Islam, as the last divine monotheistic religion, is the most perfect of the religions: “Today I have perfected your religion for you… and I have approved Islam as your religion.” (5:3). By introducing Islam, Allah has completed His blessings upon human beings (5:3). In other words, Islam provides everything that humans need to reach their perfection and salvation in the afterlife ; what they require for a divine life in this world and the tools they need for their social life, too; including their rights and responsibilities. The Islamic responsibilities of each individual towards others were thoroughly discussed previously. Here, the focus will be on Islamic responsibilities that concern the rights and benefits of people in society.
When reviewing the Islamic teachings, one can notice the importance of congregation, unity, and brotherhood in the society. That is why many duties such as those to parents, neighbors, relatives, sick people, the elderly, the young people, mentors, etc. as various members of society are defined in Islam. Doing good to orphans, those in need, the traveler and the beggar, and freeing slaves (2:177) is another Islamic principle that concerns the members of society.
Hence, it can be concluded that in most cases, Islam has preferred the benefits of the congregation over the individual, even if it imposes a limitation or a loss to the individual. This can be compared to some of the social rules that aim to bring order in society but are limiting to individuals (e.g., red light).
In Islam, there is no place for arrogance and racism, but brotherhood towards other Muslims and a general sense of humanity towards every human being have been encouraged . According to the Quran, the diversity of life and the various languages and colors of human beings are all signs of Allah’s majesty (30:22). Also, as Islamic teachings suggest, no privileged class exists, and everyone is equal in society, the only criteria for superiority over others is having piety or moral excellence (49:13).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has also emphasized this in a narration where he (PBUH&HP) says that all human beings are from the same father (Adam (AS)) and no nation or race is superior to the other . In another narration, he (PBUH&HP) says that whoever knows more than others is more respected , and he repudiates the discriminations based on tribe, origin, color, and wealth.
By many of its rulings and duties considered for its followers, Islam aims to direct the attention of each individual to other’s needs. One way of achieving this goal is through the Alms-Tax (Zakat). Zakat is an exact amount of money that must be paid according to the rules of Sharia to be used in favor of the people in need or for certain beneficial deeds in society. Zakat can be given to poor people or can be spent on public welfare or creating jobs.
It should be noted that one can directly pay Zakat to the needy people only under the permission of his/her religious expert (Marja’). The aim is to manage and organize the resources by an expert aware of the requirements of the society; Marja’. This is one of the solutions to prevent a particular group of community to manipulate the economy. It empowers those who have been neglected in society to become productive and useful.
Sadaqah is giving away something (money, clothes, food, teaching, etc.) voluntarily to someone in need without expecting anything in return and with the intention of pleasing Allah: “spend from what we have provided you” (63:10). Giving charity in the form of Sadaqah is highly recommended in Islamic teachings. However, the manner of giving charity is of high importance in Islam. Sadagah should be offered discreetly to needy people rather than in public with the intention of showing off and pretending to be generous. This means that Islam encourages the preservation of human dignity.
Here, we reviewed a general Islamic viewpoint that guarantees the rights of every member of the society and the importance it gives to social expediency. These Islamic recommendations will ultimately promote human rights and dignity.
- M H Tabataba'i, “Tafsir al-Mizan”, Surah Al-Maidah.
- islam and humanity
- M. Karajaki, “Ma’dan al-Jawahir wa-Riyadat al-Khawatir”, p. 21.
- Shaykh Saduq, “al-Amali”, p. 27.
There are many examples and stories narrated in the Holy Quran, such as the account of Prophet Moses in the Quran, the aim of which is not only to amuse us, but as signs for the “percipient” , for “those who think” , for those who “exercise their reason”  or for “those who possess intellect” . Therefore, after reading each story, those thoughtful and insightful people will gain profound lessons from each account that will be used as a guideline in their life.
The story of Prophet Moses (PBUH) has been mentioned in the Quran in more than 30 chapters, and more than 100 times in details, while the stories of most of the other prophets have been mentioned very briefly.
Going through a few verses of the Quran that narrate the story of Moses and his people will help us compare our life and condition in the society, with what happened at the time of Moses (PBUH), and from its lessons, we might be able to make positive changes in our lives.
