What are the teachings of God’s Messengers that explain how to live in a fair and just society?
Since the beginning of time, God has sent messengers to guide humanity to him and to instruct them on how to live a righteous life. But throughout history, people have chosen to ignore the instructions given and instead live according to their desires, rather than accepting to be guided.
This is why today, the world is filled with misery, pain, injustice and grief.
One of the most essential guidelines that the messengers have come with time and time again was the building of divine communities, where the believers try to build a piece of paradise on earth. A place where everything is shared: Money, property, work and even families. A place where one believer can put his hand in his brother’s pocket and take what he needs, and the other one does not stop him.
A place where no one fills his stomach whilst the other one is hungry. Where nobody quenches his thirst whilst the other one is thirsty. Where no one clothes himself while the other one is naked.
How much could human beings learn from living in a place like this? And what would it mean for a world like ours, where greed, materialism, gluttony & desire have become essential parts of people’s everyday life? How could the visions of prophets like Joseph, Plato, Jesus and Prophet Muhammad (pbuhahf) benefit us today in changing this global society that has lost any remnant of a communal spirit? And when will we finally be able to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity on earth?
One of the most prominent examples of a divine community is the community of the apostles, which formed in the tradition of Jesus (pbuh). In the Acts of the Apostles we read:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
– Holy Bible: Acts 2:42-47
After Buddha achieved enlightenment, he returned to the five disciples that had abandoned him before, preaching to them and calling them to follow his path.
In this instance Buddha said to them:
“A man that stands alone, having decided to obey the truth, may be weak and slip back into his old ways. Therefore, stand ye together, assist one another, and strengthen one another’s efforts. Be like unto brothers; one in love, one in holiness, and one in your zeal for the truth. Spread the truth and preach the doctrine in all quarters of the world, so that in the end all living creatures will be citizens of the kingdom of righteousness. This is the holy brotherhood; this is the church, the congregation of the saints of the Buddha; this is the Sangha (community) that establishes a communion among all those who have taken their refuge in the Buddha.”
-The Gospel of Buddha, Paul Carus, ch. 17, verse 2-5
The 5 disciples accepted his teachings and therefore testified,
“To the community will I look in faith; the community of the Buddha’s disciples instructs us how to lead a life of righteousness; the community of the Buddha’s disciples teaches us how to exercise honesty and justice; the community of the Buddha’s disciples shows us how to practice the truth”.
-The Gospel of Buddha, Paul Carus, ch. 17, verse 12
So community life is one of the central teachings of the Buddha, without which the human being is not able to reach enlightenment.
Community life is a practice in itself – learning to share, tolerating other people’s habits and communicating honestly to resolve differences.
Even those who consider themselves scientists and non-religious have repeatedly admitted that a community that is defined by self-sacrifice can achieve common goals more efficiently than a community of egoists.
Charles Darwin wrote in his book The Descent of Man:
“A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to give aid to each other and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.”
In Islam, just like in Buddhism and Christianity, the concept of brotherhood and sharing is essential.
Just like in the times of Buddha and Jesus, Prophet Muhammad also worked hard to establish a divine community.
In 622 AD, Muhammad and his few hundred followers left his hometown and sought refuge in another city called Yathrib. In his hometown he had been threatened and persecuted so he had no choice but to take those who believed in him, leave and start his life anew. The followers that had accompanied Prophet Muhammad had left all their belongings behind when they immigrated. Some of them had even left their families. They were from that moment on called the “Muhajireen” (Emigrants); while the citizens of Yathrib who had welcomed them in their hometown were called “Ansar”.
To integrate the Muhajireen, who had lost everything, into the economic and social life of the city, he made them “brothers” of the locals, the Ansar and he paired them in twos.
Therefore the early Muslim communal life was, just like life in the early Christian communities, characterized by those who had many possessions, sharing with those who were destitute.
