Monthly Archives: February 2008

Evil acts that spoil brotherhood

Hadith 35 Arabic text

 

Abu Hurairah, radiyallahu ‘anhu, reported that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said:

“Do not be envious of one another; do not artificially inflate prices against one another; do not hate one another; do not shun one another; and do not undercut one another in business transactions; and be as fellow-brothers and servants of Allah.

A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither oppresses him nor humiliates him nor looks down upon him. Piety is here – and he pointed to his chest three times. It is evil enough for a Muslim to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for another Muslim: his blood, his property and his honour.”

[Muslim]


background

Unity is one of the greatest objectives of Islam. There are many verses in the Qur’an that urge Muslims to unite. In Surah al-‘Imran, Ayah 103, Allah says:

And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (which is Islam) and be not divided among yourselves.

This is a very well-known verse to Muslims. In Surah al-Taubah, Ayah 71, Allah says:

The believing men and women are ‘awliya’ (loyal) to one another.

There are many other verses in the Qur’an that urge joining unity, as well as verses that forbid disunity. We can see this in the same Surah al-‘Imran, Ayah 103, in which Allah says:

….and be not divided among yourselves.

So in the same verse the Muslims are asked to be united and prevented from disunity. The Qur’an contains many such verses, for example: Surah al-‘Imran Ayah 105-107; Surah al-Hujurat Ayah 10; Surah al-An’am Ayah 153 and 159; and in Surah al-Rum Ayah 31-32. All of these verses and many others in the Qur’an forbid the division or split of the Muslim community.

Moreover, we have many hadiths that command the Muslims to be united. One hadith is recorded by Imam Muslim: “Verily Allah likes three things for you and disapproves three things for you: He is pleased with you but you worship Him and disassociate anything with him; that you hold fast to the Rope of Allah and not to be scattered (disunited); and He disapproves for you irrelevant talk, persistent questioning, and wasting of wealth.”

We find that Islam commands the Muslims to practice things that will bring unity – there are conditions and actions where the Muslims need to perform to accomplish this. At the same time, we also find that there are many actions that Islam forbids because these actions may lead to the disunity of the Muslim ummah. This Hadith 35 falls in the latter category.


lessons

The first action that the hadith forbids is envy (al-hasad). Muslim scholars like Imam Ghazali and others define envy as disliking to see a person receiving a bounty and wishing that he or she (the receipient) would lose it.Ibn Rajab gives a different and broader definition. He states in his definition that it is part of human nature that a person dislikes anyone to be better than him in virtues. He says that people differ in their attitudes and he lists five categories of envy that people have:

  1. There are some people who will make the effort through action or speech to abolish the bounty received by someone whom they envy.
  2. There are others who will then try to get that bounty transferred to them. So they firstly try to take it away from the person they envy and then they try to get it for themselves. For instance, if a certain person is offered a certain position or authority, the envious one will try to do something by hand or by speech to take away that position or authority from that person. Then he will try to get that status or position transferred to himself.
  3. There are some people who do not make any effort by action or speech to harm the one whom they envy. Ibn Rajab says this category of people can be of two types:
    1. The one who does his best to eliminate the feeling of envy within himself but he cannot overcome it. In spite of this, he keeps fighting and struggling against it. Ibn Rajab says this type of person is excused from punishment.
    2. The one who thinks about envy and practices it again and again. He does not make any effort to fight it even though he does not do any harm by action or speech. But he actually enjoys and practices envy – he wishes that the bounty of the envied one will be lost. Consequently, this person is subject to punishment.

  1. There are those who, whenever they envy someone, do not harm him or her. They do not even wish the loss of the bounty from the envied one. Instead, they make the effort to attain a similar bounty or virtue for themselves. Ibn Rajab says: “If this bounty is wordly virtues or worldly bounties, there is no benefit in that.” For example, if you see someone who has a Mercedes, and you try to attain a similar car for yourself, then there is no benefit in that. But if it is a righteous virtue, then it is good.
  2. There are some people who, whenever they feel envy, do their best to stop it and they will do a favour or something good for the person whom they envied. In addition, they will also make du’a for that person until they love him – because envy is usually associated with hatred. They will wish that the envied ones are better than them – they do not bother themselves if others have things which are better than what they have. Ibn Rajab says these people are the best category of true believers since everyone is subject to indulge or be trapped by envy or being envious of others.

Why is envy (hasad) forbidden?

