Bribery, Spousal Obedience, Giving and Depriving

Issue 1003 » June 15, 2018 - Shawwal 1, 1439

Living The Quran

Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 188

"And do not eat up each other's property unlawfully, nor use it as a means of access to rulers so that you may eat up part of others' property depriving them of their right wrongfully while you know it is wrong and unjust."

This verse sheds light on various aspects of bribery. Firstly, bribery is one of the major means of usurping others' rights. That is why it is specially mentioned immediately after the prohibition of unlawfully grabbing others' wealth. The reason for this is quite clear. The law, the most important means of protecting others' rights, depends for its efficacy largely on the honesty and integrity of rulers, the guardians of the law. If they are somehow corrupted, that would mean that people's rights are then up for sale and anyone who has money can buy them. Bribery is obviously a most effective means of corrupting rulers.

Secondly, the most effective factor in the spread of corruption rests within society itself. When people are inclined to usurp others' rights they resort to bribery to get their way. Rulers, in turn, become so addicted to it that they would not render to people even their normal rights without the lure of a bribe. That is why Islam first and foremost admonishes people against corrupting the custodians of law. Islam is so sensitive in this regard that it considers it undesirable for rulers to receive gifts from the public. This is obvious from various statements of the Prophet, peace be upon him, on this subject because this is yet another backdoor to corruption and bribery.

Thirdly, bribery is an obvious wrong. This fact is supported by human reason and by the convention (maruf) universally accepted by all societies. All religions and laws are agreed on its prohibition - hence, the concluding words: wa antum ta lamun (while you know it is wrong and unjust).

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Quran: Surah al-Fatiha and Surah al-Baqarah" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Spousal Obedience

At no point does the Quran use the word taah (obedience) in characterizing the marital relationship. Rather, marriage is characterized as a relationship of companionship and compassion (mawaddah wa rahmah), not a relationship between a superior and inferior.

The primary role in determinations of spousal obedience is played by traditions attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), the most notable of these being the one in which the Prophet reportedly says, "It is not lawful for anyone to prostrate to anyone. But if I would have ordered any person to prostrate to another, I would have commanded wives to prostrate to their husbands because of the enormity of the rights of husbands over their wives." This tradition is narrated in a variety of forms and through a variety of transmissions by Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Nasai, and Ibn Hibban.

According to scholars of hadith, the authenticity of these traditions ranges from daif (weak) to hasan gharib (good). All of them are ahadi hadith (reports of singular transmissions) not reaching the level of tawatur (reports of several transmissions). While the physical act of prostration to the husband is not permitted, the moral substance of prostration does apply through such traditions. The clear implication of the reports is that a wife owes her husband, by virtue of him being a husband, a heavy debt.

There is no question that these traditions have grave theological, moral, and social consequences. They do not only support determinations mandating obedience to husbands, but they also contribute to the general denigration of the moral status of women. Regardless of the jargon generated by apologists about how Islam liberated and honoured women, these traditions subjugate a woman's honour to the will of men.

If a Muslim's conscience is disturbed, the least that would be theologically expected from thinking beings who carry the burden of free will, accountability and God's trust, is to take a reflective pause, and ask: Can I, consistently with my faith and understanding of God and God's message, believe that God's Prophet is primarily responsible for this tradition?

Perhaps the most notable thing about the prostration traditions is that they are structurally peculiar. In most reports, the Prophet is asked whether it is permissible to prostrate to him, the Prophet. To this he is supposed to have answered, "No! But actually, if a human could prostrate to a human it would be the wife to a husband." Such a fundamentally revolutionary view is expressed out of context and in a rather casual way. Prophet volunteers this injunction although that is not what is being asked. In most versions, the one doing the asking is a man and the response is given to a man or men. Although the traditions have a profound impact upon women, this advice is supposed to be enunciated before an audience of men. This is quite a casual way of delivering advice that will have profound social and theological implications upon women in particular.

Furthermore, the Quran is rather vigilant in asserting the unshared, undivided, and non-contingent supremacy of God. This assertion formed the basis for the Islamic dogma maintaining that submission to God necessarily means non-submission to anyone else. Consequently, any tradition that draws an association between the status of the Prophet, or the pleasure of God, and the status or pleasure of a human being is inherently suspect. Under all circumstances, it is reasonable to claim that if a tradition has serious theological, moral, and social implications, it should meet a heavy burden of proof before it can be relied upon. But even more, if a tradition is suspect because of a contextual or structural defect, among other reasons, then there should be a presumption against its authenticity, and the evidence supporting the authenticity of the tradition should be conclusive.

If one adopts the proportionality inquiry advocated here, the conscientious-pause would lead one, at a minimum, to refuse to rely on traditions such as the prostration and submission tradition in legal or theological matters. This does not necessarily mean that one is conclusively deciding that the tradition is not authentic. Rather, one is only deciding that the tradition cannot be conclusively said to originate primarily from the Prophet. Since one suspends, perhaps indefinitely, reliance on such traditions, one does not need to affirmatively decide whether they are authentic or not. All one needs to decide is that they are not good enough to rely on, and, therefore, we do not even reach a faith-based determination.

Compiled From:
"Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women" - Khaled Abou El Fadl


Giving and Depriving

Whatever you are given is from God's bounties and He is protecting you, even from yourself. So, do not look only at what you are deprived of and wish to get something that might cause you to do wrong.

Feeling joyful is not denounced in Islam. A believer feels happy for the bounties that God bestows on him. However, feeling miserable for what is missed is not the right response. If you feel happy for worldly gains, know that this life will come to an end. There is an Arabic statement: If what you have had lasted with the person before you, it would not have reached you!

Thus, if you have less to be happy with, then there will be less to be sad about. It is out of God's bounty that He gives you just enough so that you will not be sad for missing things you do not need. If you have enough food, drink, and providence, this is a perfect blessing from God and you should thank God for that. God has a perfect wisdom in giving and depriving; He wants the best for you, be satisfied with that.

Compiled From:
"A Journey to God: Reflections on the Hikam of Ibn Ataillah" - Jasser Auda