The holy Quran is a beautiful tapestry of repeating parables, divine guidance, biblical warnings, and holy commandments, assertions and prohibitions which, if understood and acted in letter and spirit with full sincerity and faith, can make a Muslim a complete human being serving Allah and following His prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in a way that ensures a smooth life for him or her in this mortal world and a comfortable abode in Paradise in the hereafter.
The 114 chapters in the holy Quran are not based on any specific topic or story. Even where some chapters are named after stories of prophets or people described in the holy Quran, such as Surah Al-Kahf or Surah Yusuf, there is still enough guidance interwoven with the stories of the youth of the cave, the two friends in a garden, prophet Moses meeting Khizr, journeys of Zulqarnain and the story of prophet Joseph and his brothers. This unique narrative style makes the holy Quran easily approachable from any chapter or any page and still it sounds like reading it from the start. In that sense, the holy Quran does not really have a beginning or middle or end. It is a complete message no matter how much or little you read it at any given time, as long as you are receptive to it and are prepared to follow it in your life.
In this essay we will compare two Surahs which stand out specially in terms of learning the etiquette of our relationship with our Creator Allah, as well as the rules of our relationship with other Muslims and human beings living together as a community. The former is listed in Surah Al Isra. The latter is described in Surah Al-Hujaraat.
Relationship between humans and Allah
The guidance for this relationship is beautifully described in Surah Al-Isra (Chapter 49). These guidelines are meant for all humanity but particularly for Muslims. These are listed in their order as follows:
Do not associate partners with Allah, for if you do, you will end up condemned and abandoned (verse 22).
Worship Allah and honour your parents. Serve them well in old age and do not hurt them. When they pass away, pray for their forgiveness, (verse 23). It is significant that serving parents comes right after worship of Allah and shows how important it is to respect your parents after obeying God.
Give your relatives their due share of love, respect and attention, as well as spend on the poor and the needy person caught in travel but don’t be spendthrift (verse 26).
If you can’t help a poor person because you don’t yet have the means to do so, excuse yourself kindly and without disrespecting him or attacking his dignity (verse 28).
Do not be miserly nor thrifty in your financial affairs. You could easily become blameworthy for being a miser and poor for being too spendthrift (verse 29).
Don’t take away the right of life from your offspring for fear of scarcity. It is a grave mistake to do so (verse 31).
In the above four verses, Allah’s power of providing food and means of living to every single living being is highlighted, but His distribution of Rizq is unique and limitless. There is a share of your provisions in other people’s Rizq, and there is a share of others in your Rizq. This makes humans interdependent on each other underlying mutual cooperation, support and compassion. Acknowledge this by helping others and by being kind to the less privileged and poor. Doing so increases faith and obedience of Allah.
Do not go near adultery. It is a shameful and evil act (verse 32). A society based on lewdness, corruption and immoral acts invites Allah’s wrath and is destroyed and replaced by other people. Allah warns us to beware of Shaitan’s treachery. Shaitan makes nudity and lewdness appear attractive to the children of Adam. Such immoral acts lead mankind into disgrace and cause their downfall. The Quran has tells us the plan of Shaitan because he used it once before on Adam and Eve and caused their exit from Heaven.
Do not take anyone’s life except when it is legal. The heirs of the person killed unlawfully have a right to demand justice and retribution in equal measure (verse 33). This verse teaches an important lesson. Allah is the sole owner of life and death. No one has the right to take human life, including his own, except Allah.
Do not touch the wealth of orphans under your care, except investing it on their behalf until they reach the age of maturity (verse 34).
Honour your pledges, for you will be questioned about them (verse 34). Pledge is an important part of faith. The covenant between Allah and humans is unchangeable. When Allah gathered the souls of children of Adam from the first to the last born before creating the world, He asked: “Am I not your Lord” to which, they all replied: “of course, we are witnessed to it” (Surah Al Araaf verse 172). This covenant is unchangeable and anyone who breaks it will be questioned on the Day of Judgement.
Be fair in your weights and measures and weigh your trading goods in correct scales (verse 35). This is an important sign of being true and honest to God who has created everything in the universe according to a fixed measure. A slight alteration in the path of the sun or a fraction of movement of planets away from their orbits can cause havoc in the universe and result in huge collusions of monumental scales. It is so significant a commandment that the nation of prophet Shoaib was destroyed for being persistently dishonest in weights and measures.
