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Towards a Righteous Society (Part 3/4)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

 

Preaching with wisdom and fair exhortation in order to reach the depth of man’s soul, to sow the seeds of goodness and love of truth in him, and to extirpate the roots of evil and the causes of ills from him is the indispensable beginning. The key to every decision pertaining to righteousness is to reach the soul. Theglorious Qur’an refers to this when it says,

{Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they [first] change that which is in theirhearts…} (Ar-Ra`d 13: 11)

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Social education built on persuasion was one of the powerful weapons used by Islam for achieving social righteousness. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) constantly utilized the Qur’an and his own example and words to penetrate the hearts and minds of men; so they might learn the truth and attain righteousness, uphold reason, and dispense with pretexts laid before themselves and Allah.

For that reason, the period of law-making and securing commitments followed the period of calling to Allah’s worship. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) continued to summon people for thirteen years, until his call had filtered into their hearts and they had begun to occupy themselves in their assemblies with his message, inquiring into its great truth. Only after the Message had spread and a supporting public opinion had been formed for it in Yathrib did Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) call for the establishment of a Muslim state as the guardian of law and enjoin adherence to its tenets.

Thus did Islam attend to the ills of Arabian society at that time: first by summoning, then by legislating. Today, those who wish to attend to society’s needs should follow this course. They must look upon the message as the foundation of righteousness before they can legislate. They must abandon haste in favor of a gradual process of legislation. Only in such a manner can they prepare the atmosphere and make society ready to receive orders and accept commitments[1].

Briefly, then, Islam first used the message to reform society and resorted to legislation thereafter in order to protect the objectives of the Message. Islam made faith and right-doing the principal goals of every facet of life. Rights and obligations for both the individual and the community were given substance according to the precepts of right-doing. Every obligation as well as every right recognized in Islamic society revolves on right-doing toward the individual or the community, and every act that would remove good and bring forth evil, whether it yields gain to its perpetrator or to another, is forbidden.

For this reason, we find that Islam has concerned itself with all phases of life, defining the nature of responsibility within the limits of each phase for the purpose of realizing the overall objective: a life of contentment for all peoples of the world as a prelude to a more exalted and happier life in the next world.The Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) absolved no one person from his responsibility toward another. The Commander of the Faithful is responsible for the believers, his deputies and trustees for those under their jurisdiction, the head of the family for his family, the wife for her home, and the individual for his neighborhood as for himself. In the last analysis, every individual in the Islamic community is responsible for the rectitude of the entire community because, as we have seen, he is charged with the task of raising himself and summoning others to Allah for the sake of rendering this society upright. He preaches truth and cooperation in order to achieve beneficence and piety.

The emphasis on individual and collective responsibility is part and parcel of the teaching of right-doing, the second fundamental of Islam after belief in the one Allah. No armor is more suitable for resisting evil and the ills of society than Islamic ethical upbringing, upon which the fortunes and status of men in Islamic society have always rested; it is the element which solidifies the community and preserves it from decay.

The next part of the series elaborates more on solidarity being a fruit of the existence of a righteous society.


[1] The manner in which liquor was prohibited in Islam, first by preaching and then by progressive legislation, illustrates how Islam accomplishes ends by gradual steps.


References

Taken, with slight modifications, from Azzam’s The Eternal Message