Clergy Corner

Social Responsibility in Islam

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Shaikh Hamid WaqarIslam is being introduced as a religion of the sword, as a terrorist religion, as a religion of fanaticism. Muslims have the obligation to defend their faith.Shaikh Hamid WaqarIslam is a social-political religion as well as a theological and spiritual religion. One cannot separate the Islamic social and political beliefs and commands from the purely theological and spiritual aspects of the religion. Islam rejects the dogma of “separation of church and state”, offering instead a complete and God-centered way of life.

There are many extremely important commands to perform social activities in Islam. Some of the great scholars of Islam have affirmed and emphasized Islam’s social dimension. Allamah Tabatabai, for instance, states that the importance given to the society in Islam is what separates it from other religions. Other religions concentrate mostly on the individual – on individual spirituality and beliefs – while Islam concentrates on the society.

Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi mentions that the social responsibilities that Muslims have are greater and more important than the individual responsibilities. For instance, he says: “Performing or shirking social obligations is of greater consequence than any individual obligation. Its effect on the society and on the individual is greater.”

He also says: “Sometimes the importance of a social obligation is so great that it cannot be compared to a number of individual actions.” This would mean that one social obligation, for instance Jihad, is more important and has more merit than a number of prayers, fasts, and other individual actions.

Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi also remarks: “Just as we give importance to individual obligations, we must give importance to social obligations; rather, we must give greater importance.” This is an important point, because normally Muslims give great importance to individual actions, whereas they do not give much importance to social actions. People give all of the importance in the world to prayer, but do they even think about what is happening in the Islamic world?

Right now, the Islamic world sees itself in the middle of a war between Zionist Israel and Gaza. Would it be more important to perform a recommended prayer now or to think about what can be done to solve this tragic situation that is unfolding?

One of the most important social obligations that Muslims have is enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. It is narrated from Imam Baqir (peace be upon him) in Wasail al-Shia: “Verily, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil is the path of the prophets, the course of the righteous, and a grand obligation which is the foundation of other obligations.”

Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil are foundations of the other obligations. This means that if one does not perform these social responsibilities, all of his other obligations will be without foundation – similar to the spider-web analogy. (Qur’an 29:41) It is known that a structure without a foundation is bound to fall. Acts of worship without this foundation are bound to fall as well.

Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil are so important that they are the reason behind Imam Hussain’s (peace be upon him) stance in Karbala. The Imam famously stated: “Verily I set out to seek correction in my grandfather’s nation. I want to enjoin the good and forbid the evil.”

Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil are an important example of the social responsibility that every Muslim has. When one sees another Muslim shirking a responsibility or performing a forbidden action, he has the obligation to correct him or her, according to the conditions mentioned in the books of jurisprudence. This act in itself improves the society, because people who want to commit a sin lose their audacity to commit it openly.

There are other social obligations that must be performed. Right now we see that there is much negative propaganda being mentioned all over the world about Islam. Islam is being introduced as a religion of the sword, as a terrorist religion, as a religion of fanaticism. Muslims have the obligation to defend their faith now more than at any other time. We must show the world what Islam really is.

We can do this in a number of ways. We can teach our youth the correct form of Islam so that they grow up and become model examples of what Islam teaches. We can openly, as Muslims, perform actions that are smiled upon in the society as well as in Islam to show people that Muslims are good people. For instance, we can give food to the homeless, we can help out in orphanages, we can defend the weak segments of society, we can stand up against racism, we can stand up against tyranny, we can educate the impoverished children, and so forth.

I pray that Muslims, especially in the West, start thinking more on a social level than on an individual level. I pray that Imam Zamana (may Allah hasten his reappearance) helps us and guides us in this regard. I pray that Allah accepts all of our actions and raises us up with the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them).

Shaikh Hamid Waqar was born to a non-Muslim family in Los Angeles. He reverted to Islam at the age of 16. He has been studying in the Islamic seminaries in Qom and Beirut since 2001.

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