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Reflecting on Hadiths of Justice and Mercy – Muslimology blog

Reflecting on Hadiths of Justice and Mercy – Muslimology blog

The following is something I wrote about a year back while reflecting on Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad “Forgiveness and Justice: meditations on some hadiths

Forgiveness and Rahmah is the best argument against people who think justice means, just-us. There’s a connectedness there in all our actions, even being connected with Allah- like, if a Muslim forgives someone else and shows clemency and mercy, than Allah looks upon that person’s action and says, “I am more merciful than my servant. I am the most merciful of the merciful” and then shows even more generosity in forgiving that person and making things easy for him. Allah commands us to adl’ wal ihsan- justice and excellence (forgiveness/mercy/clemency/compassion) because I think, it is more fitting of God’s Majesty, and perhaps more beloved to Him, to be associated with that mercy, more than simple mechanical justice.

I think just about everything in Islam has this in it: God wants us to be something more than just a creature (like the horn/hornless animals) demanding it’s “human rights,” (the allusion is intentional), to just demand justice with a sense of privilege and entitlement, he wants us to be worthy of Jannah, and that is why He pushes us to Islam, to tazkiya, to ihsan, “God only desires good for mankind,” and “Allah has no intention of oppressing the universe” (Surah Ale Imran) and “He who purifies himself has succeeded” (Sura al-’Ala). And to purify oneself is to come to know oneself- weaknesses, tendencies, and fragility of life. Maulana Rumi says this is why there are difficulties, so that God can call man with a title of merit, of virtue, and rightly do so. So that perhaps, we won’t feel like a bunch of free-loaders, leechers, and scam artists entering Jannah, we’ll feel worthy of it, like the martyr/saint mentioned in the hadith, who has earned his place.

“For those who believe not in the Hereafter is an evil description, and for Allah is the highest description. And He is the Almighty, the All-wise.” (An-Nahl 16:60)) We will feel like we belong there and see something of ourselves, our actions, the vision of good, in that blessed place. I think in that, we come to actually know God. Otherwise, its like what Shaykh Hamza Yusuf said, “the sign of the righteous is they are grateful and love those who do good to them while the sign of the hypocrite is to hate the person who does good to them.” We don’t come to God as someone asking for welfare or unemployment payments, but as the king that Adam once was in Jannah. We’ll be back at our place once again. So, I think in a sense, it comes back full circle- if Allah is to show His mercy, so should we. His mercy to us is contingent upon our performance/merciful nature- like the hadith, man la yarham la yurham, that whoever does not show mercy, will not be shown mercy. Maybe that is why it remains a mystery as to the status of nonbelievers, believers, and the tension between justice and forgiveness remains in Islam, and in a ghayb, because its a work in progress that is unravelling with our existence; that if we ultimately fail to recognize God, and to recognize the goodness emanating from Him, than we fail to recognize ourselves and are doomed to hellfire, wherein we continue to remain ignorant, questioning and lamenting our sins, how we failed and where now is God’s mercy and hope? There is a possibility not simply of the chance of God’s “soft-heartedness” overpowering His wrath, but of also man’s soft-heartedness overpowering his wrath, towards himself, others and by extension, God. And that can have a deciding factor in the justice Allah serves.

In this way, justice and mercy becomes connected to fate and free-will- whether what is written in the Lawh al-Mahfuz is changed, how much is changed, as a work in progress (“In a book, that ONLY the purified can touch,” Quran) and what it will ultimately come to mean on Yawmul qiyamah. Questions of free-will/destiny are reified when in fact, they are more of a mechanism/condition that allow for man to work, and yet be protected/insured by God. What if Justice and Destiny are not a dichotomy, but rather one in the same? “Is it these poor believers that Allah has favored from amongst us? Does not Allah know best those who are grateful?” (Anam, 6:53) “Had Allah known any good in them, He would’ve made them listen.” (Anfal, 8:23)

There is divine mercy insofar as we are capable in our meek condition of seeing it and witnessing it, upon a continuum, everything beyond that to us seems like justice, when in fact it may really be mercy.

