said, O Allah, have I conveyed the message? (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
Said Imam al-Ghazzali, In view of these admonitions, the judge or the governor or anyone in a position of authority should imagine himself sitting in his father's or mother's house. If he thinks that even after leaving the job he will still have received this gift while sitting in his mother's house, he may accept the gift offered to him. If, on the other hand, this gift is offered to him because of his position of authority, he must not accept it. If he finds it difficult to decide, concerning gifts from his friends, whether they would still have given them to him if he were not in that position, it is a doubtful situation and it is preferable to avoid accepting them. (Ihya 'ulum al-deen, the book of "Al-halal wa al-haram," in the section entitled "Al-adat" (Customs), p. 137.)


Bribery to Redress a Wrong

If someone finds himself in a situation in which all avenues of redressing a wrong done him, or recovering a right which has been forfeited, are blocked except through the payment of a bribe, it is preferable that he wait patiently until Allah opens to him a better way of redressing the wrong or recovering his rights. Still, should he resort to bribery, the sin of it will not be on him provided he has tried all other lawful avenues and that in so doing he regains his own rights without infringing upon the rights of others; in such a case the burden of the sin will fall entirely on the recipient of the bribe.

Some scholars have deduced this from ahadith reporting that the Prophet (peace be on him) gave charity to some people who were persistent in begging although, in fact, they did not deserve to receive charity. 'Umar reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) said, 'One of you takes charity from me and carries it away under his arm, and it is (Hell)-fire for him.' 'Umar asked, 'O Messenger of Allah, how can you give it to him, knowing that it is fire for him?' The Prophet (peace be on him) replied, 'What am I to do? They ask from me persistently, and Allah has forbidden me to be closed-handed.' (Reported by Abu Y'ala on good authority; Ahmad reported something similar on sound authority.)

If when the pressure of insistent begging induced the Prophet (peace be on him) to give a beggar what he knew to be Hell-fire for him, what can we say about the pressure of the need to defend oneself against injustice or to regain one's right?


Wasteful Spending

Just as the wealth of others is sacred and any violation of it, whether secret or open, is prohibited, in like manner a person's own wealth is sacred with respect to himself; he should not waste it by extravagant spending, scattering it to the right and left. This is because the Muslim ummah, which constitutes an owner in addition to every other owner, has a right to the wealth of individuals. For this reason Islam has given the ummah the right to manage the properties of the weak-minded who squander their wealth. The Qur'an says, Do not give your wealth, which Allah has made a means of supfor you, to the weak-minded, but feed and clothe them from it and speak to them words of kindness. (4:5)
In this ayah Allah Subhanahu wa 'ala refers to the wealth of the weak-minded as "your wealth," since the wealth of the individual is also the wealth of the ummah.

Islam is the religion of justice and moderation, and the ummah of Islam is the "middle nation." The Muslim must be just in all his affairs. This is why Allah has prohibited to the Believers wastefulness and extravagant spending, as He has likewise prohibited them from greed and miserliness. Allah Ta'ala says: O children of Adam, wear your beautiful apparel at every place of worship, and eat and drink but do not be wasteful; indeed, He does not like the wasteful. (7:31)

Wasting wealth means to spend it, in large or small amounts, on what Allah has prohibited, for example, alcoholic beverages, drugs, gold and silver utensils, and the like, or to squander it on things which are of no benefit either to oneself or others, since the Prophet (peace be on him) prohibited the squandering of wealth. (Reported by al-Bukhari.) Giving away so much in charity that one has nothing left for the necessities of life also constitutes wasting of wealth.

In explaining the ayah, ...They ask thee what they should spend (in charity). Say (Spend) what is beyond your needs....(2:219)
Imam al-Razi comments, Allah Ta'ala taught people how to spend their wealth. He told His Prophet (peace be on him), 'Give to the relative his right, and to the needy and the wayfarer, but do not squander (your wealth) wantonly; truly, the squanderers are brothers of the evil ones.' (17:26) He also says, 'Let not thy hand be tied to thy neck (in miserliness), nor extend it to its utmost reach,' (17:29) and He said, 'And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor miserly.' (25:67) The Prophet (peace be on him) said, 'If one of you has something to spend, he should start with himself, then with those whom he supports, and so on. (Reported by Muslim.) He also said, 'The best charity is that which leaves you self-sufficient.' (Reported by al-Tabarani on good authority.) Jabir bin 'Abdullah narrated, 'Once when we were with the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him), a man came with a lump of gold as large as an egg and said, "O Messenger of Allah, take it as charity; by Allah, this is all I possess." The Prophet (peace be on him) turned away from him. The man came around in front of the Prophet (peace be on him), whereupon the Prophet (peace be on him) said angrily, "Give it to me," and taking the piece of gold from him threw it toward him in such a way that, had it hit him, it would have been painful to him. He then said, "One of you brings me his wealth while he possesses nothing else, and then he sits down and begs from people. Charity is that which leaves you self-sufficient. Take this back; we have no need of it." '
(Reported by Abu Daoud and al Hakim)
The Prophet (peace be on him) reported that he used to store food for his family sufficient for one year. (Reported by al-Bukhari.) Men of wisdom have said,, 'The optimum course is between the two extremes. Spending much is squandering, while spending little is greed, and moderation is best.' This is the meaning of the words of Allah, 'Say: (Spend) What is beyond your needs,' (2:219) and moderation is the foundation of the Shari'ah brought by Muhammad (peace be on him). The foundation of the Jewish law is extreme harshness and that of Christian law extreme laxity, while the Shari'ah of Muhammad (peace be on him) is in the middle of all such matters. That is why it is the most perfect of all systems of law. (Tafsir by al-Fakhr al-Deen al-Razi, vol. 6, p. 51, with some condensation.)