ISLAM: NO PLACE TO IMMUNITY

It is widely known that some important persons in any given land are given extraordinary privileges and immunity. They are not treated like the ordinary people and laymen.

In the matter of fact, the point of Islam can be reflected clearly in the following verse:

“ …Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you…”(Al-Hujurat 49:13)

He also says:

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.”(An-Nisaa’ 4:135)

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“Allah, the Almighty, does not consider how your appearances or how rich you are, rather He looks to your hearts and your deeds”.(Ahmad)

It can be said after these proofs from the Qur’an and the Sunnah that there is no place in Islam for preference based upon wealth, power, or family.

These preferences will definitely hinder the way of achieving justice. Islam on the contrary, encourages achieving justice as soon as possible to the best of our ability. Neither wealth nor property or power can be taken into consideration when judging people. It rather depends upon how righteous one is. God says:

“And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer – those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed.”(An-Nisaa’ 4:124)

There is no discrimination in Islam based on sex, racism, or nationality. Everyone is equal in the eyes of God and everyone deserves their rights equally. Islamic History is a witness to that fact in many instances. For example: `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him), the fourth Caliph (and the Prophet’s son in Law and cousin), commanding a Muslim state as big as China, misplaced his shield that he used in defending Islam and the Muslims years before when Muslims were persecuted in the days of the Prophet.

He found a Jewish man with his shield. And had the police confiscate it. The matter was taken to court and Ali’s only evidence that the shield was his, was his word. On the other hand the Jewish man described it and brought witnesses saying they knew it to be his and so forth. The judge ruled in favor of the Jewish man for the evidence provided. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) accepted the court ruling to not be unjust as someone else who challenged the court wouldn’t be successful.

It should be noted that the reason we know this story is because that Jewish man later went to Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) and asked him why he didn’t kill him and take it back. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) says the courts were made to uphold justice and he was lacking in evidence. The Jewish man handed him the shield and said ‘I bear witness that Allah is one and that Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is His messenger’.

This statement converted him from a Jew to a Muslim. `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) asked him: ‘What lead you to such a great decision?’ He replied: ‘We are told that Muhammad can’t be a Prophet because he wasn’t Jewish, but I know that it is only the Prophets who can leave a law which its adherents so sincerely apply it in Justice’. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him)then gave him back the shield and told him: ‘This is a gift for your having received guidance’.

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THE PROPHET’S MOSQUE AS THE SEAT OF THE PROPHET’S GOVERNMENT

The mosque of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) played the role of the seat of the first Islamic government. In the mosque, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to spend long hours on a daily basis discussing, deciding and executing many affairs related to administering the state. Jihad (striving in the way of Allah) and state defense strategies were also initiated and concluded in the realm of the mosque.

When returning from a journey, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to go to his mosque first. There he would perform a short prayer of two units (rak’ah). Then, he would sit in the mosque and attend to the people and their needs.

As he was the head of the Madinah government and the leader of the state, it was only appropriate for the Prophet’s houses to be built in the closest proximity to his mosque. Thus, against the outer side of the eastern wall of the mosque, the houses for the Noble Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his household were built. The eastern wall of the mosque was integrated into the configurations of the houses serving as their western wall. The doors of the houses opened into the mosque proper. In total, there were nine houses. The location of the Prophet’s houses (his official residences) vis-ˆ-vis his mosque implied convenience, accessibility, transparency and responsibility towards the people. Otherwise stated, it implied all the qualities needed for an excellent, competent, just and people-friendly government.

In his mosque, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) received foreign dignitaries. A tent was set up in the mosque where from time to time some of the Prophet’s guests would stay. Some guests would stay even in the suffah (a section in the mosque meant for the lodging of the poorest people in Madinah). However, more often than not, most of his guests would stay in some lofty houses which belonged to some companions and which had been appointed earlier for the purpose. When receiving foreign delegations, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to put on the most beautiful apparel he had. He would furthermore ask his nearest companions to do the same.

Some of the Prophet’s guests were non-Muslims or recent converts. As such, receiving them and making them stay in the mosque could soften their hearts, or could change for the better their stance on Islam and Muslims. The mosque was a center for promoting mutual understanding, tolerance and unity. It was the first active center in history for interfaith dialogue and cooperation. When a Christian delegation from Najran, a city in southwestern Arabian Peninsula, visited the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), he met them nowhere else but in the shades of his mosque. Their number was 60. They were led by a group of their priests. When the time of one of their prayers was due, they were allowed to pray right inside the mosque.

