Intellect

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Intellect is another important attribute of Prophethood. In this context, it has a specific meaning: a composite of reasoning power, sagacity, intelligence, sound judgment, and wisdom far surpassing the ability of ordinary people through a sublime power of understanding. It encompasses and coordinates all human abilities, whether of the heart and soul or of the mind.

Under the influence of temporary trends, some reduce Islam to a rationalistic system. They regard reason as the ultimate authority, and make no distinction between the judgment of sound reason and the excesses and shortcomings of rationalism. All the principles of Islam, a revealed religion originating in an All-Encompassing Knowledge, can be confirmed by reason. However, a comprehensive understanding of Islam requires a Prophetic intellect to grasp the entire meaning of the universe and humanity. Islam admits reason’s ultimate authority; not of human reason, which is limited by one’s capacity and usually conflicts with another’s, but of a Prophet’s universal reason, for Islam is the name of the Divine universal order.

God manifests His Names through veils. His absolute Unity requires that we attribute effects directly to His creative Power. But His Transcendence, Grandeur, and Majesty require “natural” causes to veil His acts so that people do not ascribe to Him that which seems disagreeable to them. He raised the Prophets to communicate His Revelation. As we cannot receive Revelation directly, the Prophets functioned as a prism receiving and then reflecting Divine Revelation. They modulated the Revelation according to their audience’s intellectual ability and the prevailing circumstances. In other words, the Prophetic intellect allows a Prophet to understand everything about his people and thus to answer all their questions and solve their problems.

If we study the Prophet’s achievements, we see that he was a statesman and commander of the highest order. As the embodiment or most comprehensive manifestation of the Divine Attribute of Speech, he is the most influential orator we have ever seen. His words, regardless of their apparent simplicity, affect everyone, regardless of their intellectual simplicity. As human knowledge increases, we see that these supposedly simple words are, in fact, like an ocean whose depth is only appreciated the more deeply one dives into it, or like a rose with petals one within the other, each one full of meanings.

His level of understanding was so sublime that Wahb ibn Munabbih, who was well-versed in the Torah and Gospels, said: “When compared to that of God’s Messenger, humanity’s total mental capacity and perception is like a single sand particle compared to all the sand in a vast desert.”

Examples of his intellectual capacity

• Before his Prophethood, the Ka’ba was partly ruined by rain and the ensuing floods. The Quraysh restored it. However, clan warfare almost broke out when it came to who would have the honor of restoring the sacred Black Stone to its proper place. Someone suggested that they refer the matter to whoever appeared first at the Ka’ba. To everyone’s relief, this person was Muhammad. They told each other: “The Trustworthy One is coming!” After explaining the problem, he asked them to bring a piece of cloth, which he spread on the ground. Putting the Black Stone on it, he told each clan chief to hold a corner and lift the cloth. When the Black Stone was at the required height, Muhammad put it in its place. Clan warfare was thus averted.

• God’s Messenger always assessed a person’s or an audience’s spiritual and mental capacities accurately. He also spoke directly to a particular individual at a particular time and under particular circumstances; he had no need for flattery or falsehood. One time Husayn, an eloquent speaker renowned for his persuasive rhetoric, sought to dissuade God’s Messenger from his mission. God’s Messenger listened carefully to his argument and then initiated the following dialogue:

– Husayn, how many deities do you worship?
– Eight; one in the Heavens and the others on Earth.

– Which one do you call upon when misfortune befalls you?
– The one in the Heavens.
– Which one do you call when your goods are gone?
– The one in the Heavens.

God’s Messenger asked a couple of similar questions, and, upon receiving the same answer to each question, asked: “According to you, the one in the Heavens alone answers your call. Yet you continue to associate partners with Him. Isn’t this what I’ve been preaching? There is no deity but God. Become a Muslim and be saved.” This apparently simple argument defeated Husayn with his own logic.

• Bedouins are often called “people of the desert.” Their way of life engenders many unique experiences: the loss of a camel, forgetfulness of where items have been placed, or being caught in a sandstorm. However many deities they worship, they always ask God, the One, the Unique Creator of the universe, and Powerful over all things, for help and rescue. Their inner sense and sound conscience tell them the truth under the enchanting desert sky or in the darkness, and they then acknowledge His Oneness. This was the case with Hamza, who proclaimed: “O Muhammad, I have perceived in the darkness of the desert night, that God is too great to be restricted within four walls!”

God’s Messenger knew everyone’s mood and thus took people “by the soul” when inviting them to Islam. For example, Ahmad ibn Hanbal reports from Abu Tamima that a Bedouin once asked God’s Messenger if he was Muhammad. Receiving an affirmative answer, the Bedouin asked to what he was inviting people. The Messenger replied: “To God, the All-Majestic. I invite them to Him alone, without associating any partners with Him. He is God whom you call upon when a misfortune befalls you and He who removes it. It is to Him alone that you pray during drought and famine, and He sends rain and causes the grass to grow. It is also Him you entreat when you lose something in the vast desert, and He causes you to find it.” These simple, accurate, and concise words caused the Bedouin to awake to the truth and embrace Islam on the spot.

History records no other instance of an individual forming such a virtuous community so quickly and from such unpromising people and meager resources. Prophet Muhammad used the dynamics granted to him by God so effectively that historians and sociologists still cannot fully grasp all dimensions of his revolutionary Message. Its waves have swept through the ages, and continue to attract increasing numbers of people from all over the world into the peaceful ocean of Islam.

• The Prophet solved problems, as Bernard Shaw pointed out, as easily as one drinks coffee. Even when faced with the most unexpected emergencies that would cause even experts to panic, he remained calm and solved the problem to everyone’s satisfaction. His whole life shows that he was a man of perfect balance, and that this balance was never lost.

