I am trying to determine why I see so many references to right being good and left being bad.

We see this not only in the reference to female prisoners of war as property that, "the right hands possess", but also in "the people of the right hand" and "people of the left hand", "the angel on your right side that records good deeds" and "the angel on your left side that records bad deeds", and many other hadiths.

Was there something in the culture of the times that caused "what your right hands possess" to be an apt analogy for ownership of assets and people or would this still be perfectly applicable today? Similarly, was there something in the times making the right side better and were these concepts related?

Some have said the following: Does the right side have a higher status than the left?

However, answers like these do not feel complete given that some of my research suggests it may have been a matter of cleanliness and etiquette. This can inform whether the supremacy of the right is timeless or bound to the culture of time and place.

Ultimately, it isn't deeply important but a matter of looking deeper to understand the roots of these phrasings and preferences.

I appreciate the help of the community. Inshallah, you may bring greater wisdom and guidance to my understandings.

  • This is not an Islam specific issue. In almost all cultures right is referring to anything good and left to anything bad. I personally don't know of a deviation in this matter. For example: In English you'd say I'm doing something right. In French, German, English and Spanisch we speak about "le droit", "das Recht", "the right" and "el derecho" and mean the same thing. What your right hand posses may simply be an indication of legal possession.
    – Medi1Saif
    Apr 5, 2022 at 7:17

1 Answer 1


This seems to be simply an Arabic usage. The Quran was not the first to use it. Similar to how English has the phrase "right-hand man."

So, it is not useful to look into why the Quran uses it. The Quran simply uses it because that is how people referred to slaves.

As for whether the right is inherently superior, that is what the Quran seems to imply in its verses about the Day of Judgement.

Allah says:

So as for he who is given his record in his right hand, he will say, "Here, read my record! Indeed, I was certain that I would be meeting my account."

So he will be in a pleasant life - In an elevated garden, Its [fruit] to be picked hanging near. (69:19-23)

And Allah says:

But as for he who is given his record in his left hand, he will say, "Oh, I wish I had not been given my record (69:25)

So, the distinction between right and left will exist even on the Day of Judgement.

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