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Muslims avoid harming people with their words and deeds

December 20, 2014

People safe from evil in Islam 2

By Abu Amina Elias

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

An important principle in Islam and a foundational legal maxim in Islamic law was stated by As-Suyuti as follows:

الضَّرَر يُزَال

Harm should be removed.

Source: al-Ashbāh wal-Naẓāʼir 1/7

As a general rule, Muslims should not harm other people, especially other Muslims. The only exception to this rule is due to the need for self-defense against aggression or to avert some greater evil, as stated in the following subsidiary legal maxim:

الضَّرَرُ الْأَشَدُّ يُزَالُ بِالضَّرَرِ الْأَخَفِّ

Greater harm can be removed by lesser harm.

Source: Sharḥ Majallat al-Aḥkām 1/54

The Prophet decreed this rule as a matter of law and ethics.

Ubaida ibn As-Samit reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, issued a decree:

لاَ ضَرَرَ وَلاَ ضِرَارَ

Do not cause harm or return harm.

Source: Sunan Ibn Mājah 2340, Grade: Hasan

The Prophet defined the true Muslim as one who avoids harming other Muslims with his tongue (words) and hand (actions).

Abdullah bin Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

الْمُسْلِمُ مَنْ سَلِمَ الْمُسْلِمُونَ مِنْ لِسَانِهِ وَيَدِهِ

The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 10, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

Amr ibn Absah reported: A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, what is Islam?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

أَنْ تُسْلِمُ قَلْبَكَ لِلَّهِ وَيَسْلُمُ الْمُسْلِمُونَ مِنْ لِسَانِكَ وَيَدِكَ

That you surrender your heart to Allah and that the Muslims are safe from your tongue and hand.

Source: Shu’ab al-Imān 20, Grade: Sahih

We should be particularly careful to protect those within our own community, but the principle is not restricted only to Muslims. Rather, it applies to all humanity and even the animals.

In another narration of this tradition, the Prophet said:

الْمُسْلِمُ مَنْ سَلِمَ النَّاسُ مِنْ لِسَانِهِ وَيَدِهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُ مَنْ أَمِنَهُ النَّاسُ عَلَى دِمَائِهِمْ وَأَمْوَالِهِمْ

The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe, and the believer is the one who is trusted with the lives and wealth of the people.

Source: Sunan al-Nasā’ī 4998, Grade: Sahih

And in another narration, the Prophet said:

الإسلام أفضل مَنْ سَلِمَ النَّاسُ مِنْ لِسَانِهِ وَيَدِهِ

The best Islam belongs to those from whose tongue and hand people are safe.

Source: Musnad Aḥmad 6714, Grade: Sahih

Hasan Al-Basri, may Allah have mercy on him, said:

إِنْ سَرَّكُمْ أَنْ تَسْلَمُوا وَيَسْلَمَ لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ فَكُفُّوا أَيْدِيَكُمْ عَنْ دِمَاءِ النَّاسِ وَكُفُّوا أَلْسِنَتَكُمْ عَنْ أَعْرَاضِهِمْ وَكُفُّوا بُطُونَكُمْ عَنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ

If you would be pleased to be safe and for your religion to be safe for you, then restrain your hands from harming the lives of people, restrain your tongues from harming their honor, and restrain your stomachs from consuming their wealth.

Source: Makārim al-Akhlāq lil-Kharā’iṭī 379

It is not permissible in Islam to harm even a small animal like a bird, a dog, or even pig without a just cause for doing so.

Abdullah ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ قَتَلَ عُصْفُورًا فَمَا فَوْقَهَا بِغَيْرِ حَقِّهَا سَأَلَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عَنْهَا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

If someone kills so much as a sparrow or anything larger without a just cause, then Allah the Exalted will ask him about it on the Day of Resurrection.

Source: Sunan al-Nasā’ī 4445, Grade: Sahih

In another narration, the Prophet said:

مَنْ قَتَلَ عُصْفُورًا عَبَثًا عَجَّ إِلَى اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَقُولُ يَا رَبِّ إِنَّ فُلَانًا قَتَلَنِي عَبَثًا وَلَمْ يَقْتُلْنِي لِمَنْفَعَةٍ

Whoever kills so much as a sparrow unjustly will have it pleading to Allah on the Day of Resurrection, saying: O Lord, he killed me for no reason, and he did not kill be for any beneficial purpose.