The status of Prophet Moses (PBUH) in the Quran is very high: “And mention in the Book Moses. Indeed he was exclusively dedicated [to Allah], and an apostle and prophet.” (19: 51)
Before Moses was born, the Pharaoh of the time had a dream, based on which he ordered to kill all the baby boys who were born amongst children of Israel (Bani-Israel) [i] for a specific time . In such situation, Moses was born, and her mother feared his life. God revealed to her: “Nurse him; then, when you fear for him, cast him into the river, and do not fear or grieve, for We will restore him to you and make him one of the apostles.” (28: 7)
The events that happened to Moses as a baby were particular. When his mother leaves him in the river, and water takes him to Pharaoh’s palace, Pharaoh’s wife who, according to Quranic exegesis, had no children or had no sons and was a monotheist woman (who hid her beliefs) convinces Pharaoh to adopt him as their child . God had forbidden Moses to be suckled by any nurse. And therefore, he was returned to his mother and raised by her and Pharaoh’s wife (28: 12-3) .
The most prominent point in Moses’ childhood was that he was raised by faithful women. Quran describes his stepmother as a role model for believers: “Allah cites an example of the faithful: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, ‘My Lord! Build me a home near You in paradise, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his conduct, and deliver me from the wrongdoing lot’” (66: 11).
It shows the importance of the status of mothers and their vital role in raising faithful children.
“When he came of age and became fully matured, We gave him judgment and knowledge, and thus do We reward the virtuous” (28: 15).
Unlike some narratives in the world that introduce Moses as a powerful and reliable man, but not very spiritual , the Quran presents him as one of those virtuous. It means that he had been righteous from childhood until his young age, and therefore, divine judgment and knowledge were given to him as a result of his good behavior.
One of the bold points that should be considered in this part of Moses’ life is his companionship with Prophet Khidhr. Although in most narrations it is said that the part of his life which is referred to in the Quran belongs to his old age, it is more logical to say that this companionship takes place when he was young and still a prince. Since he is being accompanied by a slave as mentioned in the Quran: “So when they had passed on, he said to his lad, ‘Bring us our meal. We have certainly encountered much fatigue on this journey of ours’” (18: 62).
Now, if we accept that his companionship with Khidhr took place at his young age, this also becomes a significant turning point for Moses (PBUH), in which he learned a lot from a prophet.
In the story of his youth, Quran mentions his positive attitude towards people and his support for the rights of the poor and the weak. Based on his beliefs, one time that he wants to defend a person from Bani- Israel, he unwantedly kicks his enemy in a way that he dies.
This act in the Quran is introduced as one of the significant turning points in his life. As when Pharaoh finds out, he sends someone to arrest him, and Moses runs away towards the city of Midian (Madyan) (28: 15-21).
“And when he turned his face toward Midian, he said, ‘Maybe my Lord will show me the right way’” (28: 22).
Moses defends Zipporah and her sisters at a rather medieval-looking well painted by Saraceni
When Moses arrives at the water of Midian (Madyan), he sees “a throng of people watering [their flocks], and he found, besides them, two women holding back [their flock].” He asks the reason, and they reply “We do not water [our flock] until the shepherds have driven out [their flocks].”
And to answer the probable question in Moses’ mind about why two women are doing the hard task of watering the flocks she continues: “our father is an aged man” (28: 23). So Moses waters their flock. “Then he withdrew toward the shade (of a tree) and said, ‘My Lord! I am indeed in need of any good You may send down to me!’” (28: 24) Moses does not even mention what kind of good he is expecting from God. But he leaves everything to God and asks Him to provide him with good .
After a while of resting under the shade of a tree “one of the two women approached him [Moses], walking bashfully. She said, ‘Indeed my father invites you to pay you the wages for watering [our flock] for us.’
So when he came to him and recounted the story to him, he said, ‘Do not be afraid. You have been delivered from the wrongdoing lot’” (28: 25). As he had left the borders of Egypt and he was now safe in Midian (Madyan). At that point, Moses realized that he had reached an insightful and knowledgeable man. The father of two women is Prophet Shu’ayb (PBUH), who, according to the Quran, was the prophet sent to people of Midian (Madyan): “And to Midian, We sent Shu‘ayb, their brother” (29: 36) .
Moses stays with Prophet Shu’ayb for a while. It seems like one of Shu’ayb’s daughters was interested in Moses and his manly behavior as she offers his father “Father, hire him. Indeed, the best you can hire is a powerful and trustworthy man” (28:26). Being powerful and strong as well as being trustworthy are mentioned here as two crucial criteria for employing a person .
Having heard his daughter’s interests, Shu’ayb (PBUH) then said, “Indeed I desire to marry you to one of these two daughters of mine, on condition that you hire yourself to me for eight years. And if you complete ten, that will be up to you” (28:27).
There are a few great lessons in this part of the story of Moses;
1- Unlike what is conventional in many societies, it is not bad for a reasonable girl to choose her husband and offer him marriage (of course, by adhering to correct manners) .
2- The dowry of Shu’ayb’s daughter (which is Moses’ working for Shu’ayb for eight to ten years) seems to be too much, but compared to the life and conditions that Shua’yb provides for Moses is not considerable .
