Dr. Bilal A Bhat, Intizar Ahmad
We have grown accustomed to viewing Islam as a mere “religion,” instead of using the original Qur’anic term “Deen.” i.e., a system of life in which human beings consciously surrender to the sovereignty of a higher authority, and live a life of total obedience to that higher authority. This apparently minor change in semantics is actually a huge leap backwards as the word religion is commonly used in a rather narrow sense, its scope being limited to a set of dogmas, some rituals for worship, and a number of social customs to celebrate important life-events. The term Deen for Islam, means a system of life where the Almighty Allah is worshipped and obeyed, not just in the narrow religious sense, but in a manner that includes all aspects of human of life. A well-integrated set of beliefs describing the nature of existence as it really is (Iman), modes of worship including Salat, Zakat, Saum, and Hajj, as well as social customs and ceremonies — all comprise indispensable and integral parts of Islam. However, in addition to these “religious” features, we are also provided by the Almighty Allah all the relevant instructions regarding our social, economic, and political existence (generally considered to be the “secular” elements of life), and this is what really distinguishes Islam from other religions. Unfortunately, the majority of our masses are simply, and perhaps blissfully, unaware of what it really means to be a Muslim; thus, their concept of religious duties is usually very narrow and limited. In the address which the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) delivered on the occasion of the Farewell Hajj, he said: “Your lives and properties are forbidden to one another till you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection.” According to Holy Quran: “Anyone who kills a believer deliberately will receive as his reward (a sentence) to live in Hell for ever. God will be angry with him and curse him, and prepare dreadful torment for him” (4:93). The Prophet (S.A.W) has also said about the dhimmis (the non-Muslim citizens of the Muslim State): “One who kills a man under covenant (i.e., a dhimmi) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise” (al-Bukhari and Abu Dawud). Islam prohibits homicide but allows only one exception, that the killing is done in the due process of law which the Quran refers to as bi al-haqq (with the truth). In case of war or insurrection a just and righteous government alone, which follows the Shari’ah or the Islamic Law, can decide whether a war is just or unjust, whether taking of a life is justified or not; and whether a person is a rebel or not and who can be sentenced to death as a punishment. In the address, the Prophet (PBUH) did not only prohibit the life and property of the Muslims to one another, but also any encroachment upon their honour, respect and chastity were forbidden to one another. The Holy Quran clearly lays down: (a) “You who believe, do not let one (set of) people make fun of another set. (b) Do not defame one another. (c) Do not insult by using nicknames. (d) And do not backbite or speak ill of one another” (49:11-12). This is the law of Islam for the protection of honour which is indeed much superior to and better than the Western Law of Defamation. According to the Islamic Law if it is proved that someone has attacked the honour of another person, then irrespective of the fact whether or not the victim is able to prove himself a respectable and honourable person the culprit will in any case get his due punishment. But the interesting fact about the Western Law of Defamation is that the person who files suit for defamation has first to prove that he is a man of honour and public esteem and during the interrogation he is subjected to the scurrilous attacks, accusations and innuendoes of the defence council to such an extent that he earns more disgrace than the attack on his reputation against which he had knocked the door of the court of law. On top of it he has also to produce such witnesses as would testify in the court that due to the defamatory accusations of the culprit, the accused stands disgraced in their eyes. Good Gracious! what a subtle point of law, and what an adherence to the spirit of Law! The western law based on false witnesses and corrupt muftis futwas is unfair and unjust law can’t be compared to the Divine law. Islam declared blasphemy as a crime irrespective of the fact whether the accused is a man of honour or not, and whether the words used for blasphemy have actually disgraced the victim and harmed his reputation in the eyes of the public or not. Islam recognizes the right of every citizen of its state that there should be no undue interference or encroachment on the privacy of his life. The Holy Quran says: “Do not spy on one another” (49:12). “Do not enter any houses except your own homes unless you are sure of their occupants’ consent” (24:27).
Islam has always stood for communities living in harmony and for Muslims to exemplify the highest standards of care and concern toward others. One of the most emphasized of all the Prophet’s teachings was being good to people.
