Saturday, 9 February 2013

"Say [O Messenger]: If you love God, follow me: God will love you."

“Say [O Messenger]: If you love God, follow me:
God will love you.” – Al-Qur’an

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The Messenger taught his Companions to love God, and the Qur’an taught them in return: “Say [O Messenger]: If you love God, follow me: God will love you and forgive you your sins.” (Al-Qur’an; 3:31)

This is the month of Rabi al-Awwal, when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last and final Prophet of Almighty Allah, was born in Makkah. The Holy Qur’an, the Final Revealed Book, was revealed to him through Angel Gabriel. I was reading a book: The Messenger: The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad, (peace be upon him by Tariq Ramadan and I am presenting some of his thoughts and ideas through this column. “He (The Prophet) received and transmitted the last revealed book, the Qur’an, which repeatedly insists on the eminent and singular position of the Messenger of God, all at once a prophet, a bearer of news, a model, and a guide. He was but a man, yet he acted to transform the world in the light of Revelation and inspirations he received from God, but also fully accepted his own humanity in what makes Muhammad an example and a guide for the Muslim faithful.” (page ix)

Intimate relationship of trust and love
While pointing out the intimate relationship of love and trust, Professor Ramadan wrote: The essence of the Islamic message is wholly expressed in this intimate relationship of trust and love with the Most High, establishing a direct link between the individual and his or her Creator, Who has chosen to demonstrate exemplary behaviour through a messenger, a human being, whom He has set as a model. Three verses were later to synthesize the exact substance of this teaching: “When My servants as you concerning Me; I am indeed close [to them]: I respond to the prayer of every supplicant when he or she calls on Me.” (Al-Qur’an; 2:186)

The Prophet (peace be upon him), at the heart of this intimate relationship, opens the way: Allah the Almighty said: “Say: If you love God, follow me: God will love you and forgive you your sins.” (Al-Qur’an; 3:31)

The Prophet is the epitome of the human being aspiring to the divine beyond the finitude of life: Al-Qur’an says: “You have indeed in the Messenger of God an excellent example for the person who hopes in [aspires to get close to] God and the final Day and who remembers God intensely.” (Al-Qur’an; 33:21)

Not to compromise principles for wealth and power
In the early years in Makkah when the situation was getting increasingly difficult for Muslims, when insults, rejection, and ill-treatment became the rule, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) began looking for a solution to alleviate the trials and suffering endured by the first Muslims. He was thought of approaching Walid, the chief of the Makhzum clan. Professor Ramadan wrote the story thus: “While he was setting forth his arguments and trying to win Walid’s support, the Prophet was interrupted by a blind man, poor and old, who had already converted to Islam and was asking him to recite some surahs from the Qur’an for him. Muhammad first turned aside calmly, but he soon became irritated by the insistence of this old man, who was preventing him from presenting his case to Walid. The chief, full of contempt, eventually refused even to hear the matter. A surah was to be revealed as a result of this incident, requiring Muslims to draw a lesson from it for eternity:

“In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. He (the Prophet] frowned and turned away, because the blind man came to him. But what could you tell but that perhaps he might grow in purity? Or that he might receive admonition, and the reminder might profit him? As to one who regards himself as self-sufficient, you attend to him, though it is no blame to you if he does not grow in purity. But as to he who came to you striving earnestly, and with fear [in his heart], of him you were unmindful. By no means [should it be so]! For it is indeed a message of remembrance. Therefore let who will, keep it in remembrance.” (Al-Qur’an; 80:1-12)

“The Prophet, moved by his desire to protect his community, is here reproached by his Educator, who teaches him never to turn away from a human being, regardless of whatever difficult circumstances the Prophet might be facing, even though the person might be poor, old and blind. Seeking the protection of a person of distinction, socially and politically useful, Muhammad (peace be upon him) had neglected a poor man, apparently of no significance to his cause, who was asking for spiritual solace; this mistake, this moral slip, is recorded in the Qur’an, which through this story teaches Muslims never to neglect a human being, never to turn away from the poor and needy, but rather to serve and love them. The Prophet was never to forget this teaching, and he repeatedly invoked God, saying: “O God, we implore You to grant us piety, dignity, [spiritual], wealth, and love of the poor.”

Commenting on this Professor Ramadan wrote: “No one must ever let power or social, economic, or political interests turn him or her away from other human beings, from the attention they deserve and the respect they are entitled to. Nothing must ever lead a person to compromise this principle of faith in favour of a political strategy aimed at saving or protecting a community from some peril. The freely offered, sincere heart of a poor, powerless individual is worth a thousand times more in the sight of God than the assiduously courted, self-interested heart of a rich one.” (page 48-49).