It can cause – by the permission of Allah – harm to others whom are envied. Consequently, they are considered as evil acts in Islam. They can cause – even by just wishing – the harming of a person. It is the virtue of Shaitan. And it is also the virtue of Jews to envy other people. This is mentioned in Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 109 and in Surah al-Nisa’, Ayah 54.

The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, warned Muslims against envy when he said “Creeping upon you is the diseases of those people before you: envy and hatred. And hatred is the thing that shapes. I do not say it shapes the hair but it shapes the religion. By the One in whose Hand is my soul, you will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Certainly, let me inform you of that which may establish such things: spread the greetings and peace among yourselves.” [Recorded by Imam Ahmad and Al-Tirmidhi]

Since this is a harmful act, Muslims are asked to recite certain Qur’anic verses such as Surah al-Falaq, Surah an-Nas, and Surah al-Ikhlas to protect from envious people. According to the Muslim scholars, it would be preferable to recite them after the five prayers along with Ayat-ul-Kursi.

Al-Tanajush is translated literary as “do not artificially inflate the prices against one another”. Najash that is mentioned in this hadith can be interpreted, according to Ibn Rajab, in two ways:

  1. It can be interpreted as bai’ al-najash – the trading where a person offers a high price for a certain item not for the sake of buying it but for the sake of raising the price of the item so that in the end it is sold for more than its actual price/worth. This is usually done, even in the Muslim world today, by a previous agreement by the salesman and another person or relative who pretends that he wants to buy. This is done in the stock market or auctions where there is a person who keeps bidding higher prices for an item. He is doing a favour for the person who wants to sell. This is considered as bai’ al-najash. The majority of Muslim jurists (fuqaha) say it is valid. However, they say that if the buyer finds that he has been manipulated in a way where the price exceeded drastically over the actual price, then he has the choice of returning the item.
  2. The second interpretation of najash is a broader one, more than merely limiting it to trading. Ibn Rajab says here it means any kind of deceiving actions that will lead to harming others. He adds that all dealings that are conducted in a deceiving way are included here. He quotes Surah Fatir, Ayah 43 : “That the evil plot encompasses only him who makes it.”

Ibn Rajab says that this hadith is a warning to Muslims not to hate one another, especially if it is because of self-interest. Why? Because Muslims are brothers in Islam. They should love each other and should not hate one another. Consequently, al-nameemah, backbiting and slander are forbidden because they will lead to hatred among the Muslim community. Ibn Rajab says that when the Muslims started dividing into different sects because of conflicting views regarding certain religious matters, this led to disputes and hatred among the community, and thus disunity.

We should not turn our backs on one another. Ibn Rajab says this means any form of disassociation. He says that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said the Muslim is not allowed to disassociate himself from the others for more than three days. This is, as Ibn Rajab points out, in worldly matters. Whereas in the religious matters, disassociation is one of the punishments that Islam allows – e.g. to disassociate with those who commit sins in order to teach them a lesson. But scholars say that if the person who commits the sin is not likely to come back to the right path, then it is meaningless to disassociate with him. As one of the scholars pointed out, if the objectives of Islam are not fulfilled then disassociation is meaningless.

We should not undercut one another in business transactions. For example, if someone is trying to buy something from a salesman, in the middle of their negotiations another salesman appears and interferes and tries to get that customer to buy his product/service instead. This kind of transaction is forbidden because the customer has yet to make his final decision – it will lead to the disunity of the Muslim community.

The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, asks us to be brothers to one another. Ibn Rajab says this is like justifying the actions that are mentioned by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, because these evil acts will lead to spoiling the brotherhood of the Muslims. If Muslims avoid these evil acts, then this will lead them to be brothers. Moreover, Ibn Rajab says this statement implies that Muslims have to make the effort to do whatever that will lead to achieving this brotherhood. This means fulfilling all the obligations towards Muslims, for example like returning the greetings, visiting the sick, helping the needy, accepting invitations, sending presents, shaking hands, and smiling.

Then the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, says the Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. Ibn Rajab explains about this statement: “It is now obligatory for each brother that he tries to benefit his Muslim brother and to refrain from harming them.” He adds that the major harm is oppression and injustice. If a Muslim is in need of your support and you fail to support or help him, this is unjust. There are many places in the Muslim world where the Muslims are in great need of help. They are being oppressed and nobody supports them. Accordingly, if we are not doing anything to help them, we are failing our Muslim brothers. We need to be united to solve the problems that we are facing today. Our main concern should be the unity of the ummah. A contemporary scholar, Abdurrahman Al-S’adi, says that one of the greatest forms of jihad is to make an effort to unite the Muslims. He states that cooperation among Muslims is an obligation.

