24.5 The Case of Tuma
Mohamed was asked to decide in all sorts of cases, great and small. Sometimes the Koran would discuss a minor case and leave a great one unmentioned. The reason is the principle involved in each case. If a minor case teaches the Arabs something they did not know, or had neglected, then it is discussed in the Koran and used as a precedent for further reference.
Once a man called Tuma stole a breast-plate that was hidden in a sack of wheat. He took it and hid it in the house of a Jew. The sack had a hole in it, and kept dripping wheat all the way to the Jew's house. When the owner of the breast-plate missed it, he was able to trace it to the Jew's house, and he reported the incident to Mohamed. The Jew said that Tuma had brought it to his house, while Tuma denied that he had stolen the breast-plate and accused the Jew of stealing it. Then Tuma's people went to Mohamed and swore that it was the Jew who had stolen it and begged him to defend Tuma. Mohamed who was very truthful himself suspected no one of telling lies. Moreover the breast-plate had been found in the Jew's house. He was about to defend Tuma when these holy verses were revealed:
We have sent down the Book to you with the truth
that you may decide between men as Allah has shown you
and not to be the defender of the treacherous. (4:105)
Had it not been for the goodness of Allah to you and His mercy, a group of them would have attempted to deceive you, but they deceive only themselves, they do not harm you in the least. And Allah has sent down the Book and wisdom to you, and taught you what you did not know. The goodness of Allah to you is very great. (4:113)
Then the holy verses point out that if a man does wrong, then asks forgiveness, he will find that Allah is the Merciful, the Forgiving. But if he does wrong then charges an innocent person with it, he has committed a grievous sin. The principle involved in each case is pointed out.
Before Islam when a man of noble birth did wrong his fault was overlooked, but when a commoner did wrong he was punished. Mohamed strove to break this pernicious attitude, applying the decrees of the Koran to the noble and commoner alike. He taught his followers,
"Allah has destroyed a people because if the honored among them did wrong they did not punish him, but if the common man did wrong they punished him."