“History, with its many examples of how the thirst for power and wealth has led individuals to compromise their principles, has since taught us how true this intuition was. In this respect, another of the Prophet’s warnings echoes in our minds, addressing his spiritual community for the centuries to come: “For every [spiritual] community there is an object of discord, tension, and disorder [fitnah], and for my community, this object is money.”, quoted by Professor Ramadan (page 49).

Begin every act invoking the Name
of Allah the Almighty
While writing the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Professor Ramadan mentioned another incident. The Quraysh were at a loss about how to prevent the Prophet’s message from spreading further. They decided to send a delegation to Yathrib to ask Jewish dignitaries. The Rabbis suggested the people of Makkah should ask him three key questions. Back in Makkah, they went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked him the three questions. The Prophet replied almost instantly: “I shall answer your questions tomorrow!” (page 57)

But the next day, the Angel Gabriel did not appear. There was no Revelation. Nor did the Angel come the day after. Professor Ramadan said, “Two weeks later, he received a Revelation and an explanation: “Never say of anything, “I shall do that tomorrow,” except: “If God so wills,” and remember your Lord [Rabb, “Educator”] when you forget, and say: “I hope that my Lord will guide me ever closer than this to the right course.” (Al-Qur’an; 18:23-24)

“This Revelation once again involved and a teaching: it reminded the Prophet that his status, his knowledge, and his fate depended on his Rabb, on the One and Sovereign God, and that he must never forget it. This is how one should understand the meaning of the phrase Insha Allah, “if God so wills”: it expresses the awareness of limits, the feeling of humility of one who acts while knowing that beyond what he or she can do or say, God alone has the power to make things happen. This is by no means a fatalistic message: it implies not that one should not act but, on the contrary, that one should never stop acting while always being aware in one’s mind and heart of the real limits of human power. For the second time, the Prophet was called to account by the Transcendent. Whatever adversity one faces, one’s strength and freedom on earth consist in remaining constantly aware of one’s dependence on the Creator.” (page 57)

“Only later was the Prophet to receive the answers to the three questions he had been asked. The delay was paradoxically to strengthen the believers’ conviction and to baffle the Prophet’s interlocutors: his initial inability to answer and then the belated communication of Revelation proved that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not the author of the Book that was being constituted and that he did actually depend on his Rabb’s will,” wrote Professor Ramadan (Page 58).

Remember God’s Infinite Power and never
pronounce final judgement on anybody

While narrating the story of Umar’s conversion, Professor Ramadan wrote: Umar had gone out of his home determined to kill the Prophet, blinded by his absolute negation of the One God; there he was, a few hours later, changed, transformed, as the result of a conversion induced by a text and the meaning of God. He was to become one of the most faithful Companions of the man he had wished dead.”

Commenting on Umar’s conversion, Professor Ramadan wrote: “This heart’s revolution was a sign, and it carried a twofold teaching: that nothing is impossible for God, and that one should not pronounce final judgements on anything or anybody. This was a reminder of the need of humility in all circumstances: for a human being, remembering God’s infinite power should mean healthy self-doubt as to oneself and suspending one’s judgement as to others. Thus, the more he moved forward with God, every day becoming more of a model for his Companions and for eternity, the more the Prophet was attaining humility and modesty as expressed in being, knowledge, and judgement.” (Page 65).

Key to Paradise
This year, 2013, during the month of Rabi al-Awwal, I was reading a book , Biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) written by Shaikh Abdullah Ibn Al-Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab, translated by Sameh Strauch and published by Darussalam, in 2006.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Mu’az, “Oh, Mu’az! You are going to People of the Scripture and they will ask you regarding the keys to Paradise; tell them that the keys to Paradise are the words: “La Illaha Illallah” (None has the right to be worshipped except Allah). These words pass through everything until they reach Allah, and there is no barrier between Him and it. Whoever comes on the day of Resurrection with these words, sincerely, they will outweigh his sins.” (Vol. II, page 859)

Equality before law
During the Conquest of Makkah, a woman from Banu Makhzoom stole something and the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was informed of it and he ordered that her hand be cut off, as reported in the authentic Hadith. Her people hastened to Usamah Ibn Zaid Ibn Harithah to ask him to intercede for her with the Prophet (peace be upon him). When Usamah interceded for her with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), the colour of the face of Allah’s Messenger changed and he said, ‘Do you intercede with me in a matter involving one of the legal punishments prescribed by Allah?”

In the afternoon, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) got up and delivered a sermon to the people. He praised Allah as He deserves to be praised and then said; “Amma Badu

(To proceed): The nations prior to you were destroyed because if a noble person amongst them stole, they used to excuse him, and if a poor person amongst them stole, they .would inflict the legal punishment on him. By Him in Whose Hand is Muhammad’s soul, if Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand.” (Vol. II, page 689).

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