Quarterly: Issue No 62
PIETY, RIGHTEOUSNESS (AL-BIRR)
Allah, the Exalted, says:
Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but (true) righteousness is (in) one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets
and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to
those who ask (for help), and for freeing slaves;
(and who) establishes prayer and gives zakaah; (those who) fulfil their promise when they promise; and (those who) are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous. (Chapter 2: Surah Al-Baqarah: Verse 177)
This is one of the longest verses in the Qur’an-e-Kareem and is 3.5 times longer than Surah al-Asr. The relationship between this “Ayat al-Birr” and Surah al-Asr is similar to the relationship between “Ayat al-Kursiyy” and Surat al-Ikhlas. Three of the 4 conditions for salvation in Surah al-Asr are discussed in this “Ayat al-Birr” (the fourth is also implicitly referred to herein). FIVE articles of Imaan are discussed herein i.e.
i. Imaan billah (Faith in Allah)
ii. Imaan bil-Akhirah (Faith in the Akhirah)
iii. Imaan bil-malaaika (Faith in the Malaa’ikah)
iv. Imaan bil kitaab (Faith in the Revealed Book of Allah i.e. the Qur’an)
v. Imaan in the Messengers (Faith in Allah’s Messengers)
This verse also mentions 3 categories of Good Deeds i.e.
i. Spend wealth to redress the difficulties/needs of the needy - charity
ii. Ibadaat (Salaah, Zakaat) - huqooq of Allah
iii. Social virtue - honesty, keeping up commitments, etc. – huqooq of human being
Tawasaww bil Haqq - not explicitly mentioned - though it is implicitly referred to – amongst the reasons to have sabr - struggling in the path of Allah.
Tawasaww bil Sabr – here it gives 3 occasions that require sabr i.e.
i. Sabr in individual hardship (hunger, illness, needs for survival)
ii. Sabr in face of physical / mental torture
iii. Sabr in face of war
This “Ayat-ul-Birr” begins with a negation of certain superficial (or perverse) concepts of righteousness, and then affirms what true righteousness is - complete concept of worship. Every human being needs a concept of virtue (value system) and adopts it to satisfy one’s own conscience. This Ayah contains much great wisdom, encompassing rulings and correct beliefs.
As for the explanation of this Ayah, Allah first commanded the believers to face Bayt Al-Maqdis (in Jerusalem), and then to face the Ka’bah (in Makkah) during the prayer. This change was difficult for some of the People of the Book, and even for some Muslims. Then Allah sent revelation which clarified the wisdom behind this command, i.e. the real object is to obey Allah, adhere to His commands, face towards wherever He commands, and implement whatever He legislates. This is Birr, Taqwa and complete Imaan. Facing the east or the west does not necessitate righteousness or obedience, unless it is legislated by Allah. This is why Allah said: It is not Birr that you turn your faces towards east and (or) west (in prayers); but Birr is the one who believes in Allah and the Last Day …
Similarly, Allah said about the sacrifices in another chapter:
It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is the piety from you that reaches Him. (Chapter 22: Surah Al-Hajj: Verse 37)
Allamah ibn Kathir (rahmatullahi alayhi) writes that Abu Al-Aliyah (ra) said:
“The Jews used to face the west for their Qiblah, while the Christians used to face the east for their Qiblah. So Allah said: It is not Birr that you turn your faces towards east and (or) west (in prayers)) (2: 177) meaning, “this is faith, and its essence requires implementation.” Similar was reported from Al-Hasan and Ar-Rabi’ bin Anas. Sufyan Ath-Thawri recited: “but Birr is the one who believes in Allah,” and said that what follows are the types of Birr. He has said the truth. Certainly, those who acquire the qualities mentioned in the Ayah will have indeed embraced all aspects of Islam and implemented all types of righteousness; believing in Allah, that He is the only God worthy of worship, and believing in the angels the emissaries between Allah and His Messengers. The ‘Books’ are the Divinely revealed Books from Allah to the Prophets, which were finalized by the most honourable Book (the Qur’an). The Qur’an supercedes all previous Books; it mentions all types of righteousness, and the way to happiness in this life and the Hereafter. The Qur’an abrogates all previous Books and testifies to all of Allah’s Prophets, from the first Prophet to the Final Prophet, Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them all.
“…and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it” refers to those who give money away while desiring it and loving it. It is recorded in the Sahihain (Bukhari and Muslim) that Abu Hurayrah (ra) narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said: ‘The best charity is when you give it away while still healthy and thrifty, hoping to get rich and fearing poverty.’ (Sahih Al-Bukhari: Book 55: Hadith 11).
