The Most Comprehensive Verse in the Quran
Let us take this opportunity to reflect on a single verse from the Book of Allah. Allah ﷻ states in Surat An-Nahl, “Indeed, Allah orders justice and kindness and giving to relatives and forbids shameful acts and evil deeds and transgression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded” (Quran 16:90).
Ibn Masood (R) describes this verse as the most comprehensive in the Quran. The entire range of Islamic teachings is condensed within this verse. For this reason, it was the practice of the Companions (R) to recite this verse at the end of every Friday Khutba.
Walid Ibn al-Mugheira (R) says of the verse, “By Allah, there is a special sweetness in it. Above it, there is a unique light; leaves sprout from its roots, and it bears fruits on its branches. These cannot be the words of a human being.”
In this tremendous yet concise verse, Allah offers us three commandments and forbids us of three things. He ﷻ commands us to do justice, be moral, and maintain the bonds of kinship, and He forbids us from shameful acts, evil deeds, and transgression.
The Quran was revealed to all of humankind, offering a complete social order. It commands principles that protect and regulate the community. For this to happen, justice, which is the first order in this verse, must be established. This means placing things in their rightful place and giving others equal treatment. Justice must be the consistent factor in all transactions and interactions between individuals and communities regardless of strength, wealth, race, or gender.
We must be just in all of our matters and all of our relationships. As believers, we are just in our relationship with Allah ﷻ, grateful for all of His favors upon us by worshiping and obeying Him. We must be just to our parents by obeying them when we are young and showing them compassion and mercy in their old age. We must be just to our husbands and wives, fulfilling their rights upon us, and just to our children in providing for them and parenting them. We must be just in our workplace dealings, using the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. We must practice justice in the way we spend our time, wealth, and strength. Justice must infiltrate all our decisions and actions.
The second commandment in this great verse is al-Ihsan, perfecting our works, or treating others with kindness. Therefore, justice is the foundation of our actions, and kindness should naturally follow justice’s implementation. Imam al-Qurtubi explains that Ihsan in this verse refers to all types of Ihsan in morals and deeds. In adhering to Ihsan, the believer constantly self-assesses and reflects on his or her decisions and actions, striving for perfection. Ihsan, in acts of worship, is manifested through God-consciousness. Ihsan toward other humans and creation is defined by treating Allah’s creatures with the utmost kindness. Kindness is what strengthens a community and builds bridges within society.
The third commandment orders us to give relatives their due. This is a continuation of enjoining kindness with an emphasis on relatives. Unfortunately, humans take their ties of kinship lightly, and often their enemies are family members. Allah ﷻ specifically mentions relatives in this comprehensive verse, highlighting the importance of rectifying our relationships with our family, immediate and extended. This is a reminder to those who are Islamically obligated to protect and provide for their close or extended relatives, especially widows and orphans
Also, in this verse, Allah ﷻ forbids shameful acts. These are any acts that oppose the human’s natural tendency to be fair and pure. These are acts that a person should naturally feel guilty about or fear that people might notice. Shameful acts can involve all human faculties, whether the heart, tongue, eyes, ears, or limbs. A believer must practice modesty, which is the defining quality of faith, by abandoning all shameful acts.
Allah ﷻ also forbids evil deeds, which are all sins, whether done in private or in public. Aside from our innate ability to distinguish shameful acts from pure acts, Allah ﷻ provides us with revelations that offer us regulations and rules to follow. What is halal is clear and what is haram is clear.
Finally, Allah ﷻ forbids transgression in the verse, referring to crossing limits set by Allah ﷻ. This transgression leads to evil and chaos in society. Therefore, Allah ﷻ prohibits it to protect humanity.
Allah ﷻ, “admonishes us so that we might be reminded,” as He ﷻ ends the verse. In this single verse, Allah ﷻ reminds us of our innate nature to gravitate toward justice and kindness and to abhor shamelessness and transgression. But only those with conscious minds and sound hearts will truly heed His reminder. May Allah ﷻ make us among those who hear the truth and live according to i
By Sheikh Jamal Said