Surah Nahl (the Bee): Section 13 — The Justice and Compassion Verse that is Read Every Friday

16:90. Indeed, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonished you that you may take heed.

 إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

16:91. And fulfil the covenant of Allah when you have made; and break not the oaths after making them firm, while you have made Allah your surety. Certainly, Allah knows what you do.

وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِ اللَّـهِ إِذَا عَاهَدتُّمْ وَلَا تَنقُضُوا الْأَيْمَانَ بَعْدَ تَوْكِيدِهَا وَقَدْ جَعَلْتُمُ اللَّـهَ عَلَيْكُمْ كَفِيلًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ 

16:92. And be not like unto her who, after having made it strong, breaks her yarn into pieces. You make your oaths a means of deceit between you, for fear lest one people become more powerful than another. Surely, Allah tries you therewith, and on the Day of Resurrection He will make clear to you that wherein you differed.

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّتِي نَقَضَتْ غَزْلَهَا مِن بَعْدِ قُوَّةٍ أَنكَاثًا تَتَّخِذُونَ أَيْمَانَكُمْ دَخَلًا بَيْنَكُمْ أَن تَكُونَ أُمَّةٌ هِيَ أَرْبَىٰ مِنْ أُمَّةٍ ۚ إِنَّمَا يَبْلُوكُمُ اللَّـهُ بِهِ ۚ وَلَيُبَيِّنَنَّ لَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ 

16:93. And if Allah had enforced His will, He would surely have made you all one people; but He lets go astray him who wishes it, and guides him who wishes it; and you shall surely be questioned concerning that which you have been doing.

وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَـٰكِن يُضِلُّ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَلَتُسْأَلُنَّ عَمَّا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ 

16:94. And make not your oaths a means of deceit between you; or your foot will slip after it has been firmly established, and you will taste evil because you turned people away from the path of Allah, and you will have a severe punishment.

 لَا تَتَّخِذُوا أَيْمَانَكُمْ دَخَلًا بَيْنَكُمْ فَتَزِلَّ قَدَمٌ بَعْدَ ثُبُوتِهَا وَتَذُوقُوا السُّوءَ بِمَا صَدَدتُّمْ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَلَكُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

16:95. And barter not the covenant of Allah for a paltry price. Surely, that which is with Allah is better for you if you only knew.

وَلَا تَشْتَرُوا بِعَهْدِ اللَّـهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۚ إِنَّمَا عِندَ اللَّـهِ هُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ 

16:96. That which you have shall pass away, but that which is with Allah is lasting. And We will certainly give those who are steadfast their reward according to the best of their works.

عِندَكُمْ يَنفَدُ ۖ وَمَا عِندَ اللَّـهِ بَاقٍ ۗ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّ الَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

16:97. Whoso acts righteously, whether male or female, and is a believer, We will surely grant him a pure life; and We will surely bestow on such their reward according to the best of their works.

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

16:98. And when you recite the Qur’an, seek refuge with Allah from Satan the rejected.

فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّـهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ

16:99. Surely, he has no power over those who believe and who put their trust in their Lord.

 إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ لَهُ سُلْطَانٌ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ

16:100. His power is only over those who make friends with him and who set up equals to God.

 إِنَّمَا سُلْطَانُهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ يَتَوَلَّوْنَهُ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِهِ مُشْرِكُونَ

16:90

This speech below by Abdur Rehman Hubbs is wonderful commentary of verse number 90, in this section.

This verse is read in the second part of the Friday sermon, in every Muslim mosque since the time of Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (2 November 682 (26th Safar, 63 AH) – February 720 (16th Rajab, 101 AH)) (Arabic: عمر بن عبد العزيز‎‎) was an Umayyad caliph who ruled from 717 to 720. He has been also called Umar II or the fifth righteous Caliph. He was also a matrilineal great-grandson of the second caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab.

