Who is Right?
Islam and the Ruled Class
Mufti Muhammad Qasim Attari
Our belief is that Allah Almighty is the originator of creation. He is the creator of everything, including humans, and their sustainer. He is Most-Merciful (Raḥmān) and compassionate (Raḥīm) towards His creation. We also believe that the beloved Prophet, our master and liege-lord Muhammad صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is Allah’s final prophet. Allah created him as the embodiment of mercy and generosity, the personification of compassion, and raised him to the rank of “Mercy for the Worlds.” The Lord of the Worlds revealed this pristine faith to the Mercy for the Worlds.
The result of these truths is that the mercy, compassion, and grace found in Islam is unmatched by any other religious tradition. With this in mind, consider the hierarchical nature of society in which people differ not only in age, strength, and wealth but in status and rank too. Often, these disparities are natural, yet, many times, they are imposed and authoritarian. In any case, this state of human beings has engraved in the minds of people the notion of division between, for example, rulers and the ruled, the strong and weak.
So, if we compare young and old, man and woman, father and mother, brother and sister, husband and wife, master and servant, rich and poor, well and ailing, able-bodied and disabled, strong and weak, and superior and subordinate, the differences in society become apparent to us.
In many cases, the difference is natural, so it is impossible to deny, such as men generally being physically stronger than women. Nevertheless, the difference is often merely imaginary and rooted in societal discrimination. In both cases, the beauty of Islam becomes apparent. In all of these social groupings, the religion of Islam supports the ruled and weak as opposed to the ruling and strong class.
A large part of Islamic teachings focus on honouring the rights of the ruled and weak classes, giving them due consideration and displaying good treatment towards them. Hence, the command to be compassionate and benevolent towards those that are considered lower in rank due to natural or societal disparities, to avoid troubling or oppressing them, to keep away from violating their rights, to grant them honour, to take care of them financially, to avoid hurting their feelings and reminding them of favours, is mentioned repeatedly in the noble Qur'ān and the Sunna.
We will try to understand this preamble in light of Quranic guidance and Prophetic teachings and learn the Islamic ruling concerning each group.
The first group: elderly people
After a person has traversed the different stages of life and reaches old age, people begin to turn away from him, unless he offers benefits, like wealth and power. People in those countries consider themselves more refined and advanced in their attempt to wash their hands of older people, remove them from their homes and place them inside older people’s homes, whereas this is the very time when an older person needs rest, tranquillity, service, love and care. In contrast to this oppressive behaviour, Islam stands with this weak, older person and protects him. Just as the noble Qur’ān mentions regarding serving and honouring elderly parents:
عِنۡدَکَ الۡکِبَرَ اَحَدُہُمَاۤ اَوۡ کِلٰہُمَا فَلَا تَقُلۡ لَّہُمَاۤ اُفٍّ وَّ لَا تَنۡہَرۡہُمَا وَ قُلۡ لَّہُمَا قَوۡلًا کَرِیۡمًا (۲۳) وَ اخۡفِضۡ لَہُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحۡمَۃِ وَ قُلۡ رَّبِّ ارۡحَمۡہُمَا کَمَا رَبَّیٰنِیۡ صَغِیۡرًا (ؕ۲۴)
“Your Lord has commanded not to worship anyone except Him, and treat parents with goodness; if one of them or both reach old age in front of you, so, do not say (even) 'Ugh' to them and do not scold them, and speak to them words of respect. And spread for them the arm of humbleness with a soft heart, and request humbly that 'O my Lord, have mercy on them both, just as they brought me up in my childhood.'”
Whether an elderly person is from one’s parents, relatives, or is even a stranger, we have been commanded to respect them in all cases. The beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “Respecting an elderly person is part of reverence to Allah Almighty.” One form of respect that has been mentioned is that if an elderly person is seen on the path, children and young people are commanded to be first in greeting him, as preceding someone in greeting is considered from respect towards him. The beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “The young should greet the old.”
Giving glad tidings to the young person who respects an old person, the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “No young person respects an old person due to his age except that Allah Almighty will appoint for him such a person who will respect him in his old age.”
These teachings are a proof of Islam’s support for the weak and ruled classes.
The second group: children
Children are innately weaker and needier than adults, and are subject to their commands. However, the religion of Islam strengthens them in this weakness, and whether they are one’s own or belong to others, Islam continuously emphasises compassion, love and soft-heartedness towards them.
If we were to review all the teachings of Islam concerning the treatment and welfare of children, we would learn that Islam exhorts us to be more kind and compassionate towards young children than adults. This was also the practice of the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم during his blessed life.
Sayyidunā Anas رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ relates, “I served the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم for around ten years and he neither asked, ‘Why did you do this?,’ about anything I did, nor ‘Why did you not do this?’ about anything I did not do.”
The beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would pick up his son, Sayyidunā Ibrāhīm رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ, kiss him, and lovingly smell him.
Similarly, his unique expression of love for Sayyidatunā Fāṭima رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا was as follows: When the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would leave for a journey, he would bid farewell to Sayyidatunā Fāṭima رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا last and when he would return from a journey, he would meet Sayyidatunā Fāṭima رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا first.
This beautiful example of love and affection was not restricted to his own children. Rather the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would treat the children of others with this same compassionate conduct. It is mentioned in Musnad Aḥmad that Sayyidunā ꜤAbdullāh b. JaꜤfar رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهُمَا states, “Our mother came ˹to the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم˺ and mentioned our orphanhood. So, the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, ‘Do you fear that they will fall into need, whilst I am their protector in this world and the Hereafter?’” Giving general instruction concerning children, the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم stated very firmly, “The one who does not have mercy on our young nor respect our elders is not from us.”
(To be continued.)
 Al-Quran, 17:23-24
 Sunan Abī Dāwūd: 4,843
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri: 6,231
 Jāmi’ al-Tirmidhi: 2,029
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri: 2,768
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri, vol. 4, p. 99
 Al-Mustadrak li al-Ḥākim: 4,792
 Musnad al-Imām Aḥmad: 1,750
 Jāmi’ al-Tirmidhi: 1,928