His Sensitivity About Other People’s Rights

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What is his sensitivity about other peoples rights?

“On the Day of Judgment, a man flees from his brother, and from his mother and his father, and from his wife and his children.”(Abasah, 80; 34-36)

Violation of other people’s rights is one of the greatest sins, which is regarded outside the endless mercy of Allah. Allah the Almighty has given the right to either punish or forgive the person whose right is violated. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) showed extra sensitivity to people’s rights and presented many exemplary behaviors in this matter. One of them is narrated by Abu Dhur’a (r.a.) as follows:

“During the expedition to Taif, I prepared Quṣwa, prophet’s camel, for him to ride, when we were in a place called Qarn al-Manazil. I held Quṣwa’s rein and handed it to the Prophet (pbuh) after he got on his camel. Then I got on its pillion. Allah’s Messenger was whipping the camel; and every time he whipped the camel, his whip was touching me, too. Then the Prophet (pbuh) turned to me and asked:

“Did my whip touch you?” I replied:

“Yes, O Messenger of Allah. May my father and mother be sacrificed for you.”

When we reached Jiranah, there were some cattle on one corner. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asked some questions about the booty to the man waiting by them. After the man answered his questions, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) called me. I answered his call. He told me:

“Take these cattle in return for the whips which touched you yesterday.” When I counted them, I found out that there were one hundred and twenty of them. These had been my most valuable possessions.” (Waqidi, III, 939)

In this example, fairness of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) about other people’s rights sheds light to centuries. We should imagine how wonderful our world would be, when it is shaped by the measures of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).

From an unknown person, Harb b. Surayj narrates the following exemplary story about the spiritual responsibility of people’s rights.

“I went to Medina and camped in the valley. Two people were bargaining for a goat. The buyer asked for a discount from the seller. Just then I saw someone coming. I told myself “I wonder if this was the Hashimite who misguided the people.” He was a handsome man with finely shaped eyebrows and a beautiful face. He was wearing two pieces of old dress. He directly came and greeted us. A little later the buyer called him:

“O Messenger of Allah! Tell him to make a discount for me.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) extended his hand and told him:

“…Your property belongs to you. I hope when I meet my Lord on Judgment Day, none of you face me claiming that I had violated his/her rights. May Allah the Almighty have mercy on those who provide convenience in buying, selling, holding, giving, and judging…”

The person who narrated this incident was affected by the Prophet’s words so much that he followed the Prophet (pbuh), asked him many questions about Islam, and then he converted to Islam saying:

“Until then there was not anybody whom I hated more than him; but now he is dearer to me than my children, my mother and father, and all other people.” (Haythami, IX, 18)

We should not violate people’s rights and be the cause of their tears, because there is no barrier between Allah the Almighty and the supplication of an oppressed.

With respect to other people’s rights, the Prophet (pbuh) expresses the significance of paying their rights back as follows:

 “Narrated by Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever has oppressed another person concerning his reputation or anything else, he should beg him to forgive him before the Day of Resurrection when there will be no money (to compensate for wrong deeds), but if he has good deeds, those good deeds will be taken from him according to his oppression which he has done, and if he has no good deeds, the sins of the oppressed person will be loaded on him.” (Bukhari, Mazalim, 10)

Those who violated other people’s rights should first ask for the forgiveness of the oppressed and then repent for their oppression before Judgment Day comes. For Judgment Day is the day of reckoning that neither gold nor silver will be helpful. Real damage, loss, and failure are those stated in the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh). In this respect, a believer is required not only to continue ritual prayers, fasting, almsgiving, and other types of worship, but also to stay away from the prohibitions of Islam.

The Prophet said, “A Muslim is the one who avoids harming Muslims with his tongue and hands…” (Bukhari, Iman, 4-5). Thus, he nicely expresses the significance of observing other people’s rights. He warns those who oppress and violate other people’s rights about Hell-fire. It is narrated on the authority of Abu Umama that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) once said:

“He who appropriated the right of a Muslim by swearing a false oath, Allah would make Hell-fire necessary for him and would declare Paradise forbidden for him.