Source: Sunan al-Nasā’ī 4446, Grade: Hasan

Fudayl ibn Iyad, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

وَاللَّهِ مَا يَحِلُّ لَكَ أَنْ تُؤْذِيَ كَلْبًا وَلَا خِنْزِيرًا بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ فَكَيْفَ تُؤْذِي مُسْلِمًا

By Allah, it is not lawful for you to harm a dog or a pig without a just cause, so how can you harm a Muslim?

Source: Siyar Aʻlām al-Nubalāʼ 8/427

Indeed, a true Muslim must not harm his neighbors at all, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims, lest he be forbidden from entering Paradise.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ فَلَا يُؤْذِي جَارَهُ

Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him not harm his neighbor.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6110, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

In another narration, the Prophet said:

لَا يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مَنْ لَا يَأْمَنُ جَارُهُ بَوَائِقَهُ

He will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not secure from his evil.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 46, Grade: Sahih

And in another narration, the Prophet said:

أَلَا أُخْبِرُكُمْ بِخَيْرِكُمْ مِنْ شَرِّكُمْ خَيْرُكُمْ مَنْ يُرْجَى خَيْرُهُ وَيُؤْمَنُ شَرُّهُ وَشَرُّكُمْ مَنْ لَا يُرْجَى خَيْرُهُ وَلَا يُؤْمَنُ شَرُّهُ

Shall I not tell you what distinguishes the best of you from the worst of you? The best of you are those from whom goodness is expected and people are safe from their evil. The worst of you are those from whom goodness is not expected and people are not safe from their evil.

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2263, Grade: Sahih

We all understand how harmful evil actions can be, but many of us do not realize that simple words can be just as harmful. A person might speak an evil word for which he will be punished in Hellfire.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ الْعَبْدَ لَيَتَكَلَّمُ بِالْكَلِمَةِ يَنْزِلُ بِهَا فِي النَّارِ أَبْعَدَ مَا بَيْنَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ

Verily, the servant may speak a single word for which he plummets into the Hellfire farther than the distance between East and West.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6112, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

In another narration, the Prophet said:

وَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَزِلُّ عَلَى لِسَانِهِ أَشَدَّ مَا يَزِلُّ عَلَى قَدَمَيْهِ

Verily, a man stumbles due to his tongue more than he stumbles with his two feet.

Source: Shu’b al-Imān 4484, Grade: Hasan

In contrast, protecting people from harm is a virtuous deed in Islam, such that it can be a means of great reward in the Hereafter. Even a simple act such as removing thorns from the road is a good deed that leads to Paradise.

Abu Barza reported: I said, “O Messenger of Allah, teach me something that will benefit me.” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

اعْزِلْ الْأَذَى عَنْ طَرِيقِ الْمُسْلِمِينَ

Remove harmful things from the roads of the Muslims.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2618, Grade: Sahih

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَقَدْ رَأَيْتُ رَجُلاً يَتَقَلَّبُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ فِي شَجَرَةٍ قَطَعَهَا مِنْ ظَهْرِ الطَّرِيقِ كَانَتْ تُؤْذِي النَّاسَ

Verily, I saw a man enjoying himself in Paradise because he cut down a tree in the road that used to harm people.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1914, Grade: Sahih

In fact, Allah will treat us in the same way that we treated other people. If we harmed others with our hurtful words and evil deeds, then Allah will similarly punish us on the Day of Resurrection.

Abu Sirmah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ ضَارَّ ضَارَّ اللَّهُ بِهِ وَمَنْ شَاقَّ شَاقَّ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ

Whoever harms others, then Allah will harm him. Whoever is harsh with others, then Allah will be harsh with him.

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1940, Grade: Hasan

Thus, the true believers must always treat others the way they would love to be treated, for they will be treated in this manner in the Hereafter.

Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ أَحَبَّ أَنْ يُزَحْزَحَ عَنْ النَّارِ وَيَدْخُلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَلْتُدْرِكْهُ مَنِيَّتُهُ وَهُوَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَيَأْتِي إِلَى النَّاسِ مَا يُحِبُّ أَنْ يُؤْتَى إِلَيْهِ

Whoever would love to be saved from Hellfire and entered into Paradise, then let him die with faith in Allah and the Last Day and let him treat people the way he would love to be treated.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1844, Grade: Sahih

In sum, one of the fundamental characteristics of Islam and a true Muslim is to protect people from harm and evil. The only case in which it is permitted to harm someone is if it is the only way to prevent an even greater harm and evil. We have to be sure we treat people well,  refrain from harming them, and take steps to ensure harm is reduced from the environment and other people.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.