Analysis of the prophet's sayings

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Could you analyze the prophet's sayings with respect to his intellectual capacity?

Another dimension of the intellect of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is that he was very concise in his speeches. We must remember that he is the leader, not only of those who lived during his lifetime, but of every believer to come until the Last Day. As emphasized in the previous section, he was in the position of one who addressed people of every level – from 7th century Bedouins to scientists of the highest level to come just before the Day of Judgment. No generation would contradict him. Accordingly, after we scrutinize his sayings, as well as the Qur’an, with due care, we come to understand that not only do they complement each other in style and content, but that there is no contradiction between them and established scientific knowledge. Millions of people have, from the beginning of Islam, found in them an answer for their intellectual problems and a cure for their spiritual diseases, as well as a model for their behaviour in all circumstances.

The sayings and speeches of God’s Messenger are so enchanting and captivating, so informative that just as his contemporaries were enlightened intellectually and revived spiritually through them, so also countless scholars and scientists, from exegetes of Qur’an, Traditionists and jurists of the highest caliber, to the great spiritual guides of different moods and temperaments, as also specialists in the fields of science and humanities, have, next to the Qur’an, all found their sources in them. A single word of his is, even today, enough for many people, not less than it was for his contemporaries, to reform their lives and beliefs when they hear it. He used to acknowledge this to be one of God’s blessings and, in order to emphasize it as a blessing, he sometimes used to say:

I am Muhammad, an unlettered Prophet; there is no Prophet to come after me. I have been distinguished with conciseness of speech together with comprehensiveness of meaning.7

Also he used to say:

O people! I have been honoured with conciseness of speech and giving the final judgment in all matters.8

The nightingale is said to convey the gratitude of plants and flowers to the All-Provider. Like-wise, God's Messenger came to sing the praises of God in the ‘garden’ of humanity and to announce God’s Commandments with his enchanting ‘songs’. His words opened ever-fresh flowers in the hearts of people and reduced the sayings of others to nought, however persuasive they seemed on the surface. The believers were purified by the deep serenity of his words, exhilarated by the bright atmosphere he created through his speeches, as well as by the love his personal conduct inspired.

God’s Messenger removed, through his words and deeds, the veils from the ‘face’ of nature and embellished the ‘book of the universe’ with Divine inscriptions.

Many of those famous for rhetoric or oratory and poetry have either preferred to listen to him or greatly benefited from his sayings. Thousands of literary men have devoted their life to the study of his sayings and compiled many volumes of books about or out of them, and many thinkers and scholars have quenched their ‘thirst’ with the ‘water of life’ they contain. In order to express the beauty and comprehensiveness of his words, we had better adapt, with a slight difference, a couplet uttered about the Qur’an:

Almost nothing of this world has come unveiled or pure,

But the words of the Messenger preserve their purity undefiled, and still wait to be understood fully.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was unlettered, and therefore not influenced by the written culture of the time. He was of so sound a conscience, so comprehensive in intellect and so pure in character, that only he could have received the Divine Revelations. His mind and heart were fed by Divine Revelation exclusively and each of his words and deeds was a ray from that Revelation, being a sign of his Messengership. Like a bright, crystal cup of clear, sweet water, his intellect was so pure that the Divine Revelations entered it and emerged from it drop by drop, in the form of words in their first clarity.

The primary expression of the Divine Revelation is the Qur’an. It is also the primary source for Islamic law. Although it contains guidance pertaining to all aspects of human life, the number of questions and problems put to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, meant that a second form of Revelation was necessary – implicit Revelation or inspiration. It was required either to clarify the answers found in the Qur’an or to establish new principles related to the conduct of the believers. This, together with his sayings and conduct in everyday life, makes up the second source of Islamic law, which we call the Sunnah, and we will discuss it in the second volume .

Every Prophet was supported by the miracles relevant to their time and environment. For example, magic was widespread at the time of the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, and so the miracles that appeared at his hands were of a similar nature. As the practice of medicine was in demand at the time of Jesus, upon him be peace, the miracles he worked were related to healing. Similarly, when Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, emerged as a Prophet, four crafts enjoyed popularity in the Arabian peninsula:

  1. Eloquence and fluency in writing and speaking,
  2. Poetry and oratory,
  3. Soothsaying and divination,
  4. Knowledge about the events of the past and about cosmology.

The Qur’an challenged the known experts in these four fields and forced them to surrender. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, surpassed them all through his wonderful eloquence, knowledge of the cosmos, and his predictions, most of which have proven, and the rest of which wait their due time to be proven, to be true.

As the Prophethood of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is universal and will last until the Last Day, no one has been, and ever will be, able to compete with him in eloquence and linguistic style. His words, together with the Qur’an, supersede all literary works. Their excellence is everlasting and will become increasingly vivid as their meanings are discovered in parallel to the passage of time. His words and the Qur’an are of such extraordinary nature and so full of meaning that millions of saints and gnostics have obtained perfect knowledge of Divine Essence, Attributes and Names through them. The hidden truths concerning the Unseen worlds – angels, jinn, the Here-after, Paradise and Hell – have all been unveiled through them. Also, they have together been a pure, inexhaustible source for hundreds of thousands of jurists, interpreters of the Qur’an, Traditionists, historians and scientists, as well as sociologists and psychologists. The Qur’an and the Sunna have brought light to the lives of billions and shown them how to pray, fast, give alms, how to make pilgrimage, and even how to eat and drink, and how to speak, in short, how to act at every moment of their lives.

7. Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 11.412.

8. ibid., 11.425.

