Three Levels of Responding to People’s Harms: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-Shooraa:

وَجَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا ۖ فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِينَ * وَلَمَنِ انتَصَرَ بَعْدَ ظُلْمِهِ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ مَا عَلَيْهِم مِّن سَبِيلٍ * إِنَّمَا السَّبِيلُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ يَظْلِمُونَ النَّاسَ وَيَبْغُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ * وَلَمَن صَبَرَ وَغَفَرَ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ لَمِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

The retribution of a harmful act is a harm like it. But whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, then his reward is due from Allah. Indeed, Allah does not love the unjust ones. * And whoever seeks revenge after having been treated unjustly, there is nothing against these ones. * The grounds for actions is only against those who wrong others and cause trouble in the earth without due right. For these ones there will be a painful punishment. * But whoever exercises patience and forgives; indeed, that is one of the ‘azm al-umoor. [42:40-43]

In his famous book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote:

ذكر الله في هذه الآية، مراتب العقوبات، وأنها على ثلاث مراتب: عدل وفضل وظلم. ـ

In this noble ayah, Allah mentions the different levels of retribution for harms, and that there are three different levels of responding to harms:

  • Justice
  • Goodness
  • Injustice

فمرتبة العدل، جزاء السيئة بسيئة مثلها، لا زيادة ولا نقص، فالنفس بالنفس، وكل جارحة بالجارحة المماثلة لها، والمال يضمن بمثله. ـ

The level of justice is that you repay a harmful action with a harm similar to the original harmful action without any increase or decrease. So a life for a life, or an equivalent piece of the body for piece of the body harmed, or wealth of an equal amount to that lost.

ومرتبة الفضل: العفو والإصلاح عن المسيء، ولهذا قال: فمن عفا وأصلح فأجره على الله يجزيه أجرا عظيما، وثوابا كثيرا، وشرط الله في العفو الإصلاح فيه، ليدل ذلك على أنه إذا كان الجاني لا يليق العفو عنه، وكانت المصلحة الشرعية تقتضي عقوبته، فإنه في هذه الحال لا يكون مأمورا به. ـ

The level of goodness is pardoning and making reconciliation with the person who harmed you. That is why Allah said:

فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّـهِ

But whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, then his reward is due from Allah

Allah will repay such a person with a tremendous and abundant reward. And Allah stipulated that the pardoning must bring about a greater good. This shows us that if the perpetrator of the harm does not deserve to be pardoned for his offense and it is in the interest of the greater good according to the sharee’ah that he be punished, then in this case pardoning him is not what we have been commanded to do.

وفي جعل أجر العافي على الله ما يهيج على العفو، وأن يعامل العبد الخلق بما يحب أن يعامله الله به، فكما يحب أن يعفو الله عنه، فليعف عنهم، وكما يحب أن يسامحه الله، فليسامحهم، فإن الجزاء من جنس العمل. ـ

And in placing the task of rewarding the one who pardons on Himself, Allah is providing ample motivation for people to pardon others and to interact with others as they would like for Allah to behave towards them. For just as one would love for Allah to pardon him, then he should also pardon others. And just as one would love for Allah to be lenient and easy-going with him, likewise he should be easy-going with others. After all, the rewards of deeds are of the same nature as the deeds themselves.

وأما مرتبة الظلم فقد ذكرها بقوله: إنه لا يحب الظالمين الذين يجنون على غيرهم ابتداء، أو يقابلون الجاني بأكثر من جنايته، فالزيادة ظلم. ـ

As for the level of injustice, Allah mentioned this in His statement:

إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِينَ

Indeed, Allah does not love the unjust ones.

those who initiate harms against people without provocation, or who respond to some harm they have received by perpetrating a greater harm in return, for that increase is itself a form of injustice.

ولمن انتصر بعد ظلمه أي: انتصر ممن ظلمه بعد وقوع الظلم عليه فأولئك ما عليهم من سبيل أي: لا حرج عليهم في ذلك. ـ

وَلَمَنِ انتَصَرَ بَعْدَ ظُلْمِهِ

And for whoever seeks revenge after having been treated unjustly …

meaning: they seek to avenge themselves against those who have wronged them after having been treated unjustly

فَأُولَـٰئِكَ مَا عَلَيْهِم مِّن سَبِيلٍ

… then there is nothing against these ones.

meaning: there is no sin on them for doing that.

ودل قوله: والذين إذا أصابهم البغي وقوله: ولمن انتصر بعد ظلمه أنه لا بد من إصابة البغي والظلم ووقوعه. وأما إرادة البغي على الغير، وإرادة ظلمه من غير أن يقع منه شيء، فهذا لا يجازى بمثله، وإنما يؤدب تأديبا يردعه عن قول أو فعل صدر منه. ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَهُمُ الْبَغْيُ

And those who, when an oppressive wrong is done to them … [42:39]

as well as His statement:

وَلَمَنِ انتَصَرَ بَعْدَ ظُلْمِهِ

And indeed whosoever takes revenge after he has suffered wrong … [42:41]

show that being afflicted with harm and injustice has to have actually taken place [for retribution to be an option].

As for if someone was only intending to oppress another or only planning to harm him without it actually coming to pass, then such a person cannot be punished with the likes of what he was planning to do; he can only be dealt with in such a way as to deter and dissuade him from carrying out that speech or action.

إنما السبيل أي: إنما تتوجه الحجة بالعقوبة الشرعية على الذين يظلمون الناس ويبغون في الأرض بغير الحق وهذا شامل للظلم والبغي على الناس، في دمائهم وأموالهم وأعراضهم. أولئك لهم عذاب أليم أي: موجع للقلوب والأبدان، بحسب ظلمهم وبغيهم. ـ

إِنَّمَا السَّبِيلُ

The grounds for action is only …

meaning: the justification for punishing someone with the sharee’ah-sanctioned punishments only applies

عَلَى الَّذِينَ يَظْلِمُونَ النَّاسَ وَيَبْغُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ

… against those who treat people unjustly or do evil in the earth without any right.

So this encompasses injustice and wrongdoing towards people as it relates to their blood, their wealth and their honors.

أُولَـٰئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

Those will have a painful punishment.

meaning: causing agony to their hearts and bodies at a level commiserate to the level of injustice and wrongdoing they have committed.

ولمن صبر على ما يناله من أذى الخلق وغفر لهم، بأن سمح لهم عما يصدر منهم، إن ذلك لمن عزم الأمور أي: لمن الأمور التي حث الله عليها وأكدها، وأخبر أنه لا يلقاها إلا أهل الصبر والحظوظ العظيمة، ومن الأمور التي لا يوفق لها إلا أولو العزائم والهمم، وذوو الألباب والبصائر . ـ

وَلَمَن صَبَرَ

But whoever exercises patience …

with the harms that he encounters from others

وَغَفَرَ

… and forgives …

meaning that he pardons them for what they have done

إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ لَمِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

… indeed, that is one of the ‘azm al-umoor

meaning: that is one of those thing which Allah encourages and emphasizes. And Allah has already informed us that none are able to do this except for the people of steadfast patience and a tremendous bounty from Allah. This is one of those things which is only able to be accomplished by people of great determination, intellect and insight.

فإن ترك الانتصار للنفس بالقول أو الفعل، من أشق شيء عليها، والصبر على الأذى، والصفح عنه، ومغفرته، ومقابلته بالإحسان، أشق وأشق، ولكنه يسير على من يسره الله عليه، وجاهد نفسه على الاتصاف به، واستعان الله على ذلك، ثم إذا ذاق العبد حلاوته، ووجد آثاره، تلقاه برحب الصدر، وسعة الخلق، والتلذذ فيه. ـ

Leaving the opportunity to seek revenge – whether with words or with actions – is one of the hardest things for a person to do. And having patience in the face of harms, overlooking the harms of that person, forgiving him, and responding to his harms with good behaviors – each one these things is harder than the last. However, all of this is easy for those whom Allah has facilitated to do these actions and to struggle against their own selves to adopt these qualities and who seeks Allah’s assistance in carrying these things out. Then when the slave tastes the sweetness of these things and sees the effects in his life, he would welcome this the opportunity to do so without any reservation, with happiness and he would enjoy it.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 895-896]

See also: Choosing the Best Over What is Merely Good: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: Dealing with the human shayaateen and the jinn shayaateen: Imam al-Shinqitee

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One thought on “Three Levels of Responding to People’s Harms: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: Choosing the Best Over What is Merely Good: Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

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