NORMS FOR A SUBLIME MORALITY – 3

Allah the Almighty created all beings, and human beings in particular, with an inclination to love. The spiritual progress humans make depends on the degree to which we can direct our love toward Allah and toward the doing of good deeds in this world, which is a divine classroom where we are examined by Allah. The unique and final goal of life is a love through which our souls can find peaceful settlement is Allah the Almighty, who breathed from His soul into ours. Every kind of ephemeral love that is directed to a mistaken object wanders in blind alleys. If our love does not reach Allah, it ends in nothing but exhaustion for the soul.

Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi remarked on our ignorance in this regard, “It is not surprising to see a lamb running from a wolf, since the wolf is an enemy and a predator of lambs. What is surprising is to see a lamb falling in love with a wolf!”

Our nature and welfare require us to make the love of Allah the center of our lives. Therefore all other transitory loves should build a ladder for us toward divine love. This is a primordial goal of the creation of humanity.

The shortest way to reach divine love is through the love of the Prophet (pbuh), the beloved Messenger of Allah. This goal can be achieved by following him in every aspect of life. Our response to him is required by a basic principle of love: a lover must love everything that the beloved loves. Such staunch commitment to Allah’s preferences is the bedrock of loving Allah.

Love of the Prophet (pbuh) reveals itself through peacefulness in worship, courtesy in personal relations, politeness in morality, tenderness of heart, radiance of face, spirituality in conversation, and depth of perspective. The only fountain from which all these beauties may be drawn is Muhammad (pbuh).

Indeed, our hearts can fully benefit from the heart of the Prophet (pbuh) only when we become moths turning around his light. Mawlânâ Jalaluddin Rumi gives us several examples of how divine love disseminates into the universe. These examples allow us to measure our love of the Prophet:

Innumerable moths jump into fire for the sake of love. They flutter in flame and burn, saying in the language of their state, “You become like me!” ….

The candle flames and weeps. It submits itself to the fire and suffers gravely. It gives out light while dissolving in tears. The candle says: “It is useless to spend gold and silver wildly in order to bring yourself profit. If you want spiritual profit, burn and melt like me!”

The Prophet (pbuh) whom we love dearly wept again and again, repeating “My community, my community!” His love and compassion for his community were incomparably stronger than those of a loving and affectionate mother for her children. He was anxious about what his community would be facing on the Day of Judgment, and he suffered much to save his people. He said, “In the way of Allah I was subjected to much suffering that no one had faced before.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah 34/2472).

The Prophet (pbuh) said to the Companions: “Be careful! I am a protection for you on earth while I am alive, and I will continue in my grave. I will keep praying for you to Allah the Almighty, saying ‘My community, my community!’ until the last trump of doom.” (Ali al-Muttaqi, al-Kanz al-Ummah, vol. 14, p. 414).

For the sake of our eternal life, we should truly love the Prophet (pbuh) more than we love ourselves, since he told us, “A believer will be together with the one he loves.” (Bukhari, Adab 96). All Muslims should show loyalty to the Prophet’s community because of his love for it.. That loyalty is an indicator of how much we love him.

Here are two counsels from the Prophet (pbuh) that we can use as capital to invest toward our worldly and otherworldly wellbeing.

1. “My Lord ordained that I forgive whoever oppressed me (personally). (I advise you to follow me in that.)”[1]

Forgiveness is valuable when one has the ability to punish and retaliate and yet forgives instead. Such behavior manifests love toward the creation for the sake of our love of the Creator. Muslims should be humble enough to decline revenge, leaving transgressors to the trial of Allah on the Day of Judgment. Such acts of forgiveness are acts of pure spiritual merit for mature and decent believers. By continually forgiving others, the faithful person wins forgiveness from Allah.

Hadrat `Umar (r.a) said, Whoever does not show mercy is not shown mercy. Whoever does not forgive is not forgiven.” (Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad, p. 415, 371).

Forgiveness is not attractive to our lower-self. It is therefore a great virtue to forgive for the sake of Allah. Since the value of an act depends upon its difficulty, Allah appreciates our forgiving to the extent of our struggle to forgive.

A man who was weak at overcoming anger asked the Prophet (pbuh) to give him advice. The Prophet (pbuh) simply said, “Do not get angry!” The man asked the same thing three times.. The Prophet (pbuh) gave him the same answer three times. (Bukhari, Adab 76).