“The Sentence that comes from Me cannot be changed” (Qaf 50:29) But God is also All-Knowing and so the finality of it all, rests with Him, all that is with us is the temporary present, the escaping moment to grab the valuable good deeds, before the house of our existence collapses.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace, said: ‘I smile because of two men from
my nation, who shall kneel in the presence of the Lord of Power. One of them
says: ‘O my Lord, grant me retaliation for the wrong which my brother did to
me.’ And God says: ‘Give your brother that in which he was wronged.’ ‘O
Lord,’ he says, ‘none of my righteous works remain.’ Then God the Exalted
says to the man who made the demand: ‘What shall you do with your brother,
seeing that none of his righteous works remain?’ And he replies: ‘O my Lord!
Let him bear some of my burdens in my stead!’ And God’s Messenger wept, as
he said: ‘Truly, that shall be a fearsome Day, a Day when men have need of
others to bear their burdens.’ Then he said: ‘God shall say to one who made
the request: ‘Lift up your head, and look to the Gardens.’ This he does, and he
says: ‘O my Lord! I see high cities of silver, and golden palaces wreathed about
with pearls. For which Prophet shall they be, or which saint or martyr?’
And he said: ‘They belong to whomsoever pays me their price.’ ‘O my Lord,’ he
says, ‘And who possesses such a price?’ ‘You possess it,’ he replies. ‘And what
might it be?’ he asks, and He says: ‘Your forgiveness of your brother.’ ‘O my
Lord!’ he says, ‘I have forgiven him!’ Then God the Exalted says: ‘Take your
brother’s hand and bring him into Heaven.’ Then God’s Messenger recited His
word: ‘Fear God, and make reconciliation among yourselves.’ (Qur’an 8:1)
26 al-Hakim al-Nïsaburi, al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-sahihayn (Hyderabad, Da’irat al-Ma‘arif al-
‘Uthmaniyye, 1915), IV, 576. (From Abdul Hakim Murad’s essay, “Forgiveness and Justice“)

Perhaps the best way to summarize the question then is that the real question of justice/mercy lies with us, not with Allah. “What! Can there be a doubt about Allah?” (Ibrahim 40:10) Do we want to be constrained by Justice or liberated by it or do we want to be constrained by Mercy or liberated by it? Or at the end of it, will we just become frustrated with human justice and give up and simply want God to decide because He is the only One capable of deciding?

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Asking Forgiveness in the Qur’an and Mawlana Rumi’s Masnavi

Asking Forgiveness in the Qur’an and the Masnavi

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Asking Forgiveness in the Qur’an and Mawlana Rumi’s Masnavi by Ibrahim Gamard

We are asked to pray with total sincerity: “Astaghfiru ‘llâh” [“estafurullah”, in Turkish]. This means in Arabic, “I seek [asta-] the forgiveness of God [ghfir-Allâh]!” –for myself and others. We ask God to cover and purify us from the effects of our wrongdoing through His divine attribute, the Most Forgiving [al-Ghafûr– a word which occurs ninety times in the Qur’an].

In the Holy Qur’an, this phrase takes two forms. We are commanded to ask God’s forgiveness: “and [wa] ask the forgiveness [astaghfir] of God [Allâh].” And we have the example of the Prophets (peace be upon them all), who prayed to God: “and [wa] forgive us [aghfir la-nâ]!” In the Masnavi, Mevlana does not use these words, but instead combines Persian verbs with the word “istighfâr,” which occurs once in the Qur’an: “And Abraham asked (God’s) forgiveness for his father. . . ” [Qur’an 9:114].

“And ask the forgiveness of God [wa ‘staghfiri ‘llâh]. Truly, God is Most Forgiving [Ghafûr], Merciful” [Qur’an 4:106].