A man said to him:

“O Messenger of Allah, even if it is something insignificant?”

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) replied:

“Yes, even if it is the twig of an arak tree.” (Muslim, Iman, 218)

Another type of violating people’s rights is to usurp or inappropriately use the state property. Especially those who work for public duties have to be very sensitive. Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) makes serious warnings in this respect. One of the incidents that express such warnings is as follows:

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) appointed a man from the Asad tribe who was called Ibn Lutbiyya in charge of collecting Sadaqa from the people on behalf of the State. When he returned (with the collections), he said:

“This is for you and (this is mine as) it was presented to me as a gift.” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stood on the pulpit and praised Allah and extolled Him. Then he said:

“I appointed someone as a State official who comes to me and says: This is for you and this has been presented to me as a gift. If he was saying the truth, why didn’t he stay in the house of his father or the house of his mother to see whether gifts were presented to him or not? By the Being in Whose Hand is the life of Muhammad, any one of you will not take anything from it but will bring it on the Day of Judgment, carrying on his neck a camel that will be growling, or a cow that will be bellowing or an ewe that will be bleating.”

Then he raised his hands so that we could see the whiteness of his armpits. Then he said twice:

“O Allah, have I conveyed (Your Commandments)?” (Muslim, Imarah, 26; Bukhari; Zakat, 3)

Here it is also expresses that those who work for the state must be very careful about the gifts given to them. These gifts are not really their rights. Therefore, when these duties are performed, one must be very careful and trustworthy. Because these properties belong to the public, even the least inequity is considered one of the greatest sins.

The following historical account shows how sensitive our predecessors were and how much they paid attention to live according to the warnings of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Before Ottoman Sultan Vahdettin left Istanbul, he asked that a book called Kıyâmetnâme be brought to him with its receipt. When he was forced to leave his country, he returned this book, whose miniatures were worth more than two million gold pieces at the time, to the state treasure. The people around him said:

“These are the gifts presented to you and your family by other sultans. Therefore these are your own possessions. There are buyers ready to pay two-three million gold pieces for this book. Could not you at least keep this with you as insurance? Sultan Vahdettin told them:

“You are right these are our personal property, for which we do not have to give any explanation. But think about, who would give my family these gifts if they were not sultans of this nation? Therefore my people have right in this property as much as I do. This is why I cannot betray my people.”[1]

This historical fact is a wonderful manifestation of how the Prophet’s Sunnah has been actively followed, protected, and held dearer than everything else by the believers for centuries.

It is narrated by ‘Umar b. Khattab (r.a.) that when it was the day of Khaibar a party of Companions of the Apostle (pbuh) came there and said:

“So and so is a martyr,”

Then they happened to pass by a man and said:

“So and so is a martyr.” Upon this the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) told them:

“Nay, not so verily I have seen him in the Fire for the garment or cloak that he had stolen from the booty…” (Muslim, Iman, 182)

Even though martyrdom is atonement for all kinds of sins, it cannot clear away the betrayal against state property. This is why the Prophet (pbuh) informed that someone who had stolen a garment from state property was in Hell and he taught his ummah that this was an unforgivable sin.

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira:

“We went to Khaibar along with the Apostle (pbuh) and Allah granted us victory. We plundered neither gold nor silver but laid our hands on goods, corn and clothes, and then bent our stops to a valley; along with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) there was a slave who was presented to him by one Rifa’a b. Zaid of the family of Judham, a tribe of Dubayb. When we got down into the valley the slave of the Messenger of Allah stood up and began to unpack the saddle-bag and was suddenly struck by a stray arrow which proved fatal. We said:

“There is a greeting for him, O Messenger of Allah, as he is a martyr.” Upon this the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) remarked:

“Nay, not so. By Him in Whose hand is the life of Muhammad, the small garment which he stole from the booty on the day of Khaibar but which did not legitimately fall to his lot is burning like the Fire (of Hell) on him.”

