21 نوفمبر, 2017 - 3 Rabi' al-Awwal 1439

Gems from the Quran: Surah Al-Hujarat (Part 1)

Gems from the Quran: Surah Al-Hujarat (Part 1)

Quite often when we think of Islamic law we think of it as a set of rules, guidelines that deal with actions such as how one should be punished or how one should pray. In fact, seldom do we realize that a very small portion of the Quran deals with punishments and legal rulings. The vast majority focuses on a topic that we deal with on an everyday basis, manners. Manners such as how we deal with our families, children, co-workers and how we deal with God and His Messenger (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him). This article will discuss aspects of manners found in the 49th Surah of the Quran, entitled Al- Hujarat or The Rooms (referring to the rooms of the wives of the Prophet).

The Surah immediately begins with God speaking to the believers, God says, “Oh you who believe…” (Quran 49:1). We take our first lesson of manners from just these initial words, the reason for revelation of these following verses is due to a small argument between Umar ibn Al Khattab and Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (may God be pleased with them both).

Narrated 'Abdullah bin Az-Zubair:
"Al-Aqra' bin Habis arrived to meet the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him)" - he said - "so Abu Bakr said: 'O Messenger of God! Appoint him over his people.' 'Umar said: 'Do not appoint him O Messenger of God!' They continued talking before the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him) until they raised their voices. Abu Bakr said to 'Umar: 'You only wanted to contradict me.' So ['Umar] said: 'I did not want to contradict you.'" He said: "So this Ayah was revealed: 'O you who believe! Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet (49:2).'" He said: "After that, when 'Umar spoke before the Prophet (God's peace and blessings upon him), his speech could not be heard until he told him he could not understand him."

Before we get too far into the reason for revelation, let us come to the realization that the only people free from sins are the prophets (God’s peace and blessings upon them all), they have a Divine protection that prevents them from falling into sin, and the misdeeds they perform, such as what is mentioned in Surah Al Abasa, “The Prophet frowned and turned away” (Quran 80:81). Without context one would understand that the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon him) sinned and as such is being rebuked by God. This is not how scholars of the religion understood this verse, especially because the Prophet came to perfect manners and we can only attain the highest state of morality through imitating him.
(may God bless him and grant him peace) said, "I was sent to perfect good character."

It is also true that the Prophet has been raised to the highest standard of good character, “And indeed, you are of a great moral character” (68:4). So why did God correct the manners of the Prophet? Because God is the teacher of the Prophet Muhammad, and the Prophet is our own teacher. The Prophet’s perfection is a reflection of the perfect Guidance and Teaching of our Lord, Allah. Frowning is not a sin, however, the Prophet was admonished and reminded that this type of action is not suitable for a Prophet of God. We all sin and we all make mistakes, similar to the mistake that Umar and Abu Bakr made here by speaking in such a way while in the gathering of the Prophet (God’s peace and blessings upon him). All of this background information is to show us one important thing, despite the mistakes of the companions, God still refers to them as “you who believe”. Though they have done an action that is disliked, God still honours them with this noble title. This one action does not erase their plentitude of good. Are there not times when a person makes a mistake or we come to learn about a sin of theirs and we erase all of their good, God shows us here that we should not erase their good but instead when they correct their mistakes, we should endear them and encourage them by reminding them of all of their good.

