The ‘Harsh’ Reality of Islam

Here is a khutbah I recently gave.  I think its definitely an important topic because it’s very odd to me how when some people get more “religious” or start getting their deen on they become overly serious and hard tempered for some strange reason. If you are one of those people…..chill out 🙂 

 

“Shall I not tell you who will be forbidden from the Fire, or from whom the Fire will be forbidden? It will be forbidden for every gentle, soft-hearted and kind person.” [Tirmidhi]

 

 I wanted to discuss a characteristic that many of us witness among several people unfortunately. I’m sure that all of us can recall examples through our own respective dealings and interactions with individuals on a day to day basis, so its importance is without a doubt very critical to us all.

 Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an in Surah Al-Imran (3:133-135):

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And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord; and a Garden, the extensiveness of which is (as) the heavens and the earth, it is prepared for those who guard (against evil). Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straightness, and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the doers of good (to others). And those who when they commit an indecency or do injustice to their souls remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their faults– and who forgives the faults but Allah, and (who) do not knowingly persist in what they have done.

 It is very important to note that Allah (swt) specifically mentions those who control their anger. It does not say those who do not have any anger. Anger is a natural feeling, and there are certain instances in which we should get upset, such as if any injustice occurs to Muslims or non-Muslims. However, this anger should not in any form prelude injustice and the stereotypical violence that has been attributed to Muslims. Rather, we should control it and not allow ourselves to be harsh or hard tempered with people.

One of the absolute best examples is found Surah Ta Ha (20: 43-44). Allah (swt) told Musa (as):
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Go to Pharaoh; he has overstepped the bounds. But speak to him with gentle words so that hopefully he will pay heed or show some fear.

What was the nature of Pharaoh? He is the same person who is described in Surah An-Naziat (79:24) as arrogantly boasting

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Then he said: I am you your lord, the most high.

He killed thousands of innocent believers and even newborn infants, he denied the clear signs and miracles of Allah (swt), he was an open enemy to Musa (as), and he was so evil that Jibril (as) stuffed his mouth with mud before Pharoah drowned so that he couldn’t even utter words of repentance when Pharoah knew he was about to die. He is narrated to be the absolute worst of mankind, and he is shown his place in Hell everyday while in the state of barzaq. Allah (swt) knew exactly who Pharaoh was and what he did, yet still he told Musa (as) to be gentle with him. Musa (as) being gentle with him could  have possibly benefited Pharoah, but likewise it would have benefited Musa (as) himself first and foremost.

Similarly, it is important to note the instructions given to the Prophet Muhammad (saw) from Allah (swt) at the conclusion of Surah At-Tariq (86:15-17)

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Lo! they plot a plot (against thee, O Muhammad). And I plot a plot (against them). So give a respite to the disbelievers. Deal thou gently with them for a while.

Allah (swt) tells the beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) that the disbelievers are without a doubt plotting against him, yet Allah (swt) had a much greater plan in store for them. Given this revelation, it was still be best for Muhammad (saw) to deal with them in a gentle manner and avoid harshness during that time even with the clear knowledge that they are acting as enemies towards his noble mission.

Another beautiful reminder of avoiding even the slightest inclinations towards neglecting the rights of others,  perfecting one’s character, and prioritizing the importance of matters is at the beginning of Surat ‘Abasa (80:1-12)

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(The Prophet) frowned and turned away, Because there came to him the blind man (interrupting). But what could tell thee but that perchance he might grow (in spiritual understanding)?- Or that he might receive admonition, and the teaching might profit him? As to one who regards himself as self-sufficient, To him dost thou attend; Though it is no blame to thee if he grow not (in spiritual understanding). But as to him who came to thee striving earnestly, And with fear (in his heart), Of him wast thou unmindful. By no means (should it be so)! For it is indeed a Message of instruction: Therefore let whoso will, keep it in remembrance. 

This lesson can be applied to your fellow Muslim brother or sister, as well as non-Muslims that come to us sincerely in search of deepening their own understanding of the faith. This address of Allah (swt) directly to the Prophet (saw) was both a lesson for him as well as for all of mankind to follow. The Prophet (saw) wasn’t necessarily harsh in the sense that we commonly envision when visualizing the state of one being inconsiderate towards a fellow person. The Prophet (saw) was upholding the utmost levels of sincerity towards both the Qureshi leader whom he was attempting to bestow a greater appreciation of Islam in the hopes that he would accept it as his own belief, as well as the blind man who came earnestly towards the Prophet (saw) with a humbled and God fearing heart. This blind believer came to him in a sincere pursuit of knowledge and strengthening his faith, and we can see how we are directed to deal with everyone in the best and most gentle way even if it may conflict with out own whims and desires. Another lesson to learn from this is the absolute veracity and validity of the Qur’an as being of divine origin. Even the Prophet (saw), who had the most exemplary tender and soft persona, was corrected in his dealings when he seldom erred. If this book had been written by Muhammad (saw), there would be no need for him to rectify and rebuke himself for his own mistakes in such a public and open fashion. This is another proof that this book can be from none other than the Creator of the heavens and earth.

