Righteousness + Justice
If you are not conscious of Allah and
don’t treat people with mercy, you will
not be treated with mercy either!
Uphold justice even if it goes against
You or your family! That’s Islam!
(M. Javed Naseem)
On the Day of Judgment,
Allah will not talk to an unjust
ruler. He’ll be sent to Hell.
Those people are blessed who get righteous leaders and rulers. Such rulers existed in every era. In the early age of Islam, the rulers were exemplary. They were the best role-models for anybody who wanted to serve his people and establish the rule of law.
The Western world considers the famous Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, as the most influential personality of the twentieth century. In some quarters he is treated like a saint. Indians, in general, and Hindus in particular, claim Gandhi as the greatest ‘son of India’. He always preached righteousness through modesty and non-violence. In 1937, while addressing the Indian Congress government’s cabinet of ministers, Gandhi advised all cabinet members to lead simple life. He said:
“I cannot give you the examples of Ram Chandra and Krishna, because they were not the historical personalities. I have no other choice to give you the examples of Abu Bakr and Umar (bin al-Khattab) – the first two Caliphs of Islam – as symbols of modesty and simple life. They were the rulers of a great empire but all their lives they lived like beggars.”
(Quote from ‘Hareejan’, dated 27th July, 1937).
Amazing, isn’t it? The funny thing is that non-Muslims appreciate the teachings of Islam, whereas we Muslims don’t even care about it. As Muslims, we are terrible role models for others. It is time to get up and play the role we are supposed to play for the sake of our future generations. We should act with care and responsibility.
Now, the question is: Why would Gandhi refer to the Caliphs of Islam (Umar and Abu Bakr)? What did he see in their characters that convinced him that they were the best role-models as rulers and governors? It was their righteousness and modest living; their fear of God and their sense of responsibility in promoting justice; their obligations towards community to guarantee the rights of the poor.
Let’s see how Abu Bakr fared in his life and during his short tenure as the 1st Caliph of Islam.
He was the first free and independent (not a slave) mature man who accepted Islam the very moment Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) invited him to the Truth. (But he was not the first PERSON who accepted Islam, the first person being Khadija, Prophet’s wife).
He was given the title “Siddique” by the Prophet (s.a.w.) himself. Siddique means ‘the true friend’, the one who ‘embraces the Truth’. His obedience to Allah and loyalty to the Prophet (s.a.w.) were exemplary. The stories of his righteousness and piety are numerous. According to a Hadith (sayings of the Prophet, s.a.w.) quoted by Tirmidhi (and Ahmad), the Prophet (s.a.w.) said about Abu Bakr:
"If the Iman (faith) of Abu Bakr was put
on one side of the scale and the faith of the
entire nation of Muslims on the other, the faith
of Abu Bakr would outweigh the others."
Abu Bakr was a businessman, one of the richest in Makkah. But after accepting Islam, he devoted all his money, efforts, labor and resources to the service of mankind just to please Allah. He used to buy slaves from the pagans and set them free. He would help the needy, the widows, the poor and the victims of injustice. He would sacrifice all his wealth for the cause of Allah.
Once, people of the area suffered from drought and then famine struck. People started suffering, so they came to Abu Bakr, who was the Caliph of the Muslims at that time. They said: O’ Caliph of the Messenger of Allah, the sky no longer brings down rain and the land no longer brings up crops or plants, and people fear a disaster. What are you going to do?
Abu Bakr replied, “Go now and be patient. I hope that Allah will bring His subsistence by the evening.”
When they went down the road, they saw one thousand camels laden with corn, oil and flour, standing near the house of Othman (r.a.a.), who was taking care of the supplies. When the merchants of the area heard of the food convoy, they came to see Othman (r.a.a.) for buying goods.
“What are you looking for?” He asked them.
“You know what we want,” they answered.
Othman (r.a.a.) asked them: ‘How much profit will you give me?’
“Two Dirham of profit.”
“I was offered more than that”, said Othman (r.a.a.).
“Well, four Dirham.”
“I was offered more.”
“Then five Dirham.”
“I was offered more than that”, declared Othman (r.a.a.).
“We are the only merchants in town, so who offered you more than we did?”
