Surah al-Hujurat (The Chambers ) 49 : 12

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱجْتَنِبُوا۟ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا۟ وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allāh; indeed, Allāh is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

[ edit ]

Explanatory Note

This verse establishes yet another fence in this noble society, protecting the integrity and freedom of individuals, while at the same time teaching people how to cleanse their feelings and consciences. Following the pattern of the surah, it begins with the endearing address, "Believers". It follows this by issuing an order to avoid most suspicion, so that they do not leave themselves open to thoughts of doubt about others. It justifies this order by saying that some suspicion is sinful. Since the prohibition applies to most suspicion and the rule is that some suspicion is sinful, then the verse implies that all negative suspicion should be avoided, because no one knows which part of his or her doubts are sinful.

Thus the Qur'an purges a Muslim's inner conscience so that it is not contaminated with evil suspicion and consequently incurs sin. It leaves it clean, free of doubt, entertaining only friendly and affectionate thoughts towards one's brethren. In this way it steers society away from suspicion so that the community enjoys reassurance and is not marred by worry and apprehension. Life in a community where ill thoughts have no place is both serene and comfortable.

Islam does not, however, stop at this point in educating people's hearts and souls. The verse we are looking at establishes a principle that applies to people's dealings with each other. It protects the rights of those who live in its pure society so that they are not punished or tried on the basis of suspicion. Indeed, suspicion does not even form a proper basis for interrogating people or investigating their affairs. The Prophet is quoted as saying: "If you have doubts, do not investigate." [Related by al-Tabarani] What this means is that people remain innocent, enjoying all their rights, freedom and status until it is absolutely clear that they have committed some offence. It is not sufficient just to suspect them of having committed something so they are then pursued with the aim of establishing whether they are guilty or not.

This verse shows us the limit to which Islam goes in protecting people's freedom, integrity, rights and status. How does this compare with what even the best democratic countries boast of with regard to protecting human rights? This standard, which the Qur'an sets for believers, is far superior indeed. Moreover, Islam achieves this in real life, after it establishes it in people's hearts and consciences.

The verse moves on to lay down another principle that provides social guarantees: And do not spy on one another." (Verse 12) Spying may be an action that follows immediately on entertaining suspicion. On the other hand, it may be an independent action that seeks to look at other people's faults and errors. The Qur'an opposes spying because it is morally base. It aims to purge people's hearts from sinking into this vile pursuit in order to keep up its high moral standards.

Yet the order goes beyond this. It states an essential principle of the Islamic social system and its legislative measures. People are entitled to have their freedom and integrity respected. These should not be violated or encroached upon in any way.

In an Islamic society people enjoy a high standard of values. They enjoy security in their lives, homes and personal affairs. Nothing whatsoever justifies any violation of these. Indeed, the investigation of a crime does not provide, in the Islamic system, justification for spying on people. We take people by their appearances, and no one is entitled to delve into others' affairs. Indeed, people may not be taken to task except for what is evident of their offences. No one may suspect, anticipate or even know that others are secretly committing some violation and resort to spying on them so as to establish this as a fact or to catch them red-handed. All that may be done against such people is that they be put to trial when they actually commit a crime.

Some people said to `Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, a learned scholar and a Companion of the Prophet: "We saw this man with his beard dripping wine." He said: "We have been forbidden to spy. If we see something evident, we act on it." [Related by Abu Dawad.] Mujahid says: 

"Do not spy on one another. Take people on the basis of what is apparent and do not look into what God has left concealed."

Imam Ahmad quotes Dujayn, a clerk employed by `Uqbah, saying: "I said to Uqbah that we have neighbours who drink and I want to call the police to take them to account." He said to me: "Do not do that. What you should do is to advise and warn them." Dujayn did this but his neighbours persisted in their prohibited ways. So he said to 'Uqbah again: "I have warned them, but they will not desist. I am calling the police." Uqbah said to him: "Do not do that. I heard the Prophet say: Whoever keeps to himself a fault of another believer is like one who rescues a girl buried alive.'" [Also related by Abu Dawud and al-Nasa'i]

Abu Dawud quotes Mu'awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan as saying: "I heard the Prophet saying: 'If you pursue people's faults you corrupt them, or almost corrupt them'." Abu al-Darda', a learned Companion of the Prophet, said: "This is a word Mu'awiyah has heard from the Prophet, and God has enabled him to benefit by it."

Thus was the divine order implemented in practical life. It did not stop at being a form of practical education to purge hearts and consciences. It became like a fence protecting people's rights, freedom and sanctity, so that they could not be touched under any pretext. Far superior is this level to any achieved today, 1,400 years later, even by those societies which respect human rights and freedom most.

