Question: Dear Imam, there are so many mixed messages in society with respect to dealing justly with non-Muslims, can you please give me advice, Jazakallahu khayran?
Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri narrated:
While Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was sitting, a Jew came and said, “O Abul Qasim! One of your companions has slapped me on my face.” The Prophet (ﷺ) asked who he was. He replied that he was one of the Ansar. The Prophet (ﷺ) sent for him, and on his arrival, he asked him whether he had hit the Jew. He (replied in the affirmative and) said, “I heard him taking an oath in the market saying, “By Him Who gave Moses superiority over all the human beings.” I said, “O wicked man! (Has Allah given Moses superiority) even over Muhammad? I became furious and slapped him across hisface.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said to the Ansari: “Do not give a prophet superiority over another….”. After this, the Prophet (ﷺ) reconciled between the two individuals on the basis of justice.
There are some points in this incident that need to be explained:
Firstly, The Jew had come to the Prophet (ﷺ) for justice because he had the conviction that the prophet would confer on him his rights in full.
Secondly, upon receipt of the complaint by the plaintiff, without delay, the Prophet (ﷺ) acted upon it and sent for the offender in order to resolve the issue at hand.
The Prophet (ﷺ) acted without prejudice against the Jew in what he said. Many might see what the Jew did as a provocation against Muslims as he did not say it in his house of worship nor in his own house, rather he said it publicly in the market place, this irritated (infuriated) the offender.
Despite the ostensible provocation by the Jew that infuriated the Muslim, and could have led to heated arguments between the two communities (the Muslims and the Jews) and could have threatened the security and stability of the newly created state of Medina, the Prophet (ﷺ) didn’t lay the blame on the Jew. Instead in his wisdom and love for peace and reconciliation, he offered important advice to all parties to not give a prophet superiority over another. He did so in order to maintain a harmonious relationship between the two different faith traditions. He laid a foundation that would minimise potential conflict. The Prophet (ﷺ) presented advice that is binding on his community first and foremost, that they should not trivialise his blessed mission by saying that one prophet is better than another, that such a statement would not help in interfaith relations. Such a statement is not binding on a non-Muslim, it is a criticism of any Muslim who engages in discussion with a non-Muslim on such a basis.
The provocative statement by the Jew had violated the agreement signed by both parties that stated: “that both communities must help each other in keeping the state of Medina safe and secure, and each party had the freedom to practice the teachings of its faith without interference.” Despite this breech of the agreement, the Prophet (ﷺ) gave the Jew his right in full in his judgment.
In another incident, the prophet himself went to a Jew to intercede with him for a Muslim named Jabir bin Abdullah bin Haram. Jabir was among the companions of the prophet who attended, in his childhood, along with his father Abdullah bin Haram, the second oath of allegiance of the people of Medina to Prophet Muhammad to support his mission when he would migrate to Medina.
Jabir bin Abdullah narrated:
There was a Jew in Medina who used to lend me money to be repaid with dates when I harvested my date trees. I had a piece of land which was on the way to Ruma on which I grew date trees. That year I could not repay my debt as the datetrees were not producing much fruit. So, I asked the Jew who lent me the money to give me one-year respite, but he refused. This news reached the Prophet (ﷺ) whereupon he said to his companions: “Let us go and ask the Jew for respite for Jabir.” They came to me in my garden when the Jewish lender was at my garden. The Prophet (ﷺ) started speaking to the Jew, but the Jew said, “O Abu Qasim! I will not grant him respite.” When the Prophet (ﷺ) saw the Jew’s attitude, he stood up and walked all around the garden (making Du’a). Once he returned, he again spoke to the Jew, but the Jew still refused his request. I got up and brought some ripe fresh dates and put them in front of the Prophet(ﷺ). He ate themand then said to me, “Where is your hut, O Jabir?” I informed him, and he said, “Spread out bedding for me in it.” I spread out bedding, and he entered and slept. When he woke up, I brought some dates to him again and he ate of it and then got up and talked to the Jew again, but the Jew again refused his request. Then the Prophet (ﷺ) got up for the second time amidst the palm trees, this time, they became loaded with fresh dates (miraculously). The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “O Jabir! Pick dates to repay your debt.” The Jew remained with me while I was picking the dates until I paid him all his debt. Even after the repayment, there remained an excess of dates. So, I picked the rest and returned to the Prophet (ﷺ) and informed him of the good news of the produce (miraculous yield) of my date trees, he replied: “I testify that I am Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ).”
As the lender strongly demanded the debt be repaid at the due time, Jabir went to the Prophet (ﷺ) and informed him of the matter and requested him to mediate between himself and the non-Muslim lender. Acting upon his request, the prophet took some of his companions with him and went to the lender and made a request to him to give Jabir respite. He made an earnest and respectful request and respected the lender’s prerogative to refuse to give respite and insist on repayment on the due date.
The story described to us of what happened between a non-Muslim subject (citizen) of the Muslim state of Medina and a Muslim who was a close friend of the Prophet (ﷺ) who was the leader of the state with full command overstate affairs.
Jabir bin Abdullah, the debtor was only requesting to be granted respite by the lender. He didn’t request his debt to be overlooked. He engaged the state leader who was the blessed Prophet of Allah (ﷺ) to make a request on his behalf.
