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Chapter 2: The Treaty Of Rights

Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘a) "treatise of rights" tries to create personal and social relations in human life, in a manner that it encourages healthy relations between people and their society, along with all positive and progressive elements.

The Imam’s (‘a) views about human beings were philosophical containing all aspects of human life, his relations with his Allah (swt), himself, his family, society, the government, his teachers and a relation of any other kind.

We can say: the establishment of social relations is based on a number of exact civil laws, which are the very first capital for a social system and a firm base for Islamic general laws. A person who is well aware of this reality and who knows about the relation between Allah the Exalted and His servants regarding their rights will be able to understand the secrets of Islamic laws as well as the philosophy of religious principles that have been accepted by Islam for the development of a personal and social human life.

A social, economic and official justice is unachievable unless an Islamic civil system is established. These civil laws are the base for all religious principles. As we know Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a) was far away from all other intellectuals and lawyers of his time, with regard to this subject, which provides a firm base for all morality, education and a social system.

The Imam (‘a), after writing the book, gave it to one of his friends as a present. The sincere and truthful intellectual Thabit Ibn Abi Saffiah, known as Abu Hamzah Ath-Thumali, who was one of Imam’s (‘a) pupils, has narrated the book from Imam Al-Sajjad (‘a), which subsequently was proved by great Islamic personalities like Shaykh Al-Saduq, "thiqat Al-Islam", Kulayni, and Hasan Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Husayn Ibn Sha’aba Hurrani in their books "Kitab Al-Khisal", "Kafi", and, respectively, which are all among ancient, and thus certain, shi’ah sources.

Before discussing the subject of rights, the Imam (‘a) points out the important issue that everyone is surrounded by a number of rights, which are obligatory for him to know. After having said this, the Imam (‘a) discusses the greatest right for human beings which is related to Allah the Exalted. Then the Imam (‘a) divides all those rights into branches which are fixed for mankind by Allah the Exalted.

Afterwards, he expresses all kinds of human relations with themselves from a divine perspective. Then there is a discussion about man’s relation to his social surroundings, which speaks about all leaders and their followers, the common people and rulers.

Also, he explains the kinds of leaders. Then the Imam (‘a) discusses about other relations with kith and kin, family members and even with slave men and women. Then comes the rights for a muezzin ( the caller for the prayer), the leaders of the Friday prayers, friends, business partners, enemies, people asking for suggestions, consultants, corrigible ones, advisers, beggars, the ones being begged from, the elderly, the younger ones etc.

Then Imam (‘a) discusses about the rights of fellow believers. Thereafter, come the rights of fellow creatures who are related to the whole of humanity, and a political system in which all human beings must help each other, even if the ones they are helping are not from them regarding their religious beliefs.

The context you are just looking at is a complete version of Imam Al-Sajjad’s (‘a) treatise of rights, which is complete, according to what is written in the Imam’s (‘a) characteristics (Khisal).1

A Brief Study Of Rights

‘You must know that Allah the Almighty has a right over you in every move you make and in all your moments of tranquillity, in all your conditions, situations and desires, in all your positions, in every part of your body you move and in every tool you work with.

The most important right of Allah – which is the base for all rights - is what He has made obligatory on you regarding Himself. The next right is what He has made obligatory on you for different parts of your whole body.

Allah the Almighty has rights on you against your tongue, ears, eyes, hands, feet, stomach and genital organ. Allah the Almighty has rights against all these seven organs with which you perform actions. Also, He has rights for some actions you must perform such as: offering prayers, fasting, alms (zakat), sacrifices and the rest of your works.

Despite these rights that you have regarding inner deeds, there are some outer rights as well, which you have to give to other people. The most important of which are the rights of Imams (‘a); then comes the rights for farmers and inferiors; the next rights are for your relatives. All these rights have their own branches.

Your Imams’ (‘a) and leaders’ rights are of three kinds: the most important of them is for them who run and train your country; then come the rights of those who nourish you; then come the rights of those who nourish you with their own possessions [this is concerning slaves]; everyone who is involved in your nourishment is your leader and master.

The rights of the farmers are also of three kinds: the most important of them is the rights of those whom you reign over; then come the rights of your students who gain knowledge from you because without knowledge they are ignorant and under the thumb of others; finally come the rights of those whom you benefit from like your wives, and slave men and women.

The rules of your pastoral communities are of many kinds, which are related to each other, like the rights of your relatives and the people of your class. Among such people the most important one is your mother’s rights; then your father’s; then your children’s; then your brothers’; and then other near or far relatives of yours.