Expanding on this last item, consider the following example. After the conquest of Makka, many former enemies proclaimed their conversion. Naturally, it was difficult for them to acquire sincere belief so quickly. So, God’s Messenger sought to “reconcile their hearts” and increase their commitment by preferring them over the Muslims when distributing the war spoils after the Battle of Hunayn.

The spoils consisted of 24,000 camels, 40,000 sheep and goats, and 10,000 pounds of gold and silver. God’s Messenger gave 300 camels and 250 pounds of gold and silver to Abu Sufyan and his family, 200 camels to Hakim ibn Hizam, and 100 camels each to Nusayr ibn al-Harith, Qays ibn Asiyy, Safwan ibn Umayya, Malik ibn Awf, Akra ibn Habis, and ‘Uyayna ibn Hisn. Such generosity also did much to repair the Makkan chiefs’ wounded pride.

Some younger Ansaris, despite their devotion to God’s Messenger and Islam, became upset. They did not desire the spoils themselves; rather, they did not want to see such formerly staunch enemies of Islam, in their view, rewarded. This might have led to a dissident movement among the Muslims. When informed of the situation by Sa’d ibn ‘Ubada, an Ansari leader, God’s Messenger ordered them to assemble so he could address them. They did so, and he opened his speech in a dramatic way designed to attract and hold their attention, and to impress their souls: “O Community of the Helpers! I hear that you are displeased with me.”

He continued in this powerful and impressive style, reminding them of God’s blessings upon them through him. He asked: “Were you not in misguidance when I came to you? And has God not guided you to the truth through me? Were you not in poverty when I came to you? And has God not enriched you through me? Were you not in internal conflicts when I came to you? And has God not reconciled you through me?” They agreed to all of this, answering each question with: “True, O God’s Messenger! We are indebted to God and His Messenger!”

After reminding them of these blessings, God’s Messenger recounted their services to Islam, saying: “O Ansar! If you had desired, you could have answered me differently and said: ‘Your people denied you, but we believed in you. You came to us with no one to defend you, but we admitted and protected you. Your people exiled you, but we embraced you. You came to us with nothing to subsist on, and we met all your needs.’ If you had responded thus to me, you would have told the truth and no one would have stood up to contradict you.”

He continued: “O Ansar! Even if you’re upset with my actions, wouldn’t you rather return home with God’s Messenger while they return with camels and sheep? I swear by God, in Whose Hand of Power is my soul, that if all other people took a different direction than that of the Ansar, I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the Ansar! Had it not been for the Emigration, I would have wished with all my heart to be one of the Ansar! O God, protect the Ansar and their descendants!” These words were enough for the Ansar to burst into tears, and all of them responded with one voice: “We are content with God and His Messenger! We desire nothing else!”

Although uttered on the spur of the moment, this speech both quashed a potential dissident movement and reconquered the Ansar’s hearts. Let’s analyze this speech so that its wisdom can be better understood and appreciated.

• He addressed the Ansar only, for they were the offended party. This showed them special honor, and exerted a psychological influence upon them from the outset. It also prevented any ill-will among the Muhajirun, who had been forced to emigrate to Madina, or the new Muslims of Makka, many of whom still had to be won over.

• His speech, when considered in its Arabic original, is an extraordinarily eloquent rhetorical document.

• His opening was dramatic, for it was designed to win the audience’s attention. Their attention never wavered, for the rest of his speech was just as dramatic and effective.

• He did not resort to flattery or diplomacy. Rather, he spoke in plain sincerity, which was vital in securing the desired influence upon the listeners.

• The spur-of-the-moment nature of his speech also was significant in obtaining the desired result. The freshness and force of such an unprepared address, on such occasions, is often more effective than a speech prepared in advance.

Those few examples illustrate the intellect of God’s Messenger, and show that he did not speak or act of himself; rather, what he said and did carried the charge or force of one fulfilling a Divine mission.

Concise speech. Another dimension of his intellect is the very concise nature of his speech. Remember that he is the leader not only of those who lived during his lifetime, but of every believer to come. He was sent to address people of every level, from ignorant seventh-century bedouins to those of the highest intellectual and scientific achievements, until the Day of Judgment. No one has yet been able to disprove what he said. Accordingly, after we scrutinize his Traditions and the Qur’an, we realize that they complement each other in style and content. Moreover, there is no contradiction between them and established scientific knowledge. Ever since the Revelation, billions of people have found in the Qur’an answers for their intellectual problems, cures for their spiritual diseases, and models for their behavior in all circumstances.

The enchanting, captivating, and informative words of God’s Messenger that so enlightened his Companions intellectually and revived them spiritually, have exerted the same influence on countless scholars, scientists, Qur’anic exegetes, Traditionists, jurists, spiritual guides, and specialists in science and humanities. Such people, the vast majority of whom have been non-Arab, have used the Qur’an and the Sunna as the foundational sources of their academic studies and endeavors.

Even today, one of his words is enough to cause people to reform themselves and embrace Islam. He acknowledged this as one of God’s blessings and, to emphasize it as a blessing, would sometimes say: “I am Muhammad, an unlettered Prophet. No Prophet will come after me. I have been distinguished with conciseness of speech and comprehensiveness of meaning,” [1] and: “O people, I have been honored with conciseness of speech and giving the final judgment in all matters.” [2]

The nightingale is said to convey the gratitude of plants and flowers to the All-Provider. Likewise, God’s Messenger came to “sing” the praises of God in the “garden” of humanity and announce His Commandments with his enchanting “songs.” His words opened ever-fresh flowers in all human hearts and reduced the words of others, regardless of their surface beauty, to nothing. Believers were purified by his words’ deep serenity, exhilarated by the bright atmosphere created through his speeches, and by the love his personal conduct inspired. Through his words and deeds, God’s Messenger removed the veils from the “face” of nature and embellished the “Book of the Universe” with Divine inscriptions.