In making a mediation between Jabir bin Abdullah and the non-Muslim lender, the Prophet (ﷺ) as the head of the state and commander of the Muslims didn’t compel or put pressure on the creditor, a non-Muslim subject, to accept his mediation.
The Prophet (ﷺ) did not use his position to influence the lender to accept his mediation, nor did he allow his love towards Jabir and his closeness to him toinfluence his stance on the situation. The Prophet (ﷺ) did not allow the enmity of many non-Muslims towards the Muslims to cause him to be unfair towards them in administering the state’s affairs. All ofthese had never been his concern in running the affairs of state. His main concern was to grant justice in full to all residents of the state regardless of their creeds and beliefs.
The debt was a legitimate right of the Jew and repayment is mandatory. The request of the mediator was turned down, and fairness (justice) had to be given even to a non-Muslim subject against a close friend. Such is the teaching of Islam.
In not compelling the Jew or putting pressure on him to accept his mediation, the prophet was not trying to show kindness to the Jew, rather he did so because it was in accordance with the requirement of Islam. Allah, Ta’ala, says in this respect what maybe translated as: “O believers, be steadfast in upholding justice, and bear witness to the truth for God, even though your justice and your evidence might be harmful to yourselves, or to your parents, or to your relatives. Do not allow the fact that the accused is rich to prejudice you in his favour or against him, and if he is poor, do not allow your compassion for him to favour him at the expense of the truth, Allah holds priority over them (and He commands you to be just and truthful towards them). Therefore, follow not your personal inclination in passing your judgment between the plaintiff and the defendant. If you deviate or disregard this commandment, Allah is indeed fully aware of everything you do.” (4:135).
Feeling compassion for Jabir for his being poor was not a valid reason (or justification) to favour him over the creditor. You can see in this verse that Allah, Ta’ala, clarifies that He holds priority in looking after their affairs and He has full control over their predicament. In this case, the palm grove had a low yield and the entire community was tested. When justice was implemented without fear or favour, Allah very quickly answered the prayer of his beloved Prophet (ﷺ) and caused the palm trees to immediately improve their yield. Justice brings with it the blessing of Allah, Allah commands that we be just and balanced in our dealings. Injustice is corruption that destroys the quality of life and brings down communities, societies and nations.
In another incident, Tu’mah bin Ubaeriq, a Muslim from the Al-Ansaar stole armour from his Muslim neighbour, Qataadah bin an-Nu’man. The armour was kept in a flour sack. The flour had scattered out onto the ground from a hole found in the sack, making a trail to the house of the thief. The thief first took the armour to his house and after that moved it to the house of a non-Muslim named Zaid bin al-Samin to hide his theft.
The owner of the armour followed the path of the flour in search of his stolen armour which led him to the house of the thief. The thief denied stealing and made an oath of his innocence. The owner left and continued his walk along the scattered flour which led him to the house of the non-Muslim where the armour was stored. The non-Muslim said to the owner, “I didn’t steal it.” It was brought to me by Tu’mah bin Ubaerik.
Thereafter, in defence of the thief, his tribe, Banoo thafar came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and made a request to him to advocate for their man, Tu’mah bin Ubaeriq. The evidence at first look pointed to the Jew because he had the stolen goods in his possession. However, Allah, Ta’ala, taught us all a lesson. Allah intervened by revealing verses in the Holy Qur’an in chapter An-Nisaa: “Do not argue on behalf of those who betray themselves. Allah does not like the one who is dishonest and sinful.” (4:107) “Whoever commits a fault or a sin and then throws the blame for it on an innocent person has committed slander and a gross offence.” (4:112).
The evidence presented to the Prophet (ﷺ) was incriminating towards the Jew. However, the revelation came from Allah to the Prophet (ﷺ) informing him of the innocence of the Jew. The Prophet (ﷺ) didn’t hide the fact, he immediately made it public that the Jew was innocent, and the thief was indeed a Muslim. This was a decision that was not easy to make, particularly with the challenges that the Muslims were facing at that time. The verse also referred to the thief as a person who had betrayed himself by first stealing and second trying to shift the blame to an innocent person.
The Jew whose tribe in medina had rejected the message of the Prophet (ﷺ) and sided with his enemies had been declared innocent. Their animosity towards Islam and the Muslims is not a factor when it comes to justice. Justice comes before personal allegiances.
Let us pause and ponder and ask ourselves, is such an application of justice as demonstrated in this story, seenin any other society in human history?
How few are the leaders or judges (if any) who rise up to this level of justice when it comes to arbitrating between a member of their faith or ideology and a person who is not a member?
Islam is a faith that upholds justice and makes it one of the three main commands for every Muslim: “Allah indeed commands Justice, excellence (kindness, good conduct) and good kinship…” (16:90)
Islam is a religion of justice. Al ‘Adl (The Just) is one of the names of Allah, it is a name and an attribute of our Lord. As outlined in verse 16:90, we Muslims are commanded to uphold justice.
May Allah make us among those who uphold justice in our dealings with all of Allah’s creations wherever we live, and in whatever situation we find ourselves!
 The Arabic word is “Ihsan”, its meaning include excellence in conduct, kindness and compassion, beautification (referring to conduct), proficiency and perfection in the work that we do and the words that we say. In essence, the term summarises personal improvement governed by kindness and excellence.
Answered by: Imam Kafrawi Hamzah