After the abovementioned list comes the right of your guardian, who has blessed you [with freedom]; then comes the right of a slave whom you have blessed [with freedom]; then the rights of people who have done well to you; then the rights of a muezzin who calls you to prayers; then the rights of the leader of the Friday prayers; then there is your companion’s rights; then comes your neighbour; then friends; then partners; then your possessions; then your creditor who wants you to pay him; then your associates; then the people who have brought an action against you; then someone who asks for your suggestions; then a person from whom you ask for suggestions; then comes the right of a person to whom you give advice; then comes a person who gives you advice; then the rights for those who are older than you; and those who are younger than you; then a person who comes and asks for your help; then comes the right of a person who has done bad to you by hurling bad words or performing unfavourable action against you, whether knowingly or unknowingly; then come the rights of your nation; then the rights of those infidels who live under shelter of your religion; and, finally, come those rights which spring into being, according to one’s surroundings and situations.2

And happy are those whom Allah the Exalted blesses with His help to give the rights of everyone which is obligatory on him!

Study Of Rights In Detail

But The Greatest Right Of Allah

Which is obligatory on you is to worship Him as the only One and never think of a partner for Him. If you perform this work sincerely, He has made it His responsibility to regard you in this world and the Hereafter.

The Right Of Your Own Self

The Right of your own self is to make it obey Allah the Glorious.

The Right Of Your Body

a.) The right of your tongue is to make it free from abusing, and to make it speak beneficently, and never let it speak useless words and to help people with it, by praising their good actions.

b.) The right of your ears is not to listen to backbiting and that which is forbidden.

c.) The right of your eyes is to not let them see what is unfair to be seen and use them only for seeing things that serve as a lesson.

d.) The right of your hands is not to outstretch them for what is unfair to be asked for.

e.) The right of your feet is not to walk with them to where it is not fair to go, because you shall be standing with these feet on the bridge, which only the righteous can cross on the road to paradise, so beware that they do not cause you to slip and fall into hellfire.

f.) The right of your stomach is not to make it a prohibited vessel and not to eat more than what is required for satiety.

g.) The right of your genital organ is to keep it away from adultery and do not let it be seen by others.

The Rights Of The Worshiping

a.) The right of your prayer is to know that it makes your presence in Allah’s court possible. You must know, while offering prayer, that you are standing in His court. After understanding your situation, you must then stand in front of Him as a humble, happy, hopeful, fearful, hopeless and unfortunate person stands in front of a great dignified and glorious person. You must feel yourself wholeheartedly present there in His presence and do your best to perform all formalities.

b.) The right of Hajj is to know that you are Allah’s guest and you have escaped from your sins to Him, that He has accepted your penitence and you are performing whatever He has made obligatory on you.

c.) The right of fasting is to know that Allah the Almighty has locked your tongue, ears, eyes, stomach and pudendum so that He can save you from hellfire. If you leave fasting, it means that you have torn the curtain Allah the Almighty had drawn for you.

d.) The right of charity is that you should know that whatever you give as charity is reserved near Allah as a deposit of yours for which there is no need of a witness. When you understand this, the more you try to keep it hidden from the people, the more it will involve your faith. This is for you to know that charity stops every kind of misfortune and pain in this world. Also, it will keep the hellfire away from you in the Hereafter.

e.) The right of sacrifice3 is that you should only seek the willingness of Allah for this action, and should not pay much attention to what people say about it. You should do so to settle under the shelter of Allah’s blessings and in this way make your soul free on the Day of Judgment.

The Right Of The Rulers

a.) You should know that you are the means of his trial and he is your captive as Allah Almighty has set you over him. And you should try not to be punished by him so that you should not be harmed by your own ignorance; neither should you be his partner in his wrong deeds.

b.) The right of someone who teaches you is that you should give him or her respect. You should try to keep the dignity of his class; listen to him carefully; ask him questions; do not speak louder than him; if someone asks him a question do not answer the person and let your teacher answer him; do not speak to anyone else in your teacher’s presence; do not speak badly about someone to him and if someone else backbites him, defend your teacher against the person; hide his mistakes and weaknesses; express his excellences; do not sit with his enemies and do not show enmity with his friends; if you accomplish all this, the angels will be your witness that you chose your teacher for His sake and not to learn something from him for the sake of people.

c.) The right of someone with whom you work is that you should obey what he says and not oppose him unless he orders you to perform something against Allah’s will. In this situation his right of being obeyed becomes void and servants do not have a share in their master’s sins.

