“Remember when Moses said to his people: ‘My people, remember Allah’s favour upon you when He raised Prophets amongst you and appointed you rulers, and granted to you what He had not granted to anyone else in the world.”[Al Mai’da 5:20]
We are constantly under the spotlight about our identity. Who are we? Are Muslims the attacker or the victim, like we have just seen this week in France? Are we just immigrants or a minority? As we enter this blessed month of Rabi ul Awwal, are we really devotees of the Prophet and his example? Who defines our value and view of ourselves?
Allah(SWT) relates to us a story about Bani Isra’eel in Surah Al Ma’ida. First, the glory the Israelites enjoyed before the time of Moses is mentioned. There had appeared among them such great Prophets as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Moreover, from the time of Prophet Joseph (AS) they were able to achieve very considerable power and authority in Egypt. For a considerable period they were the greatest rulers of the civilized world, reigning supreme in Egypt and the surrounding territories. People are generally inclined to regard the time of Moses as the starting point for the rise of the Israelites. The Qur’an, however, states categorically that the truly glorious period of their history had passed long before Moses, and that Moses himself drew the attention of his people to that period as their time of glory.
Then they went through a period of slavery under the ruling power, which culminated in their emancipation led by Moses(AS). After leaving Egypt, they are freed and sustained by Allah(SWT), living in tents in the wilderness of Paran, adjacent to the northern borders of Arabia and the southern borders of Palestine. After two years like this, Musa(AS) tells them of their homeland – Palestine which had been the homeland of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
‘My people! Enter the holy land which Allah has ordained for you and do not turn back for then you will turn about losers.’
This land which, most scholars agree refers to Bayt ul Maqdis (Jerusalem), was destined for them – and just like Allah(SWT) had favoured them and blessed them with Prophets, they would certainly be granted this land if they undertook jihad here. So they set off to the Promised land, crossing the Jordan river. They camped and sent out scouts to gather intelligence on the local territory, however they were captured by a single person from the resident population. The descendants of ‘Ad, known as the Amalkites, who were large in size and height. They were interrogated about their mission and then, after deliberating on whether to imprison or kill them, the ruler of the Amalkites decided to release them to so they would spread news of their captors strength amongst Bani Isra’eel.
When they returned and shared their story with Musa(AS), he impressed upon them not to share this with the others, as he was certain of victory and concerned that others may be scared. However, the news broke and the people starting wailing and crying out ‘It would have been better that we were drowned in the Nile, rather than be killed at the hands of these giants’.
“They answered: ‘Moses, therein live a ferocious people: we will not enter unless they depart from it; but if they do depart from it then we will surely enter it.’
However, despite their fear, Allah(SWT) mentions two elders from the scouts, known for two key characteristics. The first attribute – Yakhaafoon – they were afraid, of the only being worthy of being feared, Allah (SWT). And secondary to this – Allah had blessed them. Remember, that knowing Allah(SWT) and relying on Him are themselves a blessing. Real guidance does not depend on upon your strength or discipline, rather it is a reward from Allah(SWT). These two elders gave them good counsel saying ‘Why are you so scared of death before it has come?’. Just take a few steps. The city is not far and once we enter the gate of Bayt ul Maqdis, you will overcome your enemies as is promised to us by Allah(SWT).
“Two from among these who were frightened but upon whom Allah had bestowed His favour said: ‘Enter upon them through the gate – for if you do enter – you will be the victors. And put your trust in Allah if indeed you are men of faith.’”
But these people who had not listened to their own Prophet would hardly listen to these elders. They gave them an even worse response.
˹Yet˺ they said, “O Moses! ˹Still˺ we will never enter as long as they remain there. So go—both you and your Lord—and fight; we are staying right here!”
The sheer disrespect and treachery is disgusting. And in this we learn about their mindset – despite being physically free, they were still enslaved. Despite being cared for, they were still ungrateful. Despite being promised, they were still non-commital.
We need to recognise that we also need to know our values – what do we consider important. Placing one single stone down on the ground doesn’t build a fortress. However, over time, as you lay down more stones a fortress begins to take shape. Everything you do, every day, sets that stone and you need to ask yourself if its making a building you’d be proud of, or not – a fortress or rubble.