Next comes the order that forbids backbiting. This is given in such a way that it provides a graphic description of the disgusting nature of this action: "Nor backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Surely you would loathe it." (Verse 12) The order tells Muslims that they must not backbite. It then paints a scene that fills even the most insensitive of people with disgust, showing someone eating his dead brother's flesh. It immediately declares that they have, of course, a very strong and natural aversion to such behaviour. Hence, they also have a strong aversion against backbiting.

Following all these prohibitions against suspicion, spying and backbiting, the surah awakens believers' God-fearing instinct, inviting anyone who has committed any of these unlawful acts to hasten and repent in the hope of God's mercy: And remain God-fearing. God is certainly the One who accepts repentance, and He is merciful." (Verse 12)

Once again we say that this text is meant in practice to be like a high boundary protecting people's sanctity and integrity. It provides Muslims with a profound sense of morality. The Prophet follows the Qur'an's example in making backbiting appear so disgusting. Abu Hurayrah reports that the Prophet was asked to define backbiting. He said: "To say about your brother something he dislikes." Someone asked: "Suppose that what I say is true of my brother." The Prophet answered: "If you say what is true, you are guilty of backbiting; but if it is untrue, you are guilty of wilful defamation." [Related by al-Tirmidhi who states that it is authentic.]

A'ishah reports that she said to the Prophet: "It is enough that Safiyyah [another wife of the Prophet] is so and so [referring to the fact that she is short]." The Prophet said to her: "You have said a word that would contaminate the entire volume of seawater." She added that she imitated someone to him, but he said: "I would rather not imitate anyone, even if I would get so and so for it." [Related by Abu Dawud.]

Anas ibn Malik quotes the Prophet as saying: "When I was taken on my ascension to heaven, I passed by people with copper nails, scratching their faces and chests. I said: 'Gabriel, who are these?' He said: 'These are the ones who eat the flesh of others and detract from their honour.'" [Related by Abu Dawud.]

Ma`iz and the Ghamidi woman confessed to the Prophet that they had committed adultery, insisting that the Prophet should administer the mandatory punishment to cleanse them. Hence he ordered that they be stoned. The Prophet subsequently heard one man say to another: "Have you seen this man whose offence God has concealed? Yet he insisted on being punished until he was stoned like a dog." The Prophet marched on with his Companions and soon passed by a dead donkey. He asked for the two men, and when they came forward, he said to them: "Get down and eat of this." Shocked, the two men said: "May God forgive you, Messenger of God! Is this something to be eaten?" He said: "What you said about your brother a short while ago is even more disgusting than eating of this. By Him who holds my soul in His hand, he is now in heaven being bathed in its waters." [Related by Ibn Kathir in his commentary on the Qur'an.]

With such consistent treatment the Muslim community was purged and attained its high standard. It became like a dream that came true, a model to be followed and relished.

2. Linguistic Analysis

[ edit ]
The data for this section is awaiting to be be uploaded. Be the first to contribute.


Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *


3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

[ edit ]
The data for this section is awaiting to be be uploaded. Be the first to contribute.

5. Connected/Related Ayat

[ edit ]
The data for this section is awaiting to be be uploaded. Be the first to contribute.

6. Frequency of the word

[ edit ]
The data for this section is awaiting to be be uploaded. Be the first to contribute.

7. Period of Revelation

[ edit ]

This Surah is a collection of the commandments and instructions sent down on different occasions. Moreover, the hadith also show that most of these commandments were sent down during the final stage of the Prophet’s life at Madinah. For instance, the commentators of the Qur’an state that verse 4 was sent down concerning the Bani Tamim. This deputation had arrived in Madinah and started calling out to the Prophet from outside the apartments (hujurat) of his wives, and according to all biographical books on the Prophet’s life this deputation had visited Madinah in 9 A.H. Likewise, verse 6, a large number of the hadith confirm that it was sent down concerning Walid bin Uqbah whom the Prophet had sent to collect the financial obligation (Zakah) from the Bani al-Mustaliq, and it is known that he had become a Muslim on the conquest of Makkah.

8. Reasons for Revelation

[ edit ]
The data for this section is awaiting to be be uploaded. Be the first to contribute.

9. Relevant Hadith

[ edit ]
The data for this section is awaiting to be be uploaded. Be the first to contribute.

10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

11. Tafsir Zone

 

12. External Links

[ edit ]
The data for this section is awaiting to be be uploaded. Be the first to contribute.