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The Position of the Safety and Cleanness of Roads in Islam

16 June 2014

By Ahmad Murtala, Ph.D.*


Allah (SWT) has created humankind and made them inevitably in need of each other for the effectiveness and completeness of their lives. Thus, it was wisely said that ‘the human being is social by nature'. However, making good and having an organized life is not an easy task that can be achieved in the twinkling of an eye as most people simply think. Of course, it requires from the individual side, a lot of sacrifices, endeavors, mutual understanding, patience and many other requisite attributes that would make people tolerate each other and socialize with one another with compassion and open-mindedness. From the governmental side, her responsibility is to provide all that would simplify day-to-day activities for the masses. Constructing good roads and taking care of them are but some of the governmental tasks. We can see this vividly in the glaring history of our predecessors, who are the symbol of God-consciousness and our role model in politics and administration. ‘Umar bn Khattab (R.A) once said, "If a goat tripped on the road, I would be afraid that Allah would ask me, ‘Why you didn't pave the road for her, O ‘Umar!'"

The rules and regulations governing traffic are of paramount importance in organizing people's activities on the roads. Observing such traffic rules would protect the mental and body life of the drivers, passengers, passers-by and other people moving around from damage or loss of properties. Everybody would be safe and conduct his activities back and forth in the street healthfully with no crash, harm or injury. One of the beauties of those traffic regulations is that they do protect even the road from damage or having unnecessary holes and gallops that would inflict harm to the road users. Moreover, regular observation of such rules would greatly help in dissolving long undesirable hold-ups.

Most of those rules, however, are not categorically stated in the juristic books but some can be discerned from numerous legal texts, which stated the objectives of the Shari'a, more especially those that require respect for the human person, like that of protecting life, intellect and property. The other parts can be adapted and Islamacized for not going contrary to the clear stipulations of the Shari'a. A provision, which legally accommodates such newly coined and enacted regulations and other worldly innovations, is approvingly provided in the Shari'a. This is because any harmless rule that regulates human activities and bring them peaceful social order is allowed, especially if it is gallant enough for everybody to identify its ‘immediate' positive effects like those traffic laws. Allah has said, "Do not indulge yourselves into destruction. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good" (Q2:95). He also said, "Do not kill yourselves. Indeed, Allah is to you ever merciful" (Q4:29). Hence, it is worthily accepted by the unanimity of contemporary jurists.

For the sake of prevention from the occurrence of accidents and other calamities that may abruptly befall people outside homes, the Prophet (pbuh) taught his Ummah, at least, three different supplications that should be observed carefully after coming out. And Allah the Almighty, in turn, would bestow calmness and protection upon the supplicant throughout his/her ups and downs that day. Narrated Anas bn Malik (R.A): The Prophet (pbuh) said, "When a man goes out of his house and says: ‘In the name of Allah, I trust in Allah; there is no might and no power but in Allah', The Angels then pray for him/her: ‘You are guided, defended and protected'. The devils will go far from him and another devil will say, ‘How can you deal with a man who has been guided, defended and protected?'

The second supplication reads, "O Allah, I take refuge with You lest I should stray or be led astray, or slip or be tripped, or oppress or be oppressed, or behave foolishly or be treated foolishly" (Abu Dawud). These two supplications are required from everyone to recite before or immediately after going out from his home for general protection. The third one, However, is to be recited during riding cars, motorcycles, bicycles or any other means of transport.  It is to say, "In the Name of Allah. Praise is to Allah. Glory is to Him Who has provided this for us though we could never have had it by our efforts. Surely, unto our Lord we are returning. Praise is to Allah. Praise is to Allah. Praise is to Allah. Allah is the Most Great. Allah is the Greatest. Allah is the Greatest. Glory is to You. O Allah, I have wronged my own soul. Forgive me, for surely none forgives sins but You" (Abu Dawud).

Making such prophetic supplications would provide a sense of emotional comfort and peace of mind that would pump compassion and tranquility in the peoples' conscience.  It is evident that traffic rules were primarily based upon the psychology of patience and diligence, the very behaviours, which are the exact signs of the soundness of mental health and objectivity. The Prophet (pbuh) taught his Ummah to adorn themselves with patience in their day-to-day activities. He said, "Whoever remains patient, Allah will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience" (Abu Dawud). It is wonderful, however, to see some people driving recklessly at extreme speeds without an iota of patience. This, in addition to the rough driving, racing in crowded roads, following wrong lanes, excessive use of horns or full light where not necessarily- all have become phenomenal on our roads today. And is surprising that people such rough behavior are easily upset by a trivial mistake from other drivers.

There are many reasons, one may easily mention, which cause such unfortunate situations on our roads. It is evident that unqualified people trained most of the drivers today; that is why the trainees would exactly behave on the roads like their masters. On our roads today, the drivers of commercial cars, as we all see, do not bother to be careful of where to stop and drop or pick passengers, as they are careless of no-stop points.