3- This dowry was a necessity for Moses to stay with Shu’ayb and to be trained under his doctrines .
Moses marries Prophet Shu’ayb’s daughter, and they live in Midian for a specific time. Living with a prophet for many years is one of those blessings that were given to Moses to be trained for his primary mission in life.
Although living with Shu’ayb was a great blessing for Moses, he did not aim to stay a shepherd for the rest of his life, since he had seen significant responsibilities for himself to save the children of Israel (Bani- Israel). Therefore, he decided to travel to Egypt with his family .
In the next part of this article, we will follow Moses in his journey of prophethood.
[i] Children of Israel (Bani-Israel) were the generation of Prophet Jacob or Israel (PBUH), who at the time of Prophet Joseph (PBUH), migrated to Egypt and settled there for years. (12: 93-9)
- The Quran, Hijr (15): 75
- The Quran, Ra’d (13) : 3
- The Quran, Nahl (16): 12
- The Quran, Aal-e Imran (3): 190
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 14
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 30
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, pp. 34- 38
- Scott, R. (2014), Exodus: Gods and Kings, 2014, USA
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, pp. 56-58
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 59
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 67
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 70
- Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 74
Responsibility in Islam also covers every action that one is supposed to do as a Muslim and his/her interactions with others. Thus, human beings are responsible towards others including: whoever they interact with, whatever they have been given in this world, the divine duties they are expected to perform, and their surroundings and environment.
The responsibilities of a Muslim towards other human beings were discussed in the first part of the article. Here the focus is on the responsibilities towards some non-humans including divine duties [i] and, the property and belongings.
The right of the ritual prayer over one is to know that he\she is standing before God. Knowing that one should stand in His presence like a lowly servant who is inclined to approach his lord, and who is fearful and ashamed because of his\her sins, but still hopeful of His mercy , is our responsibility in Islam towards our prayers.
He\she should also magnify Him through stillness, bowing of the head, humbleness of the limbs, yielding of the wing, and by saying the best supplications to Him. Then, one should beseech Him to save him\her from the punishments that he\she deserves for his\her faults and sins .
The right of fasting is to know it as a veil that God has set up over one’s tongue, hearing, and sight, private parts, and stomach, to protect him\her from the Fire. Whoever protects his\her parts of the body with the veil of fasting, can be hopeful to be saved from the punishments and the Fire.
But if one leaves his\her parts of the body to do freely unlawful (Haram) acts (e.g., looking at unlawful things and scenes that incite lust and encourage disobeying God) and does not fear God, he\she won’t be safe anymore .
The right of pilgrimage is that one should know that he\she has immigrated from his\her sins to God and is standing in His presence. He\she should also know that it is through the pilgrimage that one’s repentance can be accepted and he\she performs an obligation made incumbent upon him\her by God .
Of the rights of charity is to know that it is like storing away with God and is a deposit for which no witness is needed. Hence, it would be better to donate in private other than in public. Also, one should not remind others of what he\she has donated since the charity is like a saving whose benefit returns to the donor.
Otherwise, the same thing might happen to him\her when someone else does him\her a favor. Moreover, reminding others of the charity donated demonstrates the impure intention of the donor; like the tendency to show off or humiliate others .
Of the rights of the offering is to consider it as a way to expose oneself to God’s Mercy. So, one should make offering not for receiving others’ approval, but God’s approval. Therefore, what others say about the offering should not matter .
Of the rights of the belongings and property over one and one's responsibility in Islam towards them are to gain it through lawful (Halal) means, to spend it on lawful (Halal) purposes, and to utilize it such that it brings about blessing and salvation in this world and the Hereafter . Imam Sadiq (AS) said that whoever makes money in unfair ways, he\she will lose it justly . According to Surah Qasas, one should use the wealth that God has granted for doing good to others and preparing for the Hereafter (28:77).
The property and wealth should be used to get God’s satisfaction. It is narrated from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that God will punish those who forget about the poor people among them and keep on raising money . Hence, one should not prefer his\her belongings to his\her spirit such that he\she hesitate to use them for spiritual progression. Otherwise, others will inherit this property after his\her death. If they utilize the inherited property in unlawful (Haram) ways, he\she will also be punished for that. If the inheritors use the inherited property properly, they are the ones who will be rewarded .
[i] The acts and practices that are obligatory (Wajib) or recommended (Mustahab) in Islam.
[ii] Animal sacrifice for the sake of God.
- Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (AS), “Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq)”.
- S. al-Harrani “Tuhaf al-Uqul”, p. 321.
- W. al.Hilli, “Tanbih al-khawatir wa nuzhat al-nawazir”, vol. 1, p. 10.