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“الدين معاملة”: Do Unto Others

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013 at 10:33 am

Author: Feature Writer

Gc contributor: Faisal Tabbaa

We hear the above term a lot, and some suspect that it is derives from the Hadith of the Prophet of Islam (Peace Be Upon Him).  However, most are confused as to its origins, given that it appears in a broad mixture of Islamic and Christian teachings. For those of you who cannot read the Arabic الدين معاملة, it roughly means “religion is in the treatment of others”.

Some will point to the Sahih Muslim Hadith as an origin point:

((أتَدْرُونَ ما المُفْلِسُ؟ ـ المفلس بالمفهوم العام: من لا درهم له, ولا دينار؛ لا يملك مالاً إطلاقاً ـ فقالوا: المفْلسُ فينا من لا درهم له, ولا متاع, فقال: إن المفْلسَ مَنْ يأتي يوم القيامة؛ بصلاة, وصيام, وزكاة، ويأتي قد شَتَمَ هذا، وقذفَ هذا، وأكل مال هذا، وسفك دم هذا، وضرب هذا، فيُعطَى هذا من حسناته، وهذا من حسناته، فإن فَنيَتْ حَسَناتُهُ ـ قبل أن يُقْضى ما عليه ـ أُخِذَ من خطاياهم؛ فطُرِحَتْ عليه، ثم يُطْرَحُ في النار))

Many have taken the meaning of this Hadith to indicate that unless you treat people with respect, and follow the basic moral precepts of not lying, stealing, or abusing people then all the prayer and fasting in the world will not lead you to salvation.

I believe that the fact that the simple phrase cannot be traced back to a specific saying of the Prophet PBUH or the Holy Quran, and rather is probably more of a folk saying that has developed over the centuries adds to its strength and profoundness, as simple research will show that it has developed in a secular, religious, and philosophical manner–a manner which combined the thinking of different cultures and faiths.

This concept has in fact been termed the world over as the Golden Rule or the “ethic of reciprocity”, and is commonly referred to as ”do unto others” when paraphrased from a saying of the prophet Jesus PBUH.  Scholars note that this concept’s framework appears prominently in many religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and is a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely. I believe if not for such a principle, most religions would never have risen to prominence with the people of the world.

Jewish texts derive this from Leviticus 19:18 :”You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” This idea is further, and I think better, supported by the saying of Rabbi Hillel the Elder found in the Talmud, Shabbat 31a: “that which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

The irony of the above statement in light of the treatment of goyim by the state of Israel and other supporters of the Zionist cause globally is quite sad and possibly a matter of discussion of another and probably angrier essay.

Confucius said, “what you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others,” and a maxim of Taoism goes that one should “regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”

Despite the merits of this phrase and its widespread knowledge throughout the Arabic speaking world (almost every child, adolescent, and adult can quote it), the simple meaning of it is equally widely ignored and the its spirit trodden upon by seemingly the majority of people across the Arab world known to me.  Unfortunately, this is most glaringly apparent in Jordan where I reside.

There is an unfortunate abundance of examples of people living absolute contrarily to this maxim, and I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that the Jordanian national motto might well be “me first”. Unfortunately, most people you encounter seem hell bent on attempting to get their own way in a manner you would expect more from a petulant and spoilt child than a grown adult. In fact, the environment seems to have bred an ethos of civic irresponsibility and contempt for the actions that would make the lives of other somewhat easier at the expense of one’s own minor inconveniences.

Let us move to the examples then, which you may divide into the everyday occurrences and the extraordinary.

A question you hear often in Jordan may very well epitomize the reasons lying behind the everyday occurrences. Guess what that question is? You’ve heard it many times before: Yes, it is that (let’s call it the Golden Question for irony’s sake) query: بتعرف من أنا؟ Do you know who I am?

The Golden Question (GQ) that can invoke a myriad of feelings from people depending on their respective characters, societal and financial status, and other factors. These feelings include fear for the meek, disgust for most, anger for many, bemusement and amusement for some, and feeling of absolute cluelessness to almost everyone.

Really, who the hell are you?

So when we take the GQ along with the “me first” attitud,e it is no surprise that daily occurrences include cutting in queues, smoking in restricted areas, driving like idiots, double parking (especially during prayer times), never smiling, treating foreigners better than countrymen.  These all never cease to enrage us and unfortunately no longer surprise us. Finally, people always manage to belittle the inconvenience caused to you by using that hated (for me) word بسيطة which is roughly translated as ‘it’s nothing’. I think all would agree that hearing this proffered ever so casually after being trampled upon by one of society’s miscreants is hardly good for the temper.

Then we come to the extraordinary, those unexpected and shocking events which come like a nice slap to the face in the morning. Recently in Jordan, election posters of candidates for the house of representatives, who notwithstanding their smiles and fine slogans, seem placed in strategic enough locations and in such a plethora of them that they are getting people lost along the way and even causing road accidents. Is this what our candidates want their constituents feeling? Or is it simple asinine disregard for the lives of others?

This is by no means meant to be a message of meaning or profoundness, but rather more of a rant against what we must out up with on a daily basis and a general questions aimed at all society: What in the name of God is WRONG with us?

All this and we have the audacity to call others heathens; to point at the Chinese and Japanese and say that they have no religion. We need to have a deep look inside and ask that question again: what is wrong with us? And how can we fix it? Unfortunately most people will never come to this realization because they have never been wrong, after all DO YOU KNOW WHO THEY ARE?

It is the ‘strong and powerful’ that most of all will have to be made to feel this, for they at their worst are the spoilers that need to be taught, educated, harangued, and frightened to death, so that they may be humanized. For as Mathew 5:5 tells us: Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

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