The following article was transcribed by an internal student, based on a lecture series: “Servants of the All-Merciful: Understanding the Qualities of True Servants of Allah.” This is the first of six lectures, delivered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, that explores the deeper meanings of verses from Surat al-Furqan, and the prophetic characteristics embodied by the true servants of Allah.
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate. Blessings and peace be upon His Chosen Prophet, Muhammad, and upon his kin and companions. In this series, we will discuss the description of the servants of the All-Merciful in Surat al-Furqan. Namely the beautiful verses [25:63-77] represent one of the most comprehensive descriptions of the most beloved servants to Allah.
There are many areas in the Quran where Allah informs us of the qualities beloved by Him. Just as Allah obliges us to enact his commands and prohibits us from certain actions, He also guides us towards attaining these qualities that are beloved by Him; to nurture a deep and devoted relationship with Him.
The Spiritual and Worldly Qualities of the Believer
The aforementioned verses describe the spiritual and worldly qualities of a true believer, both of which are reflective of the essence of their character. These verses contain numerous principles related to our spiritual realities and our worldly responsibilities as servants of Allah. In fact, many of the actions described encompass several primary principles of Islam and achieving the straight path as a Muslim; from avoiding wastefulness and stinginess, to how we should deal with the ignorant. Many Imams have said that these verses are an accurate, direct description of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace.) He is the true servant of the All-Merciful, embodying all of the qualities of the servants of Allah.
“Glory be to the one who made his servant travel by night.” [Quran 17:1]
The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is the pinnacle and the truest manifestation of what it means to be a servant of Allah, thus his qualities are those of the truest servants of Allah, and this is exemplified through his conduct and character of the Prophet.
The All-Merciful & The Light of Existence
Allah did not arbitrarily describe Himself as the “All-Merciful” when addressing His truest servants. The basis of His relationship with His creation is mercy. In reality, creation itself is an act of mercy; taking things from the darkness of nothingness, into the light of existence. This is why Allah says, that it is the All-Merciful that is established on the throne; this throne, while symbolic in this context, signifies the majesty of Allah and His Presence on it encompasses His great mercy.
Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth, as stated by Ibn Abbas (d. 687 CE.) Allah could have created us in any way that he wishes, for He alone is eternal, everything else is originated by Him. So the very notion of existence itself, and the sustenance of existence, is an act of mercy.
The distinction of Allah’s mercy above other qualities can also be evidenced in the fact that two of his 99 names refer to this quality; Al-Rahmaan and Al-Raheem. Although linguistically similar in their form, there is a difference between the two: “Al-Rahmaan” refers to the vastness of Allah’s mercy, conveying intensity and greatness. While “Al-Raheem” refers to its effect on His creation and is more personal to the believers.
The Manifestation of Mercy in Human Life
Human beings have a choice, and Allah’s mercy is attained for whoever chooses obedience. Allah has made us morally responsible to do what has been commanded of us, and leave what He has decreed as prohibitions. If we obey Allah, we are accepting mercy, and if we reject obedience to Him, we are rejecting mercy. While His mercy is ever-present, it particularly manifests in the choices that we make in this life.
So, those that are most beloved of Allah’s servants are those who manifest mercy onto themselves.
We know from the Quran and Sunna that Allah is only truly merciful amongst his servants who are merciful to others. It is the merciful ones that are in turn shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Precisely ascertained by the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) who said, “Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” [Tirmidhi]
In fact, the Prophet’s very existence is a manifestation of Allah’s mercy: “It was only as a mercy that We sent you (Prophet) to all people.” [Quran 21:107]
Qualities of Allah’s True Servants: Humility
So what are the qualities of the servants of the All-Merciful? Well to start, Allah says they are “Those who walk humbly on the earth.” [Quran 25:63] This has many levels of meaning, it can be taken literally, but can also be understood that those who deal with people humbly; regardless of status, wealth, race, gender, etc.
This is re-affirmed in the same verse, where it states, “When the ignorant address them, they reply with peace.” [Quran 25:63] Here the ignorant (jāhil) does not mean uneducated, but rather one that acts in an unprincipled manner. Imam Ahmad Zarruq (d. 1493 CE) described the intelligent person as one whose actions are based on established principles, whether religious, customary, or rational.
When the foolish address them, they respond with peace, not just in words, but in attitude. This treading lightly also has the sense of walking with humility; they don’t walk with arrogance. This is one of the key qualities of being a servant of Allah, to be humble.
Qualities of Allah’s True Servants: Devotion & Awe
They are also “Those who spend a good portion of the night, prostrating themselves and standing before their Lord.”[Quran 25:64] Worship at night requires a devotion to pleasing Allah, and if you struggle to do so, perhaps it would be beneficial to work on your sense of purpose, this requires great effort.
A lack of concern for night worship is a lack of concern for Allah. Hasan Al-Basri (d. 728 CE) said that by day they have reverent awe for Allah, and by night they have reverent humility before Him. These true servants acquire a great sense of awe (ḵušhūʻ) pleading “Oh Lord, turn away from us the suffering of Hell, for it is a dreadful torment to suffer.” [Quran 25:65]
Spending their night seeking the creator, conscious of His Majesty, both in fear and awe of their Lord.
