By S. Arshad, NewAgeIslam.com
Islam strives for the establishment of a civilized and ideal society. Islam’s goal is a society based on justice, equality, non violence, honesty, harmony, love and respect and since an individual is the unit of a society, Islam stresses on the training and nurturing of the morality, personality and conscience of the individual because only a civilized individual can build a civilized society. And as the society is a collection of individuals, dependence of one individual on the other and interaction between them is a feature of a society.
As the individual is entitled to the right to freedom, he also has some social and moral limitations. The limitations are not meant to restrict his freedom but to further strengthen it because the freedom of an individual can be secured as long as he does not encroach on the freedom of others. Therefore, a civilized and durable society requires a beautiful balance between freedom and limitations.
Islam too grants individuals a lot of personal freedom but at the same time it emphasizes on collectivism. Unlike individualists, it does not profess unlimited freedom to the individuals, nor does it strive to build a totalitarian society denying the existence of an individual’s personality and status in it. Islam has established a balanced system between the individual and the society. For it , an individual to the other is like a brick is to the other brick in a building. Every brick has its own identity and is inevitable for the construction of a building but they can build a strong building only when they come together in order and symmetry. Similarly, an individual can build a civilized and ideal society only when he builds a balanced rapport with other individuals. And to build a lasting relationship with them, he must treat them with justice, compassion, love, equality etc. One cannot build a relationship with people by deceiving them, doing injustice to them, by victimizing them, by inflicting insult or injury to them and so on and so forth. On the contrary, such behaviour will only lead to disharmony and chaos instead of peace and harmony in the society.
Therefore, to strike a balance in the society and to bind the individuals of the society into a well-knit family, Islam forms some guiding principles that not only allow the individuals appropriate personal freedom but also meet the demands of collective life as well.
Humility and courteousness:
The Quran enjoins on Muslims to adopt humility and courteousness in the society. A Muslim should be humility and politeness personified. He always cares not to harm anyone with his words or actions. A true believer is one whose words and actions never hurt anyone. Thus the Quran says:
“And hold your hands down for those believers who are with you.” (Al Sho’ra: 215)
Similarly, the Quran teaches man to treat people with humility and respect. Taking undue pride and boasting of one’s social and economic status is a negation of Islamic teachings. God does not like those who boast of their greatness. The Quran asks people to discard such behaviour:
“And do not strut about in the land for you can neither cleave the earth nor attain the height of the mountains “(Bani Israil: 37)
The Quran enjoins on Muslims to greet everyone with an endearing smile and keep his voice low and soft. Speaking in a high and intimidating voice does not go well with the Quran as even an an ass has a high voice. Similarly, not being on speaking terms with people on account of petty disputes or discords is an uncivilized and unethical attitude that weakens the harmony and unity of the society. That’s why the Quran does not appreciate bad blood between individuals as it is against the teachings of Islam.
"And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not each arrogant boaster."And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the ass”.(Luqman:18-19)
Right to privacy
The modern society does not permit intrusion into one’s privacy and it is against the law. Islam guaranteed this right to the people 14 centuries ago. It not only guaranteed the right to privacy to people outside the family but also to the members of the family. It forbids people to spy into others’ private life. The Quran says:
“It is not Al-Birr (piety, righteousness, etc.) that you enter the houses from the back but Al-Birr (is the quality of the one) who fears Allah. So enter houses through their proper doors, and fear Allah that you may be successful. “(Al Baqra: 189)
The verse suggests that the people in the pre-Islam Arab society did not respect the privacy of others, not even the privacy of their family members. For example, they entered their houses through the back door probably with an intention to catch them unawares. It also speaks of lack of confidence and trust among the family members. Islam guaranteed the right to privacy to the family members and asked them to trust each other. It declared entering the house from the backdoor a sin and asked people to enter their houses through the front door. The holy Prophet (PBUH), whenever returned from a journey, would first stay at the mosque and send the news of his return to his household so that they could be mentally ready to greet him.
Similarly, the Quran declared spying or casting an evil eye on others a sin.
Backbiting and whispering
It is necessary for better and stronger relationship among the individuals in the society that they have a relationship based on love and respect. They should treat one another with love and respect. But it is generally observed that people backbite and laugh at each other, and to prove them inferior, call them by derogatory names. Such behaviour is strongly condemned by the Quran. Backbiting or ridiculing someone is done due to enmity or jealousy or sometimes it is done to prove one’s superiority to others. The sense of one’s superiority is in fact a form of pride which God highly dislikes in men. The Quran says:
“O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. “ (Al Hujurat:11)
There is another kind of backbiting which is called whispering. The Quran also has clear stand on whispering. It says that whispering is the work of the Satan:
“O you who believe! When you hold secret counsel, do it not for sin and wrong-doing, and disobedience towards the Messenger (Muhammad) but do it for Al-Birr (righteousness) and Taqwa (virtues and piety); and fear Allah unto Whom you shall be gathered. 10. Secret counsels (conspiracies) are only from Shaitan (Satan), in order that he may cause grief to the believers. But he cannot harm them in the least, except as Allah permits, and in Allah let the believers put their trust. “(Al Mujadilah: 9-10)
Rumours are often spread to create rift between groups and communities. In modern times, mischief mongers use the means of communication to spread rumours. More often the rumours give birth to violent clashes that create lasting rifts between groups in a society, disturbing peace and harmony. More often people add spice to the rumours without verifying them and as a result, a petty issue is blown out of proportion creating a mountain out of a mole. The Quran advises people not to believe in rumours blindly and verify them before taking any step. It is better to report the matter to the authorities concerned so that they can make an inquiry into it. In the words of the Quran:
“O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with a news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done.“ (Al Hujurat: 6)
On another occasion, the Quran criticises the irresponsible behaviour of people in dealing with rumours in the following words:
“When there comes to them some matter touching (public) safety or fear, they make it known (among the people), if only they had referred it to the Messenger or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have understood it from them (directly).“ (Al Nisa: 83)
Therefore, the Quran teaches man the civic principles. It guarantees people the right to privacy and advises them to treat each other with love and respect. Since the Quran discusses human issues from a psychological point of view, it takes into account even the points that otherwise seems insignificant because some human actions that seem unimportant have a deep impact on human psyche and therefore affect mutual relationship between individuals. Therefore, backbiting, taunting, whispering, ridiculing, spying into the privacy of others etc are the social and psychological vices that the Quran deals with strictly and considers them an obstacle in the establishment of an ideal and just society.