The Prophet (pbuh) urged his community to develop the habit of forgiveness. He said, “Don’t be like the ones who say, ‘If people do good to us, we will do good to them. If they do evil to us, we will do evil to them’. Make a practice of being good toward those who do good to you and those who do evil to you, alike!” (Tirmidhi, Birr 63/2007). A Turkish proverb touches on the same point: “Even the simple return a favor for a favor – only the mature return a favor for a slight.” Such a practice is in fact a method of spiritual training.

When an enemy receives a favor in return for an evil act, that person’s heart may soften and hostility may cease. Through an act of forgiveness, an uncommitted person may become a friend – and an ordinary friend may become a close friend.

It is said in the Qur’an:

The good and the evil are not alike. Repel (evil) with that which is better, and then he between whom and you was enmity may become like an intimate friend. (Fussilat, 41/34).

Ibn `Abbas (r.a) interpreted this verse thus: “The phrase what is better” refers to being patient in times of anger, and to forgiving when one is done evil. Allah the Almighty saves those who can manage such a practice, making their enemies surrender and become friends.” (Bukhari, Tafsir 41/1).

History witnesses that humanity has benefited much from the virtue of forgiveness. It has led human beings away from evil, injustice, and tyranny, and awakened many from moral ignorance.. One such incident occurred when the Prophet (pbuh) conquered Mecca and declared amnesty for the people of the city. He addressed the populace, who gathered around the Ka`bah, “O people of Mecca! What do you reckon that I am going to do about you?”

They replied, “We expect nothing but good from you. You are a brother with a generous heart and also the son of a brother to us. We believe you care about us!..”

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “I say to you what the Prophet Joseph said to his brothers: ‘(There shall be) no reproof against you this day; Allah may forgive you, and He is the most merciful of the merciful’. (Yusuf, 12/92).”

When the Prophet had the chance of holding captive the idol-worshippers of Mecca who had tyrannized the Muslims for many years, he instead forgave ten and set them free.[2] The hearts of the idol- worshippers softened, and many embraced Islam in the end.

***

While Zainab, the beloved daughter of the Prophet, was emigrating to join her father in Medina, someone called Habbar ibn Aswad rushed at her with a spear. Zainab fell on a rock and was wounded severely. She was pregnant, and miscarried. At length she died because of the injuries she suffered. Habbar, who had committed many other crimes against Muslims, ran away when the Muslims conquered Mecca.

Some time later, while the Prophet was sitting in a council circle with the Companions, Habbar came into his presence. He embraced Islam and begged pardon for his earlier crimes. The Prophet forgave him, and further, forbade the Companions to harm him because of his earlier acts.[3] Allah says in the Qur’an:

Take to forgiveness, and enjoin good, and turn away from the ignorant.(`Araf, 7/99).

The Prophet used to forgive all personal offenses against him. However, he also used to make sure that justice was done if crimes were committed against the public. In such cases, he permitted no one to intervene in the punishment of the offender. If an offense is directed toward the public, then the rights of the people must be protected. If a public offense is forgiven, such an act opens the way for more injustice.

It was one of the most distinctive attributes of the Prophet to forgive for the sake of Allah. He forgave even those who outraged and tortured him while he was delivering the message of Allah – he would pray that Allah lead them to the true path and honor them with Islam. The Prophet was once stoned by the ignorant idol-worshippers of Taif. Angel Gabriel came to him declaring that he was ready to destroy those people, upon request. The Prophet replied,: No! I only wish to have people of their generation worship Allah alone, not idols.” (Bukhari, Bad` al-Khalq 7; Muslim, Jihad 111). And the people of Taif embraced Islam before long – due, perhaps, to this prayer of the Prophet .

***

Someone called Mistah, a poor man given much financial help by Hadrat Abu Bakr (r.a), joined the evil people who slandered Hadrat A’ishah (r.ha), Abu Bakr’s (r.a) daughter. What Mistah did troubled Abu Bakr (r.a) greatly. The slander victim was the mother of the community and the wife of the Prophet, as well as his own beloved child. Abu Bakr (r.a) was so annoyed by Mistah’s ingratitude that he vowed not to help him further. Mistah and his family became destitute. Then the Qur’anic verse was revealed:

“…Do you not love that Allah should forgive you?”(Nur, 24/22).

