HUMANS have been created from dust, perhaps the most lowly of materials on earth. However, when God infused His own spirit, as He says in the Quran, in the human form, the latter acquired the potential to achieve great heights of morality, spirituality, goodness, mercy, love, compassion, all the characteristics attributed to God. So, what is the human being in terms of its status?
We have heard and read of the best, prophets who were examples of what God loves in humans. He praises many of them for their qualities in His Book. Of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), He says that he was brought to this world to be the best example of morality. At the same time, we have the example of his uncle, Abu Jahal, one of the cruellest and most dastardly of people. He, too, was a man.
When humans make efforts to do good in this world and remain conscientious of their thought and deed, they can achieve the highest levels of purity, and when they consistently ignore their inner moral voice and continue to indulge in acts of vice and moral corruption, they stoop to the lowest of depths: they turn their souls to mud.
Humans sin — by virtue of their nature. They can repent and may be forgiven, as promised by God. But those who commit sin in the most shameful ways and such that their sin can multiply and devastate groups and societies are the ones who cause fasad fil ardh. The word ‘fasad’ andits derivativeshave come 48 times in the Quran. Simply put, this means spreading mischief, corruption, vice and depravity on earth. Spreading corruption on earth will earn the wrath of God, which, as in the case of reward, often does not come quickly. The Quran has imposed the most severe punishments in the courts of the world for those who perpetrate such corruption and it is likely that they may face worse on the Day of Judgement.
Less obvious are the crimes of those who abet these monsters.
The sins that fall into the category of fasad fil ardh include intentional murder, rape and activities that deliberately target the lives, honour and property of ordinary people. Over the last several years, countries and regions that claim to possess a Quran- and Sunnah- based constitution are increasingly prone to these acts. Women and men are too often murdered for having married out of choice; a neighbouring country has seen brutal killing of men and women for not observing the most trivial orders of the self-proclaimed custodians of the Sharia; human rights activists have been executed without fair trial on the flimsiest of excuses.
Murders of Muslim and non-Muslim men and women on charges of blasphemy and marriage outside the community are too common. Sodomy and child sexual abuse even in seminaries is prevalent. Violence against women is rampant, both inside the home and in public life. The brutal murder of young women and a recent humiliation of another by hundreds of men would put the devil to shame. Condemnation of these horrific crimes by religious circles is rare. When it does happen, women are also blamed.
In themselves, these crimes speak to the impunity with which men consider women to be personal or collective male property, to be dispensed with as and when they see fit, after satisfying their base desires for sexual violence. They clearly fall under the fasad fil ardh category. Less obvious are the crimes of those who aid and abet these monsters: relatives who hide evidence; negotiate for blood money or push the families of victims to withdraw their cases. This is where once again, a suggestion in the Quran that enabled tribes to avoid revenge and brought sustenance to a family that had its breadwinner killed is ‘used’ to support the powerful, rich and elite class that commits murders openly and gets away with it.
Police, courts, lawyers and judges are complicit in these crimes by delaying registration of the cases, bringing false witnesses and even after proof points to the accused, giving light sentences. The convicted are given facilities in prison and are freed after a short period, on the pretext of ‘good behaviour’. Within this ever-expanding group of persons involved in fasad fil ardh are also those who blame the victim for not being Islamic enough as well as those who spread the gory details, fake or otherwise, of these horrific crimes through the media. By carrying out these acts, people, knowingly or in ignorance, nurture an environment that is immune to the heinous nature of such vile deeds and take the onus away from the perpetrators.
Islam seeks to build peaceful, tranquil and serene societies in which life, honour and properties would be safe from harm. Muslims are creating ones that are aggressive and degrading for the marginalised, disadvantaged and vulnerable on the one hand and depraved and all powerful for the rich, political and supposedly religious class. The wrath of God will surely take its own course even as the world’s courts remain lax.
The writer is an independent contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2021