Othman (r.a.a.) replied, “Allah offered me ten Dirham for every single Dirham; do you offer more than that?”
“No”, the merchants answered.
“Then you bear witness that I give away all these camels along with the goods in charity in the cause of Allah for the sake of the poor and the needy.”
Now, that’s righteousness and piety! That’s charity; and that’s caring and sharing. In fact, that’s Islam.
In 630 AD, Prophet Muhammad (s..a.w.), decided to lead an expedition to Tabuk on the Syrian border. In order to finance the expedition Muhammad (s.a.w.) invited contributions and donations from his followers. Othman (r.a.a.) provided ten thousand camels. Umar (r.a.a.) made a liberal contribution. When Muhammad (s.a.w.) asked him how much he had left for himself and his family, he said that he had given one half of his wealth for the cause of Allah and had left one half for himself and his dependents. Then came Abu Bakr (r.a.a.) loaded with his contribution and Muhammad (s.a.w.) asked him the same question as to how much he had left for himself and his family. Abu Bakr (r.a.a.) said, "I have brought all that I had. I have left Allah and His Prophet for myself and my family".
This episode has formed the theme of one of the poems of the poet philosopher of the East, Dr. Muhammad Iqbal (a.k.a. Allama Iqbal). The last verse of this poem reads:
“For the moth the lamp, and
for the nightingale the flower;
For Siddique, Allah, and
His Prophet suffice.”
After the death of the Prophet (s.a.w.), when Abu Bakr was elected as Caliph of the Muslims, he addressed the community and said:
“O People! I have been chosen by you as your leader, although I am no better than any of you. If I do any wrong, set me right. Listen! Truth is honesty and untruth is dishonesty. The weak among you are the powerful in my eyes, as long as I do not give them their dues. The powerful among you are weak in my eyes, as long as I do not take away from them what is due to others".
“Listen carefully! If people give up striving for the cause of Almighty Allah, He will send down disgrace upon them. If people become evil-doers, Almighty Allah will send down calamities upon them."
“Obey me as long as I obey Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad, s.a.w.). If I disobey Allah and His Messenger, you are free to disobey me.”
After Abu Bakr (r.a.a.) had assumed the Caliphate, he distributed all that was in the ‘House of Charity’ (‘Bait-al-Maal’ – the funds in the State account reserved for the poor) among the needy and the poor. He had a House of Charity at al Saneh area with no guards to watch over. One day someone asked him, ‘O Caliph of the Messenger! Would you appoint someone at the House of Charity as guard?”
Abu Bakr answered, “There’s nothing to worry about. We have given away everything that was in it. There’s nothing left.”
When Abu Bakr died, he had no valuable possessions. He had no Dirham or Dinar at home. Everything that was beyond his daily needs, he would donate it in charity.
And now, let’s see how Umar ruled!
Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab had the largest Muslim territory under his rule and people’s welfare and social justice was his main concern. He used to wander in disguise at night in the streets of Medina to see for himself if people were living in peace; and nobody slept hungry. One night, as he was doing his patrol, somebody saw him and asked him who he was. When the man came face to face with Caliph Umar, he recognized him and said:
“O Ameer-el-Moumineen, is that you?”
Caliph Umar said: “Yes, it is me, Umar bin al-Khattab.”
The man said: “But O Umar, you are the Caliph, the king, the leader of all Muslims. You can depute somebody to patrol the streets. Why are you doing it yourself? You run the affairs of the Caliphate during the day, you should be sleeping at night.”
Caliph Umar replied: “Yes, I am the Caliph and the leader of all Muslims. And for the same reason, I am patrolling the streets because if, during my tenure as Caliph, even a dog sleeps without food, I will be held responsible for that. How would I answer Allah for that on the Day of Judgment?”
Vow! Those were the leaders! Gandhi didn’t mention the rule of Abu Bakr and Umar for no reasons.