Upon hearing this, Abu Bakr (r.a) said: “Yes, I definitely want to be forgiven!” He repented his anger, and returned to offering Mistah financial support (Bukhari, Maghazi 34; Muslim, Tawbah 56).

It is Allah who is the ultimate forgiver. Muslims take pleasure in forgiving to the extent that Allah’s love is in their hearts. Those who wish to taste union with the divine being need to forgive for Allah’s sake. The spiritual victory goes to those who willingly forgive people who treat them unjustly..

2. The Messenger of Allah constantly counseled his community, “My Lord ordained that I enjoin the right and prevent the wrong. (I advise you to follow me in that.)”

To enjoin the right and prevent the wrong is the most important service anyone can perform for humanity. It is the result of loving creation for the sake of its Creator. What human beings need most is to find salvation in faith. Calling people to the true path is, therefore, a sacred duty. This duty is called “the profession of the prophets.” Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:

Most certainly then We will question those to whom (the Messengers) were sent, and most certainly We will also question the Messengers.(Surah `Araf, 7/6).

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) committed himself to calling to the true path. During his last Pilgrimage to the Ka`bah, the “Farewell Pilgrimage,” he asked the people whether he had properly done his job. As we are his community, his job is also our job.

It is said in the Qur’an:

And who speaks better than he who calls to Allah while he himself does good, and says: I am surely of those who submit?(Fussilat, 41/33).

And from among you there should be a party who invite to good, who enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and these it is that shall be successful.(Al `Imran, 3/104).

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “I swear by Allah that it is much better for you that Allah guide a man to Islam through you than that you should own red camels [the most valuable property at that time].” (Bukhari, Ashab al-Nabi 9).

How happy are the faithful who deserve this reward! The Prophet (pbuh), again, said, “The one who calls to the right path gets as much spiritual reward as all those who follow, without any reduction in the reward of those who follow.” (Muslim, `Ilm 16).

The reward accruing to sincere acts for Allah’s sake gets bigger and bigger, just as a snowball becomes an avalanche. Therefore it is our duty to warn nonbelievers and also ignorant believers who are not strong in faith, and urge them to find the right path. This would, of course, be the best help for them, and we may expect blessing for calling them to the way of Allah.

Our efforts to call to the way of Allah are, indeed, an indicator of our sincerity in faith. The Prophet (pbuh) says, If any of you should witness an evil act, let him amend it by his hand. If he cannot, let him amend it by his words. If he still cannot, let him feel displeasure in his heart. The last option is the lowest level of faith.”(Muslim, Iman 78).

There are severe warnings for those who are oblivious about calling to the true path. The Prophet (pbuh) said in this regard, “I swear by Allah the Almighty who endowed me with my life, that you will either enjoin the right and prevent the wrong, or you will draw down the wrath of Allah. Afterwards you will pray Allah to forgive you, but your prayers will not be answered.” (Tirmidhi, Fitan 9).

Yet one should be careful about the rules and principles of calling to the way of Allah. One’s efforts, otherwise, may bring disservice to faith rather than service. We must be deeply knowledgeable about the meaning of what is right and good. Any call by the ignorant is bound to have mistakes in both form and content.

The basis of a good call is knowledge and a pure heart. Without knowledge and wisdom one cannot be successful, just as a host cannot offer an empty cup to a guest.

It is not a good idea for someone who has moral failings and suffers from selfishness to try to call people to Allah. Such a person may cause worse results. To transmit this religion well, one needs a humble heart adorned with the wisdom of the Qur’an and a pleasant face reflecting the smiling nature of Islam. One should be a symbol of what is good and right and speak the language of the heart.

Calling to the way of Allah should be accompanied by kindness and beneficence as well as Islamic courtesy. Such treatment will make one’s audience ready to receive the message. We all respond well to good treatment and respectful behavior.

The person who calls to the way of Allah is supposed to turn a blind eye to the past failings or mistakes of those addressed, since the audience has an unconditional right to learn what the message is. The caller should not exclude anyone from the message, bearing in mind that many trees blossom out of stones, and that the grace of Allah is boundless.

