Serving humanity - Islam's mission
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
Serving and treating fellow human beings with courtesy and kindness is an essential part of a good moral conduct. All world religions share and support this concept. The Holy Qur’an details the teachings of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and all succeeding prophets from his son, Prophet Ishaque (AS)’s progeny. Their covenant is mentioned in Aayah 83-84 of Surah Al-Baqarah in these words:
“Remember when We took a pledge from the Children of Israel: ‘Worship none but one Allah; be good to your parents and kinsfolk, to orphans and the poor; speak good words to all people; keep good words to all people; keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms. Then all but a few of you turned away and paid no heed.”
The Holy Qur’an emphasizes two essential principles to live by after charting the course of life according to fundamental Islamic beliefs. First is to have strong relationship with Allah (SWT), and fulfilling those rights which He has upon us. We are required to have firm belief in the monotheistic doctrine and submitting and worshipping Allah (SWT) alone. The second principle is to be good, kind, and helpful to fellow human beings. This entails fulfilling obligations and duties we owe to our parents, relatives, neighbors, orphans, widows, poor, sick and the needy. Aayah 36 of Surah Nisa’ briefly identifies those who deserve help:
“Worship Allah; join nothing with Him. Be good to your parents, to relatives, to orphans, to the needy, to neighbors near and far, to travelers in need, and to our slaves.”
The mission of Islamic life is to be of service and a source of comfort, and not a cause of hardship or discomfort to others. All human beings are not alike; some are well to do while others are under-privileged. Islam demands from the former to serve the latter and provide them what they need for survival. The blessings we enjoy day and night are given by Allah (SWT), and we did not earn, nor did any thing special to deserve them. It is Allah’s mercy for which we should be thankful and the best way to thank Him is to let the “have-nots” share those blessings with those of us who have. No one can claim that he deserves what Allah (SWT) has given him, unless he is an arrogant ungrateful rebel and mentally blind. The man should first look at himself and the miraculous body which he has been given. Each part performs its functions precisely and tirelessly - the eyes, ears, heart, brain, hands and legs to mention a few. Imagine life without them. Then he should look beyond to the world around him which has been made to serve him. And if he does not feel the need to serve and lack the will to help others, he than is a thankless person who does not recognize his Creator. Qur’an warns on such insensitivity, and exhorts Muslims to serve mankind. Aayahs 8-20 of Surah Al-Balad says:
“Did we not give him eyes, a tongue, lips, and point out to him the two clear ways [of good and evil]? Yet he has not attempted the steep path. What will explain to you what the steep path is? It is to free a slave, to feed at a time of hunger an orphaned relative or a poor person in distress, and to be one of those who believe and urge on another to steadfastness and compassion. Those who do this will be on the right-hand side, but those who disbelieve in Our revelations will be on the left-hand side, and the Fire will close in on them.”
Serving and helping others is serving Allah in the sight of Islam. If some one stretches his hand out to you to seek help, and if it returns empty, you than have refused to help Allah. To please Allah is through pleasing His bondsmen. The One in heaven becomes kind to you if you are kind to those who inhabit the earth. As narrated by Abu Hureyrah (RA), Prophet (SAW) said:
“Verily, Allah the Exalted and Glorious will say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘O son of Adam, I was indisposed but you did not visit Me.’ He would say: ‘O my Lord, how could I visit You as You are the Lord of the world?’ Thereupon Allah would say: ‘Did you not know that such and such slave of Mine was ill but you did not visit him? Did you not realize that if you had visited him, you would have found [its reward] with Me? O son of Adam, I asked food from you but you did not feed Me.’ He would submit: ‘My Lord, how could I feed You as You are the Lord of the worlds?’ Allah would say: ‘Did you not know that such and such a slave of Mine asked you for food but you did not feed him? Did you not realize that if you had fed him, you would have found [its reward] with Me? O son of Adam, I asked for water from you but you did not give it to Me.’ He would say: ‘My Lord, how could I give you (water) as You are the Lord of worlds.’ There upon Allah (SWT) would say: ‘Such and such a slave of Mine asked you for water to drink but you did not give it to him. Did you not realize that if you had given him the drink you would have found (its reward) with Me.” [Muslim]
Islam teaches us to open our hearts and minds to help the needy and the destitute without any distinction of color, creed, race or religion. One has to rise above these biases and prejudices. Humanity is just one and one family. We are from one father and one mother. Abdullah bin Masood (RA) relates that Prophet (SAW) said: “The entire humanity is Allah’s family, and Allah loves him most from among this family, who benefits the family most. [Mishkawt]
Jarir bin Abdullah (RA) reported that Allah’s Messenger said: “He who is not merciful to people Allah will not be merciful to him.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
Kind treatment to Allah’s creatures is very much liked by Allah. Even animals and birds are included in this category. Kind treatment with them makes a person eligible to the Mercy of Allah. Decent behavior with people has been specifically mentioned in this tradition although all creatures are covered by it.