The Prophet (S.A.W) has gone to the extent of instructing his followers that a man should not enter even his own house suddenly or surreptitiously. He should somehow or other inform or indicate to the dwellers of the house that he is entering the house, so that he may not see his mother, sister or daughter in a condition in which they would not like to be seen, nor would he himself like to see them in that condition. This is the sanctity of privacy that Islam grants to individuals. On the other hand in the modern civilized world to all practical purposes the private life of an individual does not exist. The holy Prophet (PBUH) says: “When the ruler begins to search for the causes of dissatisfaction amongst his people, he spoils them” (Abu Dawud). Islam has laid down the principle that no citizen can be imprisoned unless his guilt has been proved in an open court. To arrest a man only on the basis of suspicion and to throw him into a prison without proper court proceedings and without providing him a reasonable opportunity to produce his defence is not permissible in Islam. The injunction of the Holy Quran is very clear on this point. “Whenever you judge between people, you should judge with (a sense of) justice” (4:58). And the Prophet has also been asked by God: “I have been ordered to dispense justice between you.” This was the reason why the Caliph ‘Umar said: “In Islam no one can be imprisoned except in pursuance of justice.” Unfortunately, we see people in our land arrested insulted, tortured even some booked under draconian laws like PSA on false allegations and after sometime released without realising the ill effects of illegal detention on victim, his family and on the society in general. The correct method of dealing with such cases in Islam is exemplified in the famous decision of the Prophet which took place before the conquest of Makkah. The Prophet (S.A.W) was making preparations for the attack on Makkah, when one of his Companions, HatibibnAbi Balta’ah sent a letter through a woman to the authorities in Makkah informing them about the impending attack. The Prophet came to know of this through a Divine inspiration. He ordered ‘Ali and Zubayr: “Go quickly on the route to Makkah, at such and such a place, you will find a woman carrying a letter. Recover the letter from her and bring it to me.” So they went and found the woman exactly where the Prophet had said. They recovered the letter from her and brought it to the Prophet. This was indeed a clear case of treachery. To inform the enemy about a secret of an army and that too at the time of a war is a very serious offence tantamount to treachery. In fact one cannot think of a more serious crime during war than giving out a military secret to one’s enemy. Holy Prophet summoned Hatib to the open court of the Mosque of the Prophet and in the presence of hundreds of people asked him to explain his position with regard to his letter addressed to the leaders of Quraysh which had been intercepted on its way. The accused said: “O God’s Messenger (may God’s blessings be on you) I have not revolted against Islam, nor have I done this with the intention of betraying a military secret. The truth of the matter is that my wife and children are living in Makkah and I do not have my tribe to protect them there. I had written this letter so that the leaders of Quraysh may be indebted to me and may protect my wife and children out of gratitude.” ‘Umar rose and respectfully submitted: “O Prophet, please permit me to put this traitor to the sword.”