Many famous rhetors, orators, and poets have preferred to listen to him or have benefited greatly from his words. Thousands of literary people have devoted their lives to studying his sayings, and have compiled multi-volumed books about or out of them. Many thinkers and scholars have quenched their “thirst” with the “water of life” found therein. In order to express the beauty and comprehensiveness of his words, we provide a slightly adapted version of 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.

As God’s Messenger was unlettered, he was not influenced by his era’s written culture. His conscience was so sound, his intellect so comprehensive, and his character so pure that only he could have received Divine Revelation. His mind and heart were fed by Divine Revelation exclusively. Each word and deed was a ray from that Revelation, a sign of his Messengership. Like a bright, crystal cup of clear, sweet water, his intellect was so pure that Divine Revelation entered it and emerged from it, drop by drop, in the form of words in their original clarity.

The primary expression of 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 meant that a second form of Revelation was necessary. This took the form of inspiration, an implicit Revelation, to clarify Qur’anic verses or to establish new principles related to Islamic conduct. This, together with his daily words and conduct, forms the second source of Islamic law: the Sunna. This subject is discussed in the second volume of this book.

Every Prophet was supported by miracles relevant to his time and environment. For example, Moses’ miracles had to appear as magic, for magic was widespread. Jesus’ miracles took the form of healing, for medicine was in wide demand. Similarly, when Muhammad emerged as a Prophet, four things enjoyed popularity in Arabia: eloquence and fluency in writing and speaking, poetry and oratory, soothsaying and divination, and knowledge of the past and cosmology. The Qur’an challenged all known experts in these fields and forced them to surrender. Prophet Muhammad surpassed them through his wonderful eloquence, knowledge of the cosmos, and predictions.

As his Prophethood is universal and will exist until the Last Day, his eloquence and linguistic style will never be surpassed. His words, together with the Qur’an, supersede all literary works. Their excellence is everlasting and becomes increasingly vivid as their deeper meanings are discovered over the course of time. His words and the Qur’an are of such extraordinary nature and so full of meaning that millions of saints and people seeking Divine knowledge have obtained perfect knowledge of the Divine Essence, Attributes, and Names through them. The hidden truths of the Unseen worlds (e.g., angels, jinn, the Hereafter, Paradise, and Hell) are unveiled through them.

These two sources have also served as a pure, inexhaustible fountain of insight for countless jurists, Qur’anic interpreters, Traditionists, historians, scientists, sociologists, psychologists, and many others. The Qur’an and the Sunna have enlightened billions of people, and have shown them how to pray, fast, give alms, and make pilgrimage-even how to eat, drink, and speak. In short, it has shown them how to conduct themselves at every moment of their lives.

Examples

• Imam Tirmidhi relates from Ibn ‘Abbas, the Scholar of the Umma, 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 so that you always will find Him with you. When you ask something, ask it from God. When you seek help, seek it from God. Know that if everyone joined together to help you, they could only do that which God already preordained for you. If everyone joined together to hurt you, they could only do that which God already preordained for you. The Pen of Destiny has been lifted, and everything has been ordained.

This hadith encourages submission to God, and belief in His Unity and the truth of Destiny. We should not conclude that it excludes human free will; rather, it stresses one’s action, prayer, and need to strive for the desired results. It balances this with a warning that since everything is ultimately in the hands of God, we should strive in accordance with His Commandments and seek the results only from Him.

• Imam Tirmidhi relates from Ibn ‘Umar: God’s Messenger said: “Live in the world as if you were a stranger or traveler. Regard yourself as one of the dead.” This succinct hadith encourages us to lead an austere, disciplined life based on awareness of God. It reminds us of our final destination by stressing this world’s transience, and establishes the balance between this life and the next.

We are travelers in this world. Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, a thirteenth-century Turkish Sufi, says each individual is like a flute made of a reed separated from its group. We continually groan with the pangs of separation from the real Owner and our native land. We set out from the World of the Spirits and travel through the stations of our mother’s womb, childhood, youth, old age, the grave, and the Resurrection. Finally, our journey ends either in Paradise or Hell. If we desire a pleasant journey and a safe arrival in Paradise, we must be aware of this life’s transience and prepare for the eternal life. Although we can taste life’s pleasures to a certain extent, provided they are not specifically forbidden, we should not overindulge or forget our true destination.

• Such authentic books of Tradition as Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Muslim, and Sunan Abu Dawud relate from ‘Abd Allah Ibn Mas’ud that God’s Messenger said: “Always tell the truth, for this guides to absolute piety and piety leads to Paradise. Those who always tell and pursue the truth are recorded by God as truthful. Don’t lie, for this guides to sinfulness and sinfulness leads to Hellfire. Those who always tell and pursue lies are recorded by God as liars.”

Truthfulness is an indispensable attribute of Prophethood. Truthfulness opens the door of happiness in both worlds. No one can taste true bliss while living in the darkness of lies and lying. Lying is “an assertion contrary to God’s knowledge,” a pillar of unbelief, and the most manifest sign of hypocrisy. The current prevalence of lying is destroying our security and morality, and contaminating the whole community (especially its political circles) like a contagious disease. Any structure based on lying must eventually perish due to its very nature.

This hadith states that truthfulness leads to absolute piety, while lying leads to sinfulness. Birr, the Arabic word translated here as piety, encompasses every virtue, from sound thinking, truthfulness, and pure intention to honesty, decency, and good conduct. Its opposite, fujur (sinfulness), denotes every kind of deviation and evil, among them debauchery, indecency, and perversion.

