Aspects of the Islamic Faith 117: How Caring the Prophet Was For The Community

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

The Prophet (peace be upon him) always took good care of his community. In fact, he took good care of future generations of the Muslim community. The following Hadith establishes certain responsibilities that ensure that everyone in the Muslim community is taken care of. Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: "I am certainly in charge of every believer, both in this present life and the future life. Read, if you will: ‘The Prophet has more claim on the believers than they have on their own selves'. Any believer who leaves behind property will be inherited by his heir. Anyone who leaves a debt or young children, they should come to me. I will take care of them." (Related by Al-Bukhari).

In this Hadith, the Prophet quotes a portion of a Qur'anic verse, stating that he "has more claim on the believers than they have on their own selves" (33: 6). However, he places more emphasis on his own responsibility, rather than that of the believers. Thus, the Hadith explains the type of care believers will receive from the Prophet. This responsibility is undertaken after the Prophet by all Muslim rulers. Thus, the principle the Hadith is talking about is permanent, concerned with the rulers of any Muslim state. Then the Prophet and the Muslim state take on themselves the role of guardian of the Muslim community.

Had the Prophet taken advantage of the principle God lays down in this verse, he would have laid a claim to all the wealth any believer leaves behind. However, he makes clear that he takes none of that. He declares that any property a believer leaves behind is left to his heirs, according to the elaborate system of inheritance the Qur'an outlines. The Prophet's claim is linked only to responsibility. He calls on a deceased believer's heirs to come to him if the deceased has left behind any debt that cannot be paid out of his estate, or young children who cannot be looked after.

This principle establishes the basis of a system of social security. The Muslim state is responsible to take care of a deceased person's affairs. It has to take over his debts, if these cannot be paid out of the deceased's estate. The heirs are not responsible to repay such debts out of their own money. This is related to the principle that defines the preferred claims on a deceased person's estate. The first claim is that of arranging the burial of the deceased. The second is the repayment of his outstanding debts. No heir may be given anything until these two claims have been met. If a Muslim dies and leaves nothing behind, the Muslim state should take care of these responsibilities, paying for his burial and repaying his debts. If a poor Muslim leaves behind young children who cannot be looked after by relatives, the Muslim state must ensure that they are well looked after.

Should the state fail to fulfil this responsibility, the Muslim community should undertake it. In fact, Muslims should compete to shoulder this responsibility because it ensures great reward for them. Anyone who repays an outstanding debt of a deceased Muslim will earn very rich reward. Likewise, those who look after orphans and bring them up, taking good care of them, stand to earn in reward much more than any expense they incur.

It is because of the emphasis the Prophet has laid on the importance of looking after orphans that we see people in all Muslim communities come forward and take care of them. In every Muslim society, you see a network of charities undertaking the task of looking after those in need in their communities. This is a manifestation of the real bond of brotherhood Islam establishes in Muslim society.


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