There are many lessons to take from this story including:
- None but Allāh knows your true merit. Irrespective of your followers, your social media friendships, the likes, the shares, the bells and the whistles, irrespective of praise, criticism or perceptions. The Qur’an and our history is filled with mighty men and woman who knew what they stood for. In this same land of Palestine, Allah(SWT) recalls the example pf Prophet Zakariya, and his son Yahya both of whom were killed [Ibn Kathīr – al Bidaya wal Nihaya]. Maryam(As) was slandered and accused, ʿĪsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) was persecuted, Ibrāhīm was thrown into a fire and Mūsā was disobeyed (ʿalayhim al-Salām). But they stood firm.If you want to know your value with your Lord, look to how He is using you and what actions He has kept you busy with. – Imam Ibn al-Jawzi
- How do you view yourself? Imagine for a moment that everything you had was suddenly taken away. I mean literally everything including your possessions, career, money, relationships, friendships, accomplishments, and anything else that is physical and tangible. Ask yourself how would that make you feel? Who you are and how you see yourself are keys to understanding your true value.
- Be careful who you measure yourself against. How others see you and how they speak about you, is also, of course, important. But this isn’t so much about them but rather about how you feel about yourself as a result of how others see or speak about you. That is, of course, another measure of your self-worth.If Khabib was to lose his 29th bout tomorrow, stripped of the honour of an unblemished record, who would he be? Khabib will not be known by defeat or victory – rather he’ll be know for his values. Accept yourself as you are.
- Don’t defeat yourself before you have even started. You have the ultimate Power and Support on your side. You have a Lord who will forgive you and reward for every step you have taken to this masjid. When Allah(SWT) is angry with you, He wont stop oxygen for you. He wont stop giving food to you, but He will seal up your heart. He will take away His hidayah from you. He will take away Salah from you. You think it is you not praying to God? No, it is Allah(SWT) who has taken the privilege of sujood (prostration from you).Know that by you sitting in a masjid or reading this article, He (SWT) is guiding and taking care of you.
Learn to love yourself like Allah(SWT) loves you – take care of yourself like He (SWT) wishes to take care of you, saving you from that which is harmful – the haram, and choosing for you only that which is good and pure – the halal.
Yes, we have flaws. Yes, we have so many limitations and weaknesses. That’s part of being human. It’s time to let all that go and instead practice being compassionate with yourself.
- Take full responsibility for your life, for your circumstances, and for your problems. Acknowledge that you have the personal power to change and influence the events and circumstances of your life.
One day a young boy asked his father, “what is the value of my life?”. Instead of answering, the father told his son, “take this rock and go sell it at the market. If anybody asks the price, raise two fingers and don’t say anything”, instructed the father. The boy then went to the market and a woman asked, “How much is this rock? I want to put it in my garden”. The boy didn’t say anything but raised up his two fingers, and the woman said “2 pounds? I will take it”. The boy went home and told his father, “a woman wants to buy this rock for 2 pounds”.
The father then said, “Son, I want you to take this rock to a museum, if anybody wants to buy it, don’t say a word, just put up your two fingers”. The boy then went to the museum and a man showed up wanting to buy the rock, the boy didn’t say a word but put up 2 fingers and the man said “£200? I will take it”. The boy was shocked, went running home and told his father, “A man wants to buy this rock for £200”. His father then said, “Son, the last place I want you to take this rock is to a precious stone store, show it to the owner and don’t say a word, and if he asks the price, just raise up your two fingers”.
The son then ran to a precious stone store, he showed the rock to the owner, “Where did you find this stone? it is one of the rarest stones in the world, I must have it! How much would you sell it for?”. The boy put up his two fingers and the man said “I will take it for £200,000”. The boy not knowing what to say, ran home to his father and told him that there’s a man that wants to buy the stone for £200,000, his father then asked, “Son, do you know the value of your life now?”
You see it doesn’t matter where you come from, where you were born, the colour of your skin, or how much money you were born into. It matters where you decide to place yourself, the people you surround yourself with, and how you choose to carry yourself.
You may have lived your whole life thinking that you were a £2 stone. You may have lived your whole life surrounded by people that saw your worth for only £2, but everybody has a diamond inside them, and we can choose to surround ourselves with people that see our value and see the diamond inside of us. We can choose to put ourselves in a market or put ourselves in a precious stone store. You can also choose to see the value in other people. You can help other people see the diamond inside of them. Choose the people you surround yourself with wisely. That can make all the difference in your life.
