Surah Al-Hujurat in Our Lives (Part 8)

22“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious)]. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Al-Hujurat 48:13)

In Ayah 13, we look at what Allah (swt) has commanded to all of humanity, not just believers. The call is to every member of society – a general rule for everyone on how to interact with each other or groups comprised of each other. Islam gives equal respect to everyone because, as humans, we are all Allah’s (swt) creations.

شَعَبَ – The same word is used for coral reef in the Arabic language. This word has two opposite meanings – separation (branching out) or connection (at the base), i.e., starting from one point and separating out or starting from branches and gathering into a single point. Example: From Adam (as) and Hawwa come every human being or all human beings go back to one father and one mother. All nations branch out into tribes and also further into smaller family groups. They all look different, as every person is unique based on their skin color, facial features and other characteristics. There is no concept of racism in Islam; it is not tolerated by Allah (swt). Allah (swt) created everyone – believers and disbelievers – equal. Think about it:

  1. Why do you put people down?
  2. Why are you proud of yourself?
  3. Why do you fight people?
  4. Why do you not see everyone as equal?
  5. Why do you differentiate among people?
  6. Do you have anything to do with the creation of another being?

Each tribe speaks a certain language or has a certain financial/educational status; Allah (swt) chose our nation and tribe for us. We think we know best, but only Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) know best. The true blessing is that of Iman. Why should we degrade others due to something they have not and cannot choose? This Ayah removes discrimination, stressing that no one is better than another. The point is that we benefit from each other’s cultures and learn from shared virtues. The fact that we are born in a certain country or into a certain family does not give us the right to be arrogant due to heritage. This was Allah’s (swt) will alone; our existence is not our choice.

Preserving the bonds of kinship (Silatur-Rahim) has significant importance in Islam. Getting to know each other is vital for the success of societies. We should know who our relatives are in order to appreciate the family structure and enjoy good relationships with our kin. Being aware of relationships among families, tribes, and nations creates empathy and love within that structure.

Finally the closest to Allah (swt) and the most valued by Him is one who has Taqwa (piety). The criteria are not family association tribal links or skin colour – the defining factor is Taqwa. Only Allah (swt) knows what is in someone’s heart; only He can decide who has Taqwa. Your tribe, nation or family will not give you honour in front of Allah (swt). Your tribe, nation, or family name will not bring you closer to Allah (swt). Only Taqwa is the measuring scale for your relationship with Allah (swt). We are warned that we must not be judgemental about another person. Prophet Muhammad (sa) chose Bilal ibn Rabah (rtam), a former slave, for calling out the Adhan. He did not choose anyone from his family or other Arab Sahabah; no one questioned him – they all simply accepted his decision. This is what our attitude should be like; if Allah (swt) chooses someone, He knows best. It is not because of what we see in them and how we judge them. Hence, the Ayah ends with “Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”

Allah’s (swt) knowledge encompasses everything – the apparent/hidden, future/present, possibilities/impossibilities, seen/unseen – nothing is hidden from Him. Allah (swt) is All-Aware of the “hidden” things – even the small things hidden in your heart. When used with the word العليم, additional depth and nuances are added to the meaning. Allah (swt) is All-Aware of things deep inside, hidden, secret, and unseen. He knows everybody’s secrets and so He is the only One Who can judge and assess Taqwa.

Keep in mind that this command and the attributes of Allah (swt) mentioned in Ayah 13 come after verses that talk about backbiting, calling others hurtful names and making false accusations, or, in other words, all the things a person uses to ridicule others. Allah (swt) now tells us that we are not qualified to judge. During the Farewell Sermon (Hajj), the Prophet (sa) advised the Ummah that the only redeemable quality on the Day of Judgement will be a person’s level of piety in front of Allah (swt) not who he was in life, his family name, or his connections; none of the latter things will benefit him. The test is Taqwa, and only Allah (swt) has knowledge of who the best is.

  1. If a person thinks very highly of his family name or status, it will lead him to transgress the boundaries defined in this Surah. He will become proud and arrogant.
  2. On Judgement Day, one of the questions that will be asked is: “Where are the pious?”
  3. The righteous will be honoured in front of everyone on the Day of Judgement.

We should focus on building our own character and safeguarding our Iman.

