Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Jamadi Awwal 1424 H
July 2003
Volume 16-07 No : 199

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Quran Speaks to You


Purification of a Community

Purification of a Community

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficient" Can he who strives after Allah's pleasure be compared to one who has incurred Allah's wrath and whose abode is hell? How evil is such a goal. Each of them has his standing in Allah's sight. Allah sees all that they do. Indeed, Allah bestowed a great favour on the believers when he sent them a messenger from among themselves, to recite to them His revelations, and to purify them, and teach them the Book and wisdom, whereas previously they were surely in plain error.

(The House of Imran, Aal Imran : 3:162 - 164)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb.
Translation by A.A. Shamsi

 


How great is the favour bestowed by Allah on the Muslim Community and represented by the sending of a messenger whose task is to explain to mankind Allah's revelations which are aimed at helping people establish a community moulded by faith and characterised by compassion, humility, honesty, seriousness and decent discipline. We have pointed out that the fact that Allah has chosen to send down revelations to mankind is a great favour for which they should be ever grateful to Him. But the role of the Messenger is not confined to conveying Allah's revelations to people, although that is an aspect of divine grace for which they cannot be sufficiently grateful.

The role of the Messenger is also "to purify them". That purification touches their hearts and feelings. It also affects their homes, honour and worship, and characterises their lives, community and their social systems. He purges them of all traces of polytheism, idol worship and superstition and all that is associated with these rituals, habits and traditions which are unworthy of man. It purifies human life of all traces of ignorance and its effects on values, principles and social traditions.

Every type of ignorant community at that time had its own evil practices. So did the pre-Islamic Arabian community. The following submission made by the leaders of the Muslims who sought refuge in Abyssenia during the early days of Islam to the ruler of that country gives an idea of the evil practices prevalent in Arabia at that time: "Your Majesty, we have been ignorant people who worshipped idols, ate carrion, usurped the rights of the weak. We continued in this state of affairs until Allah sent us a Messenger from among ourselves, who was known to us in respect of good family position and truthfulness, honesty and integrity. He called upon us to worship Allah alone, associate no partners with Him and abandon what we and our forefathers used to worship alongside Him of stones and statues. He has commanded us to be truthful in what we say, honest, kind to our relatives and neighbours, and to refrain from sin and killing one another. He has forbidden us every aspect of indecency, purgery, devouring what belongs to orphans, accusing chaste women of adultery. He has bidden us to worship Allah alone, associate no partners with Him, attend to our prayers, pay purifying alms, (zakah), and fast. Another aspect of the evil customs that prevailed in ignorant Arabia is described by Aisha, the Prophets's wife, as she gives this account of relations between the two sexes. This report is given in the Sahih of al Bukhari, (which is the most authentic collection of the Prophet's Hadiths):

"There were four types of relations between men and women in ignorant days. One of these was the same as marital relationships of today: a man may make a proposal of marriage to another man's daughter or some other girl in his charge. He pays her a dower and marries her. A second type was that a man said to his wife after she finished her menstrual period: Go to (he names a certain man) and get pregnant by him. He himself stops having intercourse with her until she is manifestly pregnant by the man he named. The third form is that a number of men, less than ten, shared a woman. Every one of them had intercourse with her. If she got pregnant and gave birth to a child, she sent to them asking them to come over to her after a few days of delivery. None of them could absent himself from that meeting. She would say to them: You are aware of what has passed between us. Now that I have given birth to a child, this child is the son of ---. She chooses whoever she wants to be the father. He cannot disown that child.

The fourth type was that of prostitution. Any number of men may associate with a woman who would not refuse anyone who came to her. Prostitutes used to put some sort of flag on their doors, to indicate that they welcomed any man. If such a prostitute gave birth to a child, they collected some money for her and they called in a physiognomist to determine the father of that child. The child was called after that man and he did not decline to claim it."

This contemptible, deroga-tory state of affairs needs no comment. It is sufficient to imagine a man sending his wife to another man to get pregnant by him, in the same way as he sends his female camel or horse or other animal for good breeding.It is sufficient to imagine a number of men, less than ten, having intercourse with the same woman and then allowing her to choose from among them the father of her child. As for prostitution, which is the fourth form, it is the same everywhere. In this particular case, however, the child born to a whore is named after a particular adulterer. He finds no disgrace in that and does not disclaim the child. Had it not been for Islam and its purification, the Arabs would have continued to live up to their ears in such vice.

All this, however, is only one aspect of the contempt which was reserved for women in ignorant days. In his valuable work, Islam and the World, Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi says: " The lot of women was extremely lamentable in pre-Islamic Arabia. The right of inheritance was denied to them. Widowed and divorced women were not permitted to re-marry. It was a common practice for the eldest son to take as wives his father's widows, inherited as property with the rest of the estate. Discrimination was made against them even in the matter of food, men reserving certain dishes for themselves. Daughters were buried alive at birth. Pride and poverty had introduced the abominable crime of female infanticide among all the Arabian tribes. Haitham ibn Adi tells us that one out of every ten men was guilty of it. Kind-hearted tribal chiefs often bought infant girls to save their lives. Saasaa says that before the dawn of Islam, he had rescued as many as 300 girls from the terrible fate by paying compensatory money to their fathers. Sometimes a young girl who has escaped being killed at birth or during childhood due to her father being away from home or some other reason would be treacherously taken to a lonely spot by her father and done to death. Several incidents of this nature were narrated from their past lives by companions of the Prophet after they embraced Islam.

These accounts give us a glimpse of the evils from which Islam saved the Arabs and purified them. These are concerned with relationship between men and women in the community.

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