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Guest Impressions

Crime Prevention: Securing Our Communities

The following message has been prepared by the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa as a National Common Bayaan, to be delivered in mosques, on Friday 28 September 2018. It focuses on highlighting the challenges of crime and criminality with emphasis on the need for communities to take initiatives that secure their neighbourhoods.

Background and the Problem

It can be safely said, one of the greatest problems that plague our society and communities today, is that of crime and the lack of safety. People don’t feel safe within their own homes and within the community. Undoubtedly this is a serious problem.

We find that the elderly, who deserve mercy and respect, have many a time have been murdered in their own homes. Daily, cars are hijacked; people’s homes, the supposedly spaces of sanctity and safety, are being violated.

Survivors of crime are left traumatised and turned paranoid due to the prevalent violence. People can’t walk freely on the street without the fear of being mugged. Community members do not feel safe in their own homes despite installation of sophisticated security systems.

The so-called white collar crime is also on the rise. People in organisations, private and public, including government departments, are regularly found to engage in wide scale fraudulent practices. The recent spate of abductions for ransom of wealthy Muslim businessmen, kidnapping of children in elaborate human trafficking rings, take crime to even higher levels, fuelling unease and heightened tension.

In practice, the South African justice system has not provided the necessary guarantees of a level of security for the innocent, and law-abiding citizens whom it is meant to protect. Jail terms have not provided the required deterrence to the propensity to crime, and sometimes ineffective in the reformation of convicts who sometimes return into society as hardened criminals. Many-a-time incarceration is a place where novice criminals come into contact with a seasoned or experienced criminal whereby unsavoury skills are honed.

The Solution

We as Muslims firmly believe that for each and every problem the Qur’ān and the Hadīth is a solution. We do so, on the premise that Allah is our Creator and as our Creator, He knows the needs and situations of human beings best. Whatever Allah guides us towards is free from flaw.

In looking for solutions, we should start with ourselves by way of introspection. It is very important to consider and reflect upon our own deeds and spiritual disposition. Why is it that we have to live in fear? Only through moral rectitude can the Almighty change our condition. The Qur’an teaches us about a city in that belied the favours of the Almighty:

“And Allah presents an example: a city which was safe and secure, its provision coming to it in abundance from every location, but it denied the favours of Allah. So Allah made it taste the envelopment of hunger and fear for what they had been doing.” (16:112)

History bears witness that the Arabian Peninsula was plagued by all types of vice including crime. It was perhaps one of the most lawless societies that ever existed in human history, prior to Islam. Solutions to the problem of crime and violence came with the advent of Islam. When the Sharī’ah was applied, the effect was that a lady could travel alone from Hejaz to Iraq, laden with riches and none would dare harm her or her valuables. Such was the safety and security provided when Islamic law and penal law was applied and established.

There is ample evidence that when Islamic law has been applied, even to a small degree; it has brought about a relatively higher level of safety and security for citizens. People may ask what the difference is between the justice system of Islam and the justice system that is in use today in various part of the world.

The two differ wherein the Sharî’ah is not derived from the human mind, it comes directly from Almighty Allah:

“There is life for you in retribution, O you who possess intellects! Perhaps you will have Taqwā!” (2:179)

“There is life for you in retribution” means that if divine law is not adhered to, the opposite will be established and that would imply no safety for life.

The second difference is that when we look at Islamic law and the purpose and principles behind it, we gauge that it is based on the fact that the society is more important than the individual. This is contrary to man-made laws today where emphasis is on the protection of the rights of the individual, many a time to the detriment of the interest of the wider society.

The objective of Islamic penal law is to eradicate crime, so that people would live in safety. Nonetheless, if crime does take place, and through due process, then it is better that the perpetrator suffers difficulty so that the wider community lives in peace. It is not justice in the reasoning that a few criminal elements should enjoy their maximum rights, while the rest of the law-abiding community lives in fear.