Can you explain the concise nature of the Prophet’s sayings with examples?

Imam Tirmidhi relates from Ibn ‘Abbas, the Scholar of the Ummah, that God’s Messenger said to him:

O young man! Let me teach you a few principles: Observe the rights of God so that God will protect you. Observe His rights in order to find Him always with you. When you ask something, ask it from God. When you seek help, seek it from God. Know that if all people gathered together to benefit you, they would not be able to do so other than by that which God already preordained for you. If, by contrast, they came together to do you harm, they would not be able to do so other than by that which God already preordained against you. The Pen of Destiny was lifted and everything was already ordained.9

This hadith encourages submission to God and belief in His Unity and the truth of Destiny. We should not misunderstand this hadith to exclude human free will. Rather, it stresses, on the part of man, action, prayer and the need to strive to obtain desired results. It balances this with a warning that since everything is ultimately in the hands of God, man should strive in accordance with His Commandments and seek the results only from Him.

Again, Imam Tirmidhi relates from Ibn ‘Umar:

God’s Messenger said: ‘Live in the world as if you were a stranger or traveller. Regard yourself as one of the dead!’10

This succinct hadith is unequalled in encouraging us to lead an austere, disciplined life based on fear of God. It reminds us of our final destination. It stresses the transience of the world, and establishes the balance between the two lives, this one and the next.

Man is always a foreigner in this world. He is, in the words of Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, a thirteenth-century Turkish sufi, like a flute made of a reed separated from its group. He continually groans with the pangs of separation from his real Owner and ‘native land’. Man is, therefore, a traveller in this world, setting out from the World of the Spirits and travelling through the stations of the mother's womb, childhood, youth, old age, the grave and the Resurrection, finally ending his journey either in Paradise or Hell. In order to have a pleasant journey and arrive safely in Paradise, he should be aware of the transience of the worldly life and prepare for the eternal life. Although he is allowed to taste the pleasures of life to a certain extent, provided they are not specifically forbidden, he should not overindulge or forget his true destination.

Authentic books of Tradition such as Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Muslim and Sunan Abu Dawud relate from ‘Adbullah ibn Mas‘ud that God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said:

It is incumbent upon you to be always truthful, for truthfulness guides to absolute piety and piety leads to Paradise. A man who always tells the truth and pursues the truth is written by God as a truthful one. Refrain from lying, for lying guides to sinfulness and sinfulness leads to Hellfire. A man continues to tell lies and pursues lies until he is written by God as a liar.11

Truthfulness is an indispensable attribute of Prophethood while lying is a loathsome sign of hypocrisy. Truthfulness opens the door of happiness in both worlds. No one has tasted true bliss while living in the darkness of lies and lying.

Lying is a pillar of unbelief and the most manifest sign of hypocrisy. It means ‘an assertion contrary to God’s knowledge’. How unfortunate it is that today lying is so widespread. It is destroying security and morality, and we witness it contaminating the whole community, especially the political circles, like a ‘contagious disease’. It should, however, be noted that any ‘structure’ based on lying cannot last long. It will perish by its very nature.

The hadith states that truthfulness leads to ‘absolute piety’, while lying leads to sinfulness. The Arabic word we have here translated as ‘piety’ is birr. It encompasses every kind of virtue, from sound thinking and telling the truth to purity of intention, honesty, decency and good conduct. The word, fujur – sinfulness – denotes every kind of deviation and evil, including debauchery, indecency and perversion.

Persistent lying causes one to be classed as a liar, while he who always tells the truth will be identified with truthfulness. Lying and truthfulness are roads leading to Hell and Paradise respectively. This means that, as emphasized by the hadith, a single act of lying may lead one who lies to perdition. It may be the first step to an unfortunate end.

As reported by Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn Mas‘ud, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said:

A man is with him whom he loves.12

This hadith would need volumes to explain fully. It is a source of hope and consolation for those who are unable to lead their life in a strict obedience to the Divine Commandments. One who has been endowed with love for Prophets and saints will be in their company in the Hereafter. Therefore, whoever desires their company in Paradise should love them sincerely and follow them as much as possible. Those who, on the other hand, love the enemies of God, will be with them in Hell in the Hereafter.

Nu‘ayman was one of the Companions of God's Messenger. He could not stop drinking alcohol, and was punished a few times. When once another Companion reproached him, God’s Messenger warned that Companion, saying: Do not help Satan against your brother! I swear by God that he loves God and His Messenger.13

Since a believer who loves God and His Messenger sincerely will be in the company of God's Messenger in Paradise, he should not be reproached for an individual sin as long as he continues to perform his obligatory duties and tries to refrain from major sins. This is a prerequisite of his love of God and His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.

As related by ibn Hanbal from Mu‘adh ibn Jabal, God’s Messenger said:

Fear God wherever you are. Do good immediately after a sinful act to erase it, and always be well-mannered in your relationship with people.14

This hadith concisely establishes the principles of a happy life in the world and describes the way to eternal bliss. Fear of God is the basis of every virtue and good conduct, and leads to Paradise. A man can, through fear of God, erase his sins with his good deeds, and being well-mannered elevates one to the rank of perfection.

In another saying of his, God’s Messenger declares:

You are governed how you are (that is, according to your beliefs and your life-style.)15

This hadith expresses a principle of public and political administration. The political structure of a country is shaped according to the tendencies of the people whether directly through democracy or indirectly through other ways.

Natural sciences like physics, chemistry, and biology have laws of their own, which we call ‘God’s creational and operational laws of the universe’, and so do the social sciences. If, according to these laws, a people do not refrain from sinful acts and live in the swamp of evils, they will inevitably be ruled by evil people. If, by contrast, they prefer a virtuous life, then the government formed by them will be a good one.

