قَدْ أَفْلَحَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ * ٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلاَتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ * وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ ٱللَّغْوِ مُّعْرِضُونَ
“The believers must (eventually) win through, Those who humble themselves in their prayers, Who avoid vain talk.” [Surah Al-Mu’minoon 23:1-3]
Every one of us is an ambassador, whether you like it or not. Beard, no beard, Thawb, no thawb, Arab, non-Arab, young, old – every one of us is a walking representation of Islam. I’m sure all of us have at one point asked ‘Why are we in this state as an Ummah, when we have the truth?’ Today, I want to share one of the things which I believe to be a main reason.
The Prophetic purpose
Our beloved Prophet(SAW) explained that one of the purposes of his Messengership was “Verily, Allah has sent me with the perfection of noble morals and completion of good deeds.” [al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ 7073]
إِنَّ اللَّهَ بَعَثَنِي بِتَمَامِ مكارمِ الأَخْلاقِ وَكَمَالِ مَحَاسِنِ الأَفْعَالِ
“I have been spent to perfect good manners” and also in another narration Innama bu’ithtu li utammima makaarimal akhlaaq
إِنَّ مِنْ خِيَارِكُمْ أَحْسَنَكُمْ أَخْلَاقًا
Abdullah ibn Amr reported the Prophet(SAW) said “Verily, the best of you are those with the best character” [Bukhārī 3366]
ما شَيْءٌ أَثْقَلُ فِي مِيزَانِ الْمُؤْمِنِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مِنْ خُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَيُبْغِضُ الْفَاحِشَ الْبَذِيءَ
Nothing is heavier upon the scale of the believer on the Day of Resurrection than good character. Verily, Allah hates the vulgar, obscene person. [Tirmidhī, 2002]
Abu Huraira (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, was asked, “What admits most people into Paradise?”
The Prophet said:تَقْوَى اللَّهِ وَحُسْنُ الْخُلُقِ Fear of Allah and good character.
It was asked, “What condemns most people to Hellfire?” The Prophet said: الْفَمُ وَالْفَرْجُ The mouth and the genitals. [Tirmidhī 2004]
So what is good character?
Imam An-Nawawi mentions that scholars have said all good character and manners can be derived from four prophetic traditions.
- Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak goodness or remain silent. [Muslim 47] It is not permissible to use the tongue for bad things like telling lies, slander, gossip, swearing or abuse.
- Verily, from the perfection of Islam is that a person leaves what does not concern him. [Tirmidhi 2318]
- Abu Huraira reported: A man came to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and said, “Advise me.” The Prophet said: لَا تَغْضَبْ Do not get angry. The man repeated his request twice and the Prophet said: لَا تَغْضَبْ Do not get angry. [Bukhari 5765]
- None of you will have faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself. [Bukhari 13]
Today, I want to focus on the last