Those Ansar that owned businesses made their brothers, whom they barely even knew, equal business partners. They shared their houses with them and when one passed away, his immigrant brother would be one of his inheritors, together with his relatives.
Several sources also report that Ansar gave away half of the land they owned to their newly arrived brothers.
According to ‘The Valley Came Alive: Life of The Last Messenger (PBUH)’ by Ibn Katheer, it is reported that the Prophet (pbuhahf) said to the Ansar:
“Your brothers have left wealth and children and have immigrated to you” The Ansar said: “Divide our wealth into portions between us.”
– The Valley Came Alive: Life of The Last Messenger (PBUH), Ibn Katheer
Unconditional sharing was even commanded through a verse in the Quran,
“As for those who had settled in the city and ˹embraced˺ the faith before ˹the arrival of˺ the emigrants, they love whoever immigrates to them, never having a desire in their hearts for whatever ˹of the gains˺ is given to the emigrants. They give ˹the emigrants˺ preference over themselves even though they may be in need. And whoever is saved from the selfishness of their own souls, it is they who are ˹truly˺ successful.”
– Holy Quran Al-Hashr verse 9
How beautiful would be a place where everybody considered the other person’s children to be his own? Where does everybody feel responsible to sustain and care for his brother’s family just like he feels responsible for his family?
Plato writes in his famous book, Laws:
“The first and highest form of the State and of the government and of the law is that in which there prevails most widely the ancient saying, that “Friends have all things in common.”… this communion of women and children and of property, in which the private and individual is altogether banished from life.”
– Laws, Plato
For Plato, the best community (or state) is one where everybody shares everything.
Where everybody shares “women and children and of property”, meaning where everybody takes care of each other’s children and each other’s families.
Nothing is private, meaning nothing belongs to just one person, everybody feels a sense of responsibility for each other (“the private and individual is altogether banished from life”).
Now Plato takes the concept even further by saying,
“…and things which are by nature private, such as eyes and ears and hands, have become common, and in some way see and hear and act in common, and all men express praise and blame and feel joy and sorrow on the same occasions, …—whether this is possible or not, I say that no man, acting upon any other principle, will ever constitute a state which will be truer or better or more exalted in virtue.”
Plato does not only want properties and families to be shared but rather he urges people to share their own selves, to give up the very urge of self-preservation or distinctness.
In the perfect state that he envisions, members share their ears when someone needs to be listened to, and they share their hands if someone needs help. If the self is not considered a private but common good, no one would ever feel burdened by helping out the other, as he does not feel that his body or even his very existence is his own in the first place. This inner acknowledgement leads to a place where all “see and hear and act in common” as one body, all together, not everyone for themselves and where even happiness and sorrow are not personal but for the sake of the community and others.
This quote of Plato strongly correlates with the teachings of Ahmad Al-Hassan, the messenger and vicegerent of Imam Al-Mahdi (pbuhahf). He said:
“Peace and blessings of God be upon you, verily the believers are siblings. They are from one soul divided upon many bodies. Whoever does not feel or hurt for the pain of his sibling, is not one of us. Whoever is not happy for the happiness of his brother is not one of us. Stick to one another, hand in hand, like a tall building, may God safeguard you from everything bad and harmful.”
– Sayings of Imam Ahmad Al-Hassan (PBUH), p.14, hadith 1
Plato states clearly that without practicing this everyday communal self-sacrifice, humans will not be able to create a better society.
The concept of living to serve, support and help one another truly and wholeheartedly is part of building a divine community.
The idea is that the outer change of the living condition causes a profound change inside the human being and makes him face his darkest sides.
Building and being part of a divine community is a way of practicing the ways of the prophets and messengers.
In ‘The Republic’, Socrates seeks to map out the ideal society, a society filled with justice. The focus of Plato’s Republic is the structure of a just society. Socrates saw that you can’t ever make everyone happy but you can do the greatest amount of good for most people.
