Saturday 8 October 2022

Believers: Do not scoff, taunt or revile others with nicknames for others may be better than thine

The human heart is very sensitive because it gets hurt much too easily. We usually taunt others, though mostly in a lighter mood, yet we do not think how much hurt it may be on whom we are throwing a taunt. In recent times, Prank, a mischievous practical joke, has become very common without realizing the impact on the subject. April Fool jokes and sneers too fall into the same category and in many cases, fatalities have occurred due to the seriousness of the joke. 

Jokes apart, we are also very fond of scoffing, taunting and deriding others especially when we are in a power position and the subject is lower in status. Calling nicknames, especially derogatory nicknames, are not only hurting but also many a time infuse a strong rebuttal which often results in bad taste and quarrels. 

Mindful of the negative impact of such dirty games, Allah strictly forbids scoffing, taunting or calling others by nicknames. This is to ensure a healthy society and establishment of brotherhood based on social justice and abiding by the etiquette as enunciated in the Qur'an and augmented by Sunnah and Hadith of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. we share today the 11the verse of Surah Al Hujurat (The Private Chambers) in which both man and woman, individually and as a group, have been forbidden to hurl taunts on fellow northern and calling them with derogatory nicknames.

يٰۤاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا لَا يَسۡخَرۡ قَوۡمٌ مِّنۡ قَوۡمٍ عَسٰٓى اَنۡ يَّكُوۡنُوۡا خَيۡرًا مِّنۡهُمۡ وَلَا نِسَآءٌ مِّنۡ نِّسَآءٍ عَسٰٓى اَنۡ يَّكُنَّ خَيۡرًا مِّنۡهُنَّ​ۚ وَلَا تَلۡمِزُوۡۤا اَنۡفُسَكُمۡ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوۡا بِالۡاَلۡقَابِ​ؕ بِئۡسَ الِاسۡمُ الۡفُسُوۡقُ بَعۡدَ الۡاِيۡمَانِ​ ۚ وَمَنۡ لَّمۡ يَتُبۡ فَاُولٰٓـئِكَ هُمُ الظّٰلِمُوۡنَ‏ 
(49:11) Believers, let not a group (of men) scoff at another group, it may well be that the latter (at whom they scoff) are better than they; nor let a group of women scoff at another group, it may well be that the latter are better than they. And do not taunt one another, nor revile one another by nicknames. It is an evil thing to gain notoriety for ungodliness after belief. Those who do not repent are indeed the wrong-doers.

In the preceding two verses after giving necessary instructions about the Muslim people's mutual fighting, the believers were made to realize that by virtue of the most sacred relationship of the faith they were brothers one to another, and they should fear God and try to keep their mutual relations right. Now, in the following two verses, they are being enjoined to avoid and shun those major evils which generally spoil the mutual relationships of the people in a society. Slandering and taunting the people and harboring suspicions and spying on others are, in fact, the evils that cause mutual enmities and then lead to grave mischief. In this connection, from the commandments that are being given in the following verses and the explanations of these found in the Hadith a detailed law of libel can be compiled. The western law pertaining to libel in this regard is so defective that a person who sues another under this law may well cause some loss to his own honor. The Islamic law, on the contrary, recognizes a basic honor for every person and gives nobody the right to attack it, no matter whether the attack is based on reality or not, and whether the person who has been attacked has a `reputation" of his own or not. Only the fact that a person has debased and humiliated the other person is enough to declare him a criminal unless, of course, it is proved. that the humiliation caused had legal grounds for it. 

Mocking does not only imply mocking with the tongue but it also includes mimicking somebody, making pointed references to him, laughing at his words, or his works, or his appearance, or his dress, or calling the people's attention to some defect or blemish in him so that others also may laugh at him. All this is included in mocking. What is actually forbidden is that one should make fun of and ridicule another, for under such ridiculing there always lie feelings of one's own superiority and the other's abasement and contempt, which are morally unworthy of a gentleman. Moreover, it hurts the other person, which causes mischief to spread in society. That is why it has been forbidden,

To make mention of the men and the women separately does not mean that it is lawful for the men to mock the women or the women to mock the men. The actual reason for making a separate mention of the two sexes is that Islam does not at all believe in mixed society. Ridiculing each other generally takes place in mixed gatherings and Islam does not permit that non-mahram males and females should meet in such gatherings and make fun of each other. Therefore, in a Muslim society it is inconceivable that the men would mock a woman, or the women would mock a man in an assembly.