Abu Hurairah (RA) says that once Prophet (SAW) approached a group of people sitting around and asked: “Should I tell you as to who is good from among you and who is bad?” He (SAW) repeated the question three times. A companion submitted: “Please advise us Ya Rasul Allah.” He (SAW) said: “The best from among you is the one from whom you expect the good and people are safe from his mischief. And the worst from among you is the one from whom you don’t expect any good and people are not safe from his mischief.” [Tirmidhi]
These traditions highlight that service is the mission of a Muslim without any distinction or discrimination and such a service guarantees Allah’s reward and pleasure. Islam exhorts its followers to be self-motivated to do acts of virtue and goodness not only for the Muslims but to the entire human society. Islam motivates Muslims to extend material and moral support to all those who need it.
According to a tradition Muslims are urged “to speak sweetly” [Muslim].
According to another tradition, they are exhorted to rush to help the one who seeks help and guide him who is lost on his way. [Abu Dawood].
One should go beyond verbal sympathy to help those who experience financial difficulties. Islam wants us spend money on the well being of others. In fact that part of wealth is real saving which is spent to free others from the yoke of debt and economic hardships. It is in this context that Islam has mandatedZakah (poors’ due), which constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam and has been mentioned along with Salah (prayers) in many places in the Holy Qur’an.Aayah 5 of Surah Al-Bayyina says:
“…though all they are ordered to do is worship Allah alone, sincerely devoting their religion to Him as people of true faith, keep up the prayer, and pay the prescribed alms, for that is the true religion.”
In the light of this Aayah, service to humanity is considered as worship. Attribute of Allah conscious people has been mentioned as such in Aayah 19 ofSurah Al-Thariyaat.
“…giving a rightful share of their wealth to the beggar and the deprived.”
Prophet (SAW) as reported by Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari (RA) said: “Giving charity is an obligation upon every Muslim.”
At another occasion, Prophet (SAW) said: “Do not belittle any good deed, even meeting you brother (Muslim) with a cheerful face.” [Muslim]
People may have long term needs as well as short term needs. There are always opportunities to help if some one is looking for either of them. There are people all the time in all societies who cannot afford one meal a day not to speak the luxury of 3 meals per day which most of enjoy. To feed a hungry person is a small act, but if everyone can feed one person, no one will go hungry. The Holy Qur’an mentions the attribute of virtuous people in Aayah 8-9 inSurah Ad-Dahr:
“…they give food to the poor, the orphan, and the captive, though they love it themselves, saying, ‘We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: We seek neither recompense nor thanks from you.”
Abdullah bin Salaam (RA) prior to embracing Islam was Christian. He said that I went to see Prophet (SAW) when he immigrated to Madinah. The moment I saw his blessed face, I immediately knew that it cannot be the face of a liar. The first thing that Prophet (SAW) said was:
“O people, exchange greetings of peace (i.e. say: As-Salamu Alaikum to one another), feed people, strengthen the ties of kinship, and be in prayer when others are asleep, you will enter Paradise in peace. [Tirmidhi]
To feed the indigent, meek and poor was the favorite act of Prophet (SAW)’s companions. Abdullah bin Umar (RA) did not eat unless there was person to share food with him. [Bukhari]
There is a great lesson for us in this story:
“Once a man came to Prophet (SAW) and said: “I am hard pressed by hunger.” Prophet found that he had nothing to feed him, so he (SAW) said to his companions: “Who will entertain this (man) as a guest?” One of the Ansars said: “Ya Rasul Allah I will.” So he took him home and asked his wife: “Have you got anything?” She answered: “Nothing, except a little food for the children.” He said: “Keep the children busy with something and when they ask for food put them to sleep. When the guest enters, extinguish the light and give him the impression that we are also eating.” So they sat down and the guest ate and they passed the night hungry. When he came to the Prophet (SAW) in the morning, he said to him, “Allah admired what you with your guest last night.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
Aayah 9 of Surah Al-Hashr relates to this incident:
“Those who were already firmly established in their homes [in Medina], and rooted in their faith, show love for those who migrated to them for refuge and harbor no desire in their hearts for what has been given to them. They give them preference over themselves, even if they too are poor: those who are saved from their own souls’ greed are truly successful.”
The basic human need after food is dress and to provide dress to the one who does not have it guarantees a reward. Among long term needs is to provide shelter, raise and educate an orphan, provide provisions to the widows. Prophet (SAW) joining his two fingers said: “The one who looks after the needs of an orphan will be with me like this [two fingers joined together] in Paradise.”
Prophet (SAW) equated those who look after the needs of widows and the meek women with those who pray the whole night.
These are just a few examples to show the importance which Islam gives to serving, helping and assisting others morally and materially in their hour of need. May Allah enable us to be kind, compassionate, and helpful and perceptive in meeting the needs of fellow human beings and serve Allah’s family selflessly to win His pleasure. Aamin!
SWT = Subhanahu Wa Ta'Ala
SAW = Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam
AS = AlehisSalam
RA = Radhiyallaho anhu
RAnha= Radhiyallaho anha