• Bukhari and Muslim report from Ibn Mas’ud that God’s Messenger said: “A man (or woman) is with him (her) whom he (she) loves.” This hadith is a source of hope and consolation for those unable to adhere completely to the Divine Commandments. Those who love the Prophets and saints will be in their company in the Hereafter. Therefore, whoever desires this should love them sincerely and follow them as best they can. Those who love the enemies of God will be with them in Hell.

Nu’ayman, a Companion, could not stop drinking alcohol. He was punished several times. When yet another Companion reproached him, God’s Messenger warned that Companion: “Don’t help Satan against your brother! I swear by God that he loves God and His Messenger.” Thus, those who are trying their best to reform themselves, as long as they continue to perform their obligatory duties and try to refrain from major sins, should be encouraged, not reprimanded. This is a prerequisite of their love for God and His Messenger.

• Ibn Hanbal related 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.” This concise hadith establishes the principles of a happy life and describes the way to eternal bliss. Fear of God is the basis of every virtue and good conduct, and leads to Paradise. Through this, people can erase their sins with good deeds, and being well-mannered elevates them to the rank of perfection.

• God’s Messenger declares: “You are governed how you are (according to your beliefs and life-style.)” This hadith expresses a principle of public and political administration: A country’s political structure is shaped according to its people’s tendencies, whether directly through democracy or indirectly through other ways. Both the natural and the social sciences have their own laws, which we call “God’s creational and operational laws of the universe.” According to these laws, if people immerse themselves in sin and evil, they inevitably will be ruled by evil people. If, by contrast, they prefer a virtuous life, their government will be good.

The hadith stresses that laws have no sanction on their own; rather, their authority depends on those who apply them. Therefore, the character of government officials is of vital importance. If the people are righteous, their rulers or government officials will be righteous. If they are not, no one can expect a righteous administration. The ruling elite are like the cream rising to the surface of a liquid: milk has its own kind of cream, as do lime and alum. When Hajjaj, a despotic commander, was reminded of ‘Umar’s justice, he replied: “If you were like ‘Umar’s people, I would be like ‘Umar.”

The hadith also tells us to develop self-control and discern our own faults. Social harmony cannot be established if people tend to blame others. As emphasized in the Qur’an: God will not change the condition of a people unless they change themselves (13:11). We are the ones who determine our fate and make our own history.

• Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud relate from ‘Umar that God’s Messenger said: “Actions are judged according to intentions. One is rewarded for whatever one intends to do. Whoever emigrates for God and His Messenger has emigrated for God and His Messenger; whoever emigrates to acquire something worldly or to marry has emigrated for what is intended.” This hadith concerns a Companion who emigrated to marry Umm Qays. It is considered a cornerstone of Islamic law and the foremost standard for evaluating a believer’s actions.

Intention is the spirit of our actions. For example, if we fulfill our religious duties without making a specific intention to do so, they are unacceptable to God. If we do not seek God’s good pleasure, what we do is not rewarded by God. Hijra (sacred emigration in the way of God) can be considered a twin of jihad (holy struggle in the way of God).

Although there is no hijra after the conquest of Makka, it will continue elsewhere along with jihad until the Last Day. Believers may emigrate to preach Islam, as God’s Messenger and his Companions did when they could no longer do this in Makka. Such emigrations are accepted as hijra when done purely for the sake of God. Intention can sometimes be rewarded without action. For example, if we sincerely intend to do something good but cannot, for some justifiable reason, we will be rewarded for what we intended to do.

Intention multiplies an action’s reward, and transforms every action into a kind of worship. We cannot earn eternal happiness in this short worldly life. But by intending to worship God as if we were to live forever, we can become deserving of the eternal life of Paradise. Unbelievers whose hearts are closed to belief, according to the same principle, deserve the eternal punishment of Hellfire. Believers who sleep after the night prayer with the intention of getting up before dawn to pray tahajjud are recorded as having worshipped God for the whole night. This is why God’s Messenger declared: “A believer’s intention is more rewarding than his [or her] action.”

• Bukhari records that God’s Messenger said: “The Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand Muslims are safe. The Emigrant is one who emigrates from what God forbids.” This short hadith expresses many truths. First of all, it describes the ideal or norm by beginning with the Muslim, as opposed to a Muslim. In this way, our Prophet draws attention to the qualities of perfect Muslims, not to those who are only nominal Muslims.

The Arabic word Muslim, derived from the infinitive silm (security, peace, and salvation), comes to mean one who desires and gives peace, security, and salvation. So, the Muslims are those believers who embody peace, cause no trouble for anyone, from whom all are safe, and who are the most reliable representatives of peace and security. They strive to bring peace, security, and salvation to others, and dedicate themselves to disseminating their inner peace and happiness.

Our Prophet mentions the tongue before the hand, for slander, gossip, and insult often do far more damage than physical violence. If people can refrain from verbal assault, they can more easily refrain from physical assault. Moreover, self-defense against physical violence is often easier than that against gossip and slander. So, true Muslims always restrain their tongues and hands so that others will be safe from them.

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

• God’s Messenger says: “Being a good Muslim causes people to abandon that which is of no use to them.” Such people practice ihsan, a term denoting that we worship God as if we see Him, fully aware that even if we cannot see God, He sees us all the time. Those who reach this rank 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 “I expected some news from beyond the world. However, the veil has been removed from my soul and I have seen myself.”

To attain this degree, worshippers should abandon whatever is vain and useless. They should know that God is watching them, and that God’s Messenger and discerning believers are aware of their deeds’ true value. 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” (9:105).

