Showing posts with label Righteousness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Righteousness. Show all posts

Saturday 7 March 2020

Selected Verses from Quran: What is True Righteousness

Righteousness is the quality of being morally right or justifiable. It is defined by Wikipedia as simply 'being righteous' in the sense of 'being in right relation to others', not 'to right or just' in a judicial sense. It is often used to designate one's state or "the quality or state of being morally correct and justifiable."  It can be considered synonymous with "rightness" or being "upright".

One of the major attribute of a true Muslim is Righteousness. However, this attribute more often than not is totally misunderstood as we call every person a righteous who is seen offering prayers regularly and is being truthful and following the tenets of Islam. But this one word has far deeper meaning as defined by none other than Allah Himself in the 177th verse of Surah 2 Al Baqarah as under:

لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا ۖ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ ۗ أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ 
"Righteousness does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or towards the west; true righteousness consists in believing in Allah and the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the Prophets, and in giving away one’s property in love of Him to one’s kinsmen, the orphans, the poor and the wayfarer, and to those who ask for help, and in freeing the necks of slaves, and in establishing Prayer and dispensing the Zakah. True righteousness is attained by those who are faithful to their promise once they have made it and by those who remain steadfast in adversity and affliction and at the time of battle (between Truth and falsehood). Such are the truthful ones; such are the God-fearing."

In simple words, the meaning of this verse is as under:
"Turning one's face towards the east or the west is mentioned here only by way of illustration. The actual purpose of the verse is to emphasize that the observance of certain outward religious rites, the performance of certain formal religious acts out of conformism, and the manifestation of certain familiar forms of piety do not constitute that essential righteousness which alone carries weight with God and earns His recognition and approval."

Prominent Muslim scholar and exegesist Yusuf Ali explains this verse as under:
As if to emphasize again a warning against deadening formalism, we are given a beautiful description of the righteous and God-fearing man. He should obey salutary regulation, but he should fix his gaze on the love of God and the love of his fellow-men. We are given four heads: (1) our faith should be true and sincere; (2) we must be prepared to show it in deeds of charity to our fellowmen; (3) we must be good citizens, supporting social organisation; and (4) our own individual soul must be firm and unshaken in all circumstances. They are interconnected, and yet can be viewed separately.

Faith is not merely a matter of words. We must realize the presence and goodness of God. When we do so, the scales fall from our eyes: all the falsities and fleeting nature of the Present cease to enslave us, for we see the Last Day as if it were today. We also see God's working in His world and in us; His Powers (angels), His Messengers and His Message are no longer remote from us, but come within our experience.

Practical deeds of charity are of value when they proceed from love, and from no other motive. In this respect, also, our duties take various forms, which are shown in reasonable gradation: our kith and kin; orphans (including any persons who are without support or help); people who are in real need but who never ask (it is our duty to find them out, and they come before those who ask); the stranger, who is entitled to laws of hospitality; the people who ask and are entitled to ask, i.e., not merely lazy beggars, but those who seek our assistance in some form or another (it is our duty to respond to them); and the slaves (we must do all we can to give or buy their freedom). Slavery has many insidious forms, and all are included.

Charity and piety in individual cases do not complete our duties. In prayer and charity, we must also look to our organised efforts: where there is a Muslim State, these are made through the State, in facilities for public prayer, and public assistance, and for the maintenance of contracts and fair dealing in all matters.

Then come the Muslim virtues of firmness and patience. They are to "preserve the dignity of man, with soul erect" (Burns). Three sets of circumstances are specially mentioned for the exercise of this virtue: (1) bodily pain or suffering, (2) adversities or injuries of all kinds, deserved and undeserved and (3) periods of public panic, such as war, violence, pestilence, etc.

Professor Javed Ahmed Ghamidi takes a larger meaning and explains the verse as under:
The actual word is: الۡبِرّ. According to Imam Farahi the real meaning of this word is “to fulfill the rights of someone.” These include rights which are imposed on a person by his very existence like the rights of God, parents and his brethren and those also which arise because of agreements, promises and alliances. Because of these extensive meanings covered by the word, all those virtues are included in it which come under justice and kindness. There is no word in the English language that fully represents this meaning. The word “loyalty” to some extent expresses the real spirit of this word and I have thus translated it.

This is a slant on the Jews and Christians who had completely ignored the real teachings of the Torah and the Gospel but were ready to fight on the direction of the qiblah: whether it was located in the East or in the West. It seemed as if all religion was based on this issue. In the words of the Prophet Jesus (sws): “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel,” (Matthew 23:24).

As per linguistic principles of Arabic, the governing noun (mudaf) has been suppressed here. The implied construction is: مَنْ آمَنَ [بِرُّ] وَلٰـكِنَّ الْبِرَّ.

Thus true Righteous Muslims fully submit themselves to God without the slightest possibility of imputing partners to Him.

And that they should accept that after death they shall certainly be raised to life, that nothing except faith and righteous deeds shall be of any avail to them, that they shall be answerable to God for what they say and what they do and that without the permission of the Almighty no one shall dare speak even a single word in their favour.

They should acknowledge that angels are unerring beings having an immaculate nature and character, that they deliver God’s guidance to man, that in delivering it they are fully trustworthy and honest and that the Almighty implements His decisions through them. A little deliberation would show that this belief in the angels is extremely necessary. The reason for this is that if mankind received God’s guidance through His prophets and messengers, then this guidance is generally delivered to the prophets and messengers through these angels. These are the sole creation of the Almighty who are able to keep equal contact with Him and with His creation. Because of being created of light they can come in contact with the Almighty and because of being His creation they can get in touch with human beings. Consequently, just as Noah (sws), Abraham (sws), Moses (sws), John (sws) and Jesus (sws) are messengers of God for us, the angels are messengers of God for these messengers. The Almighty has revealed His books and scriptures to the prophets and messengers through these angels. It is these angels who were used to implement the divine law of reward and punishment on this earth.

