To Practice What We Preach
In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The Prophet’s wife, Aisha, says of him: “God’s messenger was never offered a choice between two alternatives over matters of this world without choosing the easier one, unless the easier choice be sinful. In that case, he kept furthest away from it. God’s messenger never sought revenge for himself, unless it be something which violates what God has consecrated. In that case, he sought to set the record straight for God’s sake.”
Commentary by Adil Salahi
In this issue we shall discuss how Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), the most perfect example for people to follow, practised what he preached and conducted himself as required by the highest standards of good manners. We will speak about certain aspects of his character showing that his example is the one to follow in every respect. The Prophet disliked hard attitudes and hard character. He believed that there was nothing worth causing hardship to other people over. His wife, Aisha, says of him: “God’s messenger was never offered a choice between two alternatives over matters of this world without choosing the easier one, unless the easier choice be sinful. In that case, he kept furthest away from it. God’s messenger never sought revenge for himself, unless it be something which violates what God has consecrated. In that case, he sought to set the record straight for God’s sake.”(Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and Malik).
Choosing the easier alternative is kinder to his followers. He thus taught his community and his followers to prefer the easier course. Whatever would ensure the comfort of the people was always preferable to the Prophet. The only provision is that this easier option must be legitimate. If it was sinful, he would steer away from it. That is to be expected from the Prophet who has been sent as mercy for mankind. A sinful practice is indeed the more difficult choice, although it may appear more enjoyable. Moreover, the Prophet never sought vengeance for himself as it is characteristic of a hard person who finds it difficult to forgive. The Prophet was willing to forgo any personal injury to his person. But he was unwilling to forgive the violation of God’s strict bounds. We can easily see the distinction between the two. When it was a matter of principle, relevant to what God has made lawful or forbidden, then the Prophet was unwilling to sacrifice even a minor principle. He honoured them all.
Allah grants Faith to those He Loves
Another Hadith which is of great significance is the one reported by Abdullah ibn Massoud, who quotes the Prophet as saying: “God has apportioned to you your characters in the same way as He has apportioned your provisions. God gives wealth to those He loves and those He does not love, while He does not grant faith except to those whom He loves. He who holds money too dearly to spend it (for God’s cause) and is prevented by the fear of the enemy from fighting and is too weary to stand up at night in worship, should often repeat: “There is no deity except God,” and “All glory be to God,” and “All praise be to God,” and “God is supreme”. These are the translations of La ilaaha illa Allah, and Subhana Allah, and Al-hamdu lillah, and Allahu akbar. (Related by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Al-Hakim).
The first sentence in this Hadith tells us that our characters are given to us by God. This means that by nature, we have the aptitude to follow a certain course, or adopt a certain line. It does not mean that some of us are created liars while others are, by their nature, truthful. We can certainly develop our characters, taking free decisions to be, for example, generous, forgiving, reasonable, etc. This is no different from the apportioning of our provisions by God. It does not mean that we will get our money whether we work for it or not. God certainly does not shower money or provisions on us from the clouds. He facilitates for us our work and makes our efforts successful. The more we do the greater are our earnings. People sometimes suggest that it is better to spend time in worship than to work for one’s living. They argue that what God has apportioned for us, we will get. That fatalistic attitude is not Islamic. God tells us to work in order to earn our living. If we do not work, we earn nothing. The Prophet once saw a man spending all his time in the mosque. He asked who supported him. When he was told that it was his brother, the Prophet said that his brother was a better worshipper than him.
Faith not Wealth
The second sentence in this Hadith tells us that wealth is not that important in the Islamic view. God gives wealth to believers and non-believers, to those He loves and to those He does not love. So, when we see a man who is very wealthy, his wealth does not signify that he is dearer to God. Nor is a poor person less favoured by God. The Prophet tells us: “Had this world (and all its riches) been worth even the span of one wing of a mosquito in God’s sight, not a glass of water would He have allowed of it to any non-believer.” If this world and all its riches are so worthless in God’s view, then being wealthy does not mean that one is favoured or loved by God. It is faith with which God favours those whom He loves. Faith gives a person a good character and respect in his community. This is due to the fact that when one has faith, one tries his best to behave well with others, improve his manners and adhere to moral values. That is bound to earn him the love and respect of everyone.
That is true wealth which is indicative of God’s favour. Faith places certain requirements on people. They are supposed to sacrifice their money and their lives for God’s cause. Yet such a sacrifice does not come so easy to all people. Man is sometimes governed by his narrow view of this world. He finds it difficult to part with his money, even for a good cause. He may prefer to rest at night and finds it difficult to wake up in the middle of the night in order to stand up for worship. When a person shows such reluctance, that does not take him out of the realm of faith altogether. He is still a believer, but his motives have not been refined enough by his faith. The Prophet prescribes for him that he should repeat praises of God. By doing so, he reminds himself of his position in this world and that he is totally dependent on God. He remembers that God has given him so much of His grace that he should always be thankful. He may remember that when he fulfills his duty and sacrifices his wealth and shows his readiness to sacrifice his life, God will give him more. That may come in this world or in the next life.
Repeating such praises of God is important, even if it does not bring about such a change of attitude. God rewards us generously for glorifying Him. Moreover, we feel our relationship with God to be more intimate. We know that we depend on Him for everything in our lives. We know that His grace and bounty is so great that we cannot thank Him enough for it, were we to spend all our time in worship. After all, our worship does not benefit God; it benefits us only. We have a better character for it. Then we should not hold it as a favour which we do to God. We should remember the sacred, or qudsi, Hadith in which God tells us that if all human beings and all jinn, in past and future generations, were so devoted and pious as the most dedicated believer to have ever lived, they would not increase God’s kingdom by their worship in any way. Conversely, if all of them were as wicked as the most evil unbeliever to ever walk this planet, they would not decrease, by their disobedience, God’s kingdom in any way. As I have already said, our worship refines our own characters. It benefits us, and does not benefit God in any way. It is only through God’s grace and generosity that He rewards us for it.