NORMS FOR A SUBLIME MORALITY – 1

A believer can develop a perfect spiritual character only by adopting the sublime morality of the Prophet (pbuh). This aim is achievable to the degree that one loves the Prophet, the pride of the universe, and reveres his example.

From the blessed tongue of the Messenger of Allah, humanity heard heavenly words that cured and illuminated hearts. Through the agency of the Messenger, the glory of creation, human beings are granted an endless ocean of forgiveness It is due to the Messenger, the master of the universe, that the human race is addressed by Allah the Almighty with the words “O My servants!”

In the face of all these blessings of Allah, we, as the people of Muhammad, ought live according to his way, doing wholeheartedly what he enjoined us to do and abstaining from what he forbade us.

Allah the Almighty granted the most honorable position, the “praised station,” (al-maqam al-mahmud) to the Prophet (pbuh). Allah also counseled the Prophet as befit his honorable position. And since the Prophet (pbuh) was so tender and affectionate toward his people, he invited us to join him, that we might follow together the path which Allah showed him. Here are some of those counsels.

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The Prophet said (pbuh), “My Lord bade me to fear Him at all times, whether alone or in public. I advise you to follow me in that.”[1] In order to follow this guidance, he meticulously kept all the orders of Allah, commenting, ““I swear by Allah that I am the one among you who fears, submits to, and respects Allah the most!” (Sahih Bukhari, Nikah 1).

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When he was about to leave a group of people, the Prophet always prayed “O Allah! Please give us a portion of that fear which will place a barrier between us and sins!” (Tirmidhi, Da`awat 79).

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The Prophet (pbuh) had the honor of knowing Allah more deeply than any other human being. He once said to the Companions: “If you were to know what I know, you would laugh less and cry more.”Upon hearing these words the Companions burst into tears. (Bukhari, Tafsir 5/12).

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Allah the Almighty promises Paradise to His servants who fear Him in secret or in public. It is said in the Qur’an:

And as for him who fears to stand in the presence of his Lord and forbids the soul from low desires, then surely the Garden – that is the abode.(Nazi`at, 79/40-41).

And

This is what you were promised: (it is) for everyone who turns frequently (to Allah]) and keeps (His limits), who fears the Beneficent Allah in secret and comes with a penitent heart. (Qaf, 50/32-33).

And

Their sides draw away from (their) beds; they call upon their Lord in fear and in hope, and they spend (benevolently) out of what We have given them.(Sajdah, 32/16).

The nights of the Messengers and Friends of Allah, which they spend in fear of Allah and in hope of His beneficence, are brighter than the day, for their nights are filled with the serenity and spirituality of their prostration in tears.

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The Prophet (pbuh) said:“My Lord ordained me to judge with justice whether in times of anger or of peace. (I do advise the same to you).” One may easily leave a balanced position for an extreme one in times of anger, and judge unjustly. But we should remember Allah and the Hereafter and act in patience, not incline to injustice.

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Our Lord says in the Qur’an:

O you who believe! Be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness of Allah’s sake, though it may be against your own selves…” (Nisa’, 4/135).

And

… act equitably; surely Allah loves those who act equitably.(Hujurat, 49/9).

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Touching upon several issues, The Prophet (pbuh) said, “There are three conditions of salvation: to act justly in times of anger as well as peace; to spend moderately not only in poverty but also in wealth; and to fear Allah both in private and public. (Haythami, I:90).

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A person of high rank came to the Prophet to ask him to suspend the punishment of a thief . The Prophet (pbuh) answered him: “I would carry out that punishment even if the culprit were my daughter Fatimah.” (Bukhari, Anbiya’ 54; Muslim, Hudud 8, 9).[2]

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Justice is essential for the welfare of individuals and society alike. Therefore Hadrat `Umar (r.a) said: “Justice is essential to a successful government.”

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During the reign of `Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz, who reigned for only two and half years in the 92-year-long `Umayyad period and is held to be the fifth great caliph of Islam, the people of the `Umayyad state lived in peace and security because of equitable and just governance. Cruelty does not bring peace, and states cannot stand without justice. The story of a Christian architect who sued the Ottoman sultan, Mehmed the Second, is an historic example in this regard. Though the judge of the court, Hizir Bey, was a close friend of the Sultan, his verdict was nonetheless against the Sultan. This story shows how the Ottomans regarded justice to be fundamental to state governance.

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The Prophet (pbuh) said: My Lord ordained me to spend moderately in poverty and in wealth. (I do advise the same to you).” Whether Allah has decreed us to be poor or rich, we should spend moderately, and never waste. The Prophet (pbuh) advised us to appreciate wealth before we face poverty.[3]

Allah the Almighty delineates how to spend moderately:

…and do not squander wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the fellows of the devils, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord. (Isra’, 17/26-27).