Good Muslims abandon heedlessness and indifference, do their work properly, put forth their best efforts in whatever they do, and are serious and reliable in all dealings and transactions. Flippancy and frivolity injure one’s reliability and reduce one’s dignity.

• Both Bukhari and Muslim relate that God’s Messenger said: “Patience is shown at the moment of misfortune.” In the early days of his mission, God’s Messenger forbade people to visit graves, as some un-Islamic practices were still observed. After such practices vanished, he encouraged his Companions to visit graves, and did so himself, for this encourages people to improve their moral conduct and strive for the next life.

During a visit to Madina’s graveyard, God’s Messenger saw a woman weeping bitterly and complaining about Destiny. When he sought to console her, the woman, who did not recognize him, angrily told him to go away, for: “You don’t know what misfortune has befallen me!” When she later learned his identity, she hurried after him and, finding him at home, begged his pardon. God’s Messenger told her: “Patience is shown at the moment of misfortune.”

Patience is a key to success and triumph. It means to accept pain, trouble, misfortune, and similar unpleasant facts without complaint, or loss of self-control, trust, or belief in God and Destiny. Sometimes one can achieve patience in difficult circumstances by changing one’s attitude, place, preoccupation, or immediate conditions. Performing wudu’ (ritual ablution) or praying also may help one deal with sorrow.

There are several kinds of patience:

– Determination to avoid sins. This elevates one to the rank of the God-fearing, whom God takes into His care.
– Constant and regular worship of God. This causes one to acquire the rank of being a beloved of God.
– Acceptance of misfortune without complaint. This causes one to be included among the people of patience and those who put their trust in God.
– Dealing with exasperation. This means having a realistic understanding of what is required to achieve a specific result. For example, producing a loaf of bread requires that the field be cultivated, the crop harvested, the grain taken to a mill, and the dough shaped into loaves and baked in an oven. If, out of impatience or neglect, this procedure is not followed exactly and in this specific order, a loaf of bread will not be produced.

• Bukhari, Muslim, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal record that God’s Messenger said: “The upper hand is better than the lower one.” In another hadith, God’s Messenger explains that the upper hand gives to the poor and needy, while the lower hand takes from others. So, besides expressing the merits of charity, this hadith encourages people to work and earn their living.

A subtle point: God’s Messenger did not say the one who gives and the one who receives. Instead, he said the upper hand and the lower hand. This indicates that the act, not the person, is generally preferable. As a result, the recipient may sometimes be better than the giver. For example some people, like Bara’ ibn Malik, appear to be very low but are so beloved in His sight that whatever they predict, and then swear on by God, comes true. Such people ask for nothing and are extraordinarily independent. God’s Messenger advised Thawban not to beg. As a result, he would not even ask someone to pick up a whip he dropped while riding his camel. So, when seemingly “poor” believers of this quality receive from people, it cannot be said that they are inferior to those who give.

Islam does not approve of begging either on the individual or the national level. It should never be forgotten that honor, dignity, and superiority always belong to God, His Messenger, and the believers. Therefore Muslims should not come under the control or authority of unbelievers, for this undermines their dignity and superiority.

• Imam Muslim relates from God’s Messenger: On the Last Day, God will not talk to, pay attention to, or purify three types of people. A painful torment awaits them. These are the people who “drag their robes,” who remind those they have favored of their favors, and who try to sell their goods by false oaths.

The hadith begins with thalathatun (three), meaning any three, unnamed, unworthy of being named. In other words, they may be met anywhere, and they and their actions are so despicable that Muslims should avoid them. God will ignore such people in the next world. This is a severe punishment, for, as stated in Sura al-Rahman, speech is one of the foremost and greatest favors of God to humanity. Besides, we will be in dire need of speaking on the Day of Judgment, when we try to justify ourselves. These people, however, will be told: Be driven into it (the Fire)! Don’t speak to Me! (23:108).

On that day, everyone will be occupied with their own troubles, and there will be no refuge except God. Everyone will hope that God will give them some personal attention, that He will look upon them with mercy and purify them. 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, their punishment is announced before their sins are identified. God’s Messenger thereby emphasizes the gravity of their sins and warns everybody to refrain from them. The first and most grievous sin is “dragging one’s robe,” an Arabic idiom for arrogance.

Arrogance means to contest with God for the rule of the Earth. Human beings, despite their vast weakness, poverty, and powerless are nevertheless enchanted with themselves. They consider their abilities, skills, position, wealth, apparent accomplishments, and so on worthy of pride. This leads to self-conceit and self-pride. Though created from a drop of lowly “water” and unable to choose their time and place of their birth, family, color, and race, this self-pride grows despite their inability to satisfy their bodies’ operative needs.

For example, they cannot satisfy their hunger, thirst, and sleep on their own. The only reason human beings survive is because God has endowed them with various talents and faculties. But people ignore this fact, attribute their accomplishments to themselves, and so contest with God. Such arrogance eventually blinds them to innumerable signs pointing to God’s Existence, Unity, and Absolute Sovereignty. In the words of the Qur’an: 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 (7:146).

The second grave sin is reminding others of the favors you have done for them. This is closely related to arrogance, for those who consider what God has bestowed upon them as their own possessions and abilities tend to engage in this sin as well. Those who regard everything as a gift from God understand that they can benefit others only if He allows them to do so. As a result, those who do the favor actually feel indebted to those they have helped, for such actions allow them to receive a spiritual reward. This hadith encourages people to disinterested generosity and altruism, concerning which God’s Messenger says: “The generous are near to God, to Paradise, and to people, and distant from Hell. The miserly, however, are distant from God, from Paradise, and from human beings, but near to Hell.”