Qualities of Allah’s True Servants: Justly Balanced
Additionally, the servants of the All-Merciful are “They are those who spend neither wastefully nor stingily, but moderately in between.” [Quran 25:67] They have this uprightness, justly balancing between the two extremes. This is an essential quality of the straight path.
Qualities of Allah’s True Servants: Invoking the Oneness of Allah
Also, by being servants of Allah, “Those who do not invoke any other god besides Allah” [Quran 25:68] It is worth noting here that there are two types of polytheism (šhirk). The first is the obvious belief in more than one God, and the second being the subtle neglect of Allah’s Oneness; such as worshiping your desires (hawā), allowing them to direct you towards disobedience, or assuming others alone benefit you.
Qualities of Allah’s True Servants: Obedience
The verse continues, “Nor take a life which Allah has made sacred.” [Quran 25:68] The sacred is that which cannot be violated, “except in the pursuit of justice.” [Quran 25:68]
This verse concludes by stating that “Nor commit fornication.” [Quran 25:68] Allah commands, do not even come close to unlawful sexual relations (zinā). It is also worth noting here that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) explained, that fornication is not just unlawfully engaging in intercourse with someone, but involves lesser sexual transgressions too.
Qualities of Allah’s True Servants: Repentance
Following this, Allah says, “Whoever does this will face the penalties, Their punishment will be multiplied on the Day of Judgment, and they will remain in it forever, in disgrace. As for those who repent, believe, and do good deeds, they are the ones whose evil deeds Allah will change into good deeds. For Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Quran 25:69-70]
Repentance is the key, signifying a believer’s return to Allah and the renewal of their commitment to Him. Follow their bad deeds with good deeds. If you repent, renew your belief, recommit yourself to Allah and change the course of your life, Allah will change the bad into good. This is why repentance is something that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) told us to embrace constantly.
“And whoever repents and does good has truly turned to Allah properly.” [Quran 25:71]
Qualities of Allah’s True Servants: Honesty
Another one of the qualities of the servants of the All-Merciful is that they “Do not bear false witness, and when they come across falsehood, they pass it by with dignity.” [Quran 25:73] This relates to both spiritual and social matters. False testimony is when you give testimony, not just falsely, but in a manner that denies someone their right. When the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was asked about the major sins, he said, “Truly, false testimony,” and he repeated this frequently, for your untrue speech may lead to harm for others.
“Pass it by with dignity” means they do not engage in frivolity, but rather pass by with nobility, and also strive to uplift those who are in such states. They don’t allow themselves to be dragged into foolishness, but if they can facilitate it, they can attempt to raise others out of sincere concern for their sound.
Qualities of Allah’s True Servants: Mindfulness of Allah’s Signs
Among them are those “Who, when reminded of the revelation of their Lord, do not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to it.” [Quran 25:73] If they are corrected, they allow humility and sincerity to accept it rather than have their ego deny it.
As the Prophet Muhammad said, “Arrogance means to reject the truth and look down upon people.” [Sunan Abi Dawud] Ibn ‘Ata Illah also said that if they are corrected they do not reject it, but accept and listen to what they know to be right, and they follow through with action, even if it is difficult for them.
Qualities of Allah’s True Servants: Desire for Righteousness & Piety
Finally, the remaining verses of the Sura emphasize the desire in Allah’s truest servants to nurture a pious family devoted to pleasing their Lord and remaining on the straight path of righteousness in this life and the next:
“Those who pray, ‘Our Lord! Bless us with pious spouses and offspring who will be the joy of our hearts, and make us models for the righteous.” [Quran 25:74]
And the Sura concludes with a beautiful Aya describing the invaluable reward of the
“It is they who will be rewarded with elevated mansions in Paradise for their perseverance and will be received with salutations and greetings of peace, staying there forever. What an excellent place to settle and reside!” [Quran 25:76]
Qualities of Allah’s True Servants: Encouraging Our Need for Allah
It is vital that all believers encourage their need for Allah, if a person lacks this, there is great chance they will fall from the path of submission.
Imam Al-Tahawi (d. 933 CE) even considered this as such a central principle to Islam that he included it in his statements of creed. He states that “The foundation of one’s Islam is not firm unless it is upon outward submission and surrender to Allah.”
And it was Imam Al- Qushayri (d. 1074) who said that if it were not for your imploring Allah with a true beseeching, and a true turning, tribulations would continue to befall you, and you would remain in distress. Affirming the great wisdom behind the trials each of us experiences in this life, and that is finding spiritual relief.
To conclude, many believers will attest that every living organism on this planet is in an ever-existing state of slave-hood and servitude to Allah.
That being said, each human being has to face the reality of choice. The potential greatness for every human is in accepting submission to Allah and thereby fulfilling their role, and purpose of their existence, as Allah’s truest servants. To do this is to realize that from Him we do come, and to Him we will return. Allah is the one alone worthy of worship. To affirm that Allah is the All-Encompassing, Divine Merciful.
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.