The hadith stresses that laws do not have sanction on their own. Their authority depends on the people who will apply them. Therefore, the character of the people who hold the reins of government is of vital importance. If the people are righteous, their rules will be the same; if they are not, they will have no right and justification to expect a righteous administration. The ruling elite are like the cream rising to the surface of a liquid: milk has cream of its kind as do lime and alum.

Hajjaj, a despotic commander during the time of ‘Abd al-Malik, when reminded of the justice of ‘Umar, answered: ‘If you were like the people of ‘Umar, I would be like ‘Umar’.

The hadith also warns us that everybody should develop the sense of self-control and discern his own faults. In a society where people tend to put the blame on others, it is impossible to create social harmony. As emphasized in the Qur’an, God will not change the condition of a people unless they change themselves (al-Ra’d, 13.11). It is man himself who determines his fate and makes his history.

This brief hadith contains many principles relating to social sciences, but the scope of this book does not allow us to go into greater detail.

Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawud relate from the second Caliph, ‘Umar that God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said:

Actions are judged according to intentions; whatever someone intends to do, he gets its reward. So, whoever emigrates for God and His Messenger, has emigrated for God and His Messenger; and whoever emigrates to acquire something worldly or to marry a woman, his emigration is to what he intends.16

This hadith concerns a Companion who emigrated to marry a woman called Umm Qays, and is a cornerstone of the Islamic law and the foremost standard in evaluation of a believer’s actions.

Intention is the spirit of a man’s actions, without which any action will not be rewarded. If a man performs the five daily prayers without intention, or fasts during Ramadan without intention of performing the prescribed fast, or if he gives all his money to the poor without intention of paying the prescribed alms, he will not be counted as having fulfilled the obligatory duties of prayer, fasting and alms-giving. If he does not do all such duties for the sake of God and to obtain His good pleasure, he will not receive any reward and they will not be acceptable in the sight of God.

Hijra, the sacred emigration in the way of God, is, in one respect, the twin brother of jihad, the holy struggle for the sake of God. Although there is no Hijra from Makka to Madina after the conquest of Makka, it will elsewhere continue along with jihad until the Last Day. Believers may emigrate to another land to continue their mission of preaching Islam, as God’s Messenger and his Companions did in the early period of Islam. When it became impossible for them to do this in their native land, they emigrated to Madina. Such emigrations are accepted as hijra when they are purely for the sake of God.

Intention can sometimes be rewarded without action. For example, if a believer sincerely intends to do something good, but cannot do it due to some justifiable reasons, he will be rewarded for the action he has intended to do.

Intention multiplies the rewards of actions. It transforms every action of a believer into a kind of worship. It is impossible to rightfully earn eternal happiness in this short worldly life. But, by intending to worship God if he were to live until eternity, a believer deserves the eternal life of Paradise. Also, an obstinate unbeliever whose heart becomes absolutely closed to belief, deserves the eternal punishment of Hellfire for the same reason. Again, a believer who goes to bed after the night prayer with the intention of getting up before dawnbreak to perform the prayer of tahajjud, is counted to have worshipped God during the whole night. It is for the reasons mentioned that God’s Messenger declared: The intention of a believer is more rewarding than his action.17

Bukhari records that God’s Messenger said:

The Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand Muslims are in security; as for the Emigrant, he is one who emigrates from what God forbids.18

This hadith, like others, is one that expresses many truths in a few words. First of all, it describes the ideal, or norm of a Muslim by beginning with the words ‘the Muslim’, not ‘a Muslim’. In this way, our Prophet draws attention to the qualities of perfect Muslims, not to those who are nominally Muslims but not really Muslims in their practices.

The Arabic word Muslim, derived from the infinitive silm, meaning security, peace and salvation, comes to mean one who desires and gives peace, security and salvation. So, when we identify a Muslim with the normative definite article or ‘the Muslim’, we mean a believer who has become the embodiment of peace, causing no sedition and anxiety, and one from whom everyone is in utmost security. He is the most reliable representative of peace and security in the world. He strives to bring peace, security and salvation to the world. He has dedicated himself to disseminating his inner peace and happiness to the outer world around him.

Secondly, our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, mentions the tongue before the hand. As everybody knows, the ‘wounds’ caused by the tongue are deeper and more hurtful than those caused by the hand. Besides, one is often prepared to strike more readily, easily and more frequently with one’s tongue than with the hand. Slandering, backbiting, reproaching and other similar ways of hurting people are commoner and more difficult to avoid than hurt done by the hand. Further, if a person can refrain from hurting with the tongue, he can more easily refrain from the assaults by the hand. Again, defending oneself against physical assaults is, in most cases, easier than against verbal assaults of, in particular, backbiting and slandering. So, a true Muslim always restrains his tongue as well as his hand from hurting others.

In the same hadith, Emigration is conceived in a more general sense than the bodily emigration of leaving one’s family, house, possessions and native land for the sake of God. Indeed, to be capable of the latter, one must first be capable of emigrating from the material dimension of his being to the spiritual one, from worldly pleasures to an altruistic life and from selfish aims to living for a Divine cause. Therefore, refraining from Divine prohibitions is directly related to being a good Muslim and sacrificing one’s life in the service of people purely for the sake of God.