Do not follow what you are unsure about. Indeed you will be held accountable for your actions and what you see, hear and think (verse 36). Allah warns us that we should not rely on our whims and doubts because Shaitan plants these in our hearts. If we follow them, we will start to doubt our faith and stray away from the right path Allah has shown us.
Do not walk on earth with arrogance (verse 27). Man is created so weak and small that he can neither cause the earth to crack, nor can he touch the height of its mountains . It is important to acknowledge in our declaration and action that only Allah is worthy of this greatness and we as human beings are totally dependent on His mercy and help to survive and succeed.
Do not associate any idol with Allah. If you do, you will be cast into Hell and will be among the rejected ones (verse 39).
Recite the holy Quran, for it creates a barrier between the faithful and the unbelievers (verse 45).
Speak only what is the best speech. Shaitan seeks to sow the seeds of discord among mankind, for he is their greatest enemy (verse 53).
Establish prayer from the decline of the sun until the darkness of the night and read the early-morning prayer, which is witnessed by angels (verse 78).
Stand before your Lord in the latter part of the night for additional prayers so that you can be raised to the rank of praiseworthy people (verse 79).
Say: “my Lord, grant me an honourable entry and an honourable exit and provide me your support” (verse 80).
Declare that the Truth has come and falsehood has vanished. Indeed falsehood cannot last long (verse 81).
Call upon Allah with any of the beautiful names describing His attributes (verse 110). Allah Himself provides His names in Surah Al-Hashr verses 22-24. Allah is One and only. He is Al Alim, Al Rahman, Al Raheem, Al Malik, Al Quddus, Al Salam, Al Momin, Al Muhaimin, Al Aziz, Al Jabbar, Al Mutakabbir, Al Khaliq, Al Bari, Al Musawwir, and Al Hakeem.
Do not be too loud nor too silent in your prayers, but seek the middle ground (verse 110).
Revere and glorify Allah, for He has no son, no daughter, and no partner to share His kingdom with. Nor does He need any helper or protector (verse 111).
Relationship between humans
The guidance for this relationship is provided in the early part of Surah Al-Hujarat (Chapter 49). These set out the basic rules of conduct of a more diverse Muslim community comprising people from all backgrounds and levels of faith. This Surah was revealed after the conquest of Makkah when the former infidels from the local tribes in Makkah accepted Islam and were given equal rights with the Muhajirs and Ansars of Medina.
These guidelines also reinforce ties of brotherhood and behaviour Muslims should adopt to facilitate a peaceful and tolerant community living in harmony with others. The first and foremost of these guidelines is their relationship with Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who was their political and spiritual leader and one of their own. Then, there are guidelines about how to deal with one another and with those whose faith is incomplete or corrupted, but yet they are not infidels, nor deniers of faith.
The addressees of this Surah are Muslims. The guidelines set out the following rules to be followed by them in human interaction.
Do not place yourself and your desires above the commandments of Allah and the teachings of His messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him (verse 1).
Lower your voice and do not raise it above the voice of the prophet, nor speak loudly to him as you speak to one another (verse 2).
If a Faasiq (evil doer) brings you any startling news, do not react until you have verified it to be correct (verse 6).
If two groups among Muslims fight against each other, make peace between them. If one of them transgresses, fight against the transgressor until it is subdued and then seek peace between them. Exercise justice and fairness in making and preserving peace (verse 9).
Believers are part of one fraternity. Make peace among them. Ensure that hey live in peace and tranquillity (verse 10).
Do not permit your men and women to ridicule people from your own (or other) nation or community, lest some of those ridiculed may be better than you. Do not defame one another, nor call each other by offensive nicknames (verse 11).
Resist suspicion, for it is a sinful thing. Do not spy, nor intrude in the private affairs of others you have no business with; and do not speak ill of others in their absence. Indeed backbiting is an abominable thing and a despicable act (verse 12).
The most noble among you in the sight of Allah is one who is the most righteous among you (verse 13).
As stated in the introduction of this essay, the style of the holy Quran is purposefully repetitive. It is no surprise then that some of these commands are repeated in other places such as in the advice of the wise man Luqman to his son in Surah Luqman (verses 13-19) and in the description of the qualities of the obedient slaves of Allah in Surah Al-Furqan (verses 63-76). But the crux of these commands is the same. Muslims have duties toward their Lord and toward their other fellow Muslims and human beings. Their obligations are best discharged when they obey Allah’s instructions and follow His messenger, peace be upon him.