The last grave sin is deception in trade. According to the laws of Islam, merchants must disclose any defect in what they are selling. Swearing by God is also prohibited, especially in transactions. If merchants try to sell their goods through lies or false oaths, or stir up demand by swearing by God, they are committing a great sin deserving of severe punishment. This sin is closely linked to the two earlier ones, for it usually originates in miserliness and one’s non-recognition of God. Besides being connected with unbelief in and distrust of God, these three sins poison society’s life and indicate weak character. Hence, the severity of their punishment.

• Imam Bukhari records in his Sahih that God’s Messenger said: “Whoever guarantees to me what is between their lips and what is between their legs, I will guarantee them Paradise.” As speech is one of the greatest favors of God, we should use our tongues only for good and useful acts, such as reciting the Qur’an, praying, telling the truth, and enjoining good and forbidding evil. We should be modest and well-mannered in our speech, and not engage in lying, profanity, slander, gossip, and so on. Words should be chosen carefully, for, as ‘Ali said: “Your word is dependent on you until you utter it; once you utter it, however, you are dependent on it.”

Controlling one’s sexual lust is also very important for attaining human perfection and deserving Paradise. God has endowed us with many faculties and impulses so that we might evolve spiritually by restraining them and, channeling them into good deeds and virtues, attain higher spiritual ranks. By struggling to satisfy desires only in lawful ways, we can attain the rank of sainthood and gain superiority over angels. Since angels have no carnal desires and thus do not struggle against temptation, they do not evolve spiritually. However, because of our essential duality, we travel between “the lowest of the low” (becoming even more wretched than Satan) and “the highest of the high” (surpassing the angels).

Since Islam bans or blocks the ways leading to forbidden acts, one should refrain from such acts as displaying personal charm or beauty, gazing at the opposite sex, and being alone with someone of the opposite sex in such places that encourage illicit sexual relations. Like holding one’s tongue, this requires strong willpower, self-discipline, and continuous struggle. Even though it seems at first sight to be too difficult, it will engender great spiritual pleasure, for the pleasure of labor and struggle lies in labor and struggle themselves. Those who are successful will be deserving of Paradise.

• Muslim records God’s Messenger as having discussed forgiveness. He once asked:

“Listen. Shall I guide you to the things through which God blots out sins and elevates you to higher ranks?” When his Companions asked him to do so, he told them: “Perform wudu’ (ritual ablution) as correctly as possible, even in the most adverse conditions; walk to the mosque for each prayer; and wait for the next prayer after praying. This is the ribat, this is the ribat (preparation, dedication).

The hadith begins with Listen to emphasize the importance of what follows. In this case, it is the five daily prayers.

The prescribed prayer is the pillar of Islam. Without it, Islam cannot be maintained. When believers pray correctly, they are protected from evil thoughts and deeds. It is also a sacred ladder for ascending to the Presence of God. But before we can climb it, we must perform wudu’ as perfectly as possible. From the first step toward wudu’, believers begin to gain reward. While performing it, they are relieved of the stress of daily life and cleansed of sins. When performed in difficult circumstances, believers receive an even greater exhilaration.

Adhan (the call to prayer) is both the call for believers to enter the Presence of God and the call to prosperity in both worlds. Wudu’ is the preparation that believers must make before entering this Presence. By performing the supererogatory prayer before the prescribed one, believers complete their preparations and receive permission from the God’s aide-de-camp, namely, Prophet Muhammad. When the muezzin (caller to prayer) calls iqamah (the beginning of the prayer), believers enter His Presence with total respect and reverence, converse with the Unique Owner of the universe, and petition Him for their needs and desires.

Believers pray five times a day, thereby having their sins erased and their potential to commit sins changed into “seeds of blessed trees of good and virtue.” There is, however, one condition: The prayer must be performed with absolute sincerity, with pure intention to gain God’s good pleasure only, and in full awareness of being in the Presence of the Creator and Owner of the universe, the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Seeing, All-Hearing, and All-Overwhelming.

God’s Messenger describes the prescribed prayer as ribat, which can be translated as dedication to something or guarding the frontier. It appears in the Qur’an: O you who believe! Persevere in patience and vie in such perseverance; be alert and prepared for jihad; and fear God, so that you may prosper (3:200) and: Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including horses dedicated to war (8:60).

In the first verse, ribat means being alert and prepared; in the second, dedicated. By describing the prayer with this term, God’s Messenger stresses the value and importance of struggling in God’s way as well as the primacy of the prescribed prayers in Islam and a believer’s life. In another hadith, he calls the former the lesser jihad and the latter the greater jihad. To succeed in the former, believers must be very attentive while performing the latter.

By describing the prescribed prayers as ribat, God’s Messenger also emphasizes that Muslims should dedicate their lives to Divine worship and organize their daily activities around the five daily prayers. They should ensure that they can pray when necessary and with full attention. After each prayer, they should wait expectantly for the next one. Those who pray in such a manner will be cleansed of sins and, moreover, protected against committing more sins. Then they will experience, as another hadith says, something like a mi’raj (ascension to God’s Presence).

• Bukhari relates that God’s Messenger said: “God says: ‘I have prepared for My righteous servants such things of which they have never seen, heard, or imagined.'” Paradise is the place of surprises. The Qur’an tells us of its bounties using familiar words so that we can get some idea of them. But as Ibn ‘Abbas points out: They are given things in similitude (2:25), means that these bounties are particular to Paradise in nature and taste; their appearance, however, is like that of their counterparts in the world. Believers will be rewarded in Paradise with ever-renewed bounties and, above all, 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. But the greatest bounty of all in Paradise is that God will be pleased with believers forever.