The implication is that what the prophets present before the people as the Book of God is in fact the Book of guidance revealed to them. The Almighty has revealed it such that it distinguishes the right from the wrong and has been revealed so that people are able to adhere to justice in matters of religion.

This belief entails acceptance of the prophets as divinely appointed people who must be followed and obeyed. Their knowledge is without error; their deeds are an examplar for their followers and it is essential for everyone to show obedience to them, follow the example set by them and love them.

The actual words are: وَاٰتَی الۡمَالَ عَلٰی حُبِّہٖ. Although these words can also mean “he spent his wealth out of God’s love,” we have given preference to those given in the translation. The reason for this preference is other parallel verses of the Qur’an. In verse 92 of Surah Al-i ‘Imran, and verse 9 of Surah al-Hashr, it has been explicitly stated that the highest position a person can attain in being loyal to the Almighty is when he spends the wealth he cherishes most. Here also, it is being told what type of spending in the way of God earns a person this status. Hence, this becomes a basis for preferring the meaning that we have adopted.

The foremost head which is stated for spending in the way of God is a person’s kinsfolk. It is thus evident that if one’s relatives and kinsfolk are in need, then they are the most deserving of his help.

A mention of the orphans right after the kinsfolk shows that after one’s relatives one should spend on those who have been deprived of their fathers and whose responsibility now rests with the society – a responsibility imposed both by convention and by religion.

This refers to people who come over to someone for their needs. Their independent mention after a mention of the needy shows that it is not required for those who come to someone for their needs that it be ascertained whether they are deserving or not. What a person should do if he can is to help them; otherwise, he should politely refuse them.

This refers to the necks of the slaves and this is one of those directives which the Qur’an gave to gradually eliminate slavery. In these times, if a person helps out someone who is under debt or is liable for some penalty or is inflicted with some similar hardship, then In Sha Allah this would be counted equivalent to liberating a slave.

After a mention of faith and spending in the way of God (infaq), the prayer and the zakah are mentioned as their legal and practical manifestations respectively. In other words, the real essence of faith manifests itself in the prayer and that of infaq in zakah. The prayer and zakah are the minimum requirements of faith and infaq respectively. It is evident from the Qur’an that their real right is fulfilled by remembering God at all times and by spending generously in His way.

This stipulation expresses the determination and resolve of these loyal individuals. What is implied is that once they make a commitment then come what may, they fulfill it even if this requires facing great loss or endangering their life.

The actual words are: وَ الۡمُوۡفُوۡنَ بِعَہۡدِہِمۡ (those who fulfill their promise). A little deliberation would show that the style of the discourse has suddenly changed. Previously, faith, infaq, the prayer and the zakah were mentioned in the form of verbs. الۡمُوۡفُوۡنَ بِعَہۡدِہِمۡ are copulated to these four too but they are in the form of nomenagentis (الاسم الفاعل). Further down, another change has occurred in الصّٰبِرِیۡنَ فِی الۡبَاۡسَآءِ (the steadfast in trial). In spite of being connected to الۡمُوۡفُوۡنَ it is الصّٰبِرِیۡنَ instead of الصّٰبِرُوْنَ, which is in the accusative. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, while explaining this change writes:

Students of Arabic know that verbs merely express an action but adjectives express permanent qualities and attributes; in fact, hidden in them is a spirit of vigour and resolve. Similarly, scholars of the language know that if, without any apparent reason, adjectives are expressed in the accusative then this means that the speaker wants to stress them. In technical parlance this accusative is called: علي سبيل المدح or علي سبيل الاختصاص. For example the occurrence of الصّٰبِرِیۡنَ just after الۡمُوۡفُوۡنَ, the implied meaning would be: انا اخص بالذكر الصَّابِرِيْنَ (I want to specially mention the steadfast). (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 1, 427)
It is evident from this that the real thing in religion is character and conduct. This is the real spirit of religion. It also constitutes the real sphere of test. It is this character which makes a person loyal and God-conscious in his individual life and it is this character which makes him a righteous and loyal person in his collective life. Hence it was necessary to mention it in an emphatic manner. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, while explaining another aspect of this writes:

Another question can arise. Only two questions pertaining to character are mentioned here: honouring commitments and promises and being steadfast. Why were not other qualities included in this list? The answer to this question is that these qualities are like a binding force for all other qualities. Included in honouring commitments are all rights and obligations whether big or small whether related to God or to fellow human beings and whether they result from a written contract or because of some relationship, affiliation and association and whether they are declared or are in good societies understood and implied. We are in some form of commitment with God, our Prophet (sws), our parents, our family, our relatives, our clan, our neighbours, our teachers and students. It is an essential requirement of loyalty to God and God-consciousness that we fulfill the rights entailed by these commitments. In short, the real essence of honouring commitments is fulfilling rights and fulfilling rights encompasses all our obligations whether big or small.

The quality of being steadfast appended to honouring commitments stipulates that a true believer should fight every impediment that comes in the way of fulfilling rights with steadfastness and resolve. In no way should he be overcome by greediness, lack of resolve and fear. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, 1, 428)

It is in these three circumstances in which the determination and resolve of a person are tested. If a person remains steadfast in them, he would attain a high position in loyalty to God and in God-consciousness. This is precisely what the Qur’an has said in the succeeding verses and in this manner has made it clear that those who want to fulfill the rights entailed by loyalty to God by merely offering some rituals and customs are neither God-conscious nor truthful in their commitment to His loyalty.

May Allah help us understand Qur'an and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'an

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Reading the Holy Quran 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.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the Sūrahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy 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: 
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given in each page. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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