Besides allowing young immature people to drive, some people at roadsides also are unmindful to set loader mind-destructive hello-calls upon seeing their relatives, fans and friends. How amazing! How many times we, with no exception, use our cell phones to engage in talk while driving! It is also known that those who follow highways at night suffer from truck and trailer-drivers, who fix excessive lights atop of their vehicles, which easily dazzle into the eyes of drivers coming from other side and eventually make them, as it is happening daily, lose control of their cars! One may not count how many a time such a situation causes multiple traumatic injuries or fatal accidents on our roads. Still, some people, in many times, do not bother to adhere to the traffic control rules or take road signs seriously. Nor do they care to abide by other road ethics whatsoever. It is simple, on the other side, to see someone unmindfully walking majestically with his back turned to the street, which other vehicles are coming from! Some people have the habit of trespassing in other directions while the traffic light has stopped them, unmindful of the fact that this misconduct, in a twinkle of an eye, can cause a fatal accident, which they would suffer from for the rest of their lives.

All of the abovementioned people and the like are one of two. One, they are ignorant of the significance of the traffic rules. They just got the license from the black-markets without being appropriately tested to ascertain their physical qualifications, their mental capacity and knowledge of the vehicle, Two, they are mere traffic violators, who nonsensically vowed not to be patient and wait for some time before they are allowed! The last category is the majority. It is also observed that naïve drivers run faster on the crowded roads because of the emotional excitement they gain from driving brand new vehicles, while others do it in order to boast of their the mastery of machine in front of friends and fans. Only God knows whom their reckless driving lethally injures!

It is of course true that the world has opened up and everything is coming closer. People nowadays, by virtue of car-possession and luck being bestowed on them by Almighty, are able to get their own cars or at least they easily get access to it. Nevertheless, our roads, unfortunately, are filled up with aged cars; some even are dumped anywhere at roadsides. Some time, one may be surprised to see a huge herd of sheep and cattle, dogs and monkeys roaming freely along with the cars. All of these and many more uncivilized things have impeded our roads. Where are the owners of those animals? What the government is preparing to tackle their problems! Alas! Maybe it does not matter!

It is wonderful, though Nigeria is full of wonders and everything is impossible therein, that our roads have become centers of different types of beggars (of course majority from the North), ranging from small boys, old and elderly people, lifers, cripples, the blind, and their guides, both males and females, each chanting a different style of begging songs. The worst is the small kids moving between the cars with the intention of getting a meager amount of money just for wiping the windscreen, selling selected books, packs of pure water, sweets or scratch cards and electronics devices, etc. Many serious questions may befall in one's mind! Why are those haggard small faces not at school? Where are their parents or their mentors in the Allo-schools? The parents, in general, have to know that sending children to the boarding schools, whether it is traditional or western, without proper arrangement for fees, clothing and feeding is not ISLAMIC. A cursory reading of the biographies of our predecessor scholars will reveal that their parents had shown how the proper seeking of knowledge abroad or in boarding schools should be. They used to provide with them all the necessary support for schooling. As such, ‘Ubaid bn Jannad (R), one of the companions' disciples, said, "One should not start seeking knowledge until he secured proper sources of his food, clothes and shelter" (Al Jami' Li Akhalaq Al-Rawi of Khatib).

Above all, one is free to ask what the government is doing to protect such boys from becoming thugs, armed robbers, and unemployed area-boys! The government has to do all that can be done for the betterment of the youth and the physically challenged people. Despite the continuous effort of the concern citizens in drawing government's attention about the rights and privileges those people deserve, however, all have been in vain with, of course, rare exceptions. They, for sure, have not received the kind of care they properly deserve!

However, most beggars on our roads are not eligible for collecting Sadaqat. Yes, of course, they are not. For the Prophet (pbuh) has given clear-cut qualifications for those who are entitled. He said, "Begging is only allowed for three: a man who incurred debts solving disputes, so he is allowed to beg until he collects its amount and then stops. A man who was inflicted by a disaster that consumed his wealth, he is allowed to beg until he collects what suffices for his livelihood. An a man who was overcome by poverty, that three wise relatives of his stand up and proclaim, ‘so-and-so was overcome by poverty'. This man is allowed to beg until he collects sustains his livelihood. Other than these cases, begging is an unlawful amount that one illegally devours" (Abu Dawud). The Prophet (pbuh) also said, "Charity is not allowed for a rich person or a strong person (of sound mind and body). Therefore, it is left to the strong ones those can work to decide either to follow the Prophet's guidance or to remain idle on the roads! Handicap is not, Islamically, of course, an excuse for idleness!

