Quranic Reflection No. 7:41 Āyat 11:116 – Countering corruption in society

فَلَوْلَا كَانَ مِنَ الْقُرُونِ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ أُولُو بَقِيَّةٍ يَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْفَسَادِ فِي الْأَرْضِ
Why were there not among the generations before you those possessing understanding, who forbid mischief on earth?
(Sūrat Hūd No.11, Āyat 116)

This verse points to an essential foundation for the progress of society – a group of its members who have the understanding and wisdom to stop it from destroying itself. So long as some concerned individuals strive to combat corruption the society is buffered to a certain degree from collapse. These people spread a positive and informed message that counters corruption and does not allow it to damage society completely. If all members of society remain silent or are indifferent to the dangers that face society it is very possible for the society to slide downhill and eventually perish.

The verse mentions this group as the Ulu baqiyya – the possessors of that which remains. The word in Arabic refers to possessors of fadhl or merit, those who have great personalities, integrity, purity . . . etc. People usually like to store good things and keep them intact. They like such things to remain. Thus the Ulu baqiyya want goodness to remain intact and work to counter the corruption that will spoil it.

The word baqiyya also refers to the fact that truth and virtue will always remain while falsehood and corruption will eventually be wiped out. In the battle between truth and falsehood, truth always triumphs. This was the case in history and will be the case so long as the earth remains. Baqiyyatullāh is thus the title of the present Imam. He will fight injustice and falsehood and let virtue prevail and remain on earth.

This verse shows the important role of the Ulu Baqiyya in the community. They are the ones who spread the truth and are actively involved in reviving Islamic teachings. They are aware of the corruption that is seeping into their societies and take steps to stop it from spreading.  They diagnose the diseases and give out prescriptions. They are the spiritual doctors of the community. The Holy Prophet (s) is described by Imam Ali (a) as a doctor who used various methods to treat the society. He says; The Prophet was like a roaming physician who has set ready his ointments and heated his instruments. He uses them wherever the need arises for curing blind hearts, deaf ears, and dumb tongues. He followed with his medicines the spots of negligence and places of perplexity (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 108).

Each community needs different forms of defense and it is concerned members who gather forces and fight back. They do this through verbal and written reminders, through spreading correct teachings and answering doubts and skepticism. They inform and educate fellow members, helping them to discover for themselves the beauty of submission to the Creator.

Remind yourself of the need of the Ulu Baqiyya in your community. Be from among those who seek to play that role, or at least support and encourage those who do. They are the ones who will save the community from disintegration.

Sources: Amīrul Mu’minīn Ali bin Abu Talib (a), Nahjul Balagha; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh