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Al-‘Izzah: Forgotten Concept, Lost Virtue

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Introduction

During his Caliphate, ‘Umar radi Allahu anhu set out for Ash-Shaam with Abu ‘Ubaydah.  Along the way, they encountered a deep creek which could only be crossed directly, so ‘Umar took off his sandals and waded through the water.  Concerned, Abu ‘Ubaydah said, “I fear that the people of the village will think you without honor.”

‘Umar replied, “Oh Abu Ubaydah!  If only someone less knowledgeable than you had made such a statement.  We were the most disgraced of people, and Allah granted us honor with Islam.  Now, whenever we seek honor in other than that which Allah honored us with, Allah shall disgrace us (once again).”

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What would ‘Umar say if he could see us today? Given that we are as many as the foam upon the sea, and as useless? What would he say today, when our brothers and sisters are collateral damage, slaughtered left, right, and center on demand while the rest us of are impotent to protect them?

The problem is that we have forgotten the concept of ‘izzah (honour). We have forgotten that no matter what our physical or financial state is, Allah has placed us in a position of superiority over all other creation.

By virtue of our tawheed, our emaan, our Islam, we are better than anyone else.  And yes, while that sounds politically incorrect, our Rabb has clearly stated:

Surely those who disbelieve from among the followers of the Book and the polytheists shall be in the fire of hell, abiding therein; they are the worst of men.
(And) lo! those who believe and do good deeds, they are the best of creation.
 (al-Bayyinah, 6-7)

You are the best of people among all peoples, for you command Al-Maruf and forbid Al-Munkar, and you submit [in belief] to Allah. 3:110

Knowing this, why then do we still have inferiority complexes?  Why do we find ourselves asking for help from those responsible for oppressing us?  Why do we lower ourselves to such a position?

The fact of the matter is that we have lost our ‘izzah. We have lost the understanding of what it is and how we are to attain it.

So what is this ‘izzah?  How do we attain it, and how do we lose it?  How do we put this forgotten concept into practice, especially in this day and age?  Insha’Allah we’ll answer these questions and more in a series of several posts by AnonyMouse and Siraaj.

Stay tuned for Part 1: The literary origin and the Islamic concept of al-‘izzah.

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Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. AsimG

    April 3, 2009 at 1:47 AM

    ooo good intro

  2. Dawud Israel

    April 3, 2009 at 1:54 AM

    YES!

    Finally talking about what the crux of the problem is! If it helps…I had a post regarding honor and dignity on my blog a while back: http://muslimology.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/honor-nobility-and-humility-in-islam/

  3. Siraaj

    April 3, 2009 at 2:24 AM

    Salaam alaykum guys,

    Strap yourselves tight, it’s a 5 parter, and I have to admit, its one of the few writing projects in which I invested a lot more time and effort than normal to craft the message correctly.

    We’ll be running the gamut of issues in this series AND providing a practical solution to this ‘Izzah issue that is both individual and community targeted, insha’Allah.

    Siraaj

  4. Abd- Allah

    April 3, 2009 at 3:53 AM

    The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “If you deal in usury and hang unto the tails of cows, being satisfied with cultivation and ceasing to take part in Jihad, Allah will inflict a humiliation upon you which will not be removed until you return to your religion.” (Reported by Ahmad and Abu Dawud and graded as authentic)

    SubhanAllah, the prophet peace be upon him, in just one hadith, described the causes, identified the symptoms, diagnosed the disease, and gave us the cure to what the Ummah is suffering from currently, which is the humiliation and loss of ‘izzah and honour.

  5. All Praise is for Allah

    April 3, 2009 at 4:12 AM

    Masha Allah, sounds excellent! I can’t wait to read further!

  6. Ghareebah

    April 3, 2009 at 6:32 AM

    Assalaamu Alaykum

    Hey guys… Come on… Hurry with the revelationt… After all we should strike for the best right..?
    So you share the secret with the rest of us… I’m all ears..

  7. SaqibSaab

    April 3, 2009 at 9:42 AM

    Finally this post is coming out, hehe. Looking forward to the rest iA.

  8. MM Associates

    April 3, 2009 at 10:31 AM

    I was waiting for this to come out for a while :) Jazaakum Allahu khayran (Amatullah)

  9. AnonyMouse

    April 3, 2009 at 12:27 PM

    Gotta admit… I’m kinda nervous about it :)
    BTW people, you better enjoy this because these are going to be my last ‘major’ posts for MM! Insha’Allah after this, I’ll be on my way to beginning a new chapter of my life… so you can all take your last stabs at me right now!

  10. Amatullah

    April 3, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    Assalamu Alykum

    Please can we have an article on the recent Swat, PK event…its really distressing to see that flogging on TV..can we have an Islamic response to that?