In another hadith, God’s Messenger says:

It is because of one’s being a good Muslim that one abandons whatever is of no use to him.19

Being a good Muslim means to practise ihsan, which means worshipping God as if you were seeing Him, in full awareness that even if you cannot see God, He oversees you all the time.20 When one attains this rank, one can say: ‘I was searching for Him in the outer world, but now I have come to understand that He is the Soul within my soul’; or again he can say: ‘I was in expectation of some news from beyond the world. However, the veil has been removed from my soul and I have seen myself.’

In order to attain this degree of excellence, the worshipper should abandon everything that is vain and useless to him. He should know that he is being supervised by God, and also that God’s Messenger and discerning believers are aware of the real worth of his deeds. God says:

Say: ‘Work, and (know that) God will behold your work, and so will His Messenger and the believers; then you shall be brought back to the Knower of what is hidden and what is open, and He will declare to you all that you have done. (al-Tawba, 9.105)

One cannot be a good Muslim unless one gives up heedlessness and indifference. Rather, a person should give proper care to his work and try his utmost to do his best at whatever he does. He should also be serious and reliable in all his dealings and transactions. Flippancy and frivolity both defame one’s reliability and reduce one’s dignity.

As related by both Bukhari and Muslim, God’s Messenger said:

Patience is shown just at the moment of misfortune.21

In the early days of his mission, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had forbidden people to visit graves as some un-Islamic practices had not yet been wiped out. When no traces of such practices remained, he not only allowed but also encouraged his Companions to visit graves, as he himself did, as visiting the dead encourages one to strive to improve one’s own moral conduct and work hard for the next life.

It was during one of his visits to the graveyard in Madina that God’s Messenger saw a woman weeping bitterly and complaining about Destiny. When he attempted to console her, the woman, who did not recognize God’s Messenger, said to him angrily: ‘Go away! You don’t know what misfortune has befallen me!’ When later told that the man to whom she had spoken reproachfully was God’s Messenger, the woman hurried after him and, finding him in his house, begged his pardon. God’s Messenger told her then: Patience is shown just at the moment of misfortune.

Patience is a key to success and triumph. It means the ability to accept pain, trouble, misfortune or anything that causes annoyance, without complaining, losing one’s self-control or trust and belief in God and Destiny. It is necessary at the point when misfortune strikes. One can achieve this, sometimes, by a change of attitude, place or preoccupation, by changing the immediate conditions around one. To do wudu’ (ritual ablution) or stand in prayer may also help one overcome an assault of sorrow.

There are three or four kinds of patience. The first is being determined and steadfast in not committing sins, which elevates one to the rank of the God-fearing, whom God takes into His care. The second kind of patience is being persistent in worshipping God regularly, which causes one to acquire the rank of being a beloved of God. The third is accepting every misfortune without complaining, which causes one to be included among the people of patience and those who put their trust in God. There is another, fourth, kind of patience which is shown in the face of exasperation. That is, one should know how to observe the deliberation, decreed by God’s Wisdom, that is appropriate to obtain a particular result. In order to produce a loaf of bread, for example, one must cultivate the field, harvest the crop, take the grain to a mill and bake the loaf in an oven. If, due to impatience one does not act in compliance with this deliberation and neglects to follow all the steps in sequence, in the arrangement determined for all things, one will either overleap or omit some step, and so fail to achieve the desired result.

Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad ibn Hanbal record that God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said:

The upper hand is better than the lower one.22

In another hadith, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, explains that ‘the upper hand’ is the hand which gives to the poor and needy, while ‘the lower hand’ is the one which takes. So, besides expressing the merits of charity, this hadith encourages people to work and earn their living without recourse to begging.

There is, however, a point in the hadith worth mentioning that, although the giving hand is, in general terms, better than the receiving hand, God’s Messenger did not use the expressions, ‘the one who gives’ and ‘the one who receives’; instead, he used the terms ‘the upper hand’ and ‘the lower hand’, which make the act, not the person, generally preferable so that, in some cases, the one who receives may be ‘better’ than the one who gives. Also, as stated in another hadith, God has some servants who, although despicable in appearance, are so beloved in the sight of God that when they predict something by swearing by God, God makes their predictions come true. Bara’ ibn Malik was among them. In addition, they ask nothing of people and are extraordinarily independent. For example, God’s Messenger had advised Thawban not to beg from people; therefore, Thawban would not even ask someone to pick up the whip he dropped while riding his camel; he dismounted and picked it up himself. So, when poor believers of this quality have to receive from people, it cannot be said of them that they are inferior to those who give to them.

But to be sure, Islam does not approve of begging. As it is not becoming for a Muslim to beg, a Muslim country should also not fall into the condition of having to beg from other countries. It should never be forgotten that honour, dignity and superiority always belong to God, His Messenger and the believers. Therefore, Muslims should not, either individually or collectively, come under the control of unbelievers, and should always preserve their dignity and superiority.

Imam Muslim relates from God’s Messenger, who said:

There are three sorts of people whom God will not, on the Last Day, talk to, pay attention to, and purify; and for them is a painful torment: those who ‘trail their robes’, those who remind those they have favoured of their favours, and those who try to sell their goods by false oaths.23

The hadith begins with thalathatun (three), meaning any three, unnamed, unworthy of being named. In this way, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, signifies that such people may be met with anywhere, and that themselves and what they do are so despicable that Muslims should refrain from what they do.