“Know that there is no divinity except God [lâ illâha illâ ‘llâh], and ask forgiveness for your sins (wa ‘staghfir li-dhanbi-ka), and for the (sins of all other) men and women who believe” [Qur’an 47:19].

“So be patient (in adversity), for the promise of God (always comes) true. And ask forgiveness for your sins [wa ‘staghfir li-dhanbi-ka]. And celebrate the praises (Hamd) of your Lord in the evening and the morning” [Qur’an 40:55].

“Celebrate the praises [Hamd] of your Lord, and ask His forgiveness [wa ‘staghfir-hû], for truly He is Turning” (in Mercy toward those who repent) [Qur’an 110:3].

“O our Lord! Forgive me [rabba-nâ ‘ghfir lî] and my parents and (all) the believers on the Day when the Reckoning is established!” [Qur’an 14:42].

“And all they said was: ‘O our Lord! Forgive us our sins [rabba-nâ ‘ghfir la-nâ dhunûba-nâ] and our excesses in our affairs’. . . ”
[Qur’an 3:147].

“O our Lord! We believe (in You), so forgive us [fa ‘ghfir la-nâ] and have mercy on us! for You are the Best of the merciful ones!” [Qur’an 23:109].

“O our Lord! Perfect for us our light [nûr], and forgive us [wa ‘ghfir la-nâ]. Truly, You have Power over all things!” [Qur’an 66:8].

“O our Lord! Don’t make us bear what we lack the strength for! Blot out (our sins) from us and forgive us [wa ‘ghfir la-nâ] and be merciful to us. You are our Supreme Master!” [anta mawlâ-nâ — Qur’an 2:286].

–translated from the Arabic by Ibrahim Gamard (with gratitude for the translations of Yusuf ‘Ali, Muhammad Asad, Muhammad ‘Ali, and Mohammad Pickthall)

Asking Forgiveness in the Mawlana Rumi’s Masnavi

“Why do you bring dark deceits in (your) arguing before the seeing ones? (For) whatever deceptions and secrets you keep are open and clear like the day to us. Learn from (your) father: for Adam in (his) sin came down agreeably to the (lowest) stepping place. When he saw that Knower of the Secrets, he stood up on his two feet for the sake of seeking forgiveness [istighfâr]. He sat upon the ashes of remorse; he did not jump from branch to branch due to (claiming) excuses. He said, ‘O our Lord! Truly we did wrong!’ [Qur’an 7:23] when he saw the (angelic) guardians in front and behind.” –Masnavi IV: 321-22, 324-26)

“At the time of illness, there is regret and wailing, (and) the time of illness is entirely wakefulness. (At) the time when you become ill, you pray for forgiveness [istighfâr] from sins. The ugliness of sin is shown to you (and) you make the intention to return to the (right) way. You make promises and agreements that after this you won’t choose any action except obedience (to God). Therefore, this has become certain: that your illness gives you awareness and wakefulness. So know this principle, O seeker of the source: whoever has pain, takes on its scent. Whoever (is) more awake (is) more suffering, (and) whoever (is) more aware (of God) (is) more sallow of face.”
–Masnavi I: 623-629)

“The God-conscious person is the one who has become fed-up with the way of Pharaoh and has become like Moses. Become like the people of Moses (and) drink this (river) water; make peace with the Moon and see (beautiful) moonlight. . . . The mountain (of unbelief) will never go into the hole of a needle, unless it becomes a single thread. Make the mountain a straw by seeking forgiveness [istighfâr] and happily grab the cup of the forgiven and drink joyfully. (But) since God made it forbidden to the unbelievers, how will you drink from that (river) with this (Egyptian-like) deception?. . . . Become like the people of Moses, for there is no profit in deceit; your deceit is (like) measuring empty wind. Will the water maintain (defiant) boldness against the Command of the Eternal and become watery (rather than appearing as blood) for the unbelievers?. . . . Do you think that when you read the words of the Masnavi you can hear them free of charge? Or that words of wisdom and hidden secrets will come easily into (your) ears and mouths? It comes in, but (is) like fables; it shows the husk, not the berry-kernel. A sweetheart has drawn a veil upon her head and face (and) has made her face hidden from your eyes. From (your) insolence, the (entertaining fables of the) Shâhnâma or Khalîla have become like the Qur’an for you. The difference between the truth and the superficial is when the medicine of (Divine) Grace opens the eyes. Otherwise, sheep dung and musk are both the same to someone with a diseased nose, since there is no sense of smell.

