Friday, June 22, 2007

Humbleness, Kindness, and Equality

Alhamdulillah, I made it again to the imam's class this evening, where we are reading Riyad us-Saliheen. The chapter we read today is called in the translated version, "Modesty and Courtesy Towards the Believers." My readers will have to forgive me, I don't have an Arabic version of the book but the imam went into an explanation about how "modesty" is not the correct word to use, but really "humbleness" and that is, in fact, the translation used when translating the word from the Qur'an. (Sorry, I don't remember the word!)

It was an interesting chapter, nice enough, about being humble instead of arrogant towards others (i.e., thinking we're better than them.) But one thing that sticks with me from the lesson is a story the imam told us about when 'Umar was khalifa.

There was a man who was the leader of an Arab tribe, and a man who was just a common laborer, both on hajj, both making tawaf around the Ka'ba. Without intending to, the laborer stepped on the foot of the ameir... I can see how that would happen, though I've not myself ever been on hajj. Anyway the ameir slaps the laborer in the face, as if to say "I'm the ameir of such-and-such tribe, how dare you step on my foot?" Like the man meant to do that or something. Slapped in him the face. So the laborer does not make such a big deal of it, but told some friends I suppose, and someone suggested that he go to 'Umar and tell him what happened. So he does, and 'Umar asks that this man be found and brought to him... so he is.

The ameir now comes before 'Umar, Ameir-al-Mu'mineen, and 'Umar asks if this happened, if the man really slapped the other man in the face. And he says yes, what of it, the man was just a laborer and he is ameir of such-and-such tribe. So 'Umar tells him that this is an injustice and says either the man has to forgive him, or the laborer can slap him, the ameir, in the face, to compensate for the injustice. Well, the ameir doesn't like this plan at all, so he says to 'Umar, give me three days to think about this...

And what does he do in three days?

He runs away.

His tribe was from Syria or somewhere in that area, near the border of the Byzantine Empire, and the man apostates from Islam and becomes a Christian.

For him it wasn't a spiritual issue so much as a political one, I suppose. Nonetheless, nobody can blame 'Umar for this man apostating, right? 'Umar stood up for this principle that one man is not better than another man because he in such a tribe, or even the leader of such a tribe, he's not even better than a slave.

And we all know I think the hadith that we are only better in piety and good deeds, we are not better by our skin color or our upbringing or our wealth, or other standards of dunya. So we should be humble to all our brothers and sisters, the ones who are even working for us, because we are instructed to not even burden our animals with too heavy a load, so how can we not treat anyone less fortunate as though we are better?

I think if we believe in Allah, we cannot do that.

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