Tafsîr of Sûrah Al-Hujarât: Verses 10-12



Brother Yahya Adel Ibrahîm







"O Believers! People should not scorn others for perhaps they may be better than them. Neither should women scorn other women, for they may also be better than them."


This verse introduces certain prohibitions necessary for the establishment of successful Islamic Society. Allâh forbids the believers from mockery, scorning or looking down at someone - Scorn is the product of Pride, which is itself prohibited in Islâm . And:


"Indeed He (Allâh ) does not love the proud" [Sûrah an-Nahl: 23]


Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) said:


"Allâh All-Mighty said: "Pride is My cloak, and Glory is My Wrap, so for he who competes with Me in either of these, I will cast him into the Fire." [Abu Dawûd and Ibn Majah]

Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) said:


"If you were not sinners, I would fear what is worse for you: Pride, Pride (Ujb)."

Al-Ujb in this Hadîth implies arrogance due to self-praise. It borders on the slave who is blessed by Allâh with His Ability of hiding imperfections and sins. Allâh hides his sins and imperfections from the people and yet he behaves in a manner as though he is better than some.

Al-Ujb may or may not be apparent, and if manifested outwardly it is called Pride or Arrogance. It creeps unto us when ideal discussions take place criticizing the sinner, though we do not name him. It is a way of 'showing your pride without showing it' And the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) said:


"He will not enter Paradise who has even a speck of pride in his heart." [Sahîh Muslim]

Categories of Pride and their Cure


Ego (the self as distinguished from others) Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) said:



"Indeed, Allâh revealed to me: Humble yourself until none is proud over another and none is oppressive over another." [Sahîh Muslim]

Each additional thing that one becomes proud of, builds his ego or the contentment of his self. This is witnessed in the behavior of Iblîs. When Allâh ordered angels and Iblîs to bow to Adam (alaihi as-salâm). Iblîs refused to do so arguing that he was formed from smokeless fire, and thus was better than Adam (alaihi as-salâm), who was created from dust. [(7): 12]

He was too proud to obey Allâh 's command:


"He said: 'I am better than him (Adam)." [Sûrah Sâd : 76]


The cure of Pride is to remember that we are created from a substance not worth mentioning:


"Has there not been, over man, a period of time when he was nothing worthy of mention?" [Sûrah al-Insan (9): 1]




"Did we not create you from a fluid of no value?" [Sûrah al-Mursalât (71): 20]


Thus, be mindful of the saying of Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam):


".and none humbles himself to Allâh , but Allâh raises him." [Sahîh Muslim]


Let him, who is proud of his knowledge analyze the Hadîth of Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam). He (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) said:



".And a person who learned knowledge and taught it, and recited the Qur'ân, so Allâh brought this man before Him and pointed out His Favor, which the man recognized. He is asked: "What did you do with it?" He says: 'I learned knowledge and I taught it, and I recited the Qur'ân for you.' So He (Allâh ) says: "You lie! In fact you learned so that it would be said of you, 'He is a scholar' and you recited the Qur'ân so that it would be said of you, 'He is a Qari' and it was said." Then it will be ordered that he be dragged upon his face into the Fire." [Sahîh Muslim]


Let him, who is proud of his deeds, know that deeds are only accepted on the basis of two conditions, they being;

1- Sincerity (Ikhlas): The deed should be performed for the sake of Allâh Alone without intending to be seen or heard by others nor attaining titles and positions.

2- Deeds should be according to the guidance of Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) and nothing beyond this criterion: The Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) said:


"Indeed, the first of people upon whom the judgment will be passed on the Day of Resurrection is a man who sought martyrdom. When he appears before Allâh , he is made to recognize his Favors. It is said, What did you do with it?" He says: "I fought for you until martyrdom.' It is said: 'You lie! You fought so that it would be said: "He is brave, and so it was said." Then it will be ordered that he be dragged upon his face until he is cast into Fire." [Sahîh Muslim]



"Indeed, Allâh has purchased from the believers, their selves and their wealth for which there is Paradise for them." [Sûrah at-Tawbah: 111]


He who is proud of his possessions should know that the Eventual end of all possessions is with Allâh , and he possesses nothing but it is a test for him. He should use them sincerely for the pleasure of Allâh . How often do we find ourselves responsible for more than we are capable of maintaining? In such situations we will certainly be unjust to something. Thus, to give each thing its right one must content himself with few. Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) said:


"Whoever among you arises in the morning feeling a sense of security, in good health, having his food for the day, then he has gathered what the world has to offer him." [Abu Dawûd and Ibn Majah]