During the times of Caliph Umar bin Khattab, a great servant of Allah, Saeed bin Aamer, was appointed as governor of Hams. After some time, some people of Hams complained and asked for his removal. Caliph Umar was a bit surprised. He was an excellent judge of people and could not believe what he heard. He prayed to Allah to bless him with wisdom, and then went to Hams to see the concerned parties. He held the court at Saeed’s place and suggested that Governor Saeed bin Aamer listen to the complaints of the people. He then asked the people about their complaints. The people said that they had three complaints. The first complaint was that the governor used to leave home late and never started the business of the court early in the morning.
Caliph Umar asked Saeed bin Aamer to explain.
Governor Saeed replied that his wife was the only person at home who would take care of the household. They had no servants. He helped her to make the dough and bake the bread. Then they would eat together. After that, he would do the ablution (wudhu) and leave home for work.
Caliph Umar then asked the people what their second complaint was. The people said that the governor did not entertain their complaints at night. He would tell them to come in the morning.
Caliph Umar turned to Governor Saeed and asked for his explanation. Saeed bin Aamer said that he did not like to answer that question but as a token of respect for the Caliph, he would explain. He said that he had divided the day and night into two parts. The day was reserved for the service of the creation (people); and the night was reserved for the Creator (Allah). He said that he prayed to Allah all night, therefore, he could not attend any worldly business.
Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab asked people what was their third complaint. The people said that the governor used to take one day off every month. On that day, he would not take care of people’s business.
Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab asked Saeed bin Aamer how would he answer to that? Governor Saeed explained that he had no servants or maids. He washed his own clothes once every month and then waited for them to dry. When the clothes were dry by the evening, he would put them on to go out. He could not come out of his house earlier.
Caliph Umar thanked Allah for his selection of Saeed bin Aamer as governor; then he advised people to appreciate such a governor. Later on, Caliph Umar sent a gift of one thousand Dinars for Saeed bin Aamer to facilitate his household needs. His wife suggested that she could hire a maid for the household. Governor Saeed told his wife that there were still poor people around who needed the money more than her. What if they came to ask for help? The wife understood and agreed with his suggestion to donate the money in charity (Sadaqah). Then both of them put that money in small pouches and distributed it among the needy.
That’s how a ruler should take care of his subjects!
Those were the Muslim rulers of yesterday. Today, the problem with us, Muslims, is that we don’t fear Allah. We don’t think that we are going to die sooner or later. We don’t think about the Day of Judgment and answering questions in front of Allah. We have become hypocrites (Munafiq) as we say one thing and we do something else. We lie to others every day and we don’t consider it a sin or something immoral. It is accepted as normal behavior in the society.
We read the Holy Quran and still we don’t get the message! We read about other nations and generations that were destroyed because of their sins and evil-doing. We don’t learn any lesson from the Quran, nor from the history of the nations. We know that it happened to other nations but we think that it is not going to happen to us. Allah says:
“How many a township have We destroyed
while it was sinful, so that it lies (to this day)
in ruins, and (how many) a deserted well and
lofty tower! Have they not traveled in the land,
so that they may have hearts wherewith to feel,
and ears wherewith to hear? For indeed it is not
the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts, which
are within the bosoms, that grow blind.”
So, we are getting blind and cannot see things coming. Maybe, we don’t want to see it as the mere thought of it is very disturbing for us. We just want comfortable lives, but we don’t want to do anything for that. We want others to do it for us. We ask the governments to do things for us,but we forget that the governments also consist of people like us. Those who are in power, they care for their own interests. Nobody cares about the man in the street.
Ironically the man in the street is also thinking how to make easy money; how to get closer to the rich and powerful to benefit from it! It is a vicious cycle and nobody wants to break it.
The funny thing in most of the Muslim countries is that everybody who works for the government would like to play the ‘boss’ but nobody takes any responsibility – power, but no responsibility? Yes, that is what they believe in.
Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab used to say: “If a camel in Baghdad (Iraq) tumbles during my tenure, I will be responsible for it because I did not pave the way or facilitate the passage for Muslims.”
That’s righteousness; that’s piety; and that’s responsibility towards people! As a matter of fact, that is Islam! It is a rare commodity today.
(Excerpts from the Chapter “Islam Is = Righteousness + Justice” of my new book ‘Remember Me, I’ll Remember You!’, to be released by Amazon, in May 2017, Insha-Allah.)