In addition, since many Jews were residents of Madinah, their constant interactions with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the Muslims at many levels, are well-documented. During the abovementioned visit by the Christians from Najran, a group of Jewish rabbis from Madinah likewise joined them and their discussion with the Prophet (pbuh). Such was truly an awesome sight, a dialogue between three Abrahamic monotheistic faiths and between some of their highest representatives, which was hosted by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) inside his mosque, one of the holiest places in Islam. This particular role of the Prophet’s mosque was a cause for revealing this Qur’anic verse: “Say: ‘O People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah.’ And if they turn away, then say: ‘Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him)” (Alu ‘Imran, 3:64).

Allah also says, instructing Muslims, initiators and major stakeholders in interfaith dialogues, especially with Jews and Christians: “And do not dispute with the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) except by what is best, except those of them who act unjustly, and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our Allah and your Allah is One, and to Him do we submit” (al-‘Ankabut, 29:46).

The mosque every so often also served as a revenue distribution center. When some goods collected in Bahrain as land tax came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) – the biggest amount ever received during the Prophet’s time – he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) gathered the people in his mosque where everything till the last coin was fairly distributed.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) acted in his mosque as a judge too. However, the execution of sentences took place outside the mosque proper. The necessary punishments were implemented outside the mosque because they entailed several elements, such as spilling blood, noisy commotions, uttering improper words, cursing, et cetera, which were grossly inappropriate inside mosques. This, however, by no means implies that the punishments were carried out in isolation away from the public eye. Quite the opposite, they were carried out in relatively public places, some of which even adjoined the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) mosque, serving as a deterrent against future crimes and criminals. Implementing the punishments, especially those for serious crimes, in a public place witnessed by members of the public, was an integral part of the Prophet’s government’s system of practices which were aimed at upholding people’s moral and ethical behavior, as well as at deterring and mitigating crime. Hence, Allah says, for example, that when an adulterer and an adulteress are about to be flogged with a hundred stripes as a punishment for their shameful misdeed, a party of believers should witness the act (al-Nur, 24:2).

In view of the Prophet’s mosque having served as the seat of the Prophet’s government, some messengers representing some external tribes and communities would routinely upon entering Madinah go straight away to the mosque. In it, they were able to find either the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) or somebody else who would meet them and answer their queries. Some such messengers had acquaintance neither with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) nor with the city of Madinah and its residents. However, they had an idea as to the importance of the Prophet’s mosque, which posed a relief to them, as well as a springboard for discovering, knowing and experiencing everything that they had come for. An example of this is the arrival of a man called Dimam b. Tha’labah who was dispatched by his people to meet the Prophet (pbuh). Entering the mosque, he found the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) with a group of his companions. But so similar to others in both apparel and demeanor was the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that the man, just like most other strangers, found it as good as impossible to recognize him. So the man had to ask some companions who the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was.

However, at times there were some people who fell short of grasping the real meaning and sanctity of the mosque, needing some time to do so. At the same time, furthermore, they also failed to grasp the real meaning and sanctity of the house institution in Islam. Thus, because Prophet Muhammad’s houses abutted his mosque, their doors opening into it, the privacy and peace of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his household were occasionally seriously threatened by the misconduct of those people. The Prophet (pbuh), however, had no choice but to patiently put up with some considerable discomfort until Allah by means of revelation eventually intervened and as a form of education to the people concerned brought the said matter to an end. Allah thus says in the Qur’an: “(As for) those who call out to you from behind the private apartments, surely most of them do not understand. And if they wait patiently until you come out to them, it would certainly be better for them, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (al-Hujurat, 4-5). According to a number of accounts, some people used to call out impatiently and rudely to the Prophet (pbuh), most probably from inside his mosque, while he was spending some of his scarce free time inside his houses, without respecting his and his household’s peace and privacy, and without waiting patiently until he came out to them and attended to their needs.

By reason of the importance of the mentioned incidents and the lessons given as a consequence, the Qur’anic chapter which deals with them is called “al-Hujurat” which means “the private or inner (Prophet’s) apartments or houses”. Moreover, the al-Hujurat chapter was revealed to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)in the ninth year following the hijrah (migration), during which a large number of deputations of all kinds thronged to Madinah to meet the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and offer their allegiance to Islam. That year in the history of Islam is thus called the “Year of Deputations.”The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to meet the delegates inside his mosque right in front of some of his houses. The pillar which stands today at that historic meeting place is called the “Pillar of Deputations” (Ustuwan al-Wufud).