He keeps himself busy (in this way) because of boredom; his purpose is to (keep away) from the Word of the Lord of Glory. . . . But if you become aware of this pure water, which is the Word of God and full of spirituality, temptation will be entirely destroyed from (your) soul, (and your) heart will find the way to the rose garden.”
–Masnavi IV: 3446-47, 3451-53, 3455-56, 3459-66, 3470-71)

“If the fire of your nature causes sorrow, its burning is caused by the command of the KING of religion. (And) if the fire of your nature gives joy, the KING of religion puts joy into it. When you experience sorrow, ask forgiveness [istighfâr], for sorrow is effective in (changing) the command of the Creator. Whenever He wills, the nature of pain becomes joy (and) the nature of bondage becomes freedom.”
–Masnavi I: 834-837

“Troop by troop, the army of our (mental) images comes quickly toward the fountain of the heart. They fill (their) jars and go; they keep appearing and disappearing. Know that thoughts are (like) the stars of the heavens, (but) circling in the spheres of another sky. If you meet good fortune, give thanks (to God and) share generously. (But if) you meet misfortune, give charity and ask forgiveness [istighfâr] (from God). . . . Deliver (my soul) from (false) imagination, doubt, and false opinions; deliver it from the well and the tyranny of the rope (which held and captured Joseph), so that from Your beneficial comforting Love, a heart (like mine) may raise its wings and fly up from (this body of) water and clay!”
–Masnavi VI: 2782-85, 2788-89

Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (with gratitude for Nicholson’s 1926-34 British translation)

Your Differences are a Mercy: A Weekend with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani in Texas – Risala Foundation

Your Differences are a Mercy: A Weekend with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani in Texas – Risala Foundation

Risala Foundation is proud to announce Shaykh Faraz Rabbani‘s visit to Houston on May 20-21.

FRIDAY, MAY 20 AT MASJID BILAL (11815 ADEL ROAD, HOUSTON TX)
– Khutbah @ 1.30
-Your Differences are a Mercy: It’s Not All Black and White, after Maghrib

SATURDAY, MAY 21 AT MARYAM ISLAMIC CENTER (504 SARTARTIA ROAD, SUGAR LAND TX)
-True Love: A Muslim’s Guide to a Successful Marriage (Workshop) @ 11.30 AM
-The Myth of Parental Obedience: Separating Fact from Tradition, after Maghrib

All events are free and open to the public.

Facebook event page

More info about Risala

Remembering the Chosen One – The Prophet Muhammad – Sh. Yahya Rhodus, Sh. Ibrahim Osi-Efa, & Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam – Video

Remembering al-Mustafa (S) with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus on Vimeo

Recorded live at Remembering al-Mustafa event held by The Ribat Institute at St Columba’s house in Woking, England, on 25th of February 2011, 22 Rabi al-Awwal 1432, with Sh. Yahya Rhodus, Sh. Ibrahim Osi-Efa, & Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam.