    JazakAllahu Khair,

  11. Siraaj

    April 3, 2009 at 1:45 PM

    Gotta admit… I’m kinda nervous about it :) BTW people, you better enjoy this because these are going to be my last ‘major’ posts for MM! Insha’Allah after this, I’ll be on my way to beginning a new chapter of my life… so you can all take your last stabs at me right now!

    Nervous? Dont be nervous – be ready for an all-out comment battle royale that’s sure to be one heck of a slobber knocker, insha’Allah.

    Siraaj

  12. ilmsummittee

    April 3, 2009 at 2:00 PM

    One of my favorite subjects, looking forward to it inshallah………………………. I remember writing my LuL maghrib HW about Allah (jalah jalaluhu)’s name, Al-Mu’iz.

    May Allah make us of those who bring izzah to the Muslim Ummah and are blessed with the izzah of Islam. Ameen.

  13. Dawud Israel

    April 3, 2009 at 2:14 PM

    Anonymouse: Nooooo!!! There aren’t going to be any more Canadians on here anymore… :(

    Siraaj: I have a feeling these comment battles will be more constructive and proactive than usual…hopefully, it will result in Anonymouse and yourself in posting an extra article to share the tips from the comments!

    Baraka Allahu feek!

  14. unconventionally-traditional

    April 3, 2009 at 9:11 PM

    we need a canuck flavor on this site, or else who’s going to stand up to the yankees. :(

  15. Muhib

    April 3, 2009 at 10:54 PM

    We should qualify the usage of the word “superiority”. Honor is not about being superior over others. Rather it is about responsibility and courage for the welfare of others. A lot of zealous Muslim brothers and sisters justify their lack of interaction with non-muslims because they mistakenly feel that Allah has made them “superior” to “kuffars”.

  16. Sadaf

    April 4, 2009 at 5:23 AM

    Why Anonymouse? Where are you going? And what new chapter?
    Look forward to the series.

  17. sheik hyder

    April 4, 2009 at 5:38 AM

    I think If a muslim believe in himself and the meaning of his being Muslim then no self confidence class or course required for him. and there should not be any inferior complexity touch him.Allah has created every thing in this world for his true servant. And finally the Izzah is only and only for The Allah,His messenger(S) and for Muslim Ummah!

  18. Rimsha A.Hussain

    April 4, 2009 at 11:00 AM

    We are more into materialism these days…. We want more and more….have stopped being thankful to Allah for whatever He has blessed us with……

  19. Ibn Masood

    April 4, 2009 at 3:18 PM

    MashAllah. May Allah swt reward you abundantly for this post :)

  20. ComplexitySimplified

    April 5, 2009 at 10:54 PM

    Who are the best of people?

    Is it really us? Do we really command the good and forbid the evil?

    You are the best of people among all peoples, for you command Al-Maruf and forbid Al-Munkar, and you submit [in belief] to Allah. 3:110

    How often are those who forbid the evil, written off as intolerant and divisive?

    Why is it that we find that we have to sign agreements of cooperation with people of innovations and desire and commit not to forbid each other’s evil desires and innovations in order to be ‘unified’?

    Unity upon baatil is not honour – it is disgrace.

    Let us unite upon the truth and be forthright in commanding good and forbidding evil, even if doing so means people of innovation and desire part way from us and we from them.

    (And) lo! those who believe and do good deeds, they are the best of creation. (al-Bayyinah, 6-7)

    Let us look at our beliefs and deeds. Are these truly pristine, sincere and in accordance with the Sunnah or are our belief’s and deeds based based upon ignorance and desires? What good deeds do we have? Are they really of that calibre of goodness and magnitude that they elevate us to the ranks of best of creation?

    May Allah help us to command the good and forbid the evil, whenever and to whoever as required, in the best of ways and purify and perfect our belief and maginfy our good deeds in such a way that we are truly worthy of being the best of creation.

  21. Sister: No nonsense, Please!

    April 9, 2009 at 2:07 PM

    A very beneficial topic, jazakallah khair.

  22. slaveofAllah

    April 14, 2009 at 8:23 AM

    Subhanallah, Brother\sister
    You have spoken my mind I have came accross those comments many times and I had the answer in my mind but wasn’t able to answer it in these clear words, Alhamdolilah I was very please to see someone answer this.
    JazakAllahuKhairan and May Allah help us get our Izzah back Aameen

  23. Naseer aka mr cracker

    March 31, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Thank you very much for the explanation. I’ve asked members of Islamic forums, search by google, and came up with nothing a faw years ago.

    Which is suprising when you consider it’s high importance in Islam and it being one of the 5 things held sacred in Islam. It’s also something (one’s honor) muslims are supposed to carry, defend, and hold highly.

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