We should not lie to our Muslim brothers. We should also refrain ourselves from belittling or making fun of other Muslims. We should not make signals or gestures that threaten the face value of our Muslim brothers. We should take care not to be cynical to others and not to undermine other Muslims.

The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, says taqwa is in the heart. Ibn Rajab comments on this statement saying it is evidence that the most noble among people are the ones who are righteous even if they are not lucky in the sight of other people. If they are righteous, they are the most noble in the sight of Allah.

It can be said that all that has been mentioned in this hadith has to do with the heart: loving Muslims, and not to envy them. When we have taqwa in our hearts, we will not do the forbidden acts mentioned – our hearts will be purified and filled with love.


conclusion

“All things of a Muslim are inviolable for another Muslim: his blood, his property, and his honour.” This important last statement, which was mentioned by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, in his farewell sermon (hajat alwadaa’), concludes or summarises what this hadith is about. This hadith clearly states that harming others either by saying or doing is considered an evil act. Allah says:

And those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly, they bear on themselves the crime of slander and plain sin.
[Surah al-Ahzab: Ayah 58]

Allah made the believers as brothers so that they have mercy upon one another; so that they love one another; so that they help one another and support one another. This is how Muslims should be.

 

[Forty Hadith]

See also:

 

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Islamic Manners: Discussions and Debates

Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghudda

If you have trouble understanding some of what has been said in meeting, hold your questions until the speaker has finished. Gently, politely, and with proper introduction, ask for clarification. Do not interrupt a person’s speech. Never raise your voice with the question, or be blunt to draw attention to yourself. This is contrary to the proper manner of listening, and stirs up contempt. However, this is not the rule if the meeting is for studying and learning. In such a case, asking questions and initiating a discussion is desirable if conducted respectfully and tactfully and only after the speaker finishes. The Khalifah Al-Ma’mun said: “Discussion entrenches knowledge much more than mere agreement.”

Al-Haitham ibn Adi, a known scholar, historian, and a member of the court of four Khalifahs: Abu Ja`far al-Mansur, Al-Mahdi, Al-Hadi and Al-Rashid, said: “It is an ill manner to overwhelm someone while speaking and to interrupt them before they end their talk.”

If a colleague did not understand an issue and asked a scholar or an elder to explain, you should listen to what is being said. The repeated explanation may give you additional insights to what you already know. Never utter any word belittling your colleague, nor allow your face to betray such an attitude.

When an elder or a scholar speaks, listen attentively. Never busy yourself with a talk or discussion with other colleagues. Do not let your mind wander elsewhere; keep it focused on what is being said.

Never interrupt a speaker. Never rush to answer if you are not very confident of your answer. Never argue about something you do not know. Never argue for the sake of argument. Never show arrogance with your counterparts especially if they hold a different opinion. Do not switch the argument to belittle your opponent’s views. If their misunderstanding becomes evident, do not rebuke or scold them. Be modest and kind. A poet once said:

Who could get me a friend
Who if I offend will remain calm
Who would listen intently to what I have to say
When he knows it better than I do

Source: at-Talib

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The dollar versus gold? No contest

Why China and India have always been heavy-metal fans

In the early 1950s I was reading history at Balliol College, Oxford. I learnt a good deal from my tutors, whom I remember with gratitude, but even more from my contemporaries, such as Dick Taverne or Bernard Williams, the philosopher. There was, even then, no doubt who was the most erudite undergraduate, with, as it seemed, total recall of the whole corpus of European literature. It was George Steiner, the polymath whose encyclopaedic learning has been creating envy in academic circles ever since.

In the mid-1960s, I was visiting New York and met George’s father, a quiet Jewish banker, who, like the great Siegmund Warburg, had been trained in the tradition of European banking of the pre-Nazi era.

He had already reached Paris when George was born in 1929. George once told me that he had been brought into the world by an American obstetrician, who later achieved fame by shooting the American populist, Huey Long, in the atrium of the Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge. Neither Governor Long nor the obstetrician survived.

Dr Steiner, like most good European bankers of his generation, believed in gold as the ultimate reality of the world’s financial system. He told me of Franklin Roosevelt’s arbitrary decision to fix the dollar price for gold at $35 an ounce, at which the official price then still stood. Dr Steiner also observed that the free market for gold, which some people still regarded as a “black market”, was at a premium to the official price. He forecast that the official price would come into line with the free market eventually.

His forecast was proved correct in 1971, when President Nixon, who had no real idea what he was doing, brought dollar convertibility into gold to an end. The gold price rose from $35 an ounce to more than $800 in the next decade.