 

 

1. Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa:

 

2. Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam:

 

3. Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

 

The book recommended by Shaykh Yahya is available online, in Arabic pdf:

Sifat Salat al-Muqarrabin – Imam al-Hasan ibn Salih al-Bahr al-Jifry

 

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Understand the Instructions First, Before You Take The Exam – Imam al-Haddad

Two Treatises

In the text, ‘Two Treaties Mutual Reminding & Good Manners’, by Imam Abdallah ibn ‘Alawi al-Haddad the following is mentioned regarding how to treat creation when we detest their behavior:

“It is in a believer’s nature to love that which God loves and to detest that which God detests.  Thus, a believer will detest ugliness and chaos, which in the context of human behavior is willful disobedience to God, leading to all kinds of evil and sin.

But a believer detests only evil thoughts, feelings, and deeds, never a human being as such, or for that matter any other created being.  Human beings belong to the Creator; they are attributed to Him.  He treats them with mercy, providing for them generously, even as they disobey and rebel against Him.

The believer must of necessity model his feelings and behavior on his Lord’s. He may thus disapprove of someone’s behavior, but this should never prevent him from treating him with gentleness and courtesy, helping him when in need, counseling him whenever appropriate, and imploring God to guide him to the straight path.”

The text, Two Treaties Mutual Reminding & Good Manners, is highly recommended. Available through IslamicBookstore.com and elsewhere.

(with thanks to Sidi Nasir al-Amin)

 

 

Justice as Sadaqa (Charity) – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad via Allahcentric

Justice as Sadaqa (Charity) – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad « Allahcentric

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These are meditations by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad on some hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) related to justice. The balance of Mercy and Justice; the true understanding of justice and its relationship with complete balance; how political justice is (and isn’t) sought; political quietism in the face of misconduct by rulers; classical sects that promoted militancy, and their modern inheritors; the tension between justice and forgiveness; the redress of wrongs; and the need for jurists (and those seeking to promote justice) to be grounded in spirituality.

 

The full text may be found at Sidi Mas’ud Khan’s Site (www.Masud.co.uk):  Justice as Sadaqa (pdf)

 

An extract:

 

(2) There is an act of charity [sadaqa] to be given for each part of the human body and for every day over which the sun rises there is a reward of a |adaqa for theone who establishes justice among people.

Justice (‘adl) is due balance (i‘tidal): it is impartiality. The same word is employed to describe the balance of the body’s four humours. When these are in balance, right thinking and health are the consequence. When they are not, the Qur’an speaks of the last day when ‘their tongues, their hands and their feet will bear witness to what they used to do.’ (24:24)

To purify the body from the disorders which both engender and result from sin, a system of worship is gifted in revelation, which culminates in the placing of the forehead, the symbol of human pride and of self-oriented thought, upon the earth. The tongue ‘gives charity’ by praising God, and by speaking words of reconciliation. The hands do so by working to earn a lawful income, and by striving to right wrong sin society.

Taken together, the purifying ‘charity’ offered by the parts of the believer’s body always has a social impact, the highest aspect of which must be to ‘establish justice’, not only by avoiding unbalanced temptations, but by working to establish a political order in which justice is safeguarded.

Political work is thus conceived as a sacrifice. Never is political authority ‘sought’, in the conventional profane understanding, for a hadith says: ‘Do not seek political power, for if you obtain it by seeking it, it will be given power over you.’ This refers to a selfish, egotistic pursuit (hirs) of power, rather than to the selfless seeking of power for the sake of the establishment of justice for others. The model is the Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) who endangers himself in order to establish God’s justice in a feuding Arabia, and who ends his life in holy poverty, despite the advantages he could have gained from having been born into the aristocracy.

And:

 

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Towards the close of the classical Friday sermon, the preacher recites the Qur’¥nic passage which runs: ‘God enjoins justice and goodness.’ (16:90) The first is clearly not sufficient; or the second would not have been mentioned. Islam’s is a god of justice, but also of mercy. The extent to which the latter virtue can override the former in political life can only be defined in a very limited way in books of law. In Islamic legal culture, which grants the judge more discretion than the heavily statutory jurisdictions of the West, the judge has much room for mercy. In the Religion of Wisdom and Compassion, which deeply trusts human beings, it is no surprise that he should have been given this privilege. But his responsibility is grave, and if he is to escape GodÆs own Rigour, he must first defeat his ego. Sufism, the schoolroom of the selfless virtues, thus becomes the most fundamental juristic science.

