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Book Overview On 40 Hadith: The Prophetic Voice on Social Reform

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If am asked to summarise the principles of Islam and the essence of Islam, I would say it is justice. Islam is synonymous with justice. Justice to the Creator by worshipping Him and obeying His injunctions and mandate. He is Justice. Justice to the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) by following him as he represents the authority of God.”

Quote from On 40 Hadith: The Prophetic Voice on Social Reform

On 40 Hadith: The Prophetic Voice on Social Reform by Omar Suleiman is an essential read, only for the believer (mu’min) but also anyone interested to learn Islam’s position on critically important topics. The book is written in 40 chapters – each chapter begins with a hadith on a topic related to social justice and analyses it with Qu’ranic & hadith references, written in an engaging style that makes it digestible to read for anyone.

Topics include:

  • The gravity of injustice in Islam
  • Leadership
  • Rights in marriage
  • Parenting and child raising
  • Rights of the elderly
  • Rights of neighbours
  • Ethical business relationship & transactions
  • Combating racism
  • Gender inequality
  • Refugees & asylum seekers
  • Environmentalism

An important chapter from the book focuses on the topic of responding to evil with good. Allah (SWT) commands the believers (mu’min):

“Hold to forgiveness, enjoin what is good and turn away from the ignorant.”

[Surah al-A’raf, 7:199]

When this verse (ayah) was revealed, the beloved Prophet (SAW) asked for its meaning (taweel) to Jibreel (AS) before revealing to his companions (sahabah):

Shall I not guide you to the most noble of characteristics in this world and in the Hereafter?” When the companions replied in the affirmative the beloved Prophet (SAW) said:

That you forgive the one who wrongs you, you give to the one who withholds from you, and that you maintain the ties kinship with the one who cuts you off.

The important lesson for all of us is injustice arises in society when people fail to uphold themselves to a higher standard. Oftentimes, this is ‘justified’ with the excuse “since I was wronged in this manner, my reaction is justified.” However, in no circumstances is a believer permitted to tarnish their good name and character. Otherwise, they become no better than the person who wronged them.

The book ends with a chapter that mentions a story between the great reviver and reformer Umar bin Abdul-Aziz and his son Abdul-Malik. Oftentimes, the pressing need for reform often leads people to call for immediate action and to criticize the gradual approach. However, the methodology of the Prophets (SAW) has always been of gradual change towards perfection, to win over hearts and minds before seismic social, political and economic change is enacted at a particular time. When Abdul-Malik confronted his father, who had assumed the duties of the Caliph at the age of thirty-eight, about his slow pace at reform, Umar bin Abdul-Aziz replied:

My son, alongside the great share Allah has portioned to you (i.e. righteousness), you still carry some of the qualities of the young. My son do not be hasty, for Allah has dispraised wine twice in the Qu’ran, then prohibited it on the third occasion. I fear committing them to the truth (justice) together, lest they reject it altogether. I cannot present them with any part of the religion, except while offering some worldly benefit alongside it, in order to soften their hearts – out of fear that the would erupt against me in a way that I cannot repel. Does it not please you that not a day passes by your father, except that he revives a Prophetic tradition (sunnah) and destroys an innovation (bi’dah) during it?”

We must always take the Qu’ran and the beloved Prophet (SAW), his noble companions (sahabah) and the people who follow in their footsteps as our source of inspiration and guidance.

Omar Suleiman is the Founder and President of Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and Professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, USA.


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