Attending jumu’ah on a weekly basis can give us an opportunity to learn many things. However, nearly every Friday towards the end of the khutbah, the khatib recites a verse that many of us are accustomed to,
|“Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” [An-Nahl; 90]|
Some of us may have even memorised this verse directly from the mouth of the Imam during the Friday Khutbah. Why do Imams recite this verse nearly every Friday in the jumu’ah khutbah worldwide? What is the significance of this verse?
Imam Ahmad reports a Hasan Hadith on the authority of Abdullah bin Abbas (RH) with regards to the revelation of this verse, who said, ‘While the Messenger of Allah was sitting in the courtyard of his house, Uthman bin Maz`un passed by and smiled at the Messenger of Allah. The Messenger of Allah said to him, “Won’t you sit down?” He replied, “Certainly…”.
So the Messenger of Allah sat facing him, and while they were talking, the Messenger of Allah began looking up at the sky, looking at it for a while, then he brought his gaze down until he was looking at the ground to his right. Then the Messenger of Allah turned slightly away from his companion Uthman to where he was looking. Then he began to tilt his head as if trying to understand something, and Ibn Maz`un was looking on. When the matter was finished and he had understood what had been said to him, the Messenger of Allah stared at the sky again as he had the first time, looking at whatever he could see until it disappeared. Then he turned back to face Uthman again.
Uthman said, “I have never seen you do anything like you did today while I was sitting with you.”
The Messenger of Allah said, “What did you see me do?”
Uthman said, “I saw you staring at the sky, then you lowered your gaze until you were looking to your right, then you turned to him and left me. Then you tilted your head as if you were trying to understand something that was being said to you.”
The Messenger of Allah said, “A messenger from Allah came to me just now, when you were sitting here.”
Uthman said, “A messenger from Allah!”
The Messenger of Allah said, “Yes.”
Uthman said, “And what did he say to you?”
The Messenger of Allah said, “A verse was revealed to me:
| Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.|
Uthman said, “That was when faith was established in my heart and I began to love Muhammad.”’ [Tafsir Ibn Kathir 16;90]
If we carefully analyse this verse, we find that Allah ﷻ has mentioned 6 principles; 3 commandments and 3 prohibitions.
The first command is to be just. From amongst the 89 commandments within the Qur’an in which Allah ﷻ addresses the believers by beginning with the statement, ‘O you who believe’, Allah ﷻ says in one of those verses,
|“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is acquainted with what you do.” [Al Ma’idah;8]|
From amongst the other prophets of Allah ﷻ who were commanded within the Qur’an to act with justice, is the Prophet Dawud (peace be upon him). Allah ﷻ narrates in Surah Sa’d an event that occurred during his lifetime in which his ability to act justly was tested. Allah ﷻ says,
|“And has there come to you the news of the adversaries, when they climbed over the wall of [his] prayer chamber –”|
When they entered upon David and he was alarmed by them? They said, ‘Fear not. [We are] two adversaries, one of whom has wronged the other, so judge between us with truth and do not exceed [it] and guide us to the sound path. Indeed this, my brother, has ninety-nine ewes, and I have one ewe; so he said, ‘Entrust her to me,’ and he overpowered me in speech.
|“He has certainly wronged you in demanding your ewe [in addition] to his ewes. And indeed, many associates oppress one another, except for those who believe and do righteous deeds – and few are they.”|
And David became certain that We had tried him, and he asked forgiveness of his Lord and fell down bowing [in prostration] and turned in repentance [to Allah].
Allah tested Dawud (peace be upon him) by sending him two angels disguised in the form of shepherds. These shepherds where brothers; one of them had a single female sheep (ewe) whilst the other had 99. They both came to Dawud (peace be upon him) to present their case to him. The one who had a single sheep spoke and said that his brother wanted to claim his one sheep (to make a total of 100 sheep). Without hearing the other side of the story, Dawud (peace be upon him) made a judgement and said the other brother’s claim was oppressive towards his brother. The two brothers then vanished and Dawud (peace be upon him) realised it was a test; he fell into prostration seeking Allah’s forgiveness. Allah ﷻ accepted his repentance and then commanded him to judge with justice on the Earth.
So We forgave him that; and indeed, for him is nearness to Us and a good place of return.
|“O David, indeed We have made you a successor upon the earth, so judge between the people in truth and do not follow [your own] desire, as it will lead you astray from the way of Allah.”|
Indeed, those who go astray from the way of Allah will have a severe punishment for having forgotten the Day of Account. [Surah Sa’ad; 21-26]
The second principle mentioned in the verse is the command to act with excellence. If you study the Qur’an, you will find إِحْسَانًا or أَحْسَنُ meaning ‘excellence’ to be a prevalent theme throughout.