The Right For The Citizens

a.) You should know that those who are under your administration and whom you rule over is that you should know that they have come under your shelter because of their weakness and your power. Thus it is obligatory for you to rule among them with justice and be like an affable father to them. Forgive them for their mistakes which they do unknowingly. Never hasten in their punishment. Always keep thanking Allah for He has made you their guardian.

b.) The right of your students is that you should know that Allah the Almighty has made you their teacher because of the knowledge He has given to you. If you teach them in good manner, do not behave with them in a rude way and do not become fed up with your job, He will increase you in your greatness. But if you withhold from spreading your knowledge amongst people and behave in a rude manner when they ask for your knowledge, then it is very suitable that Allah the Almighty takes back all the knowledge He had given you and removes respect of from everyone’s heart.

c.) The right of your wife is that you should know that Allah has made her the means of your relaxation and tranquility. You should know that Allah has given you this blessing and for this you should always thank Him. You should deal with your wife gently. Although you have supremacy over her, as far as rights are concerned, she still has a right for compassion because she is your captive. Provide her with food and clothes and if she shows any kind of ignorance, forgive her.

d.) The right of your slave men and women is that you should know that they are also Allah’s creatures - the sons and daughters of your parents [Adam and Eve] - and there is no difference between their flesh and blood and yours. You have not created them but Allah has created you all. You have not created a single organ for them; neither do you provide them with their sustenance. It is Allah who provides them with their sustenance. He is the One who has made them your slaves and has given them to you as a deposit of Him, so that He may reserve every good action that you perform with them. If you do not like them, then change them. But do not punish the creatures of Allah the Exalted because there is no power but with His help.

The Right Of Your Relatives

a.) The right of you mother is that you should know that she has carried you in her uterus – a place where nobody lets anyone to live. She provided you food by the output of her heart that nobody gives to another person. She kept you safe by all her organs. She fed you and provided you with milk for drinking and she remained thirsty and hungry. She remained bare and naked but caused you to be clothed. She, herself, remained under the rays of the sun to provide a shelter for you. She remained awake for you at nights and kept you safe in warm and cold weathers. She did all these so that you can be her child and you cannot thank her but only with His help.

b.) The right of your father is that you should know he is your origin and you would not have been born had he not been there. If you find something in yourself that you like the most, be aware that it has been provided to you by Allah the Almighty through your father. Thank Allah for all these because all powers are for none other than Allah the Exalted.

c.) The right of your child is that you should know that it is from you and related to you, no matter if it is a good child or not. You have the responsibility for its nourishment, letting it know about Allah and making it obey Him. Behave with it keeping in mind that if you behave with it in good manner you will be rewarded for your good deed, and will be punished if you do bad to it.

d.) The right of your brother is that you should know that he is like your arm and the cause for your honour and power. Do not use him for sin and oppression. Help him against his enemies and always think good for him. Do all these only when he is an obedient servant to Allah, otherwise Allah is more honourable than him, and the powers are for none other than Allah the Exalted.

e.) However, the right of someone who has bought you as a servant and then set you free is that you should know that he has spent his wealth on you and let you become free of being despised, from slavery and its fear, and has provided you with the opportunity of achieving honour and tranquillity. You should keep in mind that he has set you free from the chains of slavery and has removed the shackles of submission from your neck; he has taken you out of prison and made you a person with free will. He has made you think about Allah without fearing anyone. He has provided you with an opportunity to know that he is more deserving than those who are dead and those who are alive. Help him wholeheartedly if you find him needy. Powers are for none other than Allah the Exalted.

f.) The right of someone whom you have set free is that you should know that Allah the Almighty has made him a means between you and Himself so that you can be nearer to Him. Allah has made him a shade between you and the hellfire. Your reward in this world is that, if he does not have a relative, you will inherit all his inheritance because you have spent your money for him. Moreover, your reward in the next world is paradise.

General Rights Of People And Properties

a.) The right of someone who has done good to you is that you should thank him; remember his good action; remember him in goodly manner; and pray for him sincerely to Allah the Exalted. If you do so, you should be sure that you have thanked his goodness both secretly and publicly. Moreover, reward him back when you are in a position to do so.

b.) The right of the muezzin (the caller for the prayer) is that you should know that he reminds you of your Glorious Allah and calls you for prayers; and while performing his obligatory task, helps you. Thus, for the favor he has done to you, you should thank him the same way as you thank someone helping you economically.

c.) The right of the leader of the Friday prayer is that you should know that he is the middleman between you and Allah the Almighty. He speaks in His court on your behalf; but you do not speak on his behalf. He prays for you but you do not pray for him. You do not fear standing in front of Allah, because he does it instead of you. If there is something wrong with his prayers, he is responsible for that. If he offers the prayer correctly, you will also share its reward and he will not benefit from his prayer more than you do. He joins your soul with his soul and your prayer with his. Thus you should be thankful to him to the same extent.

d.) The right of your companion is that you should behave gently with him; speak to him righteously; do not stand from where you are sitting without asking for his permission - he should also not stand without asking for your permission - forget about his mistakes and only remember his good actions. Do not speak with him but with benevolence.

