Sometimes when we read about the glorious events in Islamic history we wish we were present. We tend to think that we would have done at least as well as those whose greatness we admire.
This is not a vain wish. It is normally motivated by a desire to have been able to serve Islam in those great days of its history. It is also natural that we wish this when we read about the events during the life of the Prophet and his wars with the infidels. The question arises, however, whether it is proper to we were present on the day when the Muslims fought the polytheists of Quraish at Badr or on the day of the Battle of the Moat so that we could have made our contribution to the cause of Islam.
Commentary by Adil Salahi
To answer this question, we refer to one of the great companions of the Prophet, namely, Al-Miqdad ibn Al-Aswad, who was one of the early people to embrace Islam and the only one we know to have fought in Badr on horseback.
Jubair ibn Nufair relates that he was in the company of Al-Miqdad when a man who was passing by greeted him and said: “Blessed be those two eyes which saw Allah’s messenger (Pbuh). By Allah, we wish that we had seen what you have seen and witnessed what you have witnessed.” This statement made Al-Miqdad very angry. I was so surprised, considering that the man had only said what was good. Al-Miqdad turned to him and said: “Why should any man wish to have been present on an occasion from which Allah has kept him away, when he does not know what his attitude would have been had he been present then? By Allah, certain people have seen Allah’s messenger (Pbuh) but Allah has thrown them on their faces in hell because they neither responded to him nor did they believe him. Why do you not thank Allah, the Almighty and exalted, for having brought you forth knowing only your Lord, so that you can easily accept what your Prophet (Pbuh) has brought? You have been spared going through a hard trial like others. By Allah, the Prophet (Pbuh) was sent in the most difficult situation with which any Prophet had to contend, at a time of no revelation and when ignorance had spread wide. People thought there was no religion better than the idol worship. He came with a criterion with which he distinguished between the true and the false and separated father from son. A man whose heart Allah had unlocked when he accepted the faith would see his father or his son or his brother hardened in disbelief, and know that if he died in that state he would be in hell. He would experience no happiness, knowing that his beloved one is in the fire. It is to this that Allah refers when he says (of the believers); “It is they who say; Our Lord, give us of our spouses and offsprings ones who will bring happiness to our eyes.”
This statement by one of the Prophet’s early companions needs no comment from us. Those of us who have been brought up in Muslim families can easily overlook the point Al-Miqdad is making. A person can judge himself only in his present circumstances. He cannot tell what attitude he would have taken had he found himself in totally different circumstances. Man is influenced by a variety of motives, pressures and feelings. When he travels from one country to another and lives there for a certain period, he is bound to be influenced by his new surroundings. When he goes back home, those who had known him well in the past can detect the change in him. On the other hand, he looks at the traditions and customs of his own society in a totally different light. When a new situation comes up his reaction may be very different from that of his closest relative. Indeed, it may be different from his own reaction had he not been influenced by another society. How then, can a man know what he would have done had he seen the Prophet and lived in the early days of Islam when the overwhelming majority of people rejected the call of the Prophet? Does he think that his intelligence would have been enough to guide him ? There were among the infidel who would have been classified as very intelligent in any society. They, nevertheless, were hardened in their rejection of the truth of Islam. How can any person tell that he would have acted differently from them?
Al-Miqdad also tells us something which only new comers to Islam can experience. Those of us who have been brought up in Muslim families should thank Allah to have been spared that It is the feeling of knowing that one has accepted the true faith and have been guided by Allah, yet looking at his dearest relatives regret to find them going their ways which are certain to lead them to hell. He would give everything he can in order to open their eyes to the truth so that they can accept the faith of Islam. When his efforts come to nought, a deep sorrow engulf his heart. He is certainly happy to have recognised the truth and follow it, but he can never be happy at failing to make that truth equally recognizable and followed by the ones whom he loves most.
Reading through this statement by Al-Miqdad, we should recognise Allah’s grace and praise Him for bestowing it on us. We should also never think so high of ourselves that we feel certain that had we been there we would have been in the right camp. This is something of which the companions of the Prophet were well aware. Al-Baihaqai, one of the leading scholars on Hadith, relates that a man said to Huthaifah ibn Al-Yaman, a companion of the Prophet from the Ansar; “You have lived at the time of Allah’s messenger (Pbuh) while we have not.” The man said this in a tone of regret implying that he would have loved to have lived at the time of the Prophet. Huthaifah replied in a compassionate tone; “Nephew, you do not know what your attitude would have been had you lived at his time. I remember a situation one night at the time of the Battle of the Moat. It was a very cold, rainy night. Allah’s messenger (Pbuh) turned to us and said; “Who is willing to go and bring us intelligence of what the people (meaning Quraish) are doing? May Allah make him Abraham’s companion on the day of judgement.” By Allah, no one volunteered. He repeated his question, changing his prayer to; “May Allah make him my companion on the day of judgement.” Still no one volunteered. Abu Bakr suggested to the Prophet; “Send Huthaifah.” He told me to go, I said; I fear I may be taken prisoner, he said; “You will not be taken prisoner.” Huthaifah added that he went along as the Prophet commanded him.
Here Huthaifah is giving us an example of that community of believers who have been highly praised by Allah in the Qur’an and who were with the Prophet on one of their most difficult confrontations with the infidel. Yet none of them volunteered to undertake a mission despite the fact that the Prophet prayed for the one who would volunteer to be his own companion in heaven. How can we imagine what our reaction would have been at the time, had we been there?
In the light of these two stories by two of the Prophet’s leading companions, we should always thank Allah and praise Him for having facilitated for us the acceptance of the truth of Islam.