[Stories from the Quran] An Uncalled-For Murder

quran-2The Background

This is a story about the nature of evil, anger and hostility- as well as-the nature of goodness, forgiveness and peace. These two characteristics are in complete contrast, and result in the first murder that humanity ever experienced. This is the story told in Surah Maidah, verses 27 to 31.


“And (O Muhammad (sa)) recite to them (the Jews) the story of the two sons of Adam in truth…”Allah (swt) narrates the tale of two brothers who are the sons of Adam (as). This story occurs only once in the Quran, and we know that it is the truth. No authentic Hadeeth, or Quran, mentions the names of the main characters – the two sons, nor are we told the time or place where the incident occurs. Ibn Qutb says: “Leaving the story in the general terms in which it is given in the Qurān ensures that the purpose of relating it is fulfilled and its lessons are understood”.

Generally, siblings fight with each other, but they also love and protect one another; this is inherent in our nature as humans. Siblings are essentially the people we are closest to and care about. So, let’s see what happened between the two sons that resulted in a violent crime.

Faith or Fury?

“…when each offered a sacrifice (to Allah), it was accepted from the one but not from the other.”

Each of the sons offered a sacrifice to Allah (swt). This situation in any normal person’s mind is about pleasing and obedience to Allah (swt). However, when they both offered their sacrifices, one was accepted and the other was not. The Quran or Hadeeth does not detail the nature of how an offering was accepted at that time; hence, we deem it as unimportant. What we must focus on is that one son offered the best sacrifice only to please and obey Allah (swt), he proved to be God-fearing; while, the other brother’s sacrifice was not accompanied by Taqwa.


The fire of desire

“The latter said to the former: I will surely kill you.” This statement clearly shows the evil intent of one brother. It makes us shocked and horrified. How can such a severe punishment be given for no crime at all? We all disapprove of this son’s behaviour and thought process. The only reason for such a statement is envy. Envy is a serious disease of the heart; it is what led Iblees towards pride, which resulted in Allah’s (swt) disobedience.

“The former said: Verily, Allah accepts only from those who are Al-Muttaqun. If you do stretch your hand against me to kill me, I shall never stretch my hand against you to kill you, for I fear Allah; the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, Jinns, and all that exists).Verily, I intend to let you draw my sin on yourself as well as yours, then you will be one of the dwellers of the Fire, and that is the recompense of the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers).”

Envy is a serious disease of the heart; it is what led Iblees towards pride, which resulted in Allah’s (swt) disobedience.

The other brother did not react violently; he remained calm and tried to reason with his sibling. He put the entire matter in a proper perspective. This son of Adam said that, “It is not you or I who is better- it is the way we perform our sacrifices for Allah (swt).” This brother after explaining why the sacrifice was not accepted tried to reason with his sibling. He assured his brother, “I shall not lay my hand on you to kill you…” He feared Allah (swt) and would not commit a sin, even though he was being wronged. This was his advice, in a gentle calm manner.

Ibn Qutb describes this as, “What we have here is a case of a peaceful man making clear that his attitude is based on fearing God and implementing His commandments. We must admire the victim’s calmness, reassurance, and the fact that he fears God alone. His gentle words should have been sufficient to quench his brother’s rage, reduce his anger, re-establish the feelings of brotherhood and the reassurance of faith.”

The just brother added a warning- in case his gentle words were not heeded. He said that, “If you murder me, it would only add to all your other sins and you would ultimately be a loser.” The murdering brother would be gaining a double sin. He, the just brother, was staying on the right path at the stake of his life. He was not ready to go against Allah’s (swt) commands.

The narcotic Nafs

“So the Nafs (self) of the other (latter one) encouraged him and made fair-seeming to him the murder of his brother; he murdered him and became one of the losers. Then Allah sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him to hide the dead body of his brother. He (the murderer) said: Woe to me! Am I not even able to be as this crow and to hide the dead body of my brother? Then he became one of those who regretted.”

After all the peaceful persuasion and gentle warnings, the crime was committed. The murderer’s evil soul was able to overrule his good side. Following only his Nafs, removed all obstacles and drove him towards killing. He lost a sibling, a brother who was a friend, a shoulder to cry on, and a companion. More importantly, he lost his after life, as he added that new sin to his earlier ones. Once the deed was done, the crime then took on a physical shape in the form of his brother’s dead body. It began to rot and he did not know what to do. He felt helpless and weak, not because he was remorseful, but because he did not know what to do.

Allah (swt) sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him how to hide the dead body. Once he had hidden the body, he was regretful; not because he killed- but because he realized how useless the crime was. This son of Adam (as) did not gain anything from murder; the killing of his brother didn’t make his sacrifice more acceptable to Allah (swt). He was helpless and weak, in complete loss due to his actions – a result of envy and pride.

Moral of the story


Transcribed and adapted by Tasneem Vali.

Proud as a Peacock

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe may never really know, how a peacock feels, and perhaps calling him proud may be doing him an injustice; however, we humans can definitely understand what it is like to be arrogant and worse still – to be treated with arrogance. For instance, there is the case of Saima, who felt looked down upon at work, since she did not speak English very well and did not come from an elite business school. There are other people at work, too, whom we merely take for granted – the sweeper, for instance, who comes early in the morning, much before most people arrive for work, or the intern, who is slogging it out in a cramped corner of the office. Before we move on to discussing, whether arrogance is an acceptable trait, we must first define it.