There exist on our road diverse uniforms of road-protection agencies, but one may wonder what all these forces are actually doing? While government officials including road-protection agencies are better known for their reckless driving. In addition, we all see a man with heavy and dangerous metals, ramshackle long iron and wood tenderly crossing people here and there and encroaching their vehicles. They move anywhere without giving proper signs that would alert other people of the dangerous loads they carry, and, unfortunately, they would pass peacefully after afflicting damage on others without being sanctioned. In Islam, crossing other people with a dangerous metal without proper caring is prohibited and sometimes attracts a severe punishment. The Prophet (pbuh) has said, "Whoever passes through our mosques or markets with arrows should hold their heads lest he should injure one of the Muslims with it" (Bukhari).

The attitude of most road-protection agencies towards offering proper protection on our roads deserves to be re-examined and corrected. Instead of harassing those who have exceeded the maximum loads, which were legally allowed or those who carried extra- dangerous devices and goods, which can cause deadly accidents, the agencies are, unfortunately, more apt and eager to catch those who have not tightened their bellies with belt! They are after the seat belt always! It is true that wearing is of great importance for preventing sudden death and diminishing fatal injury, but it is not, of course, the only service that needs observing and correcting for the drivers. It is not point of hiding that people, in general, have understood now that only three categories of cars are the target of all road-protection agencies in Nigeria. Flashy cars are at the fore, while mass transit buses, commercial goods-carrier cars and trailers are at the second and third categories respectively! Why? The reason is obvious!

In the evening, more especially in this traumatic time, people who pass on some roads must have become familiar with the long queues created by the road-protection agencies at some specific checkpoints. People have to come towards a narrowed gate and pass one by one in such a way as if they are bowing and prostrating to his majesty, the master of the road! But are those agencies really checking? The answer is always in the negative. Checkpoints nowadays in Nigeria are but useless with no proper investigation being carried out! Instead of fishing out the suspects, the mass have been indirectly taught how to master hijacking, shunting and cheating one another. Nobody wants to follow the one single true line; instead, they create another three or more!

People are aware that the agencies are always plentiful and in serious action, standing at a considerable corner situated just before a marketplace, more especially, village-super markets on its peak days! The agencies, undoubtedly, protect their own interest! The Prophet (pbuh) had talked about bribe and prohibited both giving and receiving it. He said, "Allah has cursed the one who bribes and the one who takes a bribe" (Tirmizi).

It is pointless, indeed, to disgrace the great services those agencies render towards the development and protection of the public. Islam dares such and applauds it greatly. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Whoever gets rid of a dangerous thing that harms the Muslim community will be rewarded of a righteous deed. While whoever Allah scored him a reward of a righteous deed will admit him in Paradise". This is a glad tiding for those who render road-protection service in good faith. However, what worries much is the corruption and merciless treatment of the masses, the very things that have negatively mixed up the good services being rendered by the agencies.

Taking care of the safety and cleanness of roads is among the magnitude services that each member of the community should carry out within his capacity. This could be by any means, be it physical and moral support, including mopping and wiping the roads, or making other hygienic services to the community. Ibn Sirin (R) had reported that when Abu Musa Al-Asha'ari (R.A) arrived at Basrah, he sermoned the people and said, "O people of Basrah! The Commander of faithful sent me to you with the missions; to teach you the Prophetic-Sunnah and urge you to clear up your roads" (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaibah). This means that it is imperative on the citizens to positively double think on the best ways of paving and tiding up our roads not to bring forth what can cause go-slows and prevent people from moving freely.

Some people, we see, do obstruct the roads by making wrong parking, or with heaps of sand, iron and other building materials on the assumption that they also have the right in monopolize some part of the road by dumping their work materials. This is not ethically good and goes contrary to the Islamic teaching. The Prophet (pbuh) praises those who care to remove filthy and injurious things from the road. He said, "Removing filthy and injurious things is also part of sadaqah". It seems, however, that some of the drivers today do not bother to make the roads as dirty as they can. The Prophet (pbuh) taught us that, "Faith has over seventy branches or over sixty branches, the most excellent of which is the declaration that there is no god but Allah, and the humblest of which is the removal of what is injurious from the path: and modesty is the branch of faith" (Muslim). We see some drivers suddenly open their car windows and unmindfully throw bottles, wrap papers, remnants of chewing gum or cigarettes, if not mucus, directly in the open air without bothering on whom it may befall! It is wonderful to see big personalities doing such untidy and immoral behaviour. Why those people should not collect rubbish inside the car and put it in appropriate bin when they come out or use their handkerchiefs or tissue paper or even a part of their clothes to wipe out the dirt from their noses and mouths?  Doing so is very easy and better for them to, arrogantly, spit or throw dirt on other people! It is pertinent to conclude with a very encompassing prophetic hadith. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "While a person was going along the path, he found a thorny branch upon it. He pushed it to a side and Allah approved this action of his and granted him forgiveness"(Muslim).

*- Dr. Ahmad Murtala is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Islamic Studies and Shari'a, BUK


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