In the teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) the importance of respect for the rights of the weaker and poorer sections of society, - the needy, the orphans, the widows, the destitute and downtrodden etc. - has also been stressed. To care for their needs and look after their well being has been described as a virtue of the highest order and the Prophet (S.A.W.) has given the tidings of a vast reward in this regard.


Caring for the Orphan

According to the Holy Traditions the best Muslim's home is the one wherein an orphan is supported and is treated in a loving and affectionate manner, and the worst is that home wherein an orphan lives and is treated badly or cruelly.
It is related by Sahl ibn Saad (R.A.) that Rasulullah (S.A.W.) said "Whoever supports an orphan from among his own or any other family, he will be as close to me in Heaven as these fingers are close to each other" Sahl (R.A.) says that Rasulullah (S.A.W.) made a motion of his index and middle fingers (while he said this) and there was only a little space between the two.
In another hadith the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) made a provision:- "provided he is not guilty of an unpardonable sin. This hadith explains the status, in the hereafter, of that bondsman who accepts the responsibility of supporting an orphan belonging either to his own family or any other family with whom he has no particular blood tie. Which makes the fact clear that the promise of salvation and entry into paradise is subject to the condition of not committing a misdeed, such as polytheism, murder etc. which is not pardonable.
Abu Hurairah (R.A.) reports that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) stated "Whoever caresses the head of an orphan (in affection), solely for the sake of Allah, a good deed will be written to his account for every hair over which he passed his hand, and whoever treated an orphan (boy or girl) with goodness and kindness, he and I will be close to each-other in Heaven as these two fingers" The Prophet (S.A.W.) made a gesture with his fingers as explained above.
It is therefore clear that the glad tidings on showing kindness to orphans are dependent upon the condition that the loving and kindly treatment is wholly with the intention of earning the pleasure of the Almighty.

Attending to the needs of the widow and the destitute

Abu Hurairah (R.A.) relates that Rasulullah (S.A.W.) said, "Whoever strives to relieve the widow, the distressed and the needy, he is as one who does Jihad in the path of Allah (in terms of reward and blessings)"
In another version of the same hadith the Prophet is quoted to have said "He is as one who fasts continuously during the days and spends the nights in prayers."
Jihad is a deed of utmost merit in Islam, similarly the act of spending one's days in fasting and nights in prayer is greatly reward able. But in the above hadith the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) has stated that the same is the worth, value and reward of a person who takes pains to help the weak and needy or a helpless widow, by spending his wealth on them or by sincerely trying to draw the attention of others to their problems and difficulties.

Visiting the sick and feeding the hungry

In a hadith reported by Abu Moosa Ash'ari (R.A.), The Prophet (S.A.W.) said "Feed the hungry, visit the sick and free the captives."

Besides mention of feeding the hungry- which is a deed of compassion and kind-heartedness, this hadith also contains an injunction for visiting the sick and obtaining the freedom of those who are (unlawfully) held prisoners." In common terms visiting the sick' simply denotes enquiring after one's health but here (in Arabic) it is used in a broader sense and includes also the caring and arranging of treatment for the sick, if necessary, and if one is able to do so.
The rewards and blessing for these deeds is (once again) very great, and enviable indeed is the lot of those who feel for tie less fortunate brethren and are willing to help them in any possible manner.


Treatment of slaves and servants

(1) General teachings of the Prophet (S.A.W.)

Slavery was a common practice in Arabia, and almost all over the world, before the time of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Victorious nations of the time considered the people captured by them, in battle, as a "commodity" - not as human beings - and used them mercilessly for their own advantage.

The beloved Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) urged and encouraged the people to free the slaves, by declaring the freeing of slaves an act of highest virtue and an act by which sins are forgiven. On the other hand he enjoined on all not to drive them like animals. He explained that their basic needs, like food and clothing should be taken care of in a deserving manner.

He, in fact, constantly warned the Muslims that they will be called to account, in the hereafter, if they failed in their duty to be just and merciful to the slaves and servants. He emphasized this to such an extent that it is reported by Ali (.R.A.) that the last words, spoken by the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.), (at the time of his death) were, "Observe Salaah (the prayers), Observe Salaah And fear Allah with regards to your slaves and servants."

This shows the importance that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) attached to their rights - that he even stressed its significance upon his followers at the time of his departure from this world.

History tells that the entire course of the lives of slaves and servants was transformed, as a result of these teachings, and their human dignity was restored to them.

Many of them rose to be great scholars and leaders holding high posts of office. Eventually the whole world was influenced by this guidance and slavery became a thing of the past.

(2) Kind and merciful treatment
It is related by Abu Hurairah (R.A.) that Rasulullah (S.A.W.) said, "Food and dress are the right of the slave and he should not be assigned to task which may be beyond his capacity."

These points constitute the fundamental rights of slaves and servants- that one should fulfill their basic need for food and clothing in kindness and should be merciful in assigning any work to them.