 

 

Sidi Mas’ud Khan’s Site (www.Masud.co.uk):  Justice as Sadaqa (pdf)

 

Many thanks to Sidi Khuram Zaman, for bringing our attention to this, by posting it on his excellent Allahcentric blog, here.

Qur’anic Reflections: Divine Tests and the Great Virtue of Steadfast Patience

In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful

Divine Tests and the Great Virtue of Steadfast Patience

 

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Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an:

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, who, when distress strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the truly guided.” [Qur’an, 2.155-157]

It has come in hadith from the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk) that, “Whoever says ‘innaa li’l Llahi wa innaa ilayhi raji`un (We are Allah’s and to Him is our return)’ in distress, Allah will reward them for it and grant them good in exchange.”

It has also come in hadith that once a lamp got extinguished, so the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said “innaa li’l Llahi wa innaa ilayhi raji`un (We are Allah’s and to Him is our return).” A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) remarked, “It is only a lamp!” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) responded, “Everything that displeases the believer is distress.” [Abu Dawud, in his Marasil]

The Meaning of ‘innaa li’l Llahi wa innaa ilayhi raji`un’ (We are Allah’s and to Him is our return)

It is explained in Tafsir al-Jalalayn that this means:

(We are Allah’s) as His property and servants, and He can do with us as He wills. (And to Him is our return) in the Hereafter, where He will recompense us.

Realization of Slavehood

This is a realization of one’s slavehood (`ubudiyya), that Allah is both one’s Creator and Sustainer; that everything is from Allah; and that one’s responsibility and opportunity is to accept things insofar as they are from Allah, and to turn to Him in both ease and distress in the ways most likely to be most pleasing to Him.

The Meaning of “Give good tidings to the patient”

Patience is to remain firm on what is pleasing to Allah.

Ibn Ajiba states:

(Give good tidings to the patient) namely, those who remain resolute in their seeking. They shall attain unto everything that they long for, and will reach that will they set forth for. They are those when faced by obstacles or impediments realize their neediness as servants of Allah, and attach themselves to the Power of His Lordship. So they return to Allah in all matters. And He thereby grants them shelter from all things. This are the ones who have particular concern from their Lord and those whom He draws close. (And it is those who are truly guided) to close proximity to the Beloved. [Ibn Ajiba, al-Bahr al-Madid]

Shaykh al-Islam Abu Su`ud said in his Qur’anic exegesis,

Patience is not merely uttering this statement of return (“innaa li’llahi…”) with the tongue. Rather, it is to affirm its meaning with the heart (at well), such that one brings to mind what one was created for; that one is returning to their Lord; reminding oneself of Allah’s blessings upon one; and to remember that what remains of these blessings is many times greater than what was lost (in the difficulty). If one does this, then the distress will become easy to bear, and it will return to submission.”

He continues by explaining that the good tidings are what is mentioned after: it is such steadfastly patient individuals are those who are truly guided to all that is correct and true–which is why they surrender, submit, and return to Allah in accepting His Decree (qada’). And it is these people who succeed in attaining their religious and worldly goals, because anyone who attains unto their Allah’s concern, mercy, and blessings will not have missed out on anything worth seeking. [Tafsir Abu’s Su`ud]

Ibn Juzayy states:

A point of benefit: Patience has been mentioned in the Qur’an in more than seventy places, because of the tremendousness of its place in religion. Some of the scholar have said that all good deeds have known reward except for patience, because the reward of patience is beyond measure–because Allah Most High states, “The patient shall be granted their reward beyond measure.”