There was once a camel that the Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) owned, it was undefeated in racing. The Muslims were proud of this camel. One day the camel lost a race, this saddened the Muslims. On this occasion, the Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) informed them:


"Indeed, it is the right upon Allâh that nothing in this life is raised, but He lowers it." [Sahîh al-Bukharî]

Again we may quote here the remainder of the Hadîth mentioned earlier; where on the Day of Resurrection a man who was blessed with wealth in his earthly life is asked what he did with it, and he replied:


". I neglected no opportunity which You would like this wealth to be spent, but I spent it for Your sake.' Allâh says: "You lie! You spent it only so that it would be said: 'He is generous' and so it was said: "Then it will be ordered that he be dragged upon his face until he is cast into Fire." [Sahîh Muslim]

Race, Notable Lineage, Nationalism and Patriotism

The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) said:



"Indeed Allâh has removed from you the blind loyalties of Jahiliyah and the pride for ancestry. Either be a pious believer, or a miserable proud. (All of) you are children of Adam (alaihi as-salâm) and Adam (alaihi as-salâm) is from dust. Let some men cease to take pride in others who are nothing but burning coals for the Hell-Fire, it will be easier for Allâh to handle them than a dung-beetle driving his nose into filth." [Abu Dawûd and Ahmad]

Moreover, he (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) also said:


".whoever invites to tribalism, or aids in tribalism and is killed, he dies the death of jahiliyah (ignorant state of man before the Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wasallam) . he is not of me and I am not of him." [Sahîh Muslim and An-Nisaî]

After the prohibition of Scorn, Allâh explains why this act is unwise. He said, the scorned may be superior to the scorner, just as Adam (alaihi as-salâm) was superior to Iblîs.

Then Allâh specifically warns the women, although He had previously used the word 'people' which includes both men and women. It is to bring special attention to the women and in order to emphasize to the men that they should protect their wives and families from boasting.

Verse 12


"O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another." [Sûrah al-Hujurat (49): 12]



The focal point of the above verse is to shed light on the hidden and secretive sins that are prevalent amongst the Muslims. The fact that these sins are born, sustained and conducted from within one's self gives it a more lethal effect in destroying Islamic brotherhood. Islâm seeks to uproot and destroy these evils from the very beginning.

Suspicion is the stepping-stone that the Shaytân uses to exploit the Muslims to the other evils mentioned in the verse, namely; backbiting, gossip and spying. Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) stressed to the believers the dangers of suspicion saying:


"Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales." [Sahîh al-Bukharî 8/90]

Suspicion leads to distrust and lack of trust among the people. It breaks down the strength of brotherhood. Once suspicion is eliminated from the minds of people, trust will grow. Otherwise people will be at each other's throat for every slip of tongue and misunderstood statement. 'Umar Ibn Khattâb (radhi Allâh u anhu) used to say:


"If your Muslim brother makes an ambiguous statement to you, you should only think the best and you will find a good explanation for it." [Muwatta Imâm Mâlik (eng. trans) p. 422, no: 1797]

Also, private conversation must be avoided since such a practice is likely to make the third person suspicious or at least, feel bad for being excluded from the conversation. The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) said:


"When you are three persons sitting together, then no two of you should hold secret counsel excluding the third person until you are with some other people too, for that would grieve him." [Sahîh al-Bukharî, 8 /305]

Another evil branch of suspicion is uncontrolled curiosity, which simultaneously leads to the despised practice of Spying into the private affairs of others. Islâm vehemently opposes invasion of one's privacy and sternly warns against it. The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) said:


"Part of a man's good observance of Islâm is that he leaves alone what does not concern him." [(Sahîh) Shaikh al-Albanî in Sahîh Sunan at-Tirmidhî, vol. 2, no: 1886 (at-Tirmidhî 4839)]

Safiyah (a wife of the Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) narrates that once she came to visit Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) while he was in Itikâf (i.e. seclusion in the mosque during the last ten days of Ramadan). When she got up to return, Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) got up with her and accompanied her. When he reached near the gate of the mosque, close to the door (of the house) of Umm Salamah (another wife of the Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam), two Ansari men passed by them, greeted him and then went away. Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) addressed them saying, "Don't hurry! (She is my wife)." They said, "Glorified be Allâh ! O Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) (You are far away from any suspicion)," and his saying was hard on them. The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam): "Shaytân circulates in the mind of a person, as blood does (in his body). I was afraid that Shaytân might put some (evil) thoughts in your minds." [Sahîh al-Bukharî, vol: 4 no: 333]

Abu Hurayrah (radhi Allâh u anhu) reported the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) strictly warning against spying, he (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) said:


"If a man sees you in a state of undress without your permission and you blinded him by throwing a stone in his eye, there would be no blame on you." [Sahîh Muslim vol: 3 no: 5371]

It is mentioned in Adâb al-Mufrad with authentic chain of narrators that a man peeped through a hole into the dwelling place of Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) while he (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) was offering Salât.

The Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) took an arrow from his quiver and pointed towards the man's eye (to pierce it with the arrow). The man withdrew his head and the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam):


"If you had remained I would have pierced your eye with my arrow." [(Sahîh) Adâb al-Mufrad]

Ibn Abbas (radhi Allâh u anhu) reported from the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam):


"One who eavesdrops on the conversation of others and hears what they would not like him to hear will have molten brass poured in his ears on the day of Judgment." [(Sahîh) by Shaikh al-Albanî in Sahîh al-Jamî as-Saghîr, vol. 2 no: 6028]

and Hudhayfah (radhi Allâh u anhu) narrated:


"The habitual eavesdropper will not enter Paradise." [Sahîh al-Bukharî vol: 8 no: 82]

Islamic law rejects evidence obtained by spying. It is reported that 'Umar Ibn Khattâb (radhi Allâh u anhu) entered upon a people drinking wine. He said: "Have I not forbidden you to drink wine and you did that?" They said: "O Amir (leader) of the believers, Allâh has forbidden you to spy and you spied on us, and Allâh forbade you to enter the houses without asking permission, and you did enter without permission." 'Umar (radhi Allâh u anhu) said: "These (your sins) in return for my mistakes." Then he left and didn't interfere or prevent them. Also, when al-Walîd Ibn Uqbah was brought to Ibn Mas'ûd (radhi Allâh u anhu) and charged with having been found with wine dripping from his beard. Ibn Mas'ûd said: "We have been forbidden from spying but, if any evidence appears in the open we will use it." [Sunan Abu Dawûd, Eng. Trans, vol: 3, no: 4875] Thus, even if Harâm is done secretly we are not asked to spy.

Ghîbah (Backbiting)


When the Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) was asked about Ghîbah, he defined it saying:



".Backbiting implies your talking about your brother in a manner, which he does not like." It was said to him: "What is your opinion about this that if I actually find in my brother which I made a mention of? He said: "If (that failing) is actually found (in him) what you assert, you have in fact backbitten him, and if that is not in him it is a slander." [Sahîh Muslim, no: 6265]

Ghîbah is not only restricted to the tongue, it may be so that we imitate or mimic someone's defect or description. Â'ishah (radhi Allâh u anha) said: "A woman came in our house. When she left, I moved my hands indicating that she was short. The Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) said: "You have backbitten her." [Abu Dawûd]

One, who listens to Ghîbah is also a sinner unless he opposes it with his tongue or heart because


"Whoever witnesses the humiliation of a believer and doesn't support him while being capable of supporting him, Allâh will humiliate him before all the creatures (on the day of judgment)." [Musnad Ahmad]

If possible one should, leave the gathering or interrupt and change the subject, this is based on the saying of Allâh :


"And when you (Muhammad (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) see those who engage in a false conversation about Our Verses (of the Qur'ân) by mocking at them, stay away from them till they turn to another topic. And if Shaytân causes you to forget, then after the remembrance sit not you in the company of those people who are the Zalimun (polytheist and wrongdoers, etc.)." [Sûrah al-An'am (6): 68]




"Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allâh ." [Sûrah al-Hujurat (49): 12]


In this verse, Allâh compares Ghîbah to eating the flesh of one's dead brother because it deals with the violation of honor. Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) combined violating the honor, property and blood of a Muslim with violating the sanctity of the Day of Sacrifice, he (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) said (on the day of Sacrifice):


"Your blood, your wealth and your honor are sacred, as this day of yours, in this month of yours, in this land of yours are sacred." [Sahîh al-Bukharî vol: 2 no: 797 and Sahîh Muslim no: 2803]

Furthermore, Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) described the seriousness of this nasty sin saying:


"There are seventy-two degrees of Riba (interest), the least of which is equivalent to committing adultery with one's own mother. The worst of them is a man's insulting his brother's honor." [(Sahîh) by Shaikh al-Albanî in Silsilah al-Ahâdîth as Sahîhah, no: 1871 (al-Awsat of at-Tabarani)]

The Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) clearly warned against the great punishments which may befall as a result of committing Ghîbah, he (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) said:


"When I was taken up to the Heavens, I passed by people who had copper claws tearing at their faces and chests. I asked: 'Who are these, O Jibrîl?' He said: 'They are those who ate the flesh of the people, and insulted their honor.'".[Sahîh by Shaikh Albanî (Sahîh Sunan Abu Dawûd # 4080]

Imam Ibn Kathîr said:


"Ghîbah is forbidden by consensus, and in general there is no exception to it, except in circumstances where it is necessary to speak about people, such as al-Jarh-wal-Tadil (establishing the status and authenticity of Hadîth narrators), and al-Nasihah (giving advice)" [Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr (Sûrah al-Hujurat)]

Imam al-Qurtubi said:


"Ghîbah is a major sin and falling into it necessitates (Wajib) turning to Allâh in repentance from it." [Tafsîr al-Qurtubi (Sûrah al-Hujurat)]

Opposing Ghîbah


Opposing Ghîbah is one of the best forms of Jihad, because it deals with striving to control and correct oneself from evil desires. The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) said: "The Mujahid is the one who strives to control his ego (nafs) in obedience to Allâh ." [Ahmad See as-Sahîhah of Shaikh al-Albanî no: 549] and: "The best Jihad is that you strive to control your ego and your desires for the sake of Allâh ." [al-Hilyah of Abu Na'im-see as-Sahîhah of Shaikh al-Albanî no: 1496]

The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) guaranteed Paradise for him, who guards his tongue (from backbiting, lying, slander, etc.) saying: "Whoever gives me surety to safeguard what is between his jaws (i.e. tongue) and what is between his legs (private parts), I guarantee for him (entrance into) Paradise." Therefore, Imam Ash-Shafi'î said: "If a person wishes to say something then he should think before he starts talking. If there is good, then he should speak, otherwise he should not."

Permissible Ghîbah


(a) Complaint: It is allowed to make Ghîbah while complaining to a ruler or judge or seeking a ruling from a scholar. The evidence of this is the saying of Â'ishah (radhi Allâh u anha), she relates that Hind, the mother of Mu'awiyah said to Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam): "Abu Sufyan (her husband) is a miser. Am I allowed to take from his money secretly?" The Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) said to her, "You and your sons may take what is sufficient reasonably and fairly." [Sahîh al-Bukharî 3/13]

(b) Consultations and Evidence: Giving advice particularly in matrimonial and business affairs, as was the case when Mu'awiyah and Abu'l-Jaham asked for the hand of Fatimah bint Qays in marriage, she consulted the Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) about them. He (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) told her: "As for Abu'l Jaham, he does not drop his stick from his shoulder (indicating his strictness with his wives) and as for Mu'awiyah, he is poor, and has no money." [Sahîh Muslim vol: 2 no: 3297]

(c) Identification of Innovation and the Innovators: It is permissible to mention the sin of the one who commits sins openly, like criminals and innovators. "When a man asked permission to enter upon the Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam). When the Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) saw him, he said: "What an evil brother of his tribe! And what an evil son of his tribe!"When that man sat down, the Prophet (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) behaved with him in a nice and polite manner and was completely at ease with him. When that person had left, Â'ishah said (to the Prophet). "O Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam)! When you saw that man, you said so-and-so about him, then you showed him a kind and polite behavior, and you enjoyed his company?" Allâh 's Messenger (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) said: "O Â'ishah! Have you ever seen me speaking a bad and dirty language? (Remember that) the worst people in Allâh 's sight on the Day of Resurrection will be those whom the people leave (undisturbed) to be away from their evil (deeds)." [Sahîh al-Bukharî 8/59] Imâm Bukharî derived from this Hadîth that it is permissible to speak about wrongdoers..."


"Verily, Allâh is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful." [Sûrah al-Hujurat (49): 12]


After warning the believer against the destructive sins of Nicknaming, Ghîbah, and Suspicion, Allâh mentions His two Divine Names and Attributes, At-Tawwab (oft-forgiving) and Rahîm (most-Merciful). This calls for repentance, because "All of Adam's descendants are subjected to error, but the best of them are those who often repent." [at-Tirmidhî and Ibn Majah] The Messenger of Allâh (sallAllâh u alaihi wa-sallam) said:


"If (it were that) you did not commit sins, Allâh would cause you not to exist and replace you by another people who would sin and ask Allâh 's forgiveness, and He would pardon them for you." (Sahîh Muslim)




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