The word lamz as used in the original is very comprehensive and applies to ridiculing, reviling, deriding, jeering, charging somebody or finding fault with him, and making him the target of reproach and blame by open or tacit references. As all such things also spoil mutual relationships and create bad blood in society, they have been forbidden. Instead of saying, “Do not taunt one another", it has been said "Do not taunt yourselves", which by itself shows that the one who uses taunting words for others, in fact, taunts his own self. Obviously, a person does not use invectives against others unless he himself is filled with evil feelings and is almost in a state of bursting like a volcano. Thus, tire one who nourishes such feelings has made his own self a nest of evils before he makes others a target, Then, when he taunts others, it means that he is inviting others to taunt him. It is a different matter that the other person may evade his attacks because of a gentle nature, but he himself has opened the door to mischief so that the other may treat him likewise.

( nor revile one another by nicknames) This Command requires that a person should not be called by a name or a title which may cause him humiliation, e.g. calling somebody a sinner or a hypocrite, or calling someone a lame or blind one, or one-eyed, or giving him a nickname containing a reference to some defect or blemish in him, or in his parents, or in his family, or calling a person a Jew or a Christian even after his conversion to Islam, or giving such a nickname to a person, or a family, or a community, or a group, which may bring condemnation or disgrace on it. Only those nicknames have been made an exception from this Command, which though apparently offensive, are not intended to condemn the persons concerned, but they rather serve as a mark of recognition for them. That is why the traditionists have allowed as permissible names like Suleman al-A`mash (the weak-eyed Suleman) and Wasil' al-Ahdab (the hunch-backed Wasil) among the reporters of the Hadith. If there are several men of the same name and a particular man among them may be recognized only by a particular title or nickname of his, the title or nickname can be used, even though the title by itself may be offensive. For instance, if there are several men called `Abdullah, and one of them is blind, he may be called Abdullah the blind, for his recognition. Likewise, those titles also are excluded from this Command, which though apparently offensive, are in fact, given out of love and the people who are called by those titles themselves approve them, like Abu Hurairah (father of the kitten) and Abu Turab (father of the dust).  

(It is an evil thing to gain notoriety for ungodliness after belief) That is, "It is very shameful for a believer that in spite of being a believer he should earn a name for using abusive language and for immodest behavior. If a disbeliever earns a reputation for himself for mocking the people, or taunting them, or for proposing evil and offensive titles for others, it may not be a good reputation from the point of view of humanity, but it at least goes well with his disbelief. But if a person, after affirming the Faith in Allah and His Messenger and the Hereafter, earns a reputation on account of these base qualities, it is simply regrettable.

Yusuf Ali Explanation
Mutual ridicule ceases to be fun when there is arrogance or selfishness or malice behind it. We may laugh with people, to share in the happiness of life: we must never laugh at people in contempt or ridicule. In many things they may be better than ourselves!

Defamation may consist in speaking ill of others by the spoken or written word, or in acting in such a way as to suggest a charge against some person whom we are not in a position to judge. A cutting, biting remark or taunt of sarcasm is included in the word lamaza. An offensive nickname may amount to defamation, but in any case, there is no point in using offensive nicknames, or names that suggest some real or fancied defect. They ill accord with the serious purpose which Muslims should have in life. For example, even if a man is lame, it is wrong to address him as "O lame one!" It causes him pain, and it is bad manners. So, in the case of the rude remark, "the black man".

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
(Believers! [It is the requisite of this brotherhood that] neither [your] men make fun of other men; it may well be that they are better than them) Ie., better with regard to faith and deeds whose true weight will become evident from the scale of justice that will be set up on the Day of Judgement. This scale will tell if any deed has a speck of weight or that of a mountain. Things which they regard as important will not have any weight on that scale. Thus, their claim to racial and tribal superiority will prove absolutely weightless on it.

(nor should your women make fun of other women) Though the words لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِّنْ قَوْمٍ were sufficient, yet the Qur’ān has mentioned women too alongside men. What was the reason for this? Imām Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī writes:
… In the mention of both morality and immorality, the Qur’ān has specially mentioned women where they are emphatically urged to strive to gain high reward or to save them from some trial. Here is this second case. The evil from which men are stopped here is found if not more in women, then certainly not less than in men. Women who are conceited because they regard their family, lineage, financial situation or apparent looks to be superior, speak in very humiliating tones to women whom they regard inferior to themselves. (Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, vol. 7, 505)
(it may well be that they are better than them. And neither defame your own people) The actual word used is لَمْز which means to blame someone and mock someone while gesturing with the eyes. Such poisonous sentences portray the jealousy and arrogance of the speaker. They are meant to discourage people and dent their mutual relationships to such an extent that they end up hating one another and becoming enemies of each other. Through this word, the Almighty has directed attention of people to the fact that those who blame any of their brothers in the words of Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī aim their arrows at their own chests and thereby wound them (Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, vol. 7, 507).

