By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
20 July 2017
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)
This reflection on Qur’anic verses on Social Justice follows up on the just posted Part-1 and seeks to warn those of means to their broader social responsibilities. As in Part-1, we quote a few Qur’anic passages and leave the reader to reflect over them in the spirit of the following Qur’anic pronouncements:
We have sent down the Book to you (O Muhammad,) with blessings so that the prudent may reflect over its verses and be mindful of it” (38:29)
“Will they not reflect over the Qur'an - or are their hearts sealed” (47:24)?
The Qur’an declares:
“Give their due (Haqq) to relatives (Qurba), and to the needy and the traveller (ibn al-Sabil), and do not squander wastefully (17:26), for those who squander are the brethren of Satan, and Satan is ungrateful to his Lord (27). But if you (have to) turn away from them awaiting God's mercy which you may expect, then (at least) speak to them courteously (28). Do not keep your hands chained to your neck, nor stretch it out to (the limits) of its reach - lest you sit back blamed and destitute” (17:29).
“Give their due (Haqq) to relatives (Qurba), and to the needy and the traveller (ibn al-Sabil). This is best for those who seek God’s favour,* and it is they who shall succeed” (30:38). *[Lit., ‘Countenance of God’]
With the break-up of joint family system, reduction in family size to just an off-spring or a few siblings, loosening of family ties due to globalization impacts – that is relatives spread across the world and absence of stranded travellers in our cities and towns or our neighbourhood, the statements of the above sound outdated and archaic – they sound no alarm bells. But the Qur’an asks us to reflect upon them if we indeed believe in its divinity commit ourselves to its tenets of guidance. So we need to take a close look at the Qur’anic vocabulary to connect the above statements to the realities of our era. We then find the following clues:
i. The word Qurba translated traditionally as relatives included all members of the tribe or community in the Prophet’s era and thus it will include domestic aids employees, friends, and colleagues.
ii. The word Huqq connotes ‘right’ or an incontestable claim in the present day vocabulary.
Thus, in today’s vocabulary, the opening command, ‘Give their due to relatives’ simply means ‘Give your people what they are rightfully entitled to.
iii. The expression Ibn Al-Sabil literally means ‘the son of the street;’ idiomatically it denotes a stranded homeless traveller wondering about the street without any means to returning to their homelands. In today’s context the expression may be applied to the countless homeless people and uprooted refugees that may be found taking shelter on street sides, parks, under flyovers and on the pavements near railway stations, or even graveyards in many parts of the world.
Hence, if we reflect over the quoted Qur’anic passages in light of the Qur’anic vocabulary, we should come forward and where possible, extend financial help to all categories of needy as well as the refugees regardless of their race, religion or nationalities and never hold back from helping others. This is no window dressing or any bid to reform the Qur’an, but being true to the Qur’an that curses those prayerful “who are heedless of their prayer, who aim to be seen (in public), but hold back from helping (others)” (107:5-7).
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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