Socrates defined justice as a specialisation, in which every citizen does his duties in his appointed place. And remarkably, his definition lines up exactly with the words of Imam Ahmad Al-Hassan (fhip), who said:
“Justice means placing something into its right place.”
– The Book of Monotheism, Imam Ahmad Al-Hassan (fhip), p.47
Putting everything in its right place. In other words, justice requires each person in the city to mind his own business, doing the particular job that has been allocated to him to the best of his abilities. Socrates claims that operating in this manner will allow the city to thrive, which is in everyone’s best interest. According to Socrates, an ideal society consists of three main groups of people. First are the producers, the people who make living possible – the craftsmen, farmers, and artisans. The second class is the warrior class. And finally, we have guardians or rulers, a society is just when these three classes are right and work in harmony with one another.
According to Socrates, the ruling class of the ideal society would consist of true philosophers – men and women, dominated by their rational faculties.
Book of Amos
The Book of Amos starts with the justice of God and then shows how that relates to justice in society. In the book, we can find the dishonesty, violence & corruption in the Israelite society. Consequently, God brings down a punishment that Amos reveals to us. The book of Amos shows what God would expect of a communal society, in which people thrive in a system free of corruption; a system where merchants are honest and judges are incorruptible; a system where those who have been treated unjustly are treated justly. In the words of Amos,
“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
– Holy Bible: Amos 5:24
A Divine just state in today’s day and age
Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Muhammad and even Plato have all agreed that no one can walk the path of truth alone, but that we all need brothers and sisters on our sides, that walk with us.
Building and living in a divine community is indeed a practical way to live the teachings of selflessness that the prophets and messengers have come with and the only cure for our corrupt society that has completely forgotten the concept of selflessness.
Imam Ja’far Al-Sadiq (pbuh) said: “The simplest of the rights of the believer is that you should love for him what you love for yourself and you should despise for him what you despise for yourself. The second is that you should pursue what pleases him and avoid his displeasure and obey his command. The third is that you should help him with yourself, your wealth, your tongue, your hands and your feet. The fourth is that you should be his eyes, his guide and his mirror. The fifth is that you should not fill your stomach whilst he is hungry, you should not be quenched whilst he is thirsty and you should not clothe yourself whilst he is naked.”
– Al-Kafi, Muhammad ibn Yaqub Al-Kulaini, v.2, p.169, hadith 2
In the Bhagavad Gita, a prominent text of Hinduism, Krishna (pbuh) says,
“Those devotees are very dear to Me who are free from malice toward all living beings, who are friendly, and compassionate. They are free from attachment to possessions and egotism, equipoised in happiness and distress, and ever-forgiving.”
-Bhagavad Gita, ch. 12, verse 13-14
Imagine such a community where nobody owns more than the other, and where everything is shared. How many of our conflicts today are caused by greed, the fear of losing our possessions, the fear of being exploited or giving too much? What if we were to rid ourselves of all this by choice and through giving away and sharing all our belongings with our brothers in faith we defeat the urges of greed and selfishness that house inside every human being?
“Verily Al-Hussein (pbuh) paved the way for the Divine Just State, as if Al-Hussain (pbuh) was slaughtered in Karbala in order that the Qa’im (pbuh) from his sons reigns, and as if Al-Hussain (pbuh) was a sacrifice for the establishment of the Divine Just State, and for the rulership of Allah, the Almighty…”
– Sayings of Imam Ahmad Al-Hassan (PBUH), p.100-101, hadith 208
The promised Divine Just State will be implemented in this day and age by Imam al Mahdi. A state filled with peace and love towards one another will be established and an end will come to corruption, suffering and conflict. A balanced society, in which the structures are fair to everybody without exception, a society where no man, woman or child is discriminated against. A state that is built without currency, injustice, disease and death unless murdered or by accident. The people’s necessities and needs will be taken care of. The ones in high authority will no longer be in position, equality will be established & oppression banished. Everyone will live like a king and play a role in society but live the same as their brother. A communal society will be built.