Second, as their punishment, God will not address Himself to them in the next world. This is a most severe punishment, because ‘speech’ is, as stated in surah al-Rahman, one of the foremost and greatest favours of God to man. Besides, man will be in dire need of speaking on the Day of Judgement, when he will hurry to and fro trying to escape God’s chastisement. Those three sorts of people will, however, be told that day: Be you driven into it (the Fire)! And speak you not to Me! (al-Mu’minun, 23. 108)

The Day of Judgement is a day when everyone will be completely occupied with his own troubles, and there will be no refuge except God. Everyone will hope that God may give some attention to him, to look with mercy upon him and purify him of all his sins. But those three sorts of people will have no hope of being purified and forgiven, since God Almighty will not acknowledge them.

In the hadith, the account of the punishment for those three sorts of people precedes the account of their sins. In this way, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, emphasizes the gravity of their sins and warns everybody to refrain from them. The first and most grievous of these sins is ‘trailing one’s robe’, which signifies in the idiom of Arabic, arrogance.

Arrogance means to contest with God for the rule of the earth. Man, though a weak and poor creature – so vulnerable as to be destroyed by a micro-organism, so powerless as to be incapable of giving life even to a blade of grass – is usually charmed by his own abilities and skills or position or wealth or apparent accomplishments and, is, in consequence, overcome by feelings of conceit and pride. Though created from a drop of contemptible ‘water’ and having no choice in the time and place of his birth, family, colour or race, and no power over the operative needs of his body – he is unable to, for example, overcome the commands of hunger, thirst and sleep – though man is, on account of his weakness, endowed by God with various talents and faculties, he attributes his accomplishments to himself and begins to contest with God for the ownership of the creation. His arrogance eventually blinds him to innumerable signs pointing to God’s Existence, Unity and Absolute Sovereignty. Concerning this, the Qur’an says:

Those who behave arrogantly on the earth in defiance of truth – I will turn them away from My signs: even if they see all the signs, they will not believe in them; even if they see the way of guidance and right conduct, they will not choose it for their way. For they rejected Our signs, and gave no heed to them. (al-A‘raf, 7.146)

After arrogance, to remind someone of the favour one has done to him is mentioned as a grave sin. It is no doubt closely related to arrogance, for the one who appropriates as his own the things – wealth, ability and the like – that God has bestowed on him, tends to commit it. If, by contrast, one sincerely regards all that he has as a gift from God, one becomes grateful to God, who enables him to do someone a favour, and, what is more, he comes to feel indebted to the one he has done a favour to, because he has gained spiritual reward due to him. The hadith thus encourages people to disinterested generosity and altruism, concerning which God’s Messenger also declares:

The generous are near to God, near to Paradise, and near to people, and distant from Hell. The miserly, however, are distant from God, distant from Paradise, and distant from human beings, but near to Hell.24

Islam decisively prohibits deception in trade. According to the laws of Islam, the seller is obliged to disclose any defect in his goods for sale. Swearing by God is also prohibited, especially in transactions. If a seller tries to sell his goods by telling lies or making false oaths, or to stir up demand for them by swearing by God, this is also a great sin deserving severe punishment. This sin is, again, closely linked to the two mentioned before it, for it usually originates in miserliness and one’s lack of recognition of God. Also, these three sins are, besides being interconnected with unbelief in, and distrust of, God, poisonous for social life, and indicative of weak character. Hence, the severity of their punishment.

Imam Bukhari records in his Sahih that God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said:

Whoever guarantees to me what is between his lips and what is between his legs, I will guarantee him Paradise.25

As everybody knows, speech is one of the greatest favours of God. So, a man should use his tongue in good and useful acts. He should recite the Qur’an; he should pray; he should always tell the truth and enjoin the good and forbid the evil. He should always be modest and well-mannered in the words he uses. Also, he should restrain his tongue from uttering bad things – telling lies, bad language, slander, and backbiting, etc. One should be very careful about the tongue, for, as ‘Ali said: ‘Your word is dependent on you until you utter it, but once you utter it, you will be dependent on it.’

Like holding one’s tongue, controlling one’s lust is also very important in attaining human perfection and deserving Paradise. God Almighty has endowed man with many faculties and impulses so that he might evolve spiritually by restraining them and channelling them into good deeds and virtues, and thereby rising to ‘the highest of the high’. By struggling against carnal desires and striving to satisfy them in lawful ways, a man may attain the rank of sainthood and gain superiority over angels, since angels have no carnal desires and therefore no struggle against temptations, they do not evolve spiritually. However, because of his essential duality, man travels between ‘the lowest of the low’ – to become even more wretched than Satan – and ‘the highest of the high’, to surpass even angels.

Since Islam bans or blocks up the ways leading to forbidden acts, one should refrain from such acts as displaying one’s beauties and staring at the opposite sex, and also being alone with someone of the opposite sex in a private place such as may encourage illicit relationships. Like holding one’s tongue, this also requires strong will-power, self-discipline and continuous struggle against the carnal self. Even though it seems, at first sight, too difficult, it will give one great spiritual pleasure as the pleasure of labour and struggle lies in labour and struggle themselves, and consequently make one deserving of Paradise.

Muslim records God’s Messenger to have said:

Listen! Shall I guide you to the things through which God blots out sins and elevates you to higher ranks? ‘Please, do so, God’s Messenger’, the Companions said. The Prophet continued: Doing wudu as correctly as possible even in the most adverse conditions, walking to the mosque for each prayer, and expecting the next one after performing the one before. This is the ribat, this is the ribat.26

The hadith begins with ‘Listen!’ to draw attention to the importance of what is going to be said. What the Prophet attaches so much importance to in this hadith is the five daily prayers.

