By Nikhat Sattar
August 11, 2017
HUQUQ Allah (rights of God) and Huqq-ul Ibad (rights of His servants) are the foremost obligations of Muslims. The first means to fulfil the obligations towards God and the second to do so for human beings. The Holy Quran enjoins returning evil with good. Being kind to others despite their unkindness is more likely to change their attitude. It is mentioned in the Holy Book: “Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!” (41:34)
Caring for others is also known as Ihsan: adopting an attitude of ensuring better for others and less for oneself. Islam asks its followers to be sensitive to the feelings of others, especially if they are strangers, or if there is a chance of hostility. This becomes important when Muslims live and work in foreign lands, where their way of life and worship might be other than the norm. Their attitude towards their adopted countries should be that of guests caring for the possessions and feelings of hosts.
Unfortunately, the fact is that in many cases, piety is now worn on one’s sleeve and many Muslims believe that they must ‘prove’ their religion by demanding special privileges. While this may, at times, be necessary and possible, it may not always be a smooth process. In Toronto, Muslim students of some high schools recently demanded time off and a place within the school premises to offer Jummah prayers.
The demand was accepted, albeit reluctantly. In one school, after performing ablutions, the students passed through the school cafeteria to go to their allotted prayer room, making the area wet. Even if offering Friday prayers collectively is considered essential, given that the school management had accommodated their request, the least these students could have done was to keep the floor dry. Such disregard for the feelings of others is what leads to controversy in other lands and allows the ‘us vs them’ mentality, with regard to Muslims and the non-Muslim residents of other countries, to take shape.
We often see Muslims lining up in the middle of a road in France or the US to perform prayers, holding up traffic. If prayers are to be offered collectively, perhaps a park could be found, out of the way of the traffic. Prayer is worship of God and is not to be exercised as a sign of arrogance by digging one’s feet in and showing that Muslims, too, can do what they want. While prayer is mandatory for Muslims, it is supposed to be offered in a way that does not inconvenience others. For example, during flights, it used to be common to see Muslim men standing up in the aisle to perform their prayers. The practice has ended after repeated calls from flight attendants to refrain from doing so, and many now offer their prayers on the plane while sitting down.
One of the most troubling actions of some religious groups in Pakistan can be witnessed in residential areas and roads where hospitals are located. Here, utmost care needs to be taken to avoid noise, because people might be sick, sleeping, dying or grieving. It is, however, not uncommon to find loudspeakers being used in the vicinity, even when it is not time for the call to prayer.
While worship is meant to connect with God in silence, remembering one’s sins, repenting and giving thanks, it has been replaced by loud speeches and harsh tones. What a travesty we have made of the way we follow our most dignified and peaceful religion. “So woe to the worshippers. Who are neglectful of their prayers. Those who (want but) to be seen (of men)” (107:4-6).
Our faith requires us to be mild, gentle and speak in measured tones, without anger or rancour. Strangely, our habits have become so entrenched in harshness that even our religious sermons in mosques are shouted out. Think of the time when God asked Moses to go to Pharaoh — that most arrogant and cruellest of men — to invite him to believe. “But speak to him mildly; perchance he may take warning or fear (Allah)” (20:44).
Gentleness of manner is beautiful and harshness is unacceptable to God. According to Hazrat Ayesha, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: “Verily, kindness is not found in anything except that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything except that it disgraces it” (Sahih Muslim 2594).
If we wish others to be thoughtful and considerate to us, we must first demonstrate that we are so to them. The Prophet had said: “No one believes truly until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself” (Sahih Bukhari 6528).
Nikhat Sattar is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.