The Seventy Sixth Call: The Command to Make Space in Assemblies

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The Seventy Sixth Call: The Command to Make Space in Assemblies

 

 

Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): "O you who have believed, when you are told, "Space yourselves" in assemblies, then make space; Allah will make space for you. And when you are told, "Arise," then arise; Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do." (Surat al-Hujurat, 11)

 

It is narrated that the verse speaks about gatherings for voluntary worship. When those who were already sitting with the Prophet saw someone coming to join them, they were keen to retain their own positions close to the Prophet, here, Allah orders them to make room for each other. It was also narrated that this verse was revealed on Friday, when the Prophet was at al-Suffah where the place was rather narrow. He used to honor those who attended the Battle of Badr from among the Muhajirm and the Ansar. Some people who fought at Badr came to join him but the place was already taken up. They stood facing the Prophet and greeted him. He replied to their greeting. Then they greeted the people sitting with the Prophet and those replied. They continued to stand hoping that those present would make room for them, the Prophet realized why they remained standing and that nobody had made room for them. He was displeased. Therefore, he said to some of those from the Muhajirin and the Ansar who did not take part in Badr to stand up, choosing them by name. He asked to stand up as many as there were standing. Those who were thus asked to stand felt this to be hard. The Prophet noticed that they looked upset. Some hypocrites exploited this, saying to the believers: 'Do you not say that your man is fair to all people? We certainly saw him being unfair to these. Here were some people who had already sat in their places, eager to be close to their Prophet, yet he asked them to stand up, giving their places to ones who came late…' The Prophet is reported to have said a prayer: 'May Allah have mercy on one who makes room for his brother. After that, people used to quickly rise in order to make room for their brothers.

 

Almighty Allah clarifies to the believers that when they are told to make a space in assemblies: like the assemblies of Allah’s Messenger, or those when they discuss battles and fighting, then make a room that Allah would give you vast houses in Paradise. If you are called to rise and leave the assembly of Allah’s Messenger, then leave because the Messenger would sit alone to plan the affairs of the Islamic community and the believers.

 

Someone who just came where some people are sitting should not make another person stand up to take his place, it is mentioned in a hadith by the Prophet, Peace Be upon Him: "Let no man make another rise from his position so as to sit in his place. Rather, move closer and make room for others.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

 

If the believers make space and stand up following the commands of Allah and His Messenger, Allah will increase their rewards and raise their ranks, especially those who have the knowledge. Allah is All-Knowing of the worshippers’ deeds. He knows everything and nothing is concealed or hidden for Him.

 

Reports speaking about the revelation of this verse suggest that it is actually related to the hypocrites, which makes it more relevant to the flow of the surah. Qatadah mentions that this verse speaks about gatherings for voluntary worship. When those who were already sitting with the Prophet saw someone coming to join them, they were keen to retain their own positions close to the Prophet, so here, Allah orders them to make room for each other.

 

Muqatil ibn Hayyan reports: This verse was revealed on a Friday, when the Prophet was at al-Suffah where the place was rather narrow. He used to honor those who attended the Battle of Badr from among the Muhajirm and the Ansar, Some people who fought at Badr came to join him but the place was already taken up. They stood facing the Prophet and greeted him. He replied to their greeting. Then they greeted the people sitting with the Prophet and those replied. They continued to standing hoping that those present would make room for them. The Prophet realized why they remained standing and that nobody had made room for them. He was displeased. Therefore, he said to some of those from the Muhajirin and the Ansar who did not take part in Badr to stand up, choosing them by name. He asked to stand up as many as there were standing. Those who were thus asked to stand felt this to be hard. The Prophet noticed that they looked upset. Some hypocrites exploited this, saying to the believers: 'Do you not say that your man is fair to all people? We certainly saw him being unfair to these. Here were some people who had already sat in their places, eager to be close to their Prophet, yet he asked them to stand up, giving their places to ones who came late,..' The Prophet is reported to have said a prayer: 'May Allah have mercy on one who makes room for his brother. After that, people used to quickly rise in order to make room for their brothers. It was reported that this verse was revealed on Friday.

  

If this report is authentic, it should be understood as not being in conflict with other ahadith that forbid someone to ask his brother to stand up so as to sit in his place, such as that which says: "Let no man make another rise from his position so as to sit in his place. Rather, move closer and make room for others," [Related by al-Bukharl and Muslim.] Other instructions by the Prophet make it clear that a person who is joining a sitting group should sit at the end. He must not walk over peoples shoulders so as to be in front. The Quranic verse urges those who are sitting to make room for those joining them. It also urges obedience, requiring the one who is seated to rise if he is asked to do so. This order, however, is given by the leader responsible for organizing the groups not by the newcomer

 

The purpose behind all this is to instill into people the feeling of welcome towards the newcomer before actually making room for him to sit. When that feeling is genuine, people are pleased to see others joining them and those seated receive the newcomers warmly, willingly making room for them. However, if the person in charge thinks that a particular place should be given to a newcomer for a special reason, his instructions should be readily and happily complied with, observing at the same time the overall rules of not walking over peoples shoulders or making one person stand to let another sit in his place. It should all be done with mutual tolerance.

 

Again we note the Quranic method of making people willing to comply with every instruction. The surah promises those who make room for others that Allah will make good room for them: "O you who have believed, when you are told, 'Space yourselves' in assemblies, then make space; Allah will make space for you. " (Verse 11) It also promises those who were instructed to leave their place so as to give it to others that they will enjoy an elevated position with Allah: "And when you are told, "Arise," then arise; Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees." (Verse 11) This, in recompense for their obedience and accommodating attitude.

 

The occasion was one of being close to the Prophet in order to learn from him. The sirah teaches believers that good faiths which makes people accommodating and obedient and knowledge, which refines hearts and manners, will ensure a higher position with Allah. This as a reward for willingly vacating a position close to the Prophet, obeying his order given for a particular purpose he had in mind: "And Allah is Acquainted with what you do." (Verse 11) He rewards people according to what He knows of their feelings and intentions.

 

This is yet another example of the Quranic method of educating Muslims, teaching them to be kindly, accommodating and helpful by bringing out their better feelings. Religion does not work by giving firm instructions that must be literally obeyed; rather, it relies on changing people’s feelings and sensitivities.

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