The prescribed prayer is the pillar of the religion, without which religion cannot be maintained. When it is performed correctly, it prevents a believer from all kinds of immoralities and indecencies. It is also a sacred ladder, through which a Muslim can rise high to the Presence of God. So, in order to begin to climb this ladder, a believer should do wudu, ritual ablution, in the best way possible. From the first step towards wudu, a believer begins to gain reward. While washing the parts of his body that he must wash in wudu, he is relieved of the stress of daily life and cleansed of his sins. The wudu performed in difficult circumstances, for example, in severe cold, gives greater exhilaration.

The call to prayer, adhan, is, in essence, the call for believers to enter the Presence or Court of God, and a call to prosperity in both worlds. Wudu is the preparation which a believer must make before entering this Presence. By performing the supererogatory prayer before the prescribed one, the believer completes his preparations and through it gets the permission from the aidede-camp of the Owner of the Court, that is, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. When the muazzin (caller to prayer) announces the beginning of the prayer with almost the same words as adhan, he enters the Presence with utmost respect and reverence and converses with the Unique Owner of the whole universe and petitions Him for his needs and desires. This is the prayer which a believer performs five times a day. Through the prayer, his sins are blotted out and his potential to commit sins is changed into the ‘seeds’ of ‘blessed trees of good and virtues’. There is, however, a condition for obtaining this result. The prayer must be performed with utmost sincerity, with pure intention of gaining God’s good pleasure, and in awareness of being in the Presence of the Creator and Owner of the whole universe, who is the All-Powerful, the All-Knowing, the All-Seeing, the All-Hearing, and the All-Overwhelming.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, describes the prescribed prayer as ribat. Ribat means one’s dedication to something, as well as watching guards at the frontier. It is mentioned in the holy Qur’an as, for example, in the following verses:

O you who believe! Persevere in patience and vie in such perseverance; and be alert and prepared for jihad; and fear God, so that you may prosper. (Al ‘Imran, 3.200)

Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including horses dedicated to war. (al-Anfal, 8.60)

In the first of the verses, ribat is used in the meaning of being alert and prepared; in the second, dedicated. By describing the prayer as ribat, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, draws attention to the value and importance of struggling in the way of God and also to the place the prescribed prayer holds in the religion and in the life of a believer. In another hadith, he calls the latter ‘the greater jihad’, and the former ‘the lesser jihad’. In order to be successful in the former, a believer must be very attentive in performing the latter. Besides, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, also emphasizes, by describing the prescribed prayer as ribat, that one should dedicate one’s life to Divine worship and organize it according to the prayer; he should arrange his schedule around the five daily prayers. He should always be alert to perform his prayers without any neglect and with full attention; after he prays, he should be in the expectation of the next one. When performed in this way, the prescribed prayers will purify him of all his sins and, more than that, prevent him from committing any sins. They will then be, as another hadith says, like a miraj, the ascension to the Presence of God.

As related by Bukhari, God’s Messenger said:

God says: ‘I have prepared for my righteous servants such things that neither eyes have seen, nor ears have heard, nor minds have imagined, them.’27

Paradise is the place of surprises. The Qur’an tells us of the bounties of Paradise using names familiar to us, so as to make them comprehensible to us. Whereas, as Ibn ‘Abbas pointed out to interpret the Qur’anic verse, They are given things in similitude (al-Baqara, 2.25), the bounties of Paradise are particular to Paradise in nature and taste, although they are, in appearance, like their counterparts in the world. The believers will be rewarded in Paradise with ever-renewed bounties and, above all, they will observe God free from any qualitative and quantitative dimensions. An instant of this observation will surpass, in delight and blessing, thousands of years of life in Paradise. And, being the greatest of the bounties of Paradise, God will be pleased with believers for ever and never be angry with them.

In order to deserve Paradise, one should be righteous. Righteousness means being upright in all one’s deeds and doing everything intact, without any defect or fault. A righteous believer never tells lies, never deceives anybody, and is completely reliable. God is confident that he performs his religious duties as carefully as possible, and refrains from all His prohibitions. All the creatures, including human beings, animals and plants, are also confident that he never does them any harm; what-ever he does, he does it in full awareness that God Almighty is overseeing him. Since he has gained the good pleasure of his Lord, he is included in those for whom God says in the hadith in question, ‘My righteous servants’. That is, he is among those servants whom God loves and, because He loves them, ‘He is their eyes with which they see, their ears with which they hear, their hands with which they hold, and their feet on which they walk’.

God multiplies the good deeds of His servants and gives, in certain circumstances, as many as millions of rewards for each one of them. So, they will meet in Paradise such bounties as they never imagined while in the world.

Paradise is surrounded by troubles and tribulations, and Hell is folded in pleasures.

In a hadith related by Bukhari and Muslim, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, says:

Paradise is surrounded by troubles and tribulations, and Hell is folded in pleasures.28

Paradise and Hell are, in essence, each a blessing for man, for man refrains from the prohibitions of God for fear of Hell, and performs His commands in the hope of Paradise. However, it requires self-discipline and a strict intellectual and spiritual training to be saved from the punishment of Hell and to deserve the bounties of Paradise.

The Qur’an says that human beings are tempted by love of the opposite sex, of children, of hoarded treasures of gold and silver, of splendid mounts, cattle and plantations (Al ‘Imran, 3.14). Man has a natural attachment to life and all its pleasures. Hell is an abode of torments in the attractive setting of all those enticing lures and pleasures. If man is captivated by these pleasures and lives to satisfy them in any way possible, he is lured towards Hell. Man easily reaches Hell as its path goes through worldly attractions of every kind.

