WHO IS GREATER?
People tend to show more
respect to the wealthy and those in positions of high social
status. However, according to Islam, greatness lies in knowledge,
good conduct, humanity and virtuousness. It is interesting
that throughout history the first to believe in the Prophets
were those who were despised in their communities because
of their poverty and low social status. Because of the vainglory
and arrogance wealth and high status gave rise to, the wealthy
leaders of communities usually refused to obey a Supreme Power
apart from their own selves.
Like other Divinely-revealed religions such as Christianity
and Judaism in their pure, primordial forms, and the great
religions of the East such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism,
Islam promotes humility, altruism, love, compassion, brotherhood
and justice and condemns arrogance, selfishness, hatred, vindictiveness,
and oppression. In the years when news of Islam began to be
heard within the frontiers of the Roman-Byzantine Empire,
an exchange took place between Heraclius, the Roman Emperor,
and Abu Sufyan, who was in Syria at that time at the head
a Makkan trade caravan. The Emperor asked:
Had Muhammad ever claimed Prophethood before he began to
call people to Islam?
— Does he claim kingship or is there a king among his ancestors?
— No, he does not claim kingship, nor is there a king among
— Have you ever heard him tell a lie?
— No, we haven't.
— Do the oppressed and poor or the wealthy and leading figures
of the society usually follow him?
— The oppressed and the poor do.
— By God! He will be triumphant in his cause.
the Caliphate of 'Umar, Jabala, the then chief of the tribe
of Ghassan became a Muslim. Once during the pilgrimage, a
poor and lowly man happened to tread on Jabala's foot by mistake
in the crowd. Without giving the man a chance to apologize,
Jabala slapped him on the face and kicked him. The poor man
complained of this to 'Umar, may God be pleased with him,
who sent for Jabala. Jabala explained why he had beaten the
He got his deserts. For, without considering his lowliness
vis-a-vis my rank, he ventured to approach me and tread
on my foot.
— How do you judge that you are so great as that poor man
cannot approach you?
— I am the chief of the Ghassan tribe, descending from a
noble family. I have great wealth and country-wide fame.
— None of these reasons of yours give you the right to slap
that man and make out that you are so great that no one
may approach you. In our way, the more pious and virtuous
a man is, the nobler and greater he is. Everyone can be
honorable and deserve respect according to his care in practicing
could not bear to be treated on a par with a poor and lowly
man and, forsaking his faith, left Madina.