 

Related Entries:

SG Blog: The Qur’an on Patience, Steadfastness, Resolve, Mindfulness, and Success – 3.200

SG IslamCast: Patience (sabr)–its virtues, reality, and manifestation – Faraz Rabbani – Khutba

Guidance of the Prophet Muhammad on the Virtues of Patience (and Thankfulness) in Tribulation and Hardship

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani

Why Is the Prophet’s Character Described as Being Tremendous?

Why Is the Prophet’s Character Described as Being Tremendous?

Faraz Rabbani

In the Qur’an, the Prophet is addressed directly, “Truly, you are of tremendous character.” [Qur’an, 68.4] This Qur’anic verse intrigued Muslim scholars, early and late, especially the Qur’anic exegetes and the masters of the spiritual path, especially as the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself emphasized that, “I was only sent to perfect noble character,” [Ahmad] and said, “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character.” [Tirmidhi]

What is good character?

Good character, Ghazali explains in his Ihya’, is an inward disposition that causes one to incline towards praiseworths inward traits and praiseworthy outward actions.

How is good character manifest?

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and others relate that the sum of Prophetic teachings is that good character is manifest in five matters:

(1) Fulfilling the rights of others

(2) Avoiding hurting or harming others

(3) Being cheerful and positive in one’s dealing with others

(4) Recognizing the good of others and reciprocating

(5) Responding to the wrong of others with nothing but the good.

These five manifestations of good character don’t only summarize the Prophetic teachings on good character, but they also summarize the Prophet Muhammad’s own character and conduct.

First. As for fulfilling the rights of others, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) emphasized that, “Give everyone who has a right their due right,” [Bukhari] and he warned against non-fulfillment of others’ rights, “Injustice shall become manifold darkness on the Day of Judgment.” [Bukhari]

Second. Avoiding hurting or harming others is a corollary of fulfilling the rights of others. However, sometimes one can fulfill others’ rights in ways that hurt them; or we follow the follow the fulfillment of rights with hurtful reminders; or strive to fulfill rights, without considering how others feel or may consider our efforts.

Third. Being cheerful and positive in one’s dealings with others. The Prophet is described as always having been full of concern, yet he was always cheerful.

Fourth. Recognizing the good of others entails not only thanking and reciprocating those who do obvious acts of good to one, but to reflect, consider, and appreciate the less-obvious (but significant) good that countless people to for one–both directly and indirectly. We owe our very lives to our parents. When did we last thank them? Our teachers, whether at school or university, have taught us so much. When did we last thank them? The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) cautioned that, “Whoever is not thankful to people is not thankful to God.” [Ahmad, Tirmidhi, and Abu Dawud]

Fifth. The greatest test of character is responding to the wrong of others with nothing but the good. This tests one’s character because one’s personal urge would customarily be to reciprocate; and one’s negative urge would be to affirm oneself. However, the way of Prophets is to respond with nothing but the good.

Upon Entering Mecca, Victorious

When the Prophet Muhamamad (peace and blessings be upon him) entered Mecca as a victor, people expected that he would seek revenge two decades of opposition, wrong, and injustice from his people. The Meccans were fearful, and some hastened to declare that, “Today is a day of slaughter.” The Prophet responded that, instead, “Today is a day of righteousness and loyalty,” and he forgave them in public address, saying, “I say to you today as Joseph said to his brothers,’There is no blame on you today. May God forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of the merciful.’ [Qur’an, 12.92] Go! For you are free.”  [Salihi, Subul al-Huda wa’l Rashad]

A bedouin once came to the Prophet, seeking some money. Without introduction or greetings, he said, “Muhammad! Give me, for you’re not giving me from your money or your father’s money.”

Despite the man’s rudeness, the Prophet gave him, and asked, “Have I pleased you?” The bedouin replied, “No, and you haven’t done me good.”

The Muslims who were standing around them were angered and surrounded the bedouin. The Prophet signaled for them to restrain, and he entered his house.