What is arrogance?

In a Hadeeth narrated by Abdullah Ibn Masud (rta), the Prophet (sa) said: “He, who has in his heart (even) a weight of an atom of arrogance, will not enter Paradise.” Someone asked: “How about a person, who likes to wear beautiful clothes and shoes?” Allah’s Messenger (sa) replied: “Indeed Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the Truth and having contempt for people.”

Is arrogance acceptable?

The Quran is filled with stories of people and nations, who were overbearing and puffed up with self-importance; they rejected Allah’s (swt) Word and mocked the messengers. Their end speaks volumes about how much Allah (swt) dislikes arrogance. The Pharaoh, for instance, was drowned along with his followers, Qarun was swallowed up by the earth, and the nations of Ad, Thamud and Lut were destroyed by natural calamities.

We also find words of admonition in the Holy Quran regarding arrogance. For example, there is the advice of Luqman to his son: “‘And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not any arrogant boaster.’” (Luqman 31:18)


Even the arrogant Qarun was admonished by his own people for his overbearing attitude:

“Verily, Qarun (Korah) was of Musa’s (Moses) people, but he behaved arrogantly towards them. And We gave him of the treasures, that of which the keys would have been a burden to a body of strong men. Remember when his people said to him: ‘Do not exult (with riches, being ungrateful to Allah). Verily, Allah likes not those who exult (with riches, being ungrateful to Allah).’” (Al-Qasas 28:76)

In the books of Ahadeeth, we find the end of a man, who was puffed up with pride.

Ibn Umar (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “A man was walking dragging his dress with pride, he was sunk in the earth because of it and will keep sinking in the earth till the day of standing.” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated: Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Allah (swt) said: ‘Pride is my cloak and honour is my loincloth, and whoever contends with me regarding one of them both, I will throw him in the fire.’” (Abu Dawood)

The above Quranic verses and Ahadeeth clearly show how much Allah (swt) dislikes arrogance.

Are you arrogant?

One is quick to jump to conclusions about people’s vain attitude. However, it is much more important to recognize arrogance within yourself. You could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you love listening to how well you work and how well-dressed you are?
  • Do you believe that you have got this job only, because you worked hard and well? After all – you deserve it!
  • Do you listen to others at work, or do you always want your way? After all – your opinion is what really matters!
  • Working as part of a team, do you feel that the less important work makes you literally that – LESS important?
  • When someone criticizes your opinion, do you feel like saying: “How dare you question my judgment?”

If your answer to most of the above questions is a ‘yes,’ it is likely that the plant of arrogance has taken root inside your heart.

The ways of rooting out arrogance


Begin with seeking Allah’s (swt) help: “O Allah! Keep me alive (in a state of) humbleness and grant me death in (a state of) humbleness, and gather (resurrect) me in the company of the humble ones.” (Ibn Abi Shaibah)

Praise Allah (swt)

When someone praises you, instead of saying thank you, say: “Alhamdulillah!” (Praise be to Allah!)

Remember the warning in the Quran

Remind yourself of the miserable end of the nations and people, who were arrogant.

Look up to the Prophet’s (sa) example

As a part of a team, the Prophet (sa) did not despise any task, no matter how menial and ordinary it appeared to be. Once, he was traveling with his companions and it was time to prepare food, he asked them to slaughter a sheep. A man said: “I will slaughter it.” Another said: “I will skin it out.” A third one said: “I will cook it.” So, Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “I will collect the wood for fire.” They said: “No. We will do that work.” The Prophet (sa) said: “I know that you can do it for me, but I hate to be privileged. Allah hates to see a servant of His privileged to others.” So, he went and collected firewood. (Khulasatus-Siyar, p.22)

Remind yourself of your creation

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “It is He, Who has created you (Adam) from dust, then from a Nutfah (mixed semen drops of male and female sexual discharge [i.e. Adam’s offspring]) then from a clot (a piece of coagulated blood), then brings you forth as an infant…” (Ghafir 40:67)

Dealing with arrogant people

Difficulties in the workplace arise from the attitude of colleagues and supervisors. Dealing with an arrogant boss or a colleague is difficult; however, you can use the following tips to deal with them more effectively.

Be gentle with them

Allah (swt) told Musa (as), how to deal with the arrogant Pharaoh: “And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear (Allah).” (Ta-Ha 20:44)

Arrogance is rooted in insecurity. Being gentle with such a person may tame his desire to overpower others.

Advise them in private

From a Hadeeth, we learn that the Prophet (sa) said: “Islam is a word of sincerity and well wishing.” Upon this, the companions asked: “For whom?” The Prophet (sa) replied: “For Allah, His Book, His Messenger and for the leaders and the common Muslims.” (Muslim, Abu Dawood, and At-Tirmidhi)

Advising such people in private would perhaps give them a chance to reflect on their behavior, which is detrimental to their own self as well as to others around them.

Supplicate for them

Lastly, make a prayer for that arrogant colleague or boss to help him/her get over the overbearing attitude, which invites Allah’s (swt) wrath.