Towards the same end are the following Allah’s instructions as well, also in the al-Hujurat chapter and just before the verses quoted above: “O you who believe, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet, and do not speak loud to him as you speak loud to one another, lest your deeds became null while you do not perceive. Surely those who lower their voices before Allah’s Messenger are they whose hearts Allah has proved for guarding (against evil); they shall have forgiveness and a great reward” (Al-Hujurat, 49:2-3).

Treatment of the Soul, Healing of the Heart”- Muslim Physicians and their Important Contribution to Mental Health

The Ancient Greeks defined mental disorders as “being possessed and punished by the Gods for wrongdoing and can only be cured by prayer”. Greek physicians and philosophers wrote their theories about the treatment of some mental disorders without practicing. In Judeo-Christian societies, mental illness was often seen as “a divine punishment” and “a divine gift”. Some mental disorders were well known in Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Persia, India and China. With the advent of Islam, a revolution emerged in all scientific fields, including psychology, which will later strongly influence the Western modern psychology.

Muslim physicians were interested in all branches of medicine, including psychology. In the early phase of Islamic medicine, psychology was included in general medicine. After that, the Muslim physicians classified it as a separate branch in medicine. From that moment they will call it “‘ilaadj an-nafs” (the treatment of the soul) or “tib al-qalb” (healing of the heart or mental medicine).

Muslim physicians wrote about many mental diseases like anxiety, depression, melancholia, epilepsy, schizophrenia, paranoia, forgetfulness, sexual disorder, persecutory delusions and obsessive-compulsive disorder among other mental diseases. They were the first ones to add ‘psychosomatic disorder’ to the vocabulary of the history of psychology. They also believed that mental illness was caused by chemical imbalances affecting the brain.

In medieval Islam, a person with mental illness was called “madjnun” (foolish). He was not regarded as a persona non grata, an outcast or a scapegoat. According to the Islamic faith, a Muslim must be kind with them and treat them well.

Many hospitals were established during the early Islamic era. The idea was taken from the time of the prophet Muhammad, where the first hospital took place in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. The first true Islamic hospital was built in the 9th century, during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun ar-Rashid in Baghdad. The Muslims called it a “Bimaristan”, a Persian word meaning “the house where sick people were welcomed and cared for by qualified staff”. People with mental disorders were not excluded.

Physicians and nurses had the duty to look after all the patients, regardless of their religion, race, citizenship or gender. A Bimaristan was necessary to support all patients until they were fully recovered. Every Bimaristan contained a garden, a fountain, a lecture hall, a library, a kitchen, a pharmacy and prayer rooms for Muslims and non-Muslims. Recreational materials and musicians were selected to create happiness. Men and women were taken into separate, but equally equipped wards and were accompanied by physicians, nurses and staff from the same sex. The separate wards were further divided into contagious disease, non-contagious disease, eye disease, medicine, surgery and mental disease (isolated by iron bars). A Bimaristan also served as a center for medical exchanges and as a medical school to educate and to train students. For the first time in history, licensing exams were required and only qualified physicians were allowed to practice medicine. Not only for the physical treatments, but also for the mental treatments.

Bimaristan in Damascus

Psychology in Medieval Islam became, after a while, a separate branch of medicine. The first mental hospitals were established in Baghdad, Aleppo, Cordoba, Fes, Kairouan, Cairo and Istanbul. Western travelers who visited the Muslim world in the 12th century described the therapeutic methods the Muslim psychologists used, the relaxing atmosphere and how the Muslims treated their patients in these therapeutic centers. These centers were equipped with all the necessary means to provide the necessary treatment methods and additional facilities in order to complete the treatment process. Muslim clinicians used various treatments, such as the classical forms of psychotherapy, massages, medication made from plants, mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral therapy, Quran-therapy, music therapy, poetry, occupational therapy, bath therapy, aromatherapy, dancing, theater, storytellers, playing different sports and careful attention to diet.

Every patient was assisted by 2 helpers. Patients with insomnia, for example, were placed in special rooms and were accompanied by professional storytellers to help them fall asleep quietly.

During the reign of the Seljuks, and later the Ottomans, many “healing societies” were built around the mosques. They called it the “Takaya”, which lasted for centuries and are very similar to the newly established mental health centers in the USA.