Keeping this in mind, it will be detrimental to only see an Islamic solution to crime as solely through its penal law and justice system. Instead, Islamic law in the time of our beloved Nabī Muhammad ﷺ had an added feature which is as important as the implementation of the law. He, ﷺ, made an effort on the social reformation of the society as well. The result of this was that the society became a model of the teachings that our beloved Prophet ﷺ propagated and implemented.

From this we found that a result of Nabī Muhammad’s ﷺ teachings, the employer showed compassion to the employee and the employee was dutiful to the employer. Maximising profit at the expense of everything else was not the goal of the businessman, but they also had compassion for the wellbeing and uplifting of the society. Those people in authority understood that their position was not that of privilege but rather one of responsibility.

What we can do

We need to ponder over the steps we as individuals as well as a community can take to rid ourselves of this scourge. Do we simply sit and complain about it? Do we accept being victims? Do we simply give up and believe that we cannot do anything about it?

This would be defeatist. It is an attitude that is harming all of us. One would consider it unfortunate that the Muslim community cannot unite on an issue that is so critical and so relevant, to the extent that it affects each and every one of us. If communities do not unite now, judging by the flow of the tide, the situation in our communities will only worsen.

While Tawakkul in Allah ’Azza Wajalla is part of our faith, it first requires of us taking active steps and using whatever means, within our control, in order to avert any eventuality of danger.

Anas Raḍiyallāhu ‘Anhu reported that a person asked Rasūlullāh ﷺ, “Should I tie my camel and have Tawakkul (trust in Allah for her protection) or should I leave her untied and have Tawakkul.” Rasūlullāh ﷺ replied, “Tie her and have Tawakkul.” [Tirmidhī]

Knowledge is power. The first thing one can do is keep informed by joining Neighbourhood watches, community police forums and Whatsapp groups. These are essential tools to keep oneself and each other informed of what is happening in the area. Remembering the importance Islam places on the rights of the neighbour, the least one can do is getting to know one’s neighbours, which is a significant step in combating crime.

There are certain forums and initiatives that have become essential for communities to start in order for them to reclaim control of their streets and backyards. These are structures such as neighbourhoods watch and community policing forums. Unfortunately our community has become extremely good at complaining about situations and regrettably poor at getting involved and doing the work.

Neighbourhoods watch in our communities find it very difficult to manage to survive due to lack of participation. It continuously happens that at times of relative quiet, these initiatives are only run by a handful of individuals. So why would we then complain?

A concern for one’s household and that of all the households in one’s community is a Sunnah disposition of Nabī ﷺ as can be borne out from the following event from the Hadīth:

Once in Madīnah Munawwarah there was a loud noise which caused great alarm to the citizen of Madīnah. It was such a frightening noise that the Ṣahābah Raḍiyallāhu ‘Anhum, who were in their homes were reluctant to come out and investigate. When the Ṣahābah Raḍiyallāhu ‘Anhum did come out of their houses, what did they see? It was our beloved Nabī ﷺ on horseback and already returning from the origin of the noise, telling the people of Madīnah: “Oh people of Madīnah! Do not worry, I have gone to investigate there is nothing to worry about. There is safety. Do not worry!” This is also a Sunnah of Nabī Muhammad ﷺ just as much as other Sunan of Nabī Muhammad ﷺ.

The consequence to not helping our neighbours and community who are in difficulty is that it promotes each household to become insular and secluded from each other, therefore exacerbating the scourge of crime, as it gives criminal elements the freedom to operate.