Allah also said in another chapter of the Qur’an:
And they give food, in spite of their love for it, to the Miskeen (the poor), the orphan, and the captive (saying): “We feed you seeking Allah’s Face only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you.” (Surah Al-Insaan: Verses 8 and 9)
Allah also said in another chapter of the Qur’an:
By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness, etc.), unless you spend (in Allah’s Cause) of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well. (Surah Ale Imraan: Verse 92).
Allah also said in another chapter of the Qur’an:
“… and give them (emigrants) preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that. And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness (desire and cravings), such are they who will be the successful.” (Surah Al-Hashr: Verse 9) refers to a higher category and status of people, as the people mentioned here give away what they need, while those mentioned in the previous verse above give away what they crave and yearn for (but not necessarily need).
“the kinsfolk” refers to man’s close relatives, who have more rights than anyone else to one’s charity, as the Hadith supports:
‘Sadaqah (i. e., charity) given to the poor is a charity, while the Sadaqah given to the relatives is both Sadaqah and Silah (nurturing relations), for they are the most deserving of you and your kindness and charity.’ Allah has commanded kindness to the relatives in many places in the Qur’an.
“to the orphans”. The orphans are children who have none to look after them, having lost their fathers while they are still young, weak and unable to find their own sustenance since they have not reached the age of work and adolescence.
“and to Al-Masaakeen”. The Miskeen is the person who does not have enough food, clothing, or he has no dwelling. So the Miskeen should be granted the provisions to sustain him enough so that he can acquire his needs. In the Sahihain (Bukhari and Muslim) it is recorded that Abu Hurayrah (ra) said that Allah’s Messenger said:
‘The Miskeen is not the person who roams around, and whose need is met by one or two dates or one or two bites. Rather, the Miskeen is he who does not have what is sufficient, and to whom the people do not pay attention and, thus, do not give him from the charity.’
“and to the wayfarer” is the needy traveller who runs out of money and should, thus, be granted whatever amount that helps him to go back to his land. Such is the case with whoever intends to go on a permissible journey; he is given what he needs for his journey and back. The guests are included in this category. Ali bin Abi Talhah (ra) reported that Ibn Abbas (ra) said, ‘Ibn As-Sabeel (wayfarer) is the guest who is hosted by Muslims.’
“and to those who ask” refers to those who beg people and are thus given a part of the Zakaah and general charity.
“and to set servants free”. These are the servants who seek to free themselves, but cannot find enough money to buy their freedom.
“performs As-Salaah (Iqaamat-As-Salaah)” means those who pray on time and give the prayer its due right; the bowing, prostration, and the necessary attention and humbleness required by Allah.
“and gives the Zakaah” means the required charity (Zakaah) due on one’s money, as Sa’id bin Jubayr and Muqaatil bin Hayyan have stated.
“and who fulfill their covenant (promise) when they make it,”
The opposite of this characteristic is hypocrisy. As found in a Hadith:
‘The signs of a hypocrite are three: if he speaks, he lies; if he promises, he breaks his promise; and if he is entrusted, he breaches the trust’. (Bukhari and Muslim)
“and who are patient in extreme poverty and ailment (disease) and at the time of fighting (during the battles)” means during the time of meekness and ailment.
“… and at the time of fighting (during the battles)” means on the battlefield while facing the enemy, as Ibn Mas’ud, Ibn Abbas, Abu Al-Aliyah, Murrah Al-Hamdani, Mujahid, Sa’id bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi bin Anas, As-Suddi, Muqatil bin Hayyan, Abu Malik, Ad-Dahhak and others have stated.
And calling them the patient here, is a form of praise, because of the importance of patience in these circumstances, and the suffering and difficulties that accompany them. And Allah knows best, it is He Whom help is sought from, and upon Him we rely.
And then come Allah’s FINAL statement:
“Such are the people of the truth” means whoever acquires these qualities; these people are truthful in their faith. This is because they have achieved faith in the heart and realized it in their deeds and upon the tongue. So they are the truthful.
“and they are Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)” because they avoided the prohibitions and performed the acts of obedience.
May Allah make us true and sincere believers and make us amongst those who are truly Al-Muttaqoon. Ameen!
O Allah! Your Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more hope in Your Mercy than in my own deeds.
Requesting your humble duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Kyalami Glen, Gauteng
Johannesburg, South Africa