When you have a high level of self-worth, you’re no longer relying on other people to make decisions for you. You alone hold yourself accountable, and you alone hold the power to make positive changes in your life. There is no more complaining, blaming, judgment, or excuses. You now hold the power vested in you by Allah(SWT).
You’re not rattled or phased by external circumstances. Yes, the outside world is a crazy mess. However, your inner world is as steady as can be. And that’s what makes all the difference. It’s what eventually brings your ship back to the safety of the harbor. And it’s all because you took the time to build your self-worth.
NOTE: Comparison with the Sahaba (RAA)
In the Tafsir of Imam Tabari, `Abdullah bin `Abbas(RA) said, “When the Messenger of Allah heard that Abu Sufyan had left the Sham area (headed towards Makkah with Quraysh’s caravan), he encouraged the Muslims to march forth to intercept them, saying, (This is the caravan of Quraysh carrying their property, so march forth to intercept it, Allah might make it as war spoils for you.)
The people started mobilizing Muslims, although some of them did not mobilize, thinking that the Prophet would not have to fight. Abu Sufyan was cautiously gathering information on the latest news spying on travelers he met, out of fear for the caravan, especially upon entering the area of Hijaz (Western Arabia). Some travelers told him that Muhammad had mobilized his companions for his caravan. He was anxious and hired Damdam bin `Amr Al-Ghifari to go to Makkah and mobilize the Quraysh to protect their caravan, informing them that Muhammad had mobilized his Companions to intercept the caravan. Damdam bin `Amr went in a hurry to Makkah. Meanwhile, the Messenger of Allah marched with his companions until he reached a valley called Dhafiran. When he left the valley, he camped and was informed that the Quraysh had marched to protect their caravan. The Messenger of Allah consulted the people for advice and conveyed the news about Quraysh to them. Abu Bakr (RA) stood up and said something good, and so did `Umar(RA). Al-Miqdad bin `Amr (RA) stood up and said, `O Allah’s Messenger (SAW) March to what Allah has commanded you, for we are with you. By Allah! We will not say to you what the Children of Israel said to Musa(AS) (“So go you and your Lord and fight you two, we are sitting right here”) ﴿5:24﴾. Rather, go you and Your Lord and fight, we will be fighting along with you both. By He Who has sent you with Truth! If you decide to take us to Birk-ul-Ghimad, we will fight along with you until you reach it.’ The Messenger of Allah said good words to Al-Miqdad and invoked Allah for his benefit. The Messenger of Allah again said, (Give me your opinion, O people! wanting to hear from the Ansar. This is because the majority of the people with him then were the Ansar. When the Ansar gave the Prophet their pledge of obedience at Al-`Aqabah, they proclaimed, `O Allah’s Messenger! We are not bound by this pledge unless, and until, you arrive in our land. When you have arrived in our area, you are under our protection, and we shall protect you in the same manner we protect our children and wives.’ The Messenger of Allah feared that the Ansar might think that they are not obliged to support him except from his enemies who attack Al-Madinah, not to march with him to an enemy in other areas. When the Prophet said this, Sa`d bin Mu`adh(RA) asked him, `O Allah’s Messenger! Is it us whom you meant’ The Prophet answered in the positive. Sa`d said, `We have faith and believed in you, testified that what you brought is the truth, and gave you our pledges and promises of allegiance and obedience. Therefore, march, O Allah’s Messenger, for what Allah has commanded you. Verily, by He Who has sent you in Truth, if you decided to cross this sea (the Red Sea), we will follow you in it, and none among us would stay behind. We do not dislike that we meet our enemy tomorrow. Verily, we are patient in war, fierce in battle. May Allah make you witness what makes your eyes pleased with us. Therefore, march with us with the blessing of Allah.’ The Messenger of Allah was pleased with what Sa`d said and was encouraged by it. He proclaimed, (March with the blessing of Allah and receive the good news. For Allah has indeed promised me one of the two camps (confiscating the caravan or defeating the Quraysh army). By Allah! It is as if I am now looking at the demise of the people (the Quraysh).)”