The Islamic Social Code – building a harmonious community
Surat al-Hujarat is a Madani Surah full of rulings about the social code for a community, setting out boundaries and etiquettes for how to deal with other people in a way that pleases Allah. It has more rulings than it has ayahs – it has only 18 ayahs.
Avoid much suspicion
One of the most important ayahs is where Allah Almighty says:
‘O you who believes avoid many suspicions, indeed, some suspicions are sinful.’ [49:12]
He’s setting out the rule here: in Shariah, the default position for any person is innocent until proven guilty, whether they are a believer or not. Allah is telling us not to doubt everything and be cynical of every action and intention.
Of course, be careful and don’t be fooled, but don’t take it to an obsessive degree. It’s not healthy to be a person of suspicion in any relationship – whether between a husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee – none of them are healthy if they are based on doubt and suspicion.
Do not spy on each other
Then in the same ayah, He says, ‘Do not spy on each other.’ Unfortunately, in every community we have such spying. There is a difference between the state and individuals: for example, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) used to have spies in war. But within a community, no one should spy on anyone else, or be curious to find out their faults. Keep the boundaries – don’t invade anyone’s privacy. Nowadays we have this paparazzi culture, and it’s normal to share all our secrets on social media – this is completely against Islam and the rules of Allah.
Do not backbite
Finally Allah says, ‘And do not backbite each other .’ Backbiting is a common disease – often we associate it with women, but men do it as well. Allah describes it as eating ‘the flesh of your dead brother,’ What an ugly and distasteful image – that should tell us how bad it is. And yet people backbite for fun. We might think we are not doing anything wrong, just offloading or venting, or even just talking. But this kind of talk might destroy someone’s honour and reputation, just for your entertainment. So Allah is saying, don’t do that.
To put this into perspective, this was a community of ignorance Jahiliyyah. Everyone was coming new to Islam, so revelation was shaping the community and putting boundaries in place where there were none before. Previously, their only rules were whatever culture dictates. Islam says that where cultural practices are in line with the Quran, such as fairness, justice, and kindness, they are fine and we can accept them. But if anything goes beyond Islam, we need to draw the line.
How do we distinguish between what’s allowed or not? It all comes back to Quran and Sunnah. Setting boundaries is important, and leading by example. In at-Tirmidhi’s ash-Shama’il al-Muhamadiyya, a collection of hadith about the character of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), it is described that in his gatherings, no one would cross the boundaries – he did not allow any backbiting.
When you listen to backbiting and allow it to continue, even if you do not contribute, you are still as sinful as whoever is speaking. So be careful. Rasul Allah (peace be on him) never allowed this to happen in his presence, so he was leading by example and we should do this with our children and friends too.
The purpose of the social code
When you take a bird’s eye view of everything Allah says about the social code, you realise that anything that disrupts harmony in the community is haram. These rulings are not separate from each other. Allah is teaching us to stay away from anything that creates friction or disturbs love in the community, as this will divide our families and communities. He wants us to be a united strong Ummah, and that starts from building the social code in the family, in the community, and in society.
All these rules are like bricks in the wall that build a house. They make us a strong Ummah. If we take some of the bricks out, we will have a weak wall. Just a little bit of huffing and puffing will blow the house down. So we ask Allah to help us rebuild this wall, by following the commands from Quran and Sunnah.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Ramadan Night 19
Transcribed by Hana Khan
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