I have been interested in the story of gold ever since. Victorian economists, writing in the period of the gold standard, used to define the functions of money. Two of these classic functions were money as a “medium of exchange” and money as a “store of value”.

As a medium of exchange, money needs to have convertibility and liquidity. Paper currencies have these qualities, so does gold. To add to the store of value, money needs to retain its value over long periods.

Gold has retained its value, though with fluctuations, over centuries. Even now its purchasing power in terms of physical assets is not far distant from 300 years ago, before Isaac Newton’s recoinage of 1717. Most paper currencies lost more

than 98 per cent of their purchasing power in the 20th century alone.

My conversation with Dr Steiner was a prelude to a friendship with Professor Roy Jastram, whose book, The Golden Constant, proves statistically the long-term stability of the purchasing power of gold. I have also written or edited two books on the case for gold myself. For some years I have been forecasting that gold would rise in price to $1,000 an ounce. Last week it reached $950 an ounce. We are getting very close. I also forecast that oil would go to $100 a barrel; it has.

Why is this process happening? What does it tell us? This is happening because the world has been losing confidence in all the currencies issued by central banks, but particularly in the dollar. The last Chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board to care about the dollar as a store of value was Paul Volcker, who was the chairman of the Fed from 1979 to 1987.

He saved the dollar from collapse in the early 1980s and with the dollar he saved the world’s financial system. However, Alan Greenspan, his successor, was a more political chairman of the Federal Reserve. He wanted to keep the White House happy. On the whole he succeeded in that task, at the expense of the dollar.

One can detect the decline of confidence in every part of the world. The world’s two largest developing economies, economic superpowers of the future, are China and India. Both countries have a long tradition of hoarding gold, often in the form of jewellery, as a form of personal saving. The Chinese and Indian central banks already have more dollars in their reserve than they can possibly want. They know that the dollar is likely to depreciate over time.

They suspect that the American people will elect an inflationary president and Congress next November; as there is no remaining presidential candidate who stands for sound money, that seems the safe assumption. The euro may currently be a better currency than the dollar because it is still being run on sound German principles, though by a Frenchman. Gordon Brown has already undermined the pound by selling half the United Kingdom’s gold reserves at about a third of the present price.

There are also supply problems likely to effect the mining of South African gold. South Africa is short of electrical power because the necessary new power stations have not been built and the maintenance work has not been done. Supplies of power to Zimbabwe have had to be halted and supplies to the goldmines have been curtailed. As a result, China is overtaking South Africa as the world’s largest gold producer – which gives China an incentive to raise the gold price.

The dollar price of gold has been moving in a long cycle, up from 1965 to 1981, down from 1981 to 1999, up from 2000 to 2008. I do not expect this cycle to peak at $1,000 an ounce, though the credit crunch may give it pause. Gold is a defence against inflation. In November the Americans will elect another inflationary president.

That will be good for gold, but bad for the dollar.

Source: Times Online

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British brain drain

MANY economics bloggers are discussing a startling story in today’s Daily Telegraph, which reveals that educated Britons are leaving the country in record numbers. A study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that British emigration rates are surpassed only by Mexico. Apparently, America is one of the chief destinations for those leaving Britain, suggesting that Americans may soon be forced to press 1 to hear messages from the Department of Motor Vehicles delivered in their own accent.

Explanations for this phenomenon vary. Megan McArdle suggests that the relatively monopolar nature of Britain’s urban geography is partly to blame:

I assume this has something to do with the fact that it is very easy for Britons to go to wealthy, English-speaking countries, and also that there’s a relative lack of migration opportunities in Britain. If you’re American or Australian, you can always pick up and try another city, but in Britain, you mostly move to London or you . . . move to London. This is an exaggeration, of course, but there’s nothing like the ability to say, “You know what, things aren’t going so well in Boston, so I’m moving to LA.” If the economy, or the job opportunities are bad in London, they’re probably bad everywhere else in the UK too.

This assumes that there isn’t much correlation between the British economy and those of the former colonies, which may not be entirely true.

I suspect that housing prices may be a significant factor in these migration decisions. As Ed Glaeser has documented (PDF), recent and massive population growth in America’s sunbelt can be attributed to punitively high housing prices in places like the northeast and the San Francisco Bay area. Households have left those locations for cheaper housing markets despite the economic strength of the source cities.

