The Merit of Human Confrontation
One of the well-known narratives in the Qur’an is that of Prophet Dawood (David) (pbuh) when he joined the army of his king Talout (Saul), to fight the tyrant king Galout (Goliath). The narrative ends with a revelation about the Wisdom of Allah (swt) in allowing people to challenge and even fight against each other. Although fighting, especially among brothers and sisters in the faith and especially if it takes a violent form, is denounced in Islam, the Qur’an highlights the advantage of this and other forms of human confrontation in eliminating corruption on earth.
According to that narrative, the military confrontation ended when Dawood (pbuh), the unknown young soldier then, killed Galout. And the narrative was concluded with a verse that reveals the Wisdom of Allah (swt) for allowing people to demonstrate their spirit of struggling against each other Allah says in the Qur'an:
“And had it not been for the fact that Allah (swt) wants to check one group of people by means of another, the earth would indeed have been utterly corrupted. But Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds” (2:251)
This verse takes us beyond the personalities and the events in the story to reveal the true Wisdom of Allah (swt). He creates humans with conflicting potentials; to love and hate, help and transgress, and to spread good or corruption. But, in His Ultimate Wisdom, Allah (swt) also allows humans to confront, challenge and battle each other in order for the good to prevail over the evil and corruption.
Comprehending this wisdom allows the believers to further understand their roles and responsibilities in life. If the coexistence of good and evil is part of Allah’s plan for human life, and since Allah (swt) commands justice and condemns injustice, then it is an obligation on the believers to commit themselves to what Allah (swt) allows them to do in order to restore justice. That is to challenge and fight what seems to be injustice.
The verse also motivates the believers to appreciate the value of human competition, struggle or even confrontation, which are viewed as a positive and constructive endeavor by the Qur’an. There is nothing wrong in challenging or even fighting a conflicting idea, even if it is held by a fellow believer. Depending on the form of fighting, this should not necessarily destroy the unity of the community as much as it would restore justice and stop corruption.
It would be important at this point to shed some light on the meaning of “corruption on earth” according to the Qur’an. To the majority of Muslims, corruption (when it comes to the sphere of religion) is commonly associated with violation of Islamic laws. Inappropriate mixing of the two genders, public consumption of alcoholic beverages, or public condemnation of the Prophet of Allah (swt) are well-recognized forms of corruption. But the Qur’an provides us with more forms of corruption that should be challenged (confronted) using the potential that Allah (swt) has equipped us with. These can be identified by checking verses in the Qur’an that include this word “corruption”.
Spreading violence is a form of corruption. That was the implication of the question of the angels to Allah (swt) “Are you going to place (on earth) a creature who is going to corrupt it and shed blood” (2:30). Here, corruption is linked to violence and blood-shedding. Corruption also includes any action that disrupts the unity of the society. An example is revealed in (8:73) “Those who disbelieve are allies to one another. And if you (the believers) take them allies it will cause disunity (fitnah) and great corruption”. This is a clear warning for the believers to disallow this situation and, in fact, use their power to challenge it.
Destroying resources of life of people and their wellbeing is another form of corruption Allah says: “and when he turns away from you (O’ Muhammad) he travels through the land to spread corruption by destroying the crops and the cattle. God does not love corruption.” (2:205). Here, the Qur’an is bringing to the attention of the Prophet (pbuh) the example of a hypocrite who speaks softly but he proceeds secretly to destroy the crops and the cattle. This understanding should be extended to include any attempt that aims at destroying the means of life of any community.
Dishonoring people is another form of corruption as declared in the Qur’an. This came at the tongue of the Queen of Sheba “She said: when kings enter a country (i.e. prevail in their own society or occupy another society) they corrupt it and make the most honorable among its people low. And thus they do.” (27:34).
All these and other forms of corruption can be eliminated, according to the Qur’an, when people exercise what Allah (swt) has entitled them to do; namely “checking one group of people by means of another” (2:251). The “checking” may be exercised through presenting rationally compelling arguments, debating decisions, playing an active role to stop an aggressor, defending human rights, honoring fellow humans, avoiding disunity, etc.
Withdrawing from this responsibility (confronting corruption) would lead to a passive community of believers. Passive personality is not a quality of the believer (Mo'men), or at least the strong believer. The believer may then fit under the example of the man who is incapable of undertaking challenges in life, a personality that is disliked by Allah (swt).Allah says: “Allah has put forward the example of two men, one of them is dumb, has no power over anything, and he is burden to his master, whichever way the master directs him, he brings no good. Is such man equal to one who commands justice and sets himself on the Straight path?” (16:76).
The present example of the blockade of Gaza is very much alive and fitting into this context. If we do not challenge it, as the Qur’an allows, it will continue to rise.
Finally, It is an obligation on the Muslim community today to recapture this precious concept; namely of undertaking their responsibility of “checking one group of people by means of another” as revealed in the Qur’an. With that positive attitude they should be able, by the Favor of Allah (swt), to adjust their path of life; as individuals and communities. Otherwise, the earth “would indeed have been utterly corrupted.” (2:251).
By Mohammed Shokr