e.) The right of your neighbour is that you should try to protect him in his absence and pay respect to him in his presence. Do not try to find out his weaknesses. If he does bad to you, hide it from others. If you find him amenable to advice, advise him. Do not leave him alone in his hardships. Forgive him for his mistakes and sinfulness. Live with him happily with greatness. Powers are for none other than Allah the Exalted.

f.) The right of your friend is that you should behave with him righteously and honourably. Hold him dear as he holds you dear. Be a symbol of blessing for him, not a symbol of cursing. Powers are for none other than Allah the Exalted.

g.) The right of your partner is that you should perform his jobs when he is absent and consider his partnership in his presence. Do not order against his will and do not do something for yourself without asking for his suggestion. Keep his property safe and do not commit treason to him, because Allah the Almighty helps partners unless they commit treason to each other.

h.) The right of your property is that you should not earn it but from a legal way and should not spend it in illegal ways. Do not respect someone who does not thank you more. Spend your property with the permission of your Allah. Do not be parsimonious when you are rich because, if you do so, you will remain in torment and regret. Powers are for none other than Allah the Exalted.

i.) The right of your creditor is that you should pay him if you can. If not, satisfy him by charming words; and drive him out with gentleness and calm.

j.) The right of your associate is that you should not deceive him, do not cheat him and do not trick him; and ask for Allah’s shelter regarding his works.

k.) The right of someone who has brought an action against you is that, if you know that his claim is correct, you should become his witness. Do not do injustice to him, and give him his right. But if what he claims is not correct, you should act moderately with him. Do not act violently against him. Do not make Allah the Exalted angry upon yourself. Powers are for none other than Allah the Exalted.

l.) The right of someone whom you have brought an action against, is that you are just and fair in your action, and speak to him with gentleness. But if you are not just in what you are doing, fear of Allah and abandon your action against him.

m.) The right of someone who asks for your suggestions in his matters is that you should give him suitable suggestions if you have any. If not, lead him to an appropriate person whom you know.

n.) The right of a person with whom you have a tussle is that you should not be pessimistic against him if his views are against you. If you both agree on a point, then be thankful to Allah the Glorious.

o.) The right of a person asking for your advice is that you should advise him in the best possible manner and consider all your compassion lawful to him.

p.) The right of a person giving you advice is that you should show humility to him and should listen to what he says. You should be thankful to him, whether the words he says are good or evil. Do not reprove him if he makes a mistake but only when exposed to accusation. In this situation, you should not pay much attention to his words. The powers are for none other than Allah the Exalted.

q.) The right of an elderly person is that you should respect him for he is an average person, and praise him for being an older Muslim than you are. Do not quarrel with him in the presence of his rivals. Do not walk before him. Do not leave him behind while you are walking. Do not think of him as insane. Endure it if he behaves lightly with you and respect him for Islam and his ancient years.

r.) The right of a younger person is that you should instruct him kindly; forgive him for his mistakes; hide his weaknesses and bad habits; and act moderately with him. Always keep helping him.

s.) The right of a beggar is that you should give him according to his needs.

t.) The right of someone from whom you request a suggestion is that you should thank him if he accepts your request and respect his right; and if he does not accept it, you should excuse him for his action.

u.) The right of someone who has made you happy only for Allah’s sake is that you should first thank Allah Almighty and then thank him.

v.) The right of a person who has done bad to you, is that you should forgive him; if your action can cause him harm, then complain for your rights because the holy Qur’an says:

وَلَمَنِ انْتَصَرَ بَعْدَ ظُلْمِهِ فَأُولَئِكَ مَا عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ سَبِيلٍ

“And indeed whosoever seeks succor [for compensation] after he has suffered wrong for such there is no blame against them.” (Surah Al-Shura, 42:41).

w.) The right of those of the same religion as yours is that you should help them in the time of their need; be kind to the bad ones and show benevolence to them; thank the good ones among them and do not harm them; want for them whatever you want for yourself; and do not want for them whatever you think is unpleasant for you; think of their elders as your own father and their youths as your brothers; think of their elderly women as your own mother and their children as your own children.

x.) The right of infidels living under the shelter of Islam is that you should accept whatever Allah has accepted of them; and do not oppress them while they are truthful to their agreement with Allah.

A number of intellectuals4 and lawyers have written the interpretations of this peerless book in different languages. If anyone wants to go into details of the book and gain more benefit than we have offered, they can refer to those interpretations.

  • 1. Al-Khisal 564-570.
  • 2. Tuhaf Al-’Uqul of Ibn Shu'bah Al-Harrani, p. 256.
  • 3. Shaykh Al-Saduq, Al-Amali p. 452; Man La Yahduruhu Al-Faqih 2/620; Wasa’il Al-Shi’ah 15/173.
  • 4. One of them is 'Allama Sayyid Hasan Qapanchi who has written an interpretation of this book in two volumes under the title of ‘An Interpretation of the Treatise of Rights'.