And do not keep your hand shackled to your neck nor stretch it forth to the utmost (limit) of its stretching forth, lest you should (afterwards) sit down blamed, destitute. (Isra’, 17/29).

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The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Those who spend moderately and keep away from wastefulness will never grow poor.” (Ibn Hanbal, I:477). And, “Whoever asks Allah to decide between two or more courses of action by consultative prayer (istikharah)[4]* will not be disappointed; and whoever asks advice will not regret; and whoever spends moderately will not grow poor.”(Haythami, al-Majmu`ah al-zawa’id, II:280).A believer should be aware that sovereignty belongs to Allah, and that the human being, as a deputy of Allah, holds worldly possessions only temporarily. We should spend only as much as we need upon ourselves, and spend the rest in the way of Allah.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

…And they ask you as to what they should spend. Say: What you can spare.(Baqarah, 2/219).

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The Prophet (pbuh) advised us to be rich in heart even when we are not rich materially: “Save yourself from the Fire by giving charity, even half a date. And let those of you who cannot find even that much save yourselves from the Fire by saying good words.” (Bukhari, Adab 34).

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Real welfare comes through spending in the way of Allah. One can serve and spend in the way of Allah only by earning through legitimate means, not yearning for material benefits. The Prophet (pbuh) said in this regard, Legitimate and useful goods, in the hands of a righteous person, are beyond praise.” (Ibn Hanbal, IV:202).

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Righteous believers are compassionate and affectionate. Compassion requires us to give what we have to those who do not have it. Indeed, compassion requires that we rush to meet the needs of the deprived. Compassion and generosity bring a Muslim both spiritual tranquility in this world and salvation in the Hereafter.

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Those who are rich and thankful, and those who are poor and patient, are both rare. Both groups are valuable servants in the eyes of Allah. People who are rich but generous and thankful, and people who are poor but honorable and patient, are equal in human esteem, and both win the pleasure of Allah. However, people who are rich but arrogant and miserly; and people who are poor but rebellious and impatient, are both dispraised in Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “O Lord! I seek refuge in you from the evil testing of wealth and poverty.” (Muslim, Dhikr 49). Thus, those who have the spiritual characters of contentment, acceptance, and submission are the truly wealthy. And one can maintain the joy of such wealth only by spending in the way of Allah.

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When a campaign was begun to raise resources for the Battle of Tabuk in the way of Allah, the poor Companions did their best to join that campaign by making sacrifices either from their efforts or from their limited possessions. One of these was Abu `Aqil (r.a) who earned two pails of dates by working all night. He brought one pail to his household and gave away the second for the Battle of Tabuk. The Prophet (pbuh) said to him, May Allah multiply both the pail you left at home and the one you brought here!” (Tabari, Tafsir, X:251).

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The Prophet (pbuh) said,“Once one dirham of charity was rewarded more than a hundred thousand dirhams!” The Companions asked: “How did that happen?” The Prophet (pbuh) replied, One man had only two dirhams of goods. He took half of it – namely, one dirham – and gave it away. Another man, a very rich one, took one hundred thousand dirhams of his merchandise and gave it to charity.” (Nasa`i, Zakat 49). The first man gave away half of what he had. The second contributed far more than the first, but his gift was only a fraction of his assets. Thus the value of our alms comes not from how much we give away, but from how sensitive we are in terms of self-sacrifice. The following story also points out this fact.

A man came into the presence of Hadrat `Uthman  saying, “O wealthy people! I admire you. You get all the blessings by giving charity, emancipating slaves, and going on the Pilgrimage!”

Hadrat `Uthman (r.a) asked him: “Do you really admire us?”

The man said: “Yes, I do really admire you!”

Hadrat `Uthman (r.a) replied: “I swear by Allah that just one dirham of charity given by a poor man under difficult conditions is more valuable than ten thousand dirhams contributed by a rich one.” (Ali al-Muttaqi, VI, 612/17098).

Shaykh Sa`di gives the following advices in this regard: “Allah the Almighty does not close the door of goodness to anyone. So know that everyone’s goodness is measured according to his or her capacity. A poor man’s small amount of alms is more valuable than a rich man’s huge amount. The leg of a locust is a huge burden for an ant.”

Thus the value of almsgiving or doing favors is evaluated according to the level of the sacrifice involved. The story of the three martyrs of Islam in the Battle of Yarmuk, when they all offered the only cup of water they had to one another before their last gasp, is a good example in this regard.

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The ideal of the Companions was to identify with the moral character of the Prophet (pbuh). In this way they managed to reach the zenith of compassion and ascetic life (zuhd). They lived in complete devotion, following the life principles of the Prophet (pbuh). They refrained from all forms of extravagance and waste. The rich among them were thankful, and the poor were patient. The selfless attitude of the Prophet (pbuh) in the distribution of war booty is an example of how he was thankful in times of abundance, and his binding a stone over his belly so as not to feel the pains of hunger is an example how he was patient in times of poverty.