 

In addition to this video, we want to link here a booklet about this verse: Absolute Justice – Kindness and Kinship and two other posts about justice and compassion:

Sura Nisa (the Women): Section 13 the landmark Verse about Justice

Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran

Omar Naseef writes in an article, God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead?:

One of the most oft-repeated verses in the Qur’an is:

Behold, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good, and generosity towards [one’s] fellow man; and He forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, as well as envy; (16:90)

The language of this verse is expansive. There is no one definition of “justice” or “generosity” or “good” that captures the scope of the words. Why do we believe that God, in choosing such deliberately expansive language, would constrain it to how some human might understand it hundreds of years ago?

Why do we feel bound to tradition when the Qur’an explicitly criticizes those who follow something just because it has alway been so.

But when they are told, “Follow what God has bestowed from on high,” some answer, “Nay, we shall follow [only] that which we found our forefathers believing in and doing.” Why, even if their forefathers did not use their reason at all, and were devoid of all guidance? (2:170)

The command is to follow what God has explicitly bestowed, not what people have understood was bestowed. God is no less capable of being as specific as those who interpreted God’s words. When God is not specific it is for a deliberate reason.

If we choose to confine the expansive language of the Qur’an in a particular human’s understanding, then our allegiance isn’t to the living God because the living God isn’t constrained by time. Only a dead god would be.

When we choose the past over the present, our allegiance turns from God to men. They have become our god. How do we know this? By simply asking the question: would any of the religious scholars who laid down rules thousands of years ago – if they were alive today – turn to their 1000-year-old writings to figure out the meaning of the Qur’an?

Just like the USA constitution has given new and expansive meanings to the terms of human equality, over the last two centuries, likewise we believe the concept of justice keeps expanding from generation to generation as human insights and interaction improves.

We believe each generation has to interpret the Quran for the needs of its time and we are trying to fill the gap for our generation, with this humble effort.

16:90

There are at least a dozen verses in the holy Quran stressing the keeping of promises, oaths and treaties, including but not limited to, 2:177, 13:20, 16:91-92, 16:94-95, 19:54 and 23:1-8.

16:93

This verse is another way of highlighting freedom of conscience and religion, in our worldy affairs, among numerous other verses to that effect, including 2:256, 5:105 and 88:22-23.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr and associates find a message of religious pluralism in this verse and write:

The counterfactual statement Had God willed, He  would have made you one community can be interpreted to mean that humanity does not exist as “a single (religious) community,” because God has not willed it to be so, and thus that the multiplicity of religious communities is a matter of Divine Providence; see 5:48c; 2:213; 11:118; 42:8. It may also mean that God does not compel people to be one community or to follow one religion, although He is capable of doing so (Z).

16:94-95

There are at least a dozen verses in the holy Quran stressing the keeping of promises, oaths and treaties, including but not limited to, 2:177, 13:20, 16:90-92, 19:54 and 23:1-8.

16:96

It is a strong incentive to keep our oaths. Often people will break a promise for a short term worldly advantage. So Allah says: “That which you have shall pass away, but that which is with Allah is lasting.” The whole concept of God consciousness revolves around the belief that God being All-Power and Eternal, the rewards that He offers to the believers in the paradise are Eternal and infinite in a way.

16:97

The verse recognizes the equality of the rights of men and women and promises both equal share in Divine favors. Please also see: 4:124 and 33:35.  According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr:

The Quran indicates that men and women are of the  same moral and spiritual stature; that is, they share the same moral responsibility, the same capability for independent moral choice, and the same recompense for their deeds. See, for example, 3:195: So their Lord answered them, ‘I shall not let the work of any worker among you, male or female, be in vain; each of you is like the other. So those who emigrated, and were expelled from their homes, and were hurt in My way, and fought and were slain—I shall absolve them of their evil deeds and shall make them enter Gardens with rivers running below, a reward from God.’

Suggested Reading:

Gender Equality in the Holy Qur’an – In the Beginning Man and Woman Were Equal

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