If one assists others selflessly, then that person will not even need other people to assist as the Hadīth of Nabī ﷺ promises the Help of Allah:

Abū Hurayrah Raḍiyallāhu ‘Anhu reported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Whoever relieves the hardship of a believer in this world, Allah will relieve his hardship on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever helps ease someone in difficulty, Allah will make it easy for him in this world and in the Hereafter. Whoever covers the faults of a Muslim, Allah will cover his faults in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah helps the servant as long as he helps his brother. Whoever travels a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise, for a people do not gather together in the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying together, except that tranquillity will descend upon them, mercy will cover them, angels will surround them, and Allah will mention them to those with Him. Whoever is slow to good deeds will not be hastened by his lineage.” (Muslim)

• Salmān Raḍiyallāhu ‘Anhu reported: I heard Rasūlullāh ﷺ saying, “Observing Ribāṭ (Keeping watch/guard) in the way of Allah for a day and a night is far better (in reward) than observing fasting for a whole month and standing in Ṣalāh in all its nights. If a person dies (while performing this duty), he will go on receiving his reward for his meritorious deeds perpetually, and he will be saved from trials.”(Muslim)

• Ibn ‘Abbās Raḍiyallāhu ‘Anhumā reported: I heard Rasūlullāh ﷺ saying, “Two eyes will never be touched by the fire of Hell: an eye which weeps out of Fear of Allah and an eye which spends the night in guarding in the Cause of Allah.” (Tirmidhī)

The choice we can do something and get involved or we can continue complaining while the problem worsens.

Another aspect is that we complain about crime while promoting it at the same time. One may ask how this is possible. This occurs, for example, when one deals in items which have been obtained by theft or other illegal means. We may be making a profit now, but realise that you have not only become a party to, but also actively promoted crime and theft taking place in community. As in simple economics, demand creates supply. If there is none to purchase stolen items, this will dissuade potential thieves from committing the act to begin with.

An important aspect also, is the reporting of crime. Authorities cannot gauge the level and intensity of crime in areas when crime is not reported. With adequate reporting of crime, pressure can be placed on authorities to take the necessary steps to introduce crime detection and prevention interventions. We cannot complain about the inability of police to catch criminals when we do not report crime.

Crime exists in flux all over the globe. Though it may seem overwhelming, there are things we can do to manage crime in our communities. We must not feel powerless against criminals as Allah states the truth will always prevail over falsehood. By taking action, you are already making positive changes in your neighbourhood. Some practical tips for crime prevention are as follows:

• Know your environment, neighbourhood and take appropriate measures to secure home and valuables.
• As much as possible, do not encourage loitering and vagrancy.
• Mind young ones at all times
• Wherever possible, avoid offers of help from total strangers
• Be alert and on the lookout for those who may be following you, especially when approaching a stop
• Use appropriate means of communication to inform and remain in touch with family, friends and your community
• Form a neighbourhood watch a maintain visibility of security teams patrolling your area.
• Inform the Police or security personnel within your area of any suspicious activity and potential risks so that relevant people can respond to emergencies as well as prevent crime.
• Chat groups designated for emergency response and alerts should not be clogged by posts that are not serious in nature.

Some Du’ās for Protection

اللّهُـمَّ إِنّا نَجْـعَلُكَ فِيْ نُحُـوْرِهِـمْ، وَنَعُـوْذُ بِكَ مِنْ شُرُوْرِهِـمْ
Allāhumma innā naj'aluka fī nuhūrihim wa na'ūdhu bika min shurūrihim
O Allah, we ask You to restrain them by their necks and we seek refuge in You from their evil.

اللَّهُمَّ اكْفِنِيْهِمْ بِماَ شِئْتَ
Allāhummak finīhim bimā shi'ta
O Allah, suffice (i.e. protect) me against them however You wish.

حَسْبُـنَا اللهُ وَنِعْـمَ الْوَكِـيْلِ
Hasbunallāhu wa ni'mal wakīl.
Allah is sufficient for us and the best of those on whom to depend.

رَبِّ نَجِّنِىْ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظّٰلِمِيْنَ
Robbi Najjinī Minal Qowmidh Dhawlimīn
Oh my Lord! Deliver me from the Unjust People

رَبِّ انْصُرْنِىْ عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْمُفْسِدِيْنَ
Robbinsurnī ‘Alal Qowmil Mufsidīn
Oh my Lord! Assist me Against the Corruptive People

Jamiatul Ulama South Africa

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