The Prophet replied: “He is one of those people who had participated in the Battle of Badr, and the explanation he has advanced in his defence would seem to be correct.” God has referred to this offence of Hatib in the Holy Quran but did not propose any punishment for him except rebuke and admonition. The attitude and activities of the Kharijis in the days of the Caliph ‘Ali are well-known to the students of Muslim history. They used to abuse the Caliph openly, and threaten him with murder. But whenever they were arrested for these offences, ‘Ali (A.S) would set them free and tell his officers “As long as they do not actually perpetrate offences against the State, the mere use of abusive language or the threat of use of force are not such offences for which they can be imprisoned.” Amongst the rights that Islam has conferred on human beings is the right to protest against government’s tyranny. Islam gives the right of freedom of thought and expression to all citizens of the State on the condition that it should be used for the propagation of virtue and truth and not for spreading evil and wickedness. The Holy Quran says: “They enjoin what is proper and forbid what is improper” (9:71). In contrast, describing the qualities of a hypocrite, the Quran mentions: “They bid what is improper and forbid what is proper” (9:67). The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) has said: “If any one of you comes across an evil, he should try to stop it with his hand (using force), if he is not in a position to stop it with his hand then he should try to stop it by means of his tongue (meaning he should speak against it). If he is not even able to use his tongue then he should at least condemn it in his heart. This is the weakest degree of faith” (Muslim). This obligation of inviting people to righteousness and forbidding them to adopt the paths of evil is incumbent on all true Muslims. If any government deprives its citizens of this right, and prevents them from performing this duty, then it is in direct conflict with the injunction of God. In fact, the government is not in conflict with its people, but is in conflict with God and according to the Holy Quran it is the government of the hypocrites. Islam has also given people the right to freedom of association and formation of parties or organizations. Muslims are enjoined to invite people to embrace Islam and advance arguments in favour of it, they are not asked to enforce this faith on them. Islam also recognizes the right of the individual that he will not be arrested or imprisoned for the offences of others. The Holy Quran has laid down this principle clearly: “No bearer of burdens shall be made to bear the burden of another” (6:164). Islam has recognized the right of the needy people that help and assistance will be provided for them. “And in their wealth there is acknowledged right for the needy and the destitute” (51:19). In this verse, the Quran has not only conferred a right on every man who asks for assistance in the wealth of the Muslims, but has also laid down that if a Muslim comes to know that a certain man is without the basic necessities of life, then irrespective of the fact whether he asks for assistance or not, it is his duty to reach him and give all the help that he can extend. Islam gives its citizens the right to absolute and complete equality in the eyes of the law. As far as the Muslims are concerned, there are clear instructions in the Holy Quran and hadith that in their rights and obligations they are all equal: “The believers are brothers (to each other)” (49:10). “If they (disbelievers) repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-due, they are your brothers in faith” (9:11). The Prophet has said that: “The life and blood of Muslims are equally precious” (Abu Dawud; IbnMajjah). As far as the non- Muslim citizens of the Islamic State are concerned, the rule of Islamic Shari’ah (law) about them has been very well expressed by the Caliph ‘Ali in these words: “They have accepted our protection only because their lives may be like our lives and their properties like our properties” (Abu Dawud). According to Islam, governments in this world are actually representatives (khulafa’) of the Creator of the universe, and this responsibility is not entrusted to any individual or family or a particular class or group of people but to the entire Muslim nation. The Holy Quran says: “God has promised to appoint those of you who believe and do good deeds as (His) representatives on earth” (24:55). Islam clearly insists and demands that all officials of the Islamic State, whether he be the head or an ordinary employee, are equal in the eyes of the law. None of them is above the law or can claim immunity. Even an ordinary citizen in Islam has the right to put forward a claim or file a legal complaint against the highest executive of the country. The Caliph ‘Umar said, “I have myself seen the Prophet, may God’s blessings be on him, taking revenge on the occasion of the Battle of Badr against himself (penalizing himself for some shortcoming or failing).” Once a woman belonging to a high and noble family was arrested in connection with a theft. The case was brought to the Prophet, and it was recommended that she may be spared the punishment of theft. The Prophet replied: “The nations that lived before you were destroyed by God because they punished the common men for their offences and let their dignitaries go unpunished for their crimes; I swear by Him (God) who holds my life in His hand that even if Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, has committed this crime then I would have amputated her hand.” Islam also confers this right on every citizen that he will not be ordered to commit a sin, a crime or an offence; and if any government, Mufti or the administrator, or the head of department orders an individual to do a wrong, then he has the right to refuse to comply with the order. His refusal to carry out such crime or unjust instructions would not be regarded as an offence in the eyes of the Islamic law. On the contrary giving orders to one’s subordinates to commit a sin or do a wrong is itself an offence and such a serious offence that the officer who gives this sinful order whatever his rank and position may be, is liable to be summarily dismissed. Prophet (S.A.W) says: “It is not permissible to disobey God in obedience to the orders of any human being” (Musnad of Ibn Hanbal). It is concluded that Islam has always stood for communities living in harmony and for Muslims to exemplify the highest standards of care and concern toward others. One of the most emphasized of all the Prophet’s teachings was being good to people. May Allah guide us all towards true path…Ameen!
(The authors regularly write on Islamic topics exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own)