He asked for the bedouin to be invited in. When he entered, the Prophet gave him some money, and asked, “Are you pleased?” He replied, “No.” The Prophet gave him more, and asked, “Are you pleased?” The bedouin responded, “Yes, we are pleased.”

The Prophet told him, “You came to us and asked us. We gave you, and then you said what you said. As a result, there is something in the hearts of the Muslims regarding that. If you were to say in front of them what you said to me, that might remove those feelings from their hearts.” The man agreed, and mentioned the Prophet with praise and thanked him in front of the Prophet’s Companions. [Salihi, Subul al-Huda wa’l Rashad]

The Prophet was unaffected by the man’s words. His concern was for the good of the man himself and the feelings of his Companions. Why? This returns to the understanding why the Prophet character was described as being “tremendous” in the Qur’an.

Imam Junayd al-Baghdadi, one of the foremost authorities of Islamic spirituality (tasawwuf) and others have explained that, “The Prophet’s character was termed tremendous because his concern was for God alone.” [Qurtubi, Jami Ahkam al-Qur’an] What moved the Prophet was the pursuit of His Lord’s pleasure, both in acting and in responding.

This was manifest in small matters, too. Once a woman brought a baby for the Prophet to bless him. The Prophet placed him on his chest, and the child urinated. The mother reached out for the child, anxious. The Prophet signalled to let the child finish first. After that, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) calmly rinsed the area lightly. He didn’t want to alarm the child, nor make the mother feel bad.

It is also related that though he was the busiest of people, young girls in Medina would take the Prophet’s and and would take him wherever they went–and he wouldn’t let go of their hand until they let go of his. [Bukhari, Sahih]

Lessons in Mercy

We see from this that the Prophetic example is nothing but a manifestation of mercy. And any understanding of religion lacking in mercy is lacking in true understanding. After all, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) having been, “sent only as a mercy to all creation.” [Qur’an, 21.107] The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself emphasized that, “I was only sent as a gift of Mercy.” [Bazzar and Tabarani]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) explained, too, that, “The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth and the Lord of the Heavens will be merciful to you.” [Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud, from Abd Allah ibn Amr; rigorously authentic] It is a sign of the way of traditional Islamic scholarship that this is the first hadith (Prophetic teaching) traditionally conveyed by a scholar to their students.

This mercy, manifest in good character in one’s dealings with people, is the test and barometer of faith. After all, “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character,” as the Prophet affirmed. [Tirmidhi]

It once happened that some non-Muslims greeted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) with an insult. His wife, A’isha, insulted them back. But the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not. Rather, he simply replied, “And upon you,” which is the standard reply to the greeting of, “Peace be upon you.” Then, he said to his dear wife, “A’isha! Allah is gentle and loves gentleness in all matters.” [Bukhari, from Ai’sha] And he also taught that, “Gentleness is not found in anything except that it makes it beautiful; and gentleness is not taken out of anything except that is makes it ugly.” [Muslim and others, also from A’isha]

The Key to All Relations

The Prophet made clear that the key to all relationships is upholding good character and maintaining it, even when tested. He said, “Deal with people on the basis of good character,” [Tirmidhi] and affirmed that, “Forbearance is the very best of character.”

Forbearance is for one not to be moved by anger or negative emotion–but to make one’s response based on reason and (for a believer) Revelation. Forbearance is, ultimately, intelligence, as it is the capacity to respond in the best of ways to each situation.

This restraint and concern for excellence and the greater good that underly excellence of character–and that made the Prophet Muhammad’s character “tremendous”–are virtues each of us would do well to strive for in our own lives and relationships, both as individuals and communities.

Faraz Rabbani is Educational Director and Instructor at SeekersGuidance (www.SeekersGuidance.com), a columnist for Islamica Magazine, Founder and Legal Advisor at StraightWay Ethical Advisory, and the author of a number of works on Islamic law and spirituality. He lives in Toronto with his wife and three lovely children.