Brothers and Sisters,
Let us take this opportunity to reflect on a single verse from the Book of Allah. He (SWT) states in Surat An-Nahal, “Indeed, Allah orders justice and kindness and giving to relatives and forbids shameful acts and evil deeds and transgression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” (16:90)
Ibn Masood (R) describes this verse as the most comprehensive in the Quran. The entire range of Islamic teachings is condensed within this verse. It is for this reason that it was the practice of the Companions (R) to recite this verse at the end of every Friday Khutba.
Walid Ibn al-Mugheira (R) says of the verse, “By Allah, in it, there is a special sweetness. Above it, there is a unique light; leaves sprout from its roots and it bears fruits on its branches. These cannot be the words of a human being.”
In this great yet concise verse, Allah offers us three commandments and forbids us of three things. He (SWT) commands us to do justice, be moral, and maintain the bonds of kinship, and He forbids us from shameful acts, evil deeds, and transgression.
The Quran was revealed to all of mankind offering a comprehensive social order. It commands principles that protect and regulate the community. For this to happen, justice, which is the first order in this verse, must be established. This means placing things in their rightful place and giving others equal treatment. Justice must be the consistent factor in all transactions and interactions between individuals and communities regardless of strength, wealth, race, or gender.
We must be just in all of our matters and all of our relationships. As believers, we are just in our relationship with Allah (SWT), being grateful for all of His favors upon us through worshipping and obeying Him. We must be just to our parents through obeying them when we are young and showing them compassion and mercy in their old age. We must be just to our husbands and wives, fulfilling their rights upon us, and just to our children in providing for them and parenting them. We must be just in our dealings in the workplace, using the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. We must practice justice in the way we spend our time, wealth, and strength. Justice must infiltrate all our decisions and actions.
The second commandment in this great verse is al-Ihsan, perfecting our works or treating others with kindness. Therefore, justice is the foundation of our actions and kindness is what should naturally follow the implementation of justice. Imam al-Qurtubi explains that Ihsan in this verse refers to all types of Ihsan in morals and in deeds. In adhering to Ihsan, the believer is constantly self-assessing and reflecting over his or her decisions and actions striving for perfection. Ihsan in acts of worship is manifested through God-consciousness. Ihsan towards other humans and creation is defined by treating Allah’s creatures with the utmost kindness. Kindness is what strengthens a community and builds bridges within society.
The third commandment orders us to give relatives their due. This is a continuation of enjoining kindness with an emphasis on relatives. It is unfortunate that humans take their ties of kinship lightly, and often their enemies are family members. Allah (SWT) specifically mentions relatives in this comprehensive verse highlighting the importance of rectifying our relationships with our family, immediate and extended. This is a reminder to those who are Islamically obligated to protect and provide for their immediate or extended relatives, especially widows and orphans.
Also in the verse, Allah (SWT) forbids shameful acts. These are any acts which oppose the human’s natural tendency to be good and pure. These are acts that a person should naturally feel guilty about or fear that people might notice. Shameful acts can involve all human faculties, whether the heart, tongue, eyes, ears, or limbs. A believer must take strides to practice modesty which is the defining quality of faith by abandoning all shameful acts.
Allah (SWT) also forbids evil deeds, which are all sins, whether done in private or in public. Aside from our innate ability to distinguish shameful acts from pure acts, Allah (SWT) provided us with revelation that offers us regulations and rules to follow. What is halal is clear and what is haram is clear.
Finally, Allah (SWT) forbids transgression in the verse, referring to crossing limits set by Allah (SWT). This transgression leads to evil and chaos in society. Therefore, Allah (SWT) prohibits it to protect humanity.
Allah (SWT), “admonishes us so that we might be reminded,” as He (SWT) ends the verse. In this single verse, Allah (SWT) reminds us of our innate nature to gravitate towards justice and kindness and to abhor shamelessness and transgression. But only those with conscious minds and sound hearts will truly heed His reminder. May Allah (SWT) make us among those who hear the truth and live according to it.