To be worthy of Paradise, we must be righteous, upright in all our deeds, and do everything as perfectly as possible. Righteous believers do not lie or deceive others, and are completely reliable. God is confident that they will perform their religious duties as carefully as possible and obey His prohibitions. All other parts of creation are sure such believers will never hurt them. Such people do everything in full awareness that God Almighty is watching them. Since they have gained their Lord’s good pleasure, they are counted among those whom God calls My righteous servants. That is, they are loved by God and, as a result: “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, millions of rewards for each deed. This is why believers will meet in Paradise such bounties as they could never have imagined while alive.

• In a hadith related by Bukhari and Muslim, God’s Messenger says: “Paradise is surrounded by trouble and tribulation, and Hell is concealed in pleasure.” Paradise and Hell are, in essence, blessings for humanity. Fear of Hell causes us to observe God’s prohibitions so that we may go to Paradise. However, being saved from Hell and becoming deserving of Paradise requires great self-discipline and strict intellectual and spiritual training.

The Qur’an says that human beings are tempted by love of the opposite sex, children, hoarded treasures of gold and silver, splendid mounts, cattle, and plantations (3:14). People have a natural attachment to life and its pleasures. Hell is an abode of torment placed within an attractive setting of enticing lures and pleasures. If we are captivated and live only to satisfy such desires, we are lured toward Hell. We can reach this destination easily, for the path to Hell passes through worldly attractions of every kind.

To reach Paradise, we first have to train ourselves to ignore worldly attractions. Hell is part of the way to Paradise, for we must travel to Hell without allowing any of its attractions to seduce us. This requires self-discipline and continuous struggle against temptation and the carnal self’s desires. Whenever we are invited to enjoy such worldly luxuries as fame, wealth, and status, we must restrict ourselves to the boundaries set by Divine Commandments. We must continue to pray, fast, give alms, and (if possible) perform the pilgrimage to the Ka’ba.

In addition, we must engage only in fairness; honesty; truthfulness; kindness to the poor, the needy, and orphans; and enjoin good and forbid evil. We also must refrain from deception, usury, gambling, drinking alcohol, backbiting, hypocrisy, and every form of injustice. We should expect to be tested, for: God will test you with afflictions and something of fear and hunger, and loss in goods or lives or in the fruits of his toil and earnings (2:155). To reach Paradise, we must persevere, endure affliction, perform what is obligatory, avoid sin, and thank God for His bounties and blessings. Such virtuous acts are hated by our carnal selves.

• Imam Tirmidhi relates that God’s Messenger said: I advise you to fear God and obey, even if a black slave becomes your leader. Those of you who live long enough will see great controversy, so adhere to my Sunna and the Sunna of the rightly guided caliphs. Cling to them stubbornly. Beware of newly invented matters in religion, for every invented matter is an innovation. Every innovation is going astray, and every going astray is in Hellfire.

The Arabic word translated here as “fear of God” is taqwa. Derived from wiqaya (protection), taqwa means to be in the safe-keeping or protection of God. This has two aspects. The first is that believers fear God and obey Him by observing His commands and prohibitions. The second aspect is that, by studying nature and life and discovering the laws of God that control them, people acquire scientific knowledge and order their lives. Science cannot be established if people do not discover these laws.

In order to be under the safe-keeping of God, true religion and science should be combined, for they are two expressions of a single truth. According to Muslim sages and scholars, the universe is “the Created Qur’an,” where God’s laws issuing from His Attributes of Will, Destiny, and Power are operative. The Qur’an, the collection of Divine laws issuing from God’s Attribute of Speech, is “the composed universe” or “the universe in words.”

The second point is that believers should not disobey their government without justifiable cause. Without a leader, a community is like a broken rosary whose beads have scattered everywhere. Such a situation of social and political conflict usually results in anarchy and destruction. The hadith also points out a truth that even modern democracies have proven unable to grasp: no racial discrimination. It is clearly stated that an emancipated black slave can lead the Muslim community. This was not only a theoretical assertion, but was testified to by the numerous and great black saints, administrators, and scholars who were respected and obeyed.

God’s Messenger also draws attention here to his Sunna. As he is the most excellent example for all aspects of life, believers are to follow his example until the Last Day. Such adherence to his example guarantees that Islam retains its original purity. Any deviation will result in social and doctrinal splits and new importations into Islam-God has declared: He had perfected (5:43). Adherence to the way of the first four caliphs also guarantees of Muslim unity and Islam’s maintenance.

This hadith also contains a prediction that his first four political successors would be rightly guided, and that disobedience to them would cause internal splits. Islamic history records the truth of this statement. Just look at the uprisings during the caliphates of ‘Uthman and ‘Ali.

• Bukhari and Muslim relate that God’s Messenger said: “Believers are not bitten twice from the same hole.” Believers have insight, perceptiveness, and intelligence, for they are distinguished by their sound reasoning and spiritual insight. The Muslim community has-and should have-the same perceptiveness and always be aware of potential dangers or problems. They may be deceived once, but the insight and awareness provided by belief should prevent them from being deceived twice. This hadith contains a significant warning for contemporary Muslims, who have been deceived for centuries by the West and the hypocrites (communists) of the East. Muslims must take control of their own affairs and re-examine the quality of their belief.

• One hadith recorded by Bukhari and Muslim calls educators to re-evaluate their methods: “Human beings are like ores containing silver or gold. Those who are promising and in leading positions in unbelief are better than others (in virtue) when they accept Islam and acquire a good understanding of it.” This hadith is very significant, especially, with respect to education which demands the imparting of insight and perceptiveness. The Prophet said: This is my way: I call unto God with insight and sure knowledge, I and those who follow me (12:108).