In addition there are several ahadith in regards to the self-restraint and proper avoidance of harshness that Muslims are commanded to follow. A few self evident examples are as follows:

 The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “The strong man is not the one who can overpower others (in wrestling); rather, the strong man is the one who controls himself when he gets angry.”

 The Prophet (saw) said, “If a man avoids disputing when he is in the wrong, God builds for him a mansion in the middle part of paradise. And if a man avoids disputing when he is in the right, God builds for him a mansion in highest part of paradise.

 The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “The Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand other Muslims are safe.”

Also, it is narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) never once in his entire life ever hit a woman or a child.

‘Umar (ra) has also been narrated as saying, ‘Deal with the [common] people on the basis of good character, and differ from them with your deeds’. 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “No one will enter Paradise whose heart contains an atom’s weight of arrogance.” [Sahīh Muslim]. However, it’s rather effortless for any of us to get upset and harsh towards others when we have a superiority complex or arrogance towards another individual. I can vividly recall an example several years ago in which I saw this first hand. I was visiting overseas and was staying at a relative’s house. They had a servant who was a teenage boy that lived with them. We quickly befriended each other and masha’Allah he had a very likeable personality. However, what I remember the most is although for the most part everyone was nice and kind to him, there were instances when I felt they were overly harsh with him not because he made a mistake or wasn’t fulfilling his responsibilities, but rather because he was a servant and they were able to act harsh towards him without any perceived repercussions. Compare this to the conduct of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). In a hadith narrated by Anas: “I served the Prophet Muhammad (saw) (and his family) for ten years. (During these 10 years) he (was never cross and) never said even oh! and never asked as to why I did this or didn’t do that [Bukhari & Muslim]. Look at the tolerance, kindness, compassion & forgiveness. Not once in a span of 10 years did the Prophet (saw) rebuke, insult, or reprimand Anas (ra) for any mistake or shortcoming that he may have made. This is a clear example of  what can be considered the pinnacle of gentle and upright conduct towards others.

The Prophet (saw) is narrated as saying in a hadith, “Among my followers the best of men are those who are best to their wives, and the best of women are those who are best to their husbands.” What exactly is the definition of being “the best to your wife?”  As for the role of a husband, this hadith is clearly not a support for the so-called definitive notion that the most wealthy man should be sought after and that simply providing a life of luxury will make one the best husband. This alone cannot earn a husband the rewards of being the best man as described in the hadith. If we study the relationship between the Prophet (saw) and his wives we can see that in reality the quintessential essence of being the best husband, and therefore the best man, encompasses avoiding harshness, kindness, a gentle persona, forgiveness of minor faults of one’s wife, having a sense of humor, as well as the responsibilities of leading, protecting, and maintaining the needs of one’s wife. 

One crucial aspect of Islam for all of us to be cognizant about is that if one of us does not fulfill the rights of Allah (swt), and later ask for sincere forgiveness, He will forgive you insha’Allah. From a hadith qudsi it is narrated that Allah (swt) has said: 

O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind.  O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you.  O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.

However, if you usurp the rights of men and women there is no guarantee that they will forgive you, and we would be held accountable for our harsh conduct on the Day of Judgment. This is the ultimate reason why it is of the utmost importance to ensure that we fulfill the rights of people and avoid undue harshness towards them

The Messenger of Allah (saw) asked his Companions (Sahabah), “Do you know who is a poor man?” The Sahabah asked him who and the Prophet (saw) continued, “The poor man is he who comes to Allah (swt) with a mountain of good deeds, but has been careless at the same time. He lies at some point, hurts someone, or calls someone names. These people will come and demand their rights on the Day of Judgment, so Allah (swt) will start distributing his good deeds among them. His good deeds will finish but their rights will not. Allah (swt) will then take these people’s sins and start collecting them on this man’s head. These sins will pile up like a mountain. Such a one is called a poor person, one who has accumulated a mountain of good deeds but has been careless with his tongue and his hands at the same time.”

For this reason, many of the righteous men of the past have commented on the status of those who delude themselves in acts of perceived self-righteousness, yet only lower their rank due to their ill-nature and bad character.

Said al-Fudayl, ‘The company of an irreligious man of good character is preferable to me to that of an ill-natured man much given to worship.”

Anas ibn Malik (ra) said, “A bondsman can reach the very highest rank in Heaven through his good character, without being a man of much worship, and can reach the lowest region of the Inferno through his bad character, even though he should worship abundantly”

May Allah (swt) make us among those people who are gentle, have the best upright character, and avoid harshness in our dealings and affairs with others. Ameen.

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Filed under Character, Islam, Religion

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