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Home » History » Imam Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi (d. 1285) on the Meaning of “Birr” in Q. 60:8

Imam Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi (d. 1285) on the Meaning of “Birr” in Q. 60:8

لَّا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ

“God does not forbid you from befriending those who do not fight you because of religion, and do not evict you from your homes. You may befriend/act kindly towards them and be equitable /just towards them. God loves the equitable.”

The Arabic words used in this verse are birr (بَرُّ), and qist (قْسِطِ). The word birr does not mean simply kindness in the sense of a passing gesture, but evokes a meaning more akin to reverence, devotion, charity, honor, righteousness, and probity. The word qist also does not mean simply equity in the legal sense, but conveys a sense of justice, fairness, righteousness, and fair-mindedness. Imām Shihāb al-Dīn al-Qarāfī (d. 1285), a Mālikī jurist who lived in thirteenth-century Egypt, interpreted this verse as follows:

This righteousness (birr) consists in being gentle with those who are oppressed/weak (mustad’afun) among the non-Muslims: in helping their needy; in feeding their hungry; in clothing their destitute; in speaking to them with kindness and compassion rather than striking fear into them or humiliating them; in bearing with their harm, in exercising benevolence with courage, in showing no fear, in praying for guidance for them as well as for their prosperity. This attitude furthermore consists in seeking their welfare in all matters ; in their religion and affairs of this world, in abstaining from slandering them should somebody attempt to harm them ; in protecting their honor as well as all their rights and interests ; in supporting them against aggressors ; in ensuring the fulfillment of all their rights.

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