As The Economist noted back in December, home price increases in Britain have been nearly twice those in America. No doubt if one were to compare individual urban markets (say, London to Atlanta) the difference would be greater still. Given the strength of the pound and the ongoing American housing market meltdown, a Briton can now purchase most of Phoenix for the price of a Chelsea broom closet. That’s a strong incentive for those with skills in high demand.

Source: Free Exchange|The Economist

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Cultural diversity v Arab purity

Feb 21st 2008 | DAMASCUS
From The Economist print edition

An Arab capital of culture but not quite Arab enough

FIREWORKS lit up the Syrian capital and crowds gathered to celebrate the naming of Damascus a month ago as “Arab Capital of Culture 2008”. But how Arabic does a city have to be to live up to such an accolade? While the organisers of the year-long festival stress the ancient town’s cultural diversity, others have been stressing its Arab purity.

In the past few months, across the country, owners have been told to Arabise the names of their shops and cafés and advertisers have been urged to use classical Arabic rather than the local Syrian dialect. “La Noisette restaurant is now called al-Bunduqa,” Arabic for hazelnut, says Ibrahim Hamidi, who has written on the subject for al-Hayat, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London. “It sounds funny to us.”

A law from the 1950s was revived by decree a year ago with the formation of a Committee for Improving the Arabic Language. It may mark a new effort to polish Syria’s Arab credentials and end the country’s isolation of recent years. Next month Syria is due to host an Arab League summit for the first time, with workers already sprucing up the airport and main roads.

But the festival’s organiser, Hanan Kassab Hassan, says its programme reflects Damascus’s richly varied culture. “It is a city on a crossroads, on the Silk Road and the spice routes,” she says. “It was open to all cultures.” She acknowledges that there have been grumbles that many of the luminaries are foreign rather than Syrian. Human-rights campaigners point out that a number of notable homespun intellectuals are in jail.

Continue Reading here.

Source: The Economist

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Speaking Ill of a Fellow Muslim

Sufyan ibn Husayn al-Wasiti says: I spoke ill of a person in the presence of Iyas ibn Mu’awiyah al-Muzani, who was the judge of Basra, a Tabi’i and a very intelligent person. So he looked at me in the face and asked: ‘Did you wage war against the Romans?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He asked: ‘Did you wage war against Sind, India and the Turks?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He said: ‘How is it that the Romans, the Sindis, the Indians and the Turks are safe from you while your own Muslim brother is not safe from you?’ Sufyan says: ‘ I never did this again, i.e. I never found fault with anyone nor did I speak ill of anyone.'” [54]

__________________

[54] : Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah.

(The Sunnah way of the Sufis, Imam Abu Harith al-Muhasibi, researched and explained by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda)

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Optional Knowledge is Superior to optional Worship

You should know that to engage in optional knowledge is superior to engaging in optional acts of worship. This is the unanimous opinion of the four Imams and other leading personalities of Islam. Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “To discuss matters concerning knowledge for a little while is better than engaging in worship for the entire night.” [350]

Ar-Rabi’ ibn Sulayman al-Muradi, a student of Imam Shafi’i, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “I heard ash-Shafi’i saying: ‘Seeking knowledge is superior to optional Salah.'” [351]

Imam al-Kashmiri, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “Do not refute the superiority of knowledge because Malik and Abu Hanifa, may Allah have mercy upon them both, are of the opinion that occupying oneself with knowledge is better than occupying oneself with optional prayers. There are two narrations from Ahmad, may Allah have mercy on him, with regards to this: (1) That knowledge is superior. (2) That Jihad is superior. As mentioned by Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, in Minhaj as-Sunnah‘” [352]

Imam Ahmad, may Allah have mercy on him, leaves his optional prayers in order to engage in discussions with Abu Zur’ah, may Allah have mercy on him.

Imam Abu Zur’ah ar-Razi was one of the Imams of Hadith and a contemporary of Imam Ahmed. ‘Abdullah, the son of Imam Ahmed, narrates:” When Abu Zur’ah came to Baghdad, he stayed with my father. He used to engage in a lot of discussions with my father. One day, I heard my father saying: ‘Today I only offered the fard salah [the compulsory prayers and not the optional prayers]. I gave preference to sitting and discussing with Abu Zur’ah over any optional Salahs.'” [353]

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[350] : Adh-Dhahabi: Tadhkirah al-Huffaz.

[351] : Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr: al-Intiqa’.

[352] : Kashmiri: Fayd al-Bari ‘ala Sahih al-Bukhari.

[353] : Ibn Abi Ya’la: Tabaqatal-Hanabilah.

(The Sunnah way of the Sufis, Imam Abu Harith al-Muhasibi, researched and explained by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda)

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