Saturday 6 July 2019

Shuaib (a.s) and Ancient Secularism

Shuaib (a.s) and Ancient Secularism
Based on a lecture by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan

Qur'an details a case study of economic corruption through the study of a place called Madyan. The people Madyan had bad habit of cheating people by weighing things incorrectly and offering less than they paid for. One may say that this is not applicable today as we have much more accurate scales and the shops are not cheating this way. While this may be true in some parts of the world, there is still a prevalance of unfair labour wages, child labour factories and pharmaceutical products being sold at 1000x their cost price. These are all examples of people not being given their due measure.

In Surah Hud (chapter 11), Allah عزّ وجلّ says:

84: Then to Madyan we sent their brother Shuaib. He said, “My nation, enslave yourselves to Allah. You have no entity (Illah) other than Him. And don’t cheat people in weights and scales. I want to see good for you. And I am afraid over you of a punishment that will encircle you.”
85: “And my nation, fulfill the scales and weights with open justice and don’t give people less than what they deserve for their things. And don’t go about the land causing mischief.”
86: “The remainder of [what] Allah [leaves behind for you] that is better for if you are believers and I am not a guardian over you.”

What does cheating in business do to society? It adds corruption to the society. When businesses begin to cheat, it spreads and becomes the norm and allows all types of corruption to spread through the society.

87: They said, “Shuaib, is it your prayers that are commanding us to leave what our ancestors used to worship? Or that we cannot do what we want with our money? You are so forbearing and straight.”
Here the people of Madyan are questioning Shuaib (a.s) as to why he is allowing religion to enter the public sphere. Prayer is a personal matter and religion has no place in the world of business, politics, culture or civilisation. This is an example of ancient secularism. Why does money have to interfere with our fiscal responsibilities? Their sarcasm is evident at the end of the ayah when they state that Shuaib (a.s) is now righteous and better than them because of his faith.

88: He said, “My nation, if you’ve seen that I’ve been committed to a decency - a clear proof from my Master, and He provided me with good provision. And I don’t want to oppose you to what I am forbidding you from. All I want is betterment, as much as I can. My accomplishments are entirely dependent on Allah, I have placed my trust in Him and to Him alone I will return.”
In this ayah, Shuaib (a.s) does not mention the ‘special mercy given to him by Allah’ (عزّ وجلّ) as the previous Messengers have in Surah Hud. Instead, he highlights that Allah has given him good provision because the problem within his society was corrupt provision.

89: “And my nation, your opposition to me should not compel you and lead you to think the same things that happened to the nation of Nuh, or the nation of Hud, or the nation of Saleh [should happen to you]. The nation of Lot is not far-away from you.”
90: “Then seek forgiveness of your Master and repent back towards Him. No doubt, my Master is always Merciful and Extremely Loving.”
91: They said, “Shuaib, we do not understand what you are talking about and we see you in our midst as someone who is weak. Had it not been that you are an important asset to your tribe we would have stoned you to death and you are not dear to us in any way.”

This is a classical example of undermining the speaker. Just saying, "I don't know what you are talking about and you are making no sense". The speaker feels stupid, inadequate and makes him feel that he is not able to convey the message.

92: He said, “My nation, my leadership has more authority against you as opposed to Allah? And you have left Him behind. No doubt, my Master is aware of what you are up to and is encircling it.”
93: “And my nation, stand your ground on what it is you are going to do. I am doing whatever I can too. Soon you will find out who the humiliating punishment will come to. And who is a liar and wait – I too am waiting cautiously.”
94: And when Our decision came, We rescued Shuaib and those who believed alongside him, with a mercy that came from Us. And the loud cry (explosion) grabbed those who had done wrong. Then by morning they were lying dead in their homes.
95: As though they had never enjoyed any luxury [in those homes before]. You better know, away with Madiyan, just like Thamud was cast off (distanced).

Details of Surah Hud:

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