(Nor give bad names to one another) Calling people by bad names is not a trivial wrongdoing. This attitude is generally adopted to humiliate someone or some nation to the ultimate extent. The reason for this is that such names are easily memorized and produce very permanent and far-reaching results. The bad taste created by them continues for generations, the essential consequence of which is that people seldom remain well-wishers of one another and national unity is torn apart.

([All these are wrongdoings and] after faith even the name of wrongdoing is evil.) This style signifies exaggeration. Imām Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī writes:
... It is like saying: الشريركأسمه (even the word naughty is bad, let alone the badness of being naughty). Even in our language we say: “Sir! Even the name of it stinks.” (Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, vol. 7, 508)
Tafsir Qur'an Wiki:
The human society Islam establishes in the light of Qur'anic guidance operates a high standard of manners. Every individual in this society has his or her integrity, which may not be compromised. Indeed, it is part of the integrity of the whole community. To slander anyone is to slander oneself, because the whole community is a single entity and its integrity is one.

In this verse, the Qur'an again addresses the believers by their most beloved description, "Believers". It forbids that one group should deride another, be they men deriding other men, or women deriding other women. For how can they know whether or not the ones they deride enjoy a better status with God?

The way this order is expressed suggests that the apparent values that men or women may consider important may not be those that give people their real status. There are other values, which people may not know about. These are known to God who operates them in fairness. A rich man may deride a poor one. Similarly, those who are strong, enjoying good health, intelligence, children and support, may deride those who are less fortunate than themselves, such as those who are weak, handicapped, simple-minded, childless or orphans without support. A woman who sees herself as pretty, young, perfectly shaped, or rich may deride another for being ugly, old, misshaped, or poor. But none of these earthly values is of any importance as a criterion of high status. In God's sight, people are raised in rank on the basis of totally different values.

The Qur'an, however, does not stop at implying this, It works on the sentiment of brotherhood in faith, reminding the believers that they descend from a single soul. Whoever defames anyone actually defames all. Hence, the Qur'an says: "Neither shall you defame yourselves." (Verse 11) It should be mentioned that the word the Qur'an uses for defaming, talmizu, has a particular resonance that imparts a feeling that also has a physical effect.

Part of derision and defamation is to call others names that they dislike, or feel to be meant as ridicule. It is the right of a believer not to be called by a name that he or she dislikes, or feels to suggest disrespect. Moreover, Islamic standards require a believer not to call a brother or a sister by such a name that gives them pain. The Prophet changed the names or nicknames of some of his Companions because he felt, with his refined sense and compassionate heart, that they could bring ridicule or pain to the people concerned.

Having outlined the true values in God's measure, and appealed to feelings of brotherhood and of belonging to one soul, the surah now reaches out to the believers' sense of faith, warning them that they will lose this noble quality if they indulge in derision and ridicule: "Nor insult one another by [opprobrious] epithets. Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness [to be used of one] after he has believed." (Verse 11) To indulge in this is akin to renouncing faith after one has believed. The surah goes even further than this by threatening to consider this an act of wrongdoing, something that is often expressed in the Qur'an as being synonymous with associating partners with God. "Those who do not repent are indeed wrongdoers." (Verse 11) Thus, the surah establishes the rules for refined manners in a noble community.

Having explained the above said verse in detail, you may now listen to explanation of the Ayat by eminent Muslim scholar Nouman Ali Khan:
May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others' lives miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 
وَمَا عَلَيۡنَاۤ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِيۡنُ‏ 
(36:17) and our duty is no more than to clearly convey the Message.”
That is Our duty is only to convey to you the message that Allah has entrusted us with. Then it is for you to accept it or reject it. We have not been made responsible for making you accept it forcibly, And if you do not accept it, we shall not be seized in consequence of your disbelief, you will yourselves be answerable for your actions on Day of Resurrection.

Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully. It will also help the Muslims to have grasp over social issues and their answers discussed in the Qur'an and other matter related to inter faith so that they are able to discuss issues with non-Muslims with authority based on refences from Qur'an.

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Note: When we mention God in our posts, we mean One True God, we call Allah in Islam, with no associates. Allah is the Sole Creator of all things, and that Allah is all-powerful and all-knowing. Allah has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Important DOs and DON'Ts from Qur'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages: Understanding Al Qur'an and  Selected Verses from the Qur'an for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
Photo | Tafsir References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that the exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi.  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition, references of other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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