As for Paradise, it is surrounded by, or the route to it goes through, troubles and tribulations. In order to reach it, man, first of all, must struggle with his carnal self so that he won’t be distracted by worldly attractions. It should be known that the way to Hell is part of the way to Paradise. Man must travel all the way to Hell without allowing any of its attractions to seduce him. This requires self-discipline and continuous struggle against the temptations of the world combined with the desires of his carnal self. Whenever he is invited by the enjoyments and luxuries of the world like fame, wealth and positions and posts, he must struggle to restrict himself to the boundaries set by Divine Commandments. He must continue to carry out his duties like praying, fasting, alms-giving, and (if possible) pilgrimage to the Ka‘ba, and fair-dealing, honesty, truthfulness, kindness to the poor, the needy and orphans, and enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. He must also refrain from deception, usury, gambling, drinking alcohol, backbiting, hypocrisy and every form of injustice. He should not think that he will be left without being tested. God will test him with afflictions and something of fear and hunger, and loss in goods or lives or in the fruits of his toil and earnings (the Qur’an, 2.155). In order to reach Paradise, he should equip himself with both perseverance in bearing the afflictions, performing the obligations, and refraining from sins, and thanking God for all His bounties and blessings. All of these virtuous acts are detestable to man’s carnal self. In sum, all the arguments summarized above are expressed in this concise saying of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings:

Imam Tirmidhi relates that God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said:

I counsel you to fear God and to give obedience even if a black slave becomes your leader. Verily he among you who lives long enough will see great controversy, so you must keep to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly-guided Caliphs – cling to them stubbornly. Beware of newly invented matters in religion, for every invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is going astray and every going astray is in Hellfire.29

The Arabic word translated here as ‘fear of God’ is taqwa. Derived from wiqaya, meaning protection, taqwa means to be in the safe-keeping or protection of God. This has two aspects. The first is that a man fears God and obeys Him by performing His commands and refraining from His prohibitions. The second aspect of taqwa is that, by studying nature and life and discovering God’s laws controlling them, people find scientific knowledge and order their lives. The establishment of sciences depends upon the discovery of these laws. In order to be under the safe-keeping of God, the true religion and sciences should be combined, for they are two faces or two expressions of a single truth. According to Muslim sages and scholars, the universe where God’s laws issuing from His Attributes of Will, Destiny and Power are operative, is ‘the created Qur’an’, and the Qur’an, which is the collection of the Divine laws issuing from God’s Attribute of Speech, is ‘the composed universe’ or ‘the universe in words’.

The second point which the hadith emphasizes is that believers should refrain from disobedience to their government unless it is absolutely necessary. Without a leader, a community is like the beads of a rosary scattered everywhere, and social and political conflicts usually result in anarchy and destruction. In addition to this, the hadith points to a truth which even modern democracies cannot grasp. Islam does not permit racial discrimination, and therefore an emancipated black slave could be the leader of the Muslim ummah. Islamic history is filled with examples of this: many great saints, administrators and scholars have appeared among black people and been respected and obeyed by Muslims.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, draws attention, as a third point, to his Sunnah. He is the most excellent example to be followed in all aspects of life, until the Last Day. Following his example guarantees that Islam retains its original purity. Any deviation from the Prophet’s way will certainly result in social and doctrinal splits and new importations to Islam, which God declared He had perfected (the Qur’an, 5.3). Adherence to the way of the first four Caliphs, may God be pleased with them, is another guarantee of the unity of Muslims and the maintenance of Islam. This hadith also contains a prediction, that the first four of his successors would be ‘rightly-guided’; that disobedience to them would cause internal splits, as later proved to be true by the uprisings during the caliphate of ‘Uthman and ‘Ali.

Bukhari and Muslim relate God’s Messenger to have said:

A believer is not bitten twice from the same hole.30

A believer has insight, perceptiveness and intelligence. He is a man of sound reasoning as well as a man of spiritual insight. The community of believers have, and should have, the same perceptiveness and they should always be aware of the dangers which might befall them. They may be deceived once, but through insight and awareness which belief provides, they cannot, and should not, be deceived twice. This hadith contains a significant warning for the Muslims of today, who have been deceived for centuries by the unbelievers of the West and the hypocrites (Communists) of the East. It is time for them to take control of their own affairs and to review the quality of their belief once more.

The following hadith, which is recorded by Bukhari and Muslim, calls educationalists to reevaluate their methods:

Human beings are like the ore of silver or gold. Those who are promising and in leading positions in unbelief are better than the others (excel the others in virtue) when they accept Islam and acquire a good understanding of it.31

This hadith is very significant, especially, with respect to education. A good education demands, on the part of educators, insight and perceptiveness, as the Qur’an quotes God’s Messenger to have said:

‘This is my way: I call unto God with insight and sure knowledge –- I and those who follow me.’ (Yusuf, 12.108)

Insight implies knowing the character, potential and shortcomings of each individual. Human beings are not all alike in character, capacity, ambitions and tastes. Among them are those who contain, so to speak, coal or copper or silver, or gold or diamond. So, the first step in providing good education is to recognize individual potentialities, and then comes the stage of developing them. Just as you cannot obtain gold from a coal-mine, neither can you develop a man with the potentiality of ‘copper’, to become ‘gold’. Conversely, if you apply to ‘gold ore’ the process for extracting ‘copper’, you will waste a talent.

We should also note that a man with great potentialities distinguishes himself wherever he is. Because of this, those who are, as ‘Umar was, in the forefront of unbelief, usually come into leading positions after they convert to Islam, provided their potential for virtue is refined and developed fully in the ‘crucible’ of Islam.