Let us revisit God’s advice to believers to not raise their voices above the voice of the Prophet (God’s peace and blessings upon him) or to speak loudly in a way that they might speak with each other. “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” (Quran 49:2). There are two lessons to derive here, one of which is respect of the Prophet and by extension, God. Historically, whenever a person walked into a sacred place one of the first things they would be reminded about was their voice (in addition to the removal of their shoes). In the Friday Sermon, it is impermissible to speak during the sermon as the sermon itself is seen as a form of prayer. In Islamic jurisprudence, speaking during the prayer nullifies it and causes it to be invalid. But today we do not hear the voice of the Prophet so how do we understand this order by God? We understand it by lowering our voices or becoming silent whenever we hear, “The Prophet said”. Not only does this show respect to the words of the Prophet, but it also subconsciously reminds us of the importance and greatness of the words of the Prophet, in a world where respect is short-served. We can also benefit from this in our regular reactions with family, friends and others. It is not uncommon to come across a group of people having a heated discussion in which they all attempt to speak louder than the other, the end result is usually that no one is heard except the loudest amongst them, regardless as to whether that person had the most important thing to say or not. There is also a metaphysical reality to this verse, one of submission to the rulings of God and His Messenger. There are times when our egos may want a thing that differs with what God commands us towards, we should lower that ego, silence it and follow God’s command with submission, as that is what it means to be a Muslim.

God also speaks on the manners of some of the tribes when they would go to find the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon him). Some of these tribes would come yelling, “Oh Muhammad!” and would do so multiple times. “Indeed, those who call you, [Oh Muhammad], from behind the chambers - most of them do not use reason” (Quran 49:4). The word “chambers” here refers to the rooms/homes of the wives of the Prophet (God’s peace and blessings upon him). So we can understand that this is akin to one being home in a private setting only to have someone constantly knocking on one's door, calling their name and potentially also trying to reach them on their phone. God says that this type of behavior is one devoid of reason for if one thought about the action, they would realize it was unbecoming. “And if they had been patient until you [could] come out to them, it would have been better for them. But God is Forgiving and Merciful” (Quran 49:5). This is a simple lesson of patience in addition to the theme of respect that we have already touched upon. It is best for the believer to call using a title of respect and to be patient. It may be that we also commit actions like this in our daily lives. Actions in which we call people with very little manners, we may be incessant in our calling when they have other tasks that they are in need of completing prior to fulfilling our requests. This is when we need to exercise patience to allow them to finish their needs and then see to ours. For example, it might be that a child is in need of their mother and so they call her continuously. But the mother could be busy fulfilling other tasks or chores for the home. Instead of calling continuously, the child should learn to practice patience and to give their mother the respect she deserves.

One of the most important lessons in manners we can derive from this Surah is found in verse 6. “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” (Quran 49:6). The word “disobedient” here refers to one who has gone too far, they have broken free of the set limits and transgressed. The reason for revelation of this verse can be traced back to a tribe that was supposed to have their zakat (obligatory charity) collected by a messenger from the Muslims. When the messenger arrived to this tribe, he thought they were waiting upon him in order to fight him and so the messenger returned back to the Prophet (God’s peace and blessings upon him) and told him that this tribe had left Islam and would not pay their zakat. Some of the companions became angry and were ready to fight, however, the Prophet sent Khalid ibn Waleed to ensure that this newfound development was true, he returned and told the Prophet that this tribe was firm upon their Islam and that there was a misunderstanding.

Do you see how easy it is for a misunderstanding to take place? How easy it is to allow emotion to take control and for the matter to end exactly as God explained it would, with regret. This is why in the next verse God mentions, “And know that among you is the Messenger of God. If he were to obey you in many of these matters [which you bring to him], you would be in difficulty, but God has endeared to you the faith and has made it pleasing in your hearts and has made hateful to you disbelief, defiance and disobedience. Those are the [rightly] guided” (Quran 49:7). Why? Because we are prone to mistakes, we make them regularly and the one way to lessen these mistakes is by submitting ourselves to God and His Messenger (God’s peace and blessings upon him).

Think of the amount of problems that could be avoided if we took the time to clarify and to ensure the information we have received is correct. Think of the arguments that would cease to occur if we lowered our voices and listened to the opposing party. Think of the love people would have for us if we had patience when calling for the assistance of others. This is the blessing of guidance, the blessing of having a Prophet sent to us by God, one who helps us along the way and to remind us when we become lost. God wants to save us from ourselves and from the shortcomings that live within us. The Quran is such a book that allows us to continue coming back and learning. May these few lessons be of benefit for us all and may we come closer to the Divine by perfecting the manners He calls upon us to exercise.