Insight implies knowing each individual’s character, potential, and shortcomings. Human beings are not alike in character, capacity, ambition, and taste. For example, they can be said to “contain coal, copper, silver, gold, and diamonds.” The first step in providing a good education is to recognize individual potentialities and figure out how to develop them. Just as you cannot obtain gold from a coal mine, neither can you develop “copper” people into “gold” people. Conversely, if you try to extract copper by using the gold-ore extraction method, your efforts will be fruitless.

We also should note that those with great potential always distinguish themselves. For example, such leading opponents of Islam as ‘Umar eventually embraced Islam and became leading figures of the Muslim community. This shows that their potential for virtue is refined and developed fully in the crucible of Islam.

• In another hadith, God’s Messenger said: “Surely God grants the wrongdoer, the oppressor, a reprieve. But once He seizes him, He utterly destroys him.” Then he recited: Such is the chastisement of your Lord when He chastises communities in the midst of their wrong: grievous, indeed, and severe is His chastisement (11:102).

God gives the wrongdoers some time to repent and amend their behavior. If they do not take advantage of this opportunity, He punishes them severely.

God sometimes uses wrongdoers as a “sword of God” to punishes the sinful. Muslims often become the target of wrongdoing powers when they deviate from Islam and abandon the Divine Commandments. This happens when God wills not to defer their punishment until the Day of Judgment. For example, after the Muslims split into many competing factions nine centuries ago, they were exposed to the Mongol invasion and massacre. Likewise, they tasted the bitterness of overall defeat and subjugation during and after the First World War. This was because they were no longer practicing Islam in their lives and because they had surrendered intellectually, spiritually, and materially to un-Islamic trends coming from the West.

However, every misfortune befalling Muslims is, on account of resulting from sin, an occasion and means for self-purification and Divine forgiveness; the beginning of a new, more splendid revival. So, the near future will witness, if God wills, the collapse of wrongdoing powers and a magnificent revival of Islam and the Muslim world.

• In an authentic Tradition, God’s Messenger says: God will shade seven (groups) of people under His shade on the Day when there will be no shade except His: the just ruler; young people who have grown up in worship of God, may He be glorified; those people who are greatly attached to mosques; two persons who love each other for God’s sake, meet and then leave each other because of this love; men who refuse the invitations of beautiful women of rank, saying: “I fear God”; those who spend in the way of God so secretly that when they give charity to the one on his left, the one on the right does not see it; and those whose eyes fill with tears when they mention God in seclusion.

People will be drenched sin sweat up to their necks because of the heat of the Day of Judgment. Those who wish for His shade must strive for it according to the instructions outlined in this hadith.

Justice is the foundation of social life, and a just ruler is a rare occurrence. Holy and blessed indeed are those young people who can control their carnal desires and devote themselves to the worship of God. Designing one’s life according to the daily prayers is a laudable virtue that pleases God Almighty. Another important quality, especially in this world of individualism and selfishness, is to love each other for God’s sake and regard the Earth as a “cradle of brotherhood and sisterhood.” Chastity requires self-discipline, and is so meritorious that it elevates its practitioners to the highest ranks. Giving alms purely for God’s sake and without display is almost as much encouraged in Islam as are belief and the prescribed prayers. Meditation and continuous self-supervision, accompanied by a healthy attitude of God-consciousness, prevent people from sinning and make them worthy of Paradise.

• God is kind and gives favors to everyone. Whatever people have is from God. Nevertheless, He bestowed special favors on each Prophet and community according to the dictates of the time. For example, Adam was favored with knowledge of the names (the keys to all branches of knowledge). Noah was endowed with steadfastness and perseverance; Abraham was honored with God’s intimate friendship and being the father of numerous Prophets; Moses was given the ability to administer, and was exalted by being addressed by God directly; and Jesus was distinguished with patience, tolerance, and compassion. All Prophets have some share in these praiseworthy qualities, but each surpasses, on account of his mission, the others in one or more than one of those qualities.

Prophet Muhammad has all of the qualities mentioned above, except for being the father of Prophets. Moreover, because of the universal nature of his mission, he is further distinguished in the following five ways. As related by Bukhari, he says: I have been given five things not given to anyone before me: God helps me by implanting fear in the heart of my enemies at a distance of one month’s walk; the Earth has been made a place of worship and means of cleansing for me, so whenever it is time to pray my followers can pray wherever they are; the spoils of war are lawful for me, although they were not lawful for anyone before me; I have the right to intercede (with God on behalf of believers); and, while every Prophet (before me) was sent to his people exclusively, I was sent to humanity.

It is possible to deduce the following things from this hadith:

Prophethood is a Divine favor bestowed by God on whomever He wishes.
-The five things mentioned in the hadith are exclusive to the Muslim community.
-To make your enemies fear you from great distances, maintain complete sincerity and devotion to the cause of God, as was done during the Era of Happiness when the Prophet and his true successors ruled the Muslims.
– As Islam recognizes no intermediaries between God and people, there is no church or organized and professional clergy. Although saintly people may be allowed to intercede for certain Muslims on the Day of Judgment, God’s Messenger will enjoy the right of all-inclusive intercession for believers of every ummah.
– The spoils of war, forbidden to previous communities as a trial, are lawful for Muslims, because they must struggle in the way of God until the Last Day and convey the Message throughout the world.
– While the mission of previous Prophets was restricted to a certain people and time, God’s Messenger was sent as a mercy for all worlds.

[1] Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 11:412.
[2] Ibid., 11:425.

 

 

Gulen, Muhammed Fethullah. “The Messenger of God” Tughra Books Press, Inc. May 2005.