In the Name of God, the Beneficent,
O You who have attained to faith! If any iniquitous person comes to you with a [slanderous] tale, use your discernment (verify it), lest you hurt people unwittingly and afterwards be filled with remorse for what you have done.
(Chapter 49: 6 Surah Al Hujjarat) (The Rooms)
By Ejaz Naqvi
Muslims do not have the “Ten Commandments” per se (even though they believe in all of them). In the era of social media, fake news and ridiculing and defamation of the “other”, one short chapter of the Qur’an provides simple, and yet powerful life lessons and a guide for conduct behaviour towards each other.
Chapter 49, Surah Al Hujjarat (The Rooms) starts by teaching basic mannerism to the early Muslims as to how they should behave in front of Prophet Muhammad, including not raising their voices or calling him aloud.
After the first 5 verses set aside the mannerism towards the Prophet, the next set of verses serve as guidelines for how they should interact with each other.
1. Investigate The Information Or News Before Spreading It To Others.
How often do we hear something bad about a person, or people, and are quick to spread it. How often do we put information/news on our social media platforms without verifying or researching it? Let’s keep the ‘fake news’ to ourselves.
O You who have attained to faith! If any iniquitous person comes to you with a [slanderous] tale, use your discernment (verify it), lest you hurt people unwittingly and afterwards be filled with remorse for what you have done. 49:6
2. Make Peace Between Quarrelling Groups.
Like the New Testaments (Blessed are the peacemakers”¦), the Qur’an puts a premium on the peacemakers.
Hence, if two groups of believers fall to fighting, make peace between them”¦. 49:9
3. Act with Justice and Fairness:
Not only do we need to be the peacemakers, but when acting as peacemaker, we must act with justice and equity.
“¦.but if one of them acts wrongfully towards the other, fight that which acts wrongfully until it returns to Allah’s command; then if it returns, make peace between them with justice and act equitably; surely Allah loves those who act equitably. 49:9
4. Don’t Ridicule People.
For all we know, they (people we are ridiculing) may actually be better than us!
O you who believe! let not (one) people ridicule (other) people perchance they may be better than they, nor let women (ridicule) (other) women, perchance they may be better than they; “¦ 49:11
5. Don’t Insult Or Defame One Another.
This one is rather straight forward as in “thou shall not kill”.
“¦And neither shall you defame one another”¦49-11
6. Don’t Call Each Other With Offensive Nicknames Or Epithets.
Calling each names may be “funny” to some, but it is disliked by the Almighty. Nicknames such as “Shorty” or calling someone with the N word are all considered offensive.
“¦nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong. 49-11
The full verse with the three commands noted is as follows.
O you who believe! let not (one) people ridicule (other) people perchance they may be better than they, nor let women (ridicule) (other) women, perchance they may be better than they. And neither shall you defame one another, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong. 49-11
7. Avoid Negative Assumptions (Suspicions).
Indeed some of these negative assumptions are considered sins. Let’s not get paranoid about each other.
O you who have attained to faith! Avoid suspicion as much: for suspicion in some cases is a sin”¦ 49-12
8. Don’t Spy On Each Other.
Suspicion of each may lead to spying on each other and backbiting, and they are all despised. This is commanded in the middle part of verse 12, noted below.
9. Don’t Backbite Each Other.
Backbiting is as bad as eating one’s dead brother’s flesh! As harsh as it seems, the Qur’an draws this parallel to highlight how disgusting is backbiting in the sight of God, so we must not take it lightly.
“¦And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You abhor that (so abhor the other)! And be conscious of Allah! Allah is Relenting, Merciful. 49-12
10. Be Best In Conduct:
After addressing the preceding set of verses to those “who have attained to faith” ( a common term used in the Qur’an to the followers of Prophet Muhammad at the time), the next verse then addresses the entire mankind.This is a passage that I have shared numerous times with my interfaith circles and in my presentations, as it serves as a stark reminder that we are all children of Adam, that we are equal in the sight of God, and what separates us is our conduct and how God-conscious we are.
O mankind! Behold! We have created you from a male and female, and have made you (into) nations and tribes (so) that you may know each another. (not that ye may despise each other).Verily the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct (most conscious of God). Verily, God is all-knowing, all-aware. 49:13
The importance of good behaviour is not only limited to when dealing among Muslims. The following verse is a guide I keep in mind during my interfaith work with everyone, though this particular passage pertains to dialogue with Jews and Christians.
And do not argue with the People of the Book except in the best manner, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which has been revealed unto us, and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we (peacefully) submit. 29:46