In another hadith, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said:

“Surely God grants the wrongdoer a reprieve, but once He seizes him, He utterly destroys him.” Then, he recited this verse: Such is the chastisement of your Lord when He chastises communities in the midst of their wrong: grievous, indeed, and severe is His chastisement (Hud, 11.102).32

God gives some respite to wrongdoers, a chance to repent and amend. If they persist in wrongdoing and do not improve themselves, then God’s punishment is severe.

Wrongdoers are sometimes a ‘sword of God’, with which God punishes the sinful. Often Muslims become the target of wrongdoing powers, when they deviate from the truth and fail to perform Divine Commandments. In order not to defer the trial of Muslims for their sins to the Day of Judgement, God usually punishes them in this world. For example, when they were split into many factions struggling with each other, nine centuries ago, they were exposed to the Mongol invasion and massacre. Likewise, they tasted the bitterness of an overall defeat and subjugation during and after the First World War as a result of their failure to practice Islam in their lives and of their surrender, intellectual, spiritual and material, to the West. However, every misfortune befalling Muslims is, on account of being a result of sinfulness, an occasion and means for self-purification and Divine forgiveness, and the beginning of a new, more splendid revival. So, the near future will witness, by God’s Will, the collapse of wrongdoing powers and a magnificent revival of Islam and the Muslim world.

In an authentic Tradition, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, says:

Seven (groups) of people: God will shade them under His shade on the Day when there will be no shade except His: the just ruler; the young man who has grown up in worship of God, may He be glorified; the man greatly attached to mosques; the two persons who love each other for God's sake, and meet and then leave each other because of this love; the man who refuses the invitation of a beautiful woman of rank, saying, ‘I fear God’; the man who spends in the way of God so secretly that when he gives in charity to the one on his left, the one on the right does not see it; and the man whose eyes fill with tears when he mentions God in seclusion.33

Justice is the foundation of social life

People will be drowned in sweat up to their necks under the heat of the Day of Judgement. Those who wish for His shade, must strive and this hadith explains how.

Justice is the foundation of social life and a just ruler is a rare occurrence. Holy and blessed indeed is a young man who restrains his carnal desires and devotes himself to the worship of God. Designing one’s life to fit the times of the daily prayers is a laudable virtue pleasing to God Almighty. Another important quality is that, especially in a world of individualism and selfishness, people love each other for God’s sake and regard the earth as a ‘cradle of brotherhood’. Chastity, refraining from illicit intercourse, needs self-discipline and is so meritorious as to elevate one to ‘the highest of the high’. Alms-giving purely for God’s sake and without showing off is a good deed to which Islam gives almost as much encouragement as belief and the prescribed prayer. Meditation and continuous supervision of one’s deeds, accompanied by tears shed for the fear of God, prevent one from committing sins and make him worthy of Paradise.

God is kind to, and has favours for, everyone; whatever people have, it is from God. Nevertheless, He bestowed some special favours on each Prophet and community according to the dictates of the time. For example, Adam was favoured with knowledge of the ‘names’, that is, the keys to all branches of knowledge. Noah was endowed with steadfastness and perseverance. Abraham was honoured with intimate friendship with God and being the father of numerous Prophets. Moses was given the capability of administration and exalted through being the direct addressee of God, and Jesus was distinguished with patience, tolerance and compassion. All the Prophets have, however, some share in the praiseworthy qualities mentioned, but each of them surpasses, on account of his mission, the others in one or more than one of those qualities.

9. Tirmidhi, “Qiyamah,” 59.

10. Tirmidhi, “Zuhd,” 25.

11. Bukhari, “Adab,” 69; Muslim, “Birr,” 105; Abu Dawud, “Adab,” 80.

12. Bukhari, “Adab,” 96; Muslim, “Birr,” 165.

13. Bukhari, “Hudud,” 4,5.

14. Tirmidhi, “Birr,” 55; I. Hanbal, 5.153.

15. Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 6.89.

16. Bukhari, “Bad‘u l-Wahy,” 1; Muslim, “‘Imara,” 155; Abu Dawud, “Talaq,” 11.

17. Dahabi, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 1.61, 109.

18. Bukhari, “Iman,” 4.

19. Tirmidhi, “Zuhd,” 11; I. Maja, “Fitan,” 12.

20. Bukhari, “Iman,” 37; Muslim, “Iman,” 1.

21. Bukhari, “Jana’iz,” 43; Muslim, “Jana’iz,” 14, 15.

22. Bukhari, “Wasa’ya’,” 9, “Zakat,” 18; Muslim, “Zakat,” 94; I. Hanbal, 2.4.

23. Muslim, “Iman,” 171–4; Suyuti, al-Fath al-Kabir, 2.57.

24. Tirmidhi, “Birr,” 40.

25. Bukhari, “Riqaq,” 23.

26. Muslim, “Tahara,” 41; Tirmidhi, “Tahara,” 39.

27. Bukhari, “Tawhid,” 35.

28. Bukhari, “Riqaq,” 28; Muslim, “Janna,” 1.

29. Tirmidhi, “‘Ilm,” 16; for different versions, see, I. Maja, “Muqaddima,” 6.

30. Bukhari, “Adab,” 83; Muslim, “Zuhd,” 63.

31. Bukhari, “Manaqib,” 1; Muslim, “Birr,” 160; I. Hanbal, 2.539.

32. Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 5; Muslim, “Birr,” 61.

33. Bukhari, “Adhan,” 36; Muslim, “Zakat,” 91; Tirmidhi, “Zuhd,” 53.

34. Bukhari, “Tayammum,” 1, “Salat,” 56.

 

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