The people were greatly scared on hearing this. A man brought to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) a lace or two laces and said:

“O Messenger of Allah, I took those on the day of Khaibar before the booty was distributed. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) told him:

“This is a lace of fire or two laces of fire. (He meant that there will be punishment for them)” (Bukhari, Ayman, 33; Muslim, Iman, 183)

Nothing can protect a person against Hell-fire, if he/she is a sinner, even if he/she was a companion, and even if he/she was in the service of the Prophet (pbuh). The companions in the above mentioned traditions were sent to Hell for stealing from state property; thus, they committed a great sin. In order to warn his followers to be careful under such circumstances the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to say:

“Some people spend Allah’s Wealth (i.e. Muslim’s wealth) in an unjust manner; such people will be put in the (Hell) Fire on the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari, Khumus, 7)

Another dangerous situation about violating people’s rights happens when resolving the disagreements among people. When there is a disagreement between two people, they take it to the court and file a lawsuit. Both sides defend themselves; and finally one of them wins the case and the other loses. However, the question of “whether the right side or the wrong side won the case” occupies the minds. In this respect, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) warns the believers as follows:

“You bring to me, for (judgment) your disputes, some of you perhaps being more eloquent in their plea than others, so I give judgment on their behalf according to what I hear from them. (Bear in mind, in my judgment) if I slice off anything for him from the right of his brother, he should not accept that, for I sliced off for him a portion from the Hell.” (Bukhari, Shahadat, 27; Muslim, Aqdiyah, 4)

Here is a famous proverb which is based on the above mentioned prophetic saying:

“We only judge based on the appearance, while only Allah knows the reality of the affairs.”

As it is stated in the proverb, human deeds require to be judged based on their appearance. People cannot know the unknown and inner sides of incidents unless Allah the Almighty lets them to be known. Like everybody else the Prophet (pbuh), too, judged based on the appearance of the affairs. He, too, was obliged to judge based on the statement of the witnesses, evidences, and oaths. Thus, he manifested the best example for his ummah in this manner. However, eloquence of the statements from witnesses and evidences may affect the result and it may not reflect the truth. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) threatens those who unjustly win the trial with Hell-fire. This is why parties of a trial and those who are responsible for the judgment should be very careful.

In respect to people’s rights, Islam does not discriminate human beings based on their religion or sect. The following narration clearly expresses this reality:

Tu’mah b. Ubayriq, from the tribe of the sons of Zafar, had stolen armor from his neighbor Qatadah b. Nu’man. He put the armor in a flour sack. Because the sack had holes in it, it leaked flour all the way from Qatadah’s house to Tu’mah’s. Then he hid the armor in Jewish Zayd b. Thamin’s house. When people searched and could not find the armor in Tu’mah’s house, he said:

“By Allah, I did not take it and I know nothing about it.” Upon this, owners of the armor said:

“Nay, by Allah he stole it. We saw him coming to our house; then he took the armor. We followed his trace to his house and we also saw the trail of flour.” The Prophet (pbuh) asked Tu’mah to swear that he had not stolen it. After he swore, the owners had to leave him. Then they followed the trace of flour, and found the house of the Jewish man. They brought him to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). The Jew said:

“Tu’mah b. Ubayriq gave me the armor” and a Jewish group testified for him. Tu’mah’s tribe, the sons of Zafar, came to the Messenger of Allah and defended their friend saying:

“O Messenger of Allah! If you do not punish this Jew for his crime, our friend will be ruined and will fall into disgrace.” Upon this, Allah the Almighty revealed the following verse and clearly showed who was guilty and who was not:

“And plead not on behalf of (people) who deceive themselves. Lo! Allah loves not one who is treacherous and sinful.” (al-Nisa 4; 107) Tu’mah escaped and ran to Mecca instead of repenting, and he converted out of Islam. (Tabari, Tafsir, IV, 364-365; Wahidi, p. 183)

In regards to such matters, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) says:

“May Allah curse those who cheat my ummah about the matters of religion or about the worldly matters…” (Muslim, Iman, 164) Being Muslim is not a requirement for the claimant or the owner of the right. The right has to be given to its real owner, no matter what his/her religion is. This can be observed in the following incident:

“Muslims’ preparations for the expedition to Khaibar made the Medinan Jews, who had signed a contract with the Muslims, worried and they took an action. They knew that the Prophet’s army would defeat the Jews of Khaibar like they defeated the Jews of Qaynuqah, Nadir, and Qurayzah. All the Medinan Jews, who had given loans to Muslims, asked for their loans back.

