Pearls from the Quran

Building a Better Us – 3 Quran Verses for a Better Society

In this series we have journeyed together through the Quran verses of Chapter three to assess their impact on our lives. We looked at facing life-changing moments and the story of Mary, Mother of Jesus, whose experience helps us become better Muslims.

For this article I wanted to take a different turn, focusing on the Quran verses that not only help to create a better “you” as an individual, but shape our interactions with others and the collective “us.” Whether we happen to live in the West or the middle of a majority-Muslim society, these Quran verses set-up the methods, purposes, and broader goals of human interaction.    

Fulfilling Your Obligations

The first verse comes from the beginning of the fifth chapter, Al-Ma’idah, and states:

O you who have believed, fulfill [all] contracts. (5:1)

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The word contract in Arabic (‘aqd), refers to every binding relationship created between human beings and not simply commercial transactions. As Muslims, when we make a promise, we follow through with it, no matter how small it may seem.

When you promise to help your younger siblings with their homework, to help a colleague at work, or even to help around the housework, that is a binding tie with spiritual value.

Fulfilling these obligations means that we are responding to the commands of God and becoming better Muslims in the process.

Additionally, although this is a personal commandment, the fulfillment of the promises that we make to others builds trust between individuals within broader society.

Trust fosters friendships and relationships with those around us, bettering the nature of the Muslim community and improving the overall image of Islam for others seeking to learn more about the faith.

Learning from Each Other

In chapter 49 we find the oft-cited verse of God’s purpose behind human creation:

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (49:13)

Our differences in race, religion, nationality, and economic status are all there for us to get to know and learn from one another. No person is better than any other, whether in the sight of God or humanity, except through the lens of righteousness and piety.

When you see a successful person in this world, look to their achievements as an example to learn from. See how they approach the world and think about issues and adapt your viewpoint accordingly. But be careful: the verse does not command us to imitate others entirely, as a successful person in this world might be severely lacking in their spiritual life.

Rather, the verse encourages us to intelligently observe people in the world around us. Think about what they might be getting wrong and where you could improve when applied to your own journey. At the societal level, when faced with a problem as a community, look to others to see how they have overcome the same issues. Avoid their missteps but take from them the best aspects of their experience.

The Goal of Cooperation

The final verse brings us back to chapter Al-Ma’idah and summarizes the goal of human cooperation.

… And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty. (5:2)

 Human interaction, whether between Muslims or non-Muslims, has a set goal: to do the right thing. Developing our societies, helping others, and building productive and cooperative relationships are divinely ordained.

When it comes to working in our communities, look for ways to set aside personal differences and focus on a better goal. In business or school meetings, be the one that brings the group back together to focus on the project at hand.

Provide constructive criticism when needed, but don’t over-emphasize the faults of others.

Behind the cooperation amongst Muslims in the verse is a personal “fear” of God, better translated as a “consciousness” of God’s presence and knowledge. What we do together here will have a direct result in the Next Life.

The consciousness of God therefore adds the additional element of perseverance. Working together with a diverse group of people can be difficult, and differences of opinion can easily break a group apart or bring us off the right path. Before you jump headfirst into conflict, keep mindful of the presence of God in your interactions.      

In conclusion, the Quran acts as a blueprint for Muslims not only in our personal lives, but in the ways that we interact with others.

Through honesty and faithfulness in fulfilling our promises, learning from the successes (and sometimes failures) of others, and establishing a sprit of positive cooperation, we can become not only better individuals but become constructive members of our society, reflecting positively on our community and our faith.     

About Brian Wright
Brian Wright is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi. He holds a PhD from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. His dissertation was on Islamic criminal law in Egypt, India, and Ottoman Turkey during the 19th century. He has studied fiqh with a number of traditional scholars in Egypt and India.