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12 inspiring and applicable excerpts from the ‘Treatise on Rights’ by Imam Zain Al-Abideen

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The Treatise on Rights (Risalat al Huquq) is a compilation of rights attributed to Imam Zain Al-Abideen written roughly 1,400 years ago. It is parsimonious, organized, and readily accessible online. Here are some tidbits that can keep our actions in check daily.

1. The greatest right of Allah (swt)

That you worship Him without associating anything with Him. When you do that with sincerity (ikhlas), He has made it binding upon Himself to give you sufficiency in the affair of this world and the next.

Simply stated yet difficult to implement. This may seem like common knowledge considering the Shahada but it is beautiful that Allah (swt) asks only for sincerity in our belief and in exchange promises us both worlds.

2. The right of your self

That you employ it in obeying God …

Again, this is pretty basic knowledge, but the Treatise goes on to describe the rights of each body part. Thinking about our actions in this context makes us conscious of not only disobeying God but also acting unfairly towards ourselves. Side note: The individual rights of each body part are spelled out very eloquently. For example, “The right of the tongue is that you consider it too noble for obscenity.” I think that deserves a hefty series of salawats.

3. The right of the prayer

That you know that it is an arrival before God and that through it you are standing before Him … You will approach the prayer with your heart and you will perform it according to its bounds and its rights.

It is said that prayers are the me’raj of the believer and Imam Zayn al-Abidin articulates this point perfectly. Our hearts guide our salaat not our bodies. God doesn’t care if you are so flexible you can touch your toes in ruku. In fact my grandmother performed the most pious prayers I have ever witnessed and she was not able stand.

4.The right of the fast

That you know it is a veil which God has set up over your tongue, your hearing, your sight, your stomach, and your private part to protect you from the Fire. If you abandon the fast, you will have torn God’s protective covering away from yourself.

While fasting is saved for the Month of Ramadan, reading this right pushes us to fast as much as we can. In this light fasting is an easy way to ensure we abstain from sins during the day and enjoy delicious meals at night!

5. The right of one who trains through knowledge

Magnifying him, respecting his sessions, listening well to him, and attending to him with devotion. You should not raise your voice toward him… If anyone ever speaks ill of him in your presence, you should defend him. You should conceal his faults and make manifest his virtues…

It is pretty common for students to spend time outside of class discussing and critiquing professors but it seems we owe our educators much more respect than they are given. In fact above not criticizing the teacher behind their back, this right pushes the student to actively conceal a teacher’s faults when they are brought up.

6. The right of the mother

That you know that she carried you where no one carries anyone, she gave to you of the fruit of her heart that which no one gives to anyone, and she protected you with all her organs. She did not care if she went hungry as long as you ate, if she was thirsty as long as you drank, if she was naked as long as you were clothed, if she was in the sun as long as you were in the shade. She gave up sleep for your sake, she protected you from heat and cold, all in order that you might belong to her. You will not be able to show her gratitude, unless through God’s help and giving success.

The last sentence says it all.

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7. The right of the father

That you know that he is your root. Without him, you would not be. Whenever you see anything in yourself which pleases you, know that your father is the root of its blessing upon you. So praise God and thank Him in that measure. And there is no strength save in God.

Fathers are the strength of the family, keeping everyone connected and grounded.

8. The right of the brother

That you know that he is your hand, your might, and your strength. Take him not as a weapon with which to disobey God, nor as equipment with which to wrong God’s creatures.

This, my friends, is perhaps the most powerful bro code.

9. The right of one who does a kindly act

That you thank him and mention his kindness; you reward him with beautiful words and you supplicate for him sincerely in that which is between you and God. If you do that, you have thanked him secretly and openly. Then, if you are able to repay him one day, you repay him.

As a rule of thumb if someone lets you through on the road or allows you to cut in front of them in line, read a Surah Fateha for his or her loved ones! It’s easier to do something small in the moment so you don’t forget to pray for them later.

10. The right of the one older than you

You leave off confronting him in a dispute, you do not precede him in a path, you do not go ahead of him, and you do not consider him foolish. If he should act foolishly toward you, you put up with him and you honor him because of the right of Islam and the respect due to it.

It may take patience but the elderly deserve unconditional respect.

11. The right of the one younger than you

That you show compassion toward him through teaching him, pardoning him, covering his faults, kindness toward him, and helping him.

This is a perfect one-sentence set of instructions for older siblings, mentors, and even parents.

12. The right of one through whom God makes you happy

That you first praise God, then you thank the person.

Subhanallah and Alhamdulillah for the creator of Nutella. ———————- The full Treatise on Rights is available online here

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