يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِّن نِّسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ ۖ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
“O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it, to insult one’s brother after having Faith [i.e. to call your Muslim brother (a faithful believer) as: “O sinner”, or “O wicked”, etc.]. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.).” (Al-Hujurat 49:11)
In the previous verses, we are told to fix societal problems, in order to attain unity in Islam. In verses 11 and 12, Allah (swt) has forbidden and warned us about six common behaviours of people, which we often take lightly.
- Don’t mock one another. People may differ in their appearance, language and status. Allah (swt) has given to people different levels of knowledge, beauty and rank. He has raised some people above others and subjected them to their service. In Surah Al-Zukhruf, it means ‘subjected to’. It does not mean ‘mocking’.
Surah Al-Hujurat is telling us not to mock anyone or make fun of them. We must not be proud, arrogant, jealous, hateful and malicious, all of which comprise sicknesses of the heart. In Surah Al-Isra (17:21), Allah (swt) says that the differences in this life do not mean anything; rather, they are tests. We need to accept the differences and change our perspective of perceiving people.
If you are mocking someone because he or she is poor or ugly, who put you in your elevated situation? A believer understands Allah’s (swt) decree and accepts it. By mocking Allah’s (swt) creation, it is as though you are mocking Allah (swt). Islam focuses on people’s feelings, and no one likes to be mocked.
It may be that the person being made fun of is better than the one who is mocking. It can be in the Dunya or Akhirah.
- When Allah (swt) says ‘Qawm’, it encompasses men and women; however, He still mentions women separately, because women are more subject to such behaviour than men. Here we see that Allah (swt) deals with men and women according to their nature.
This verse is for every Muslim; however, the students of knowledge and Daees have to be extra careful, as because of their behaviour, people may start doubting the teachings of Islam. A student of knowledge should not make fun of other’s mistakes; instead, he needs to learn how to guide people in a kind and loving manner.
If certain individuals are not praying or dressing according to the Islamic guidelines, you can gently advise them, but never think that you are better than them by lowering their image in your heart. You can never know what level of faith they may attain. They may end up being better Muslims than you.
- Do not insult one another. ‘Lamz’ means ‘to insult, defame, find fault in somebody’ by your words. A person’s physical features can be described, if they are lost and need to be found. ‘Hamz’ means ‘to insult’ by your actions. This includes hand gestures, imitation.
Why does Allah (swt) say ‘Anfusakum’?
- If you insult a Muslim, you have insulted your own self, because Muslims are like a wall, like one body. They give strength to each other and do not hurt or weaken one another.
- If you insult someone, they will insult you in return. The other person will not keep quiet.
Do not insult each other by using nicknames (‘Laqab’). Nicknames can be good or bad, and we should call people by names that they like to hear. Using abusive language and hurtful names is not part of Islam.
These three aforementioned behaviours are forbidden. All of these are actions of the tongue; however, there is something in the heart that triggers such words and actions. It is important for mothers to teach humility to their children and remind them that all the bounties they have are from Allah (swt).
If you keep up such behaviour after having believed in Allah (swt), you will become a Fasiq. Being a Fasiq has many implications. Such a person cannot lead prayers and a testimony is not accepted from him. The person is required to repent from these major sins or else, he or she will face the following:
- Darkness in the grave.
- Darkness on the Day of Judgement,
- Darkness on the bridge of Sirat.
One needs to repent to Allah (swt) and rectify his affairs with the people he has wronged.
Summary of the six characteristics we have been warned against in Verses 11 and 12:
Transcribed and adapted for “Hiba” magazine by Shaheera Vakani (Jeddah).