The Prophet (saw) said: “Beware of sitting in the street. The companions said: Messenger of Allah, we have no other choice but to sit there and engage in conversation there. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: If you must sit there, then give the street its rights. They asked: What are its rights? He said:  Lowering the gaze, refraining from causing annoyance, returning the greeting, enjoining what is good, and forbidding what is evil.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and Ahmad)

There is so such talk about human rights, women’s rights, and even children’s rights based on people’s own wishes rather than Allah’s will. However, instead of the modern society becoming a better place to live in, in which to enjoy Allah’s bounties and unlimited favors, and in which to worship Allah (saw) and obey His commands, the earth has become a most insecure place to live in, replete with corruption, immorality, and disobedience of Allah (swt), because of the oppression and injustices that prevail in society.

The essence of moral values in Islam as taught by Prophet Muhammad (saw) is fundamentally to enable us to do good to others. Thus, we give other human beings their due rights or we prevent human beings from harming and usurping other people’s rights.

In this amazing hadith, the Prophet (saw) taught us how to guard the rights of the streets and byways and, in the process, give the rights due to all those passing by. In the same way, Allah (swt) also directed the people in the time of Prophet Shu’aib (as) not to sit on every roadside threatening and hindering people from the path of Allah.

Lowering the gaze
The first right of the street mentioned by Allah’s Messenger (saw) is lowering the gaze. Neglect of this right has become one of the biggest problems facing the world today. In addition, there is the problem of near nudity, especially among women, increasing day by day. These problems are becoming compounded leading to increasing immorality in all its form in society.

Satan, the greatest enemy of humankind, is always keen to tempt and seduce people into committing forbidden acts by alluring and making those acts fair-seeming and attractive. this is exactly how he promotes the promiscuous intermingling of sexes under the name of freedom. He entices pleasure-loving, misguided men and women to disregard the restrictions laid down by their Creator so they will ignore their natural instincts of modesty. Allah (swt) said: “O you who believe! Do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Whoever follows the footsteps of Satan, then certainly, he commands indecency and munkar (all that is evil).” (Qur’an: 24: 21)

The Prophet (saw) also inform us that Satan moves through the human being like blood runs through the veins. One of the most innocent ways through which he induces people into committing indecent acts is by leading a man to be alone with a non-Mahram (non-related) woman. The Prophet (saw) said: “If a man is alone with a non-mahram woman, Satan will be the third with them.” (Tirmidhi)

Hence, the first right of the street or public place is to lower our gaze and safeguard ourselves from the sexual immorality that has plagued the society and is threatening to completely destroy it from within.

Refraining from causing annoyance
The second right of the street mentioned by Allah’s Messenger is to avoid causing annoyance in the streets and roads. This right is comprehensive and includes everything that would bother or irritate other people, such as the following:

-     Spitting on the road side

-     Smoking and being drunk on the roadside

-     Throwing filth and rubbish on the streets

-     Blocking the pathways where people need to pass

-     Laughing in very loud and disturbing manner

The Prophet (saw) have forbidden us from causing any form of annoyance to our fellow Muslims and other human beings either by our speech or our actions with any kind of unbecoming behavior, as mentioned above. He (saw) said: “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand other Muslims are safe.” (Muslim)

Returning greetings
Another right of the street is to reply to greetings which are given, for indeed returning a greeting joins hearts together and creates a sense of love and friendliness between people, thus increasing their faith. Allah (swt) expressly commanded the returning of greetings in the Noble Qur’an: “When a courteous greeting is offered to you, replay to it with a greeting even more courteous, or at least of equal courtesy. Indeed, Allah takes careful account of all things.” (Qur’an 4: 86). Furthermore, The Prophet (saw) expressly indicated that the act of spreading greetings of peace among ourselves brings about love of each other in our hearts and strengthens our faith: “You will not enter Paradise until you truly believe, and you will not truly believe until you love one another. Should not I guide to something which, if you do it, will cause you to love each other? Spread the greetings of peace.” (Muslim)

Enjoining good and forbidding evil
The last right of the roadway enjoined by Allah’s Messenger (saw), in the hadith under discussion is enjoining what is good and pleasing to Allah (swt) and forbidding each other from evil. This is very important matter that helps to reform both individuals and society so that good character and moral values permeate the society. Otherwise, if evil is left to continue in society without being checked, then we run the risk of heading towards total destruction.

by Yahya M. A. Ondigo