The Prophet (pbuh) did not close the door of the message of Islam to people like Habbar ibn Aswad, who caused the death of his daughter Zaynab; or `Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl, who performed all kinds of hostile acts until the conquest of Mecca; or Wahshi, who martyred the Prophet’s uncle, Hadrat Hamza; or Hind, wife of Abu Sufyan, who savagely chewed on Hadrat Hamza’s liver. It doesn’t matter if the person invited to Islam is as strong in blasphemy as Pharaoh: he or she may not be excluded from the call to the way of Allah. When Allah the Almighty asked Prophet Moses to visit Pharaoh, who pretended to be a god himself, He instructed him to call Pharaoh to the right way gently.

Whoever calls to Islam must preach the greatness of Allah’s mercy and compassion to sinful people who have despaired of them. It is said in the Qur’an:

Say: O my servants who have acted extravagantly against their own souls! Do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. And return to your Lord time after time, and submit to Him before there comes to you the punishment: then you shall not be helped.(Zumar, 39/53-4).

We need good and wise words to call to Allah those people who feel themselves trapped in a sinful life.

Thus it is a duty of believers to do our best, without negligence, to call people to the way of Allah. As to the results of our efforts, we must resign ourselves to the will of Allah. We should not undertake this work egotistically, thinking to rely upon “soul-saving” for our own salvation. We must simply endeavor to make the principles of Islam known to all.

It is the art of the heart to read the meaning and mystery of creation. Allah the Almighty has expressed much wisdom through His creatures, and He has created them in limitless numbers. The universe is a spectacular classroom for those with the gifts and the readiness to learn. Such Friends of Allah as Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi and Yunus Emre have been star pupils in this classroom. They gained divine wisdom from the mysteries of this universe, and with what they learned, they continue to sprinkle spiritual perfume upon yearning hearts.

Our Lord opened up the whole universe as a book from which all of us may learn.

Our Lord manifests many lessons, in all beings, for hearts that can feel and eyes that can see. His manifestation attracts our attention to the wisdom of giving.

A bee has a life of 45 days, on average. During that time it produces honey, but the amount it makes is perhaps a hundred times more than what it needs.. The bee’s life is not for itself, but for others.

A plum tree’s fruit contains the seed by which it keeps its species alive. Plum trees, however, produce many more plums than are necessary for reproduction. The tree fruits so that others may benefit from it.

These are among the wonderful examples of altruism displayed in creation by our Lord.

Our Lord offers us the plane tree to tell us what this worldly life is about. The enormous plane tree loses its leaves in winter; and in doing so, shows us silently that death is real. In spring, it shows us that rising from death is also real. The plane tree bears no fruit, and is useless for timber. When its life is done, it can only be used for firewood. That means its legacy is small. It silently warns us: “Be aware, and understand that you are finite beings. Do not be as fruitless as I am!”

We should try to be like the olive tree, and gain skills that give maximum benefit to others. The olive tree has no mighty trunk, yet it starts bearing fruit within the year it is planted, and it keeps on bearing indefinitely. The rose, too, tells us silently: “I am always smiling with my color and scent, although I endure thorns in my body. I advise the same to you!”

Prosperity without giving to others, health and status or education without gratitude – all this is like being a dead plane tree. It is important for believers to be like fruit trees, and to work to be more fruitful all the time.

People of faith should ask themselves, “How much of my thinking and acting are self-centered? How much do I think about other people in need? How many sacrifices do I make? What might the bee, the rose, the plum tree, and the olive tree mean to me?”

As a human being is more highly honored than a bee or a tree, we should endeavor to be more beneficial to creation than a bee or a tree. The human being is the most highly honored of the creatures of Allah. We ought, therefore, to serve ourselves once, but others a thousand times. It is said in the Qur’an:

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

***

May our Lord help us duly to know and thank Allah for all beneficence, and may we be, throughout our lives, attuned to the will of Allah. May Allah help us to be people from whom others benefit in all aspects, in our words, in our acts, and in our attitudes, and may He include us among the sincerely faithful. May Allah help us to think and to act in harmony with His will!

Amin…

 

[1].    İbrahim Canan, Hadis Ansiklopedisi, XVI, 252, no. 5838.

[2].    Ibn Hisham, IV, 32; Waqidi, II, 835; Ibn Saad, II, 142-143.

[3].    Waqidi, al-Maghazi, II, 857-858.