Abdullah b. Abi Hadrat owed five dirham to Jewish Abu Shahm. Abdullah had bought some barley from Abu Shahm. When Abu Shahm asked for his loan back, Abdullah told him:

“Give me some more time. God willing, I will pay my debt; because Allah the Most High has promised believers the booty of Khaibar. O Abu Shahm! We are going to the richest city in Hijaz.” Abu Shahm got very angry:

“Do you mistake the Khaibar Jews with the Arabs you fought before? I swear by the name of Torah, there are more than ten thousand warriors in Khaibar.” Abdullah replied:

“O enemy of Allah! You are under our protection. By Allah, I will take you to the Messenger of Allah.” And he took Abu Shahm to the Prophet (pbuh) and said:

“O Messenger of Allah! Listen to what this Jew says.” Then he informed the Prophet (pbuh) about what Abu Shahm had said before. For a while Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) stayed quiet and did not say anything. But his lips were moving. Abu Shahm said:

“O Abu al-Qasim! He violated my rights. He did not pay my money back.” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) told Abdullah:

“Give his money back.” Abdullah replied:

“I swear by Allah who has sent you as the right Prophet, I do not have the means to pay my debt back.” The Prophet (pbuh) told him again:

“Give his money back.” Abdullah replied:

“I swear by the One in whose Power my being is, I do not have the means to pay my debt back. I was hoping that you would take us to Khaibar, and we would get some share from the booty. I told him that I was going to pay my debt back from my booty share when I got back.” Allah’s messenger (pbuh) told him third time:

“Give his money back.” Upon this Abdullah went to the Medina market. He took of his cloak and wrapped himself with his turban. He sold his cloak for four dirhams. He then found one more dirham and paid his debt back.” (Ibn Hanbal, III, 423; Waqidi, II, 634-635)

At the end of his life, the Prophet (pbuh) gave his companions similar advice because of its significance:

“I am a human being. Some of you might have their rights on me. If I had taken anything from your property, here are my possessions. He/she can come and take his/her right. I want you to know it well that for me the best of you is the one who either comes and takes his/her right or wholeheartedly gives it up to me. So I can go to the presence of my Lord with a clear conscience.

No one can say that “he/she fears from the enmity and hate of the Messenger of Allah.” You should know it well that I do not bear grudge and enmity to anybody. I do not feel disdainful to repeat my words to you.” Then he repeated his words. An Arab got up and said:

“O Prophet of Allah, once you told me to give someone three dirhams and I did.” Muhammad (pbuh) said:

“You are telling the truth.” He immediately asked Fadl to pay him his due. Then he continued his words:

“Dear Lord! I am just a human being. If I should ever say a harsh word or lash at a believer, let that be a means for him/her as a blessing, mercy, and reward in the Hereafter.” (Ibn Hanbal, III, 400)

“O Allah! If I should ever abuse a believer, please let that be a means of bringing him near to You on the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari, Daawat, 34) Then he said:

“O, People. Whosoever owes anything to anyone should repay his debt and should not feel humiliated in this world, for it is easier to be ashamed here than on the Day of the Judgment.” (Ibn Sa’d, II, 255; Tabari, Tarikh, III, 191)

If a believer wants to be close to the Prophet (pbuh) on the Day of Judgment, it is necessary for him/her to follow his footsteps, obey his commands, and be very careful about other people’s rights. In order to reach this goal, all means and opportunities should be wisely utilized.

[1] Mısıroğlu, Kadir, Lozan Zafer Mi Hezîmet Mi?, Iii, 150. (Quoted From Refii Cevad Ulunay, “Bu Gözler Neler Gördü?…” Tercüman Gazetesi, 18 November 1969)

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