, by SYED AKBAR HASSAN
On coming closer to ayat 11 of Surah Al-Hujuraat we find that the ayat contains three ahkam in form of don’ts. It prohibits mocking and ridiculing one another. In the preceding two ayats that we had referred to last week after giving necessary instructions about the Muslim Ummah’s fighting, we the believers were made to realise that by virtue of the most sacred relationship of the iman (faith), we are brothers one to another, and we should fear Allah and try to keep our mutual relations right. Now, in the following hukm (commandment), we are being enjoined to avoid and shun those major evils – like mocking the people, or taunting them, or proposing evil and offensive titles for others – which are great threat to the foundation of Muslim culture and generally spoil the mutual relationships of the people in a society.
The first clause or part of this hukm states: “O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former…” Scoffing or mocking or more simply making fun of others does not only entail mocking with the tongue but it also includes to mimic somebody, making blunt references to someone, laughing at someone’s appearance, or his words, or his works, or his dress, or calling attention of other’s as well to some defect or flaw in someone so that others also may laugh at him.
If one gets involved in any form of mocking or scoffing as mentioned above, there always lie feelings of one’s own superiority and the other’s abasement and disrespect, which are morally unworthy of a gentleman. It is very hurting to the other person and often becomes a cause of mischief in the society. More importantly, it is forbidden to scoff at and belittle people, for the injured party could be more honoured and dearer to Allah the Exalted than those who ridicule and belittle them. Mentioning men and the women separately does not mean that it is lawful for men to mock women or women to mock men but only to impress that Islam does not at all believe in a mixed society. Therefore, in a Muslim culture it is inconceivable that men would mock a woman, or women would mock a man.
The next clause of the hukm states: “And do not taunt yourself.” Hamz is defamation by action, while Lamz is by words. The word lamz is very comprehensive and applies to ridiculing, reviling, deriding, jeering, charging somebody or finding fault with him, and making him the target of reproach and blame by open or tacit references. As such things also spoil mutual relationships and create bad blood in society, they have been forbidden. If we use taunting words for somebody, actually it reflects our own selves which are filled with evil feelings. Thus, when we taunt others, it means that we are inviting others to taunt us. However, it will be a different matter that the other person being gentle doesn’t react to our taunting, but we, anyway, have opened the door to mischief so that the other may treat us likewise. That’s why instead of saying, “Do not taunt one another”, it has been said “Do not taunt yourselves”, which by itself shows that the one who uses taunting words for others, in fact, taunts his own self.
The third clause of the hukm as mentioned in the ayah says: “Nor revile one another by nicknames.” As per this command we should not call anybody by a name or a title which may be humiliating to him, e.g. calling somebody a sinner or a hypocrite, or calling someone lame or blind, or one-eyed, or giving him a nickname containing a reference to some defect or imperfection in him, or in his parents, or in his family, or calling a person a Jew or a Christian even after his conversion to Islam, or giving such a nickname to a person, or a family, or a community, or a group, which may bring condemnation or disgrace on it.
Only those nicknames have been made an exception from this command, which though apparently offensive, are not intended to condemn the persons concerned, but they rather serve as a mark of recognition for them. That is why the traditionists have allowed as permissible names like Suleman al-A’mash (the weak-eyed Suleman) and Wasil’ al-Ahdab (the hunch-backed Wasil) among the reporters of the Hadith. Likewise, for example, if there are several men called Abdullah, and one of them is blind, he may be called Abdullah the blind, for his recognition. Likewise, those titles also are excluded from this hukm, which though apparently offensive, are in fact, given out of love and the people who are called by those titles themselves approve them, like Abu Hurairah (father of the kitten) and Abu Turab (father of the dust).
The prohibitions from mocking, taunting and nicknames as mentioned above is very important for a strong Muslim culture. At times it may happen that just in light mood or in leisure or just jokingly, we may, knowingly or unknowingly, indulge in some of the above mentioned activity without meaning it in true spirit and sense. But it may be so that the person to whom we are doing so feels humiliated and therefore the whole activity becomes a cause of dispute and hard feeling for us, thus, weakening our relationship and bond of love. And may be some others take advantage of our dispute and make things even worse and damaging. So, better we follow the above ahkam strictly so that our society is not weakened in anyway.
Lastly, the ayah concludes by pointing out very categorically that it is very shameful for us, the believers, that in spite of having iman, we should use abusive language and adopt immodest behaviour. If a disbeliever earns reputation for himself for mocking the people, or taunting them, or for proposing evil and offensive titles for others, it may not be a good reputation from the point of view of humanity, but if we after affirming the iman in Allah and His Prophet (may peace and mercy of Allah be to him) and the akhirah (the Hereafter) earn reputation on account of these base qualities, it is simply regrettable which shall place us among the wrong-doers.