Adapted for Hiba Magazine by Tasneem Vali (Canada)

From Rags to Riches


I would like to share with you a story about despair. It is an inspirational story, especially for those who are going through difficult times in their lives. It is the story of the Dua (prayer) of Prophet Musa (as) in the Quran. We all know the mistake he made in his youth: he accidentally killed a man, and then he ran away from Egypt until he came to the waters of Madyan. A lot of things must have happened on the journey from Egypt to Madyan. It was not a short journey, yet Allah (swt) chose not to mention that and instead focused on the following details in Surah Qasas:

“And when he arrived at the water of Madyan (Midian) he found there a group of men watering (their flocks), and besides them he found two women who were keeping back (their flocks). He said: ‘What is the matter with you?’ They said: ‘We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take (their flocks). And our father is a very old man.’ So he watered (their flocks) for them, then he turned back to shade, and said: ‘My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!’ Then there came to him one of the two women, walking shyly. She said: ‘Verily, my father calls you that he may reward you for having watered (our flocks) for us.’ So when he came to him and narrated the story, he said: ‘Fear you not. You have escaped from the people who are Zalimun (polytheists, disbelievers, and wrong-doers).’ And said one of them (the two women): ‘O my father! Hire him! Verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy.’ He said: ‘I intend to wed one of these two daughters of mine to you, on condition that you serve me for eight years, but if you complete ten years, it will be (a favour) from you. But I intend not to place you under a difficulty. If Allah will, you will find me one of the righteous.’ He [Musa] said: ‘That (is settled) between me and you whichever of the two terms I fulfill, there will be no injustice to me, and Allah is Surety over what we say.’” (Al-Qasas 28:23-28)

It is important to note the details of the story. Allah (swt) chose a select number of real life stories to appear in the Quran, and He chose which details to share with us. There are no unimportant details in the Quran. The story begins with Musa (as) wearing rags, weary after a long journey, wanted by the law (with the order for him to be killed on sight), homeless, jobless, and penniless. In short, he was at the lowest point anyone can reach in life. It ends with Musa (as) employed, with a home and a family. How did this drastic change take place?

Musa (as) made a mistake, he repented for it, and he wanted to be forgiven. When you want to be forgiven by Allah (swt), you look for an indication of His forgiveness. One of the indications of forgiveness is that Allah (swt) sends you opportunities to help others. Musa (as) helped the two girls. Then he sat down in the shade away from them; he didn’t stick around and try to make small talk with them. He sat down at a distance and prayed to Allah (swt). He stated his position:  he was bankrupt and in need; in Arabic it means “my back is broken”.

We know Musa (as) is a strong man; yet he is expressing his utter helplessness before Allah (swt). The good he asks for has two meanings. One is that he is asking for the chance to do good deeds in order to atone for his past mistake. He knows what he has to make up for. So he is expressing his willingness to volunteer for the next project. The other good he is asking for is a positive change in his situation in life. It is a prayer of desperation from a man who has nothing left.

What happens next? In response to his prayer, one of the girls comes to him with an offer to pay him for his help. She had gone home with her sister and relayed the event to their father, who, being an old man, could not go out to work and had to depend on his daughters to take care of the sheep. He trusted his daughters’ description of Musa (as) to the extent that he sent only one of them, alone, to bring him back to the house. When Musa (as) came, he told the old man his whole life story, with the two girls listening in the background. One of the girls called her father to the side and advised him to hire Musa (as). The old man understood that she liked him and he resolved to make him his son-in-law. If he could trust him enough to look after his sheep, he could trust him enough to marry his daughter. He had also solved the trouble of having a male shepherd working in a house with two unmarried girls. He married his Arab daughter to a child of Israel; he chose good character over ethnicity. The only marriage mentioned in the Quran is interracial.

I would like to give some advice especially to Desi people. When someone offers you something, the first thing you say is “no, thanks”, as a show of self-respect. When you are truly in need, don’t bother with that; take the good Allah (swt) sends your way. Musa (as) didn’t ask the girls for money; he asked Allah (swt). The job offer came because of the prayer. What I’m trying to tell you is let’s take the example of a job. If a friend tells you about a good job, that is from Allah (swt). Take it!

All those brothers who are trying to get married, there is hope for you in this story. You cannot arrive to meet your prospective father-in-law in a worse state than Prophet Musa (as) did.

You may say, “But he was a prophet! Something special like that won’t happen for me.” Every Friday, we’re supposed to recite the story of the people of the cave. In Surah Kahf, we see the story of the youths receiving the miracle of being saved from the polytheistic society; we see miraculous help being sent to non-prophets. You just have to ask. Help will come in ways you cannot imagine. We have to be people of optimism and hope. We have to be people who learn prayers from the Quran and make them with a sincere heart.

You can watch the original lecture at: Condensed and edited for Hiba Magazine by Iqra Asad