When Allah ﷻ speaks about being obedient to parents, he mentions obedience in the most excellent form,
|“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, excellent treatment.” [Surah Isra’;23]|
When Allah ﷻ speaks about talking, Allah ﷻ mentions excellent in utterance,
|“And tell My servants to say that which is excellent” [Surah Isra’;53]|
In Surah Mulk, when Allah ﷻ speaks about the purpose of his creation, he relates it to excellence:
|“It is he who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is excellent in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving…” [Surah Mulk;2]|
These are just some of the examples mentioned in the Qur’an. Within the Sunnah our Prophet ﷺ summed up excellence in a single hadith:
| Verily, Allah has prescribed excellence in everything. [Muslim; 1955]|
Whatever actions we perform, whether it is related to Islam or the Dunya, the foundation of excellence should be there.
3. The Rights of the Relatives (Ties of Kinship)
The third and final command of Allah ﷻ within this verse is to be kind to relatives and to uphold the ties of kinship. Our prophet ﷺ mentioned many ahadith which emphasised the status of the relatives. In just one of those ahadith, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said,
| The quickest good deeds to be rewarded are righteousness and good relations with family. The quickest evil deeds to be punished are transgression and severing family ties. [Ibn Majah; 4212]|
One of the greatest dilemmas facing Muslims in today’s time is the cutting of kinship. A person will do their best to maintain ties of relationship with relatives only to have them cut off. During the time of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, a man came to him and complained, “I have relatives with whom I maintain ties while they cut me off. I am good to them while they are bad to me. They behave foolishly towards me while I am forbearing towards them.” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “If things are as you said, it is as if you were putting hot ashes on them (it is going to harm them because of their behaviour) and you will not lack a supporter against them from Allah as long as you continue to do that.” [Adab al Mufrad; 52]
Allah ﷻ now moves on to the prohibitions. The first prohibition that the believers -both male and female- are commanded to stay away from is immorality. It is very unfortunate, living in the West that we Muslims are exposed to immorality on a daily basis; at work, school, university and the easily accessible media.
With regards to this principle, I want to outline two remarkable hadiths. Our Prophet ﷺ said,
| Modesty is part of faith and faith is in Paradise. Shamelessness is part of impudence and impudence is in the Hellfire. [Tirmidhi; 2009]|
The paths to eternal bliss and eternal punishment have been made clear.
The Prophet ﷺ also said,
| Obscenity is not found in anything but that it spoils it, and modesty is not found in anything but that it beautifies it. [Tirmidhi; 1974]|
Allah within the Qur’an praised this Ummah because of their enjoining of good and forbidding evil.
|“You are the best nation produced for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.” [Surah Al-e-Imran; 110]|
The Prophet ﷺ gave us a stern warning, if evil was not prohibited when he said,
| By Him in Whose Hand my life is, you either enjoin good and forbid evil, or Allah will certainly soon send His punishment to you. Then you will make supplication and it will not be accepted. [Tirmidhi; 193]|
The final principle and prohibition is to avoid transgression. Allah ﷻ commanded the Muslims to be united through the bond of La ilaha ilallah, enveloped by brotherhood & sisterhood, and to be upon the Qur’an & Sunnah,
|“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” [Surah Al-e-Imrah;103]|
For this reason, there are numerous ahadith of our Prophet ﷺ mentioning the virtues of unity. The Prophet ﷺ said,
| Do not hate one another, nor be jealous of one another; and do not desert one another, but O Allah’s worshipers! Be Brothers! And it is unlawful for a Muslim to desert his brother Muslim (and not to talk to him) for more than three nights. [Bukhari; 6076]|
The Prophet ﷺ at the end of this hadith mentioned that it is prohibited to desert talking to your brother for more than three nights. How many households are there where brothers don’t speak to one another, or sisters don’t speak to sisters or children not speaking to their parents? This principle is very similar to the previous principle mentioned earlier on this verse on the importance of being kind to relatives. These two principles involve giving other fellow human beings their right and for this reason, the Prophet combined them two (transgression and ties of kinship) within a single hadith where he said,
|“There is no sin more deserving for Allah to quicken its punishment in this life, in addition to the Hereafter, other than transgression and cutting off family ties.” [Tirmidhi; 2511]|
These 6 principles; Being just, acting with excellence, maintaining ties of kinship, staying away from immorality, forbidding evil and avoiding transgression, if followed, will lead to the ideal Islamic society being formed within our communities. If we all implement these 6 principles on an individual level, this will insha’allah be embodied on a communal level. This verse encapsulates both good and bad and for this reason, the great scholar of the Qur’an, Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud (RA) commented on this verse and said;
|“There is no verse in the Qur’an which is greater in combining the halal and the haram and the command the prohibition than this verse.” [Adab al Mufrad; 489]|