In another hadith, the Prophet (S.A.W.) is reported to have said, "They are your brothers (the slaves and servants). Allah has placed them under your authority. So he who has a brother under him should feed him and clothe him as he himself does, and should not take from him any work that is beyond his power. If he does tell him to do such work then he should also join in it - (and help him).

Here the slaves and servants have been declared to be the brothers of their masters, and therefore deserve treatment like brothers - are not both of them, servant and master, the children of Adam, after all!

In yet another striking hadith, Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "When your slave or servant prepares food for you and lays it for you - while he has suffered the inconvenience of heat and smoke when *****ng - you should ask him to sit down and share the meal. If the food is in a small quantity (and cannot suffice) at least give him a morsel or two there from (at least a little).


(3) Policy of forgiveness

Furthermore Rasulullah (S.A.W.) constantly emphasized the need to adopt a policy of forgiveness with servants - This is very clear from the hadith narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.) that once a person came to the Prophet of Allah (S.A.W.) and asked "O Prophet of Allah! To what extent should we forgive the mistakes and faults of our slaves and servants?" The Prophet (S.A.W.) remained silent whereupon the man repeated this question. The Prophet (S.A.W.) again, remained silent and when the man asked for a third time, he replied "Seventy times a day.

Evidently the figure, seventy, does not denote the exact number here but a servant should be forgiven even if he makes a mistakes often. "Forgiving" in this hadith means that the punishment should not be inflicted on servants in a spirit of vengeance. But there is no harm, however, if they are taken to task with politeness in view of their correction - which would actually be for their own good.

Note:- On the occasion of this incident, the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) remained silent when the question was asked for the first two times - this should be for the reason that he wanted the questioner to realize the redundancy of his enquiry. To forgive the mistakes of one's servants is an act of virtue which makes one deserving of Divine mercy, hence one should always be prepared to excuse their faults- as much as possible.


(4) Revenge and account to be taken for cruel treatment to slaves and servants.

Abu Hurairah (R.A.) relates that he heard the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) say "Whoever beats the slave or Servant unjustly, revenge will be taken from him on the Day of Judgement."

Abu Mas'ood (R.A.) narrates that "Once I was beating my slave when I heard a voice behind -(saying)" Oh Abu Mas'ood! Remember that Allah has a greater power and authority over you than you have over the poor slave" I turned around and saw that it was the Prophet of Allah (S.A.W.) whereupon I said "Oh Prophet of Allah - he is now free for the sake of Allah (I have set him free)." The Prophet (S.A.W.) observed that "Be informed that had you not done so (i.e. set him free) you would be consumed in the fire of Hell!"


(5) Loyalty of slaves and servants to their masters

Whilst enjoining the masters to be fair and generous in their treatment of the slaves and servants, The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) also emphasized upon the slaves and servants their duty to remain faithful to their masters.
The Prophet (S.A.W.) is reported to have said, “It is a matter of great success and good fortune for a slave or servant that Allah raises him from this world (gives him death) in a state that he is a worshipper of the Creator and he is loyal to his master.

In another hadith related by Abdullah ibn U mar(R.A.), the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "When a slave or servant is faithful to his master and also worships his Creator, he is deserving of a double reward (in the hereafter).
The principal feature of The Holy Prophet's teachings is that he urges each class and individual to fulfill the rights of others with a full sense of responsibility and consider it a source of good fortune in both the worlds. He, thus, enjoins upon the masters to fear Allah in respect of their slaves and servants, (by treating them fairly and kindly) and he enjoins upon the slaves and servants to be loyal and sincere to their masters.


Behavior of the old and young towards each other

In every society there are some members who are senior in age and others who are junior to them. The Beloved Prophet (S.A.W.) has, also, explained (in his teachings) what their mutual behavior should be. Stated below are a few Ahadith regarding this aspect of social conduct, which may appear insignificant to some people, but plays an important part in promoting a happy and peaceful life, both at family and community levels.

In one hadith the Prophet (S.A.W.) is reported to have stated that "He is not of us, who is not affectionate to those who are younger than him and is not respectful to those who are older." In another hadith he said, "Whoever does not show affection to the young, and respect to the old, is not one of us."

The occasion for the stating of the second hadith, as related by Anas (R.A.) was once when an elderly person came to meet Rasulullah (S.A.W.) and the people present in the gathering took some time to make way (clear a path in their midst) for him to go up to the Prophet (S.A.W.)- i.e. they did not move quickly enough as the old person's age would have required.

Therefore, these Ahadith show that anyone who wishes to remain attached to the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) and his faith should treat those who are younger, to him, with affection and mercy, and those who are older with respect and honor.

It is related by Anas (RA.) that the Prophet of Allah (S.A.W.) said "For the young man who will honor an old man because of his age, Allah will appoint men who will honor him in his old age.

This hadith explains that, although the reward for showing good manners and respect to one's elders will be in the Hereafter, the Almighty bestows His favors to such people in this world too