Kings at the doors of beggars

Below is a quote from one of my favourite scholars Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. It is adapted from a lengthy speech, of which the full transcript is available. The quote below is from part of this speech known more commonly as ‘Kings at the doors of beggars‘. The quote is something I believe all Muslims should read, as it speaks of not judging others, which is unfortunately something that many of us do in haste and in excess. Anways, enjoy!

This is really interesting to me…adab (good manners) is the ability to know the place of things and to give things their proper due. So adab is really to be translated as ‘comportment’ or a type of discipline in which you recognise where things belong. Part of recognising where things belong is to recognise where you belong in relation to social hierarchies. One of the things that this (western) culture almost never talks about it, where it talks about civil rights and human rights a great deal, but I don’t think it ever mentions the idea of social rights, which is your right to have equality in society. This is because equality is an “ideal” of democracy: people are equal, but in reality they are not equal. In this culture it is very clear there are social hierarchies and if you fall to the bottom of one of these hierarchies, then woe unto you if you try to crash the party of a higher rank of society. Therefore social rights are never really talked about.

One of the really interesting things about Islam and the Islamic tradition is that it teaches us there is an internal hierarchy known only to God. Therefore Islam challenges you to recognise that everyone outside of yourself may be better than you in the eyes of God. So you have to have comportment with everybody, such that even a person that you might think is lower than you in social standing could actually be higher than you in spiritual standing. This is why, in the history of Islam, you had kings at the doors of beggars. There is no other religion I know of that has that quality where you literally had kings at the door of beggars asking for their prayers.

The other thing that is really interesting is that in this (western) culture you will not get people from Blackhawk or from Los Gattos going to church in East Oakland. It is just not the way society works. Yet in the Muslim world the richest man could pray next to the most impoverished man in the same prayer line, and it has always been like that, and that is something that is really unusual about Islam, in that it creates a true brotherhood.

There is also a recognition in Islam that people have things in the world that Allah has given them that other people lack, but that does not prevent you from seeing this person as essentially equal to you before God and, possibly, according to most of the hadith about rich and poor people, the poor person is probably closer to God than you are. That instils in you a desire to actually be kind to them because you are actually worried that you might upset your Lord by having any contempt or even just simply treating them less than they deserve.

 – adapted from a speech by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

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