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The Prophet (pbuh) said, Allah the Almighty ordained me to visit my kin even though they do not keep in touch with me. (I advise the same to you).” Allah the Almighty urges His servants to maintain relationships with family and to treat them kindly. Emphasizing the importance of visiting and looking after kin, the Prophet (pbuh) said, Allah sent me with a mission to maintain kinship, to destroy idols,. and to affirm the Oneness of Allah, not attributing partners to Him.” (Muslim, Musafirin 294).

It is incumbent on us, due to our faith, to keep in touch with family and to let them know, gently, what we are all invited to by Allah, even though they may not respond to our concern for them. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Returning favors to your kin does not mean that your responsibility toward them is fulfilled. The one who fulfills that responsibility keeps on doing favors despite their not being returned, and stays in touch with those who do not stay in touch themselves.”(Bukhari, Adab 15; Abu Dawud, Zakah 45).

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The Prophet (pbuh) is again the best example in this regard. Whenever he slaughtered an animal he sent some part of it to the relatives of his wife Khadijah (r.a) (Bukhari, al-Manaqib al-Ansar 20).

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The Prophet (pbuh) again said: “Learn your family tree so that you can keep your relationship with its members.”(Ali al-Muttaqi, al-Kanz, X:220, no. 29162).

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Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an that those who ignore visiting kin and do not look after them will be losers:

…those who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation and cut asunder what Allah has ordered to be joined (faith and kinship ties), and make mischief in the land; these it is who are the losers.”(Baqarah, 1/27).

[O hypocrites!] But if you held command, you would be sure to make mischief in the land and to cut off the ties of kinship! These it is whom Allah has cursed; He has made them deaf and blind.” (Muhammad, 47/22-23).

The Prophet (pbuh) also said that those who ignore visiting kin will be in grave loss. He said, “Those who cut off the ties of kinship cannot deserve Paradise.” (Bukhari, Adab 11) And he said, “Allah the Almighty will punish two groups of people in the Hereafter: tyrants, and those who neglect their kin. These two groups are also those who deserve most to be punished in worldly life.”(Abu Dawud, Adab 43; Tirmidhi, Qiyamah 57).

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The Prophet (pbuh) said, “My Lord ordered me to give to the one who took from me. (I do advise the same to you).” It is said in the Qur’an:

And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best, when lo! he between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend.”(Fussilat, 41/34).

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Do not break off relations with whoever breaks relations with you! Give to whoever never gave to you! Forgive whoever harmed you!” (Ibn Hanbal, IV:148, 158).

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The people of Mecca suffered from famine and drought in the second year of the Hijrah. The Prophet (pbuh) helped them, although they had fought against him for twenty years, by sending them gold, barley, and dates. It was Abu Sufyan who received these resources to distribute to the poor of the Quraysh.

A human being is bound to appreciate favors and good treatment. Such characteristics appease even an enemy. Even Abu Sufyan, the chief enemy of the Prophet, felt kindlier towards him because of his favor to the poor of Mecca. He said, “May Allah reward the son of my brother [the Prophet was Abu Sufyan’s nephew]! He fulfilled the rights of his kin.” (Yaqubi, al-Tarikh, II:56).

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Many people embraced Islam due to the Prophet’s noble-hearted character.

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The story of Prophet Joseph (pbuh) is of another example in this regard. His brothers threw him into a well because they envied him. Yet Prophet Joseph treated them well many years after the event when he met them in the palace of the Sultan of Egypt as a vizier. Upon his favor to them, they said:

… By Allah! Now has Allah certainly chosen you over us, and we were certainly sinners.(Yusuf, 12/91).

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It is incumbent upon us to find a way to the hearts of those we wish to direct to the true and virtuous path. The easiest way to do that is to exercise generosity, compassion, and forgiveness.

In order to be perfect believers and win the love of Allah, we should

always bear in our hearts the fear of Allah;

observe justice at all times, whether in anger or ease;

spend in the way of Allah, spending moderately upon ourselves whether in wealth and poverty;

keep in touch with kin;

show honor even toward those who behave relentlessly toward us; and forgive even those who tyrannize us.

May Allah guide us to follow the counsel of the Prophet (pbuh) as a shadow follows the one who casts it! May Allah adorn us with the moral character of the Prophet, who is the prime example for humanity, and include us among His righteous servants!

Amin

 

[1].    For this saying of the Prophet see İbrahim Canan, Hadis Ansiklopedisi, XVI, 252, no. 5838.

[2].    Bukhari, al-Maghazi 53; Nasa`i, al-Qat` al-Sariq, 6, VIII, 72-74.

[3].    Hakim, al-Mustadrak, IV:341.

[4].    * To seek divine help through prayer and dreams.