An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

The Right of the Travel Companions, Wayfarer, Servants and Employees

[Explanation in the light of Surah an-Nisa Ayah 36]

The Right of the Companion at Your Side

Mentioned at number six is ‘the companion at your side’. Translated literally, it includes a travel companions sitting by your side in a rail compartment, an aeroplane, a bus or a car. It also includes a person who is sitting with you in any common meeting.

The way the Shariah of Islam has made the rights of regular neighbors, close or distant, a matter of obligation, it has likewise made equally obligatory the right of good company enjoyed by a person who sits next to somebody for a little while in some meeting or journey – which includes everyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, related or unrelated, as equals. The instruction to treat such a person nicely is significant, the lowest degree of which is that you cause no pain to anyone with your word or deed, you say nothing which may hurt the feelings of the other person, you do nothing which embarrasses, annoys or troubles him, such as, a puff of cigarette blown towards his face, or a spit of things chewed deposited by his side, or a style of sitting which leaves very little space for the other person to sit.

No wonder, if people started following this instruction of the Qur’an the common disputes between passengers of trains, particularly in countries with overcrowded modes of transportation, would be all over – if everyone were to think that he needs just about enough space to seat one person. This much is his right, but he does not have the right to occupy anymore space beyond that. The person sitting next to him has as much right to sit in that train as he does.

Some commentators have said that ‘a distant neighbor’ includes everyone who works by your side in some job or vocation, in industry or wage-earning, in office work, whether on the station of duty, or in travel. [Ruh al-Ma’ani]

The Right of the Wayfarer

This appears at number seven. A wayfarer is a person who, during your travel status, comes to you, or becomes your guest. Since this stranger Muslim or non-Muslim has no relative or friend around in the given situation, the Qur’an by considering his predicament as a human being – has made the fulfillment of his right too as something obligatory. It means that one should treat him well, as much as possible and convenient.

The Rights of Bondmen, Bondwomen, Servants and Employees

Concluding the list at the number eight, it is said:

وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـنُكُمْ 

“…and those owned by you.”

which means bondmen and bondwomen owned. Their right too – that they be treated well – has been made equally obligatory. It means that one should not fall short in making sure that they have food to eat and dress to wear, and also that they are not burdened with jobs beyond their ability to handle.

Though, given the lexical meaning of the ayah which is clearly referring to ‘the owned’, that is, the bondmen and bondwomen, but as based on the same analogy and on the sayings of the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam these rules cover servants and employees as well, for they too have the same right. There should be no niggardliness or delay in giving them their due salary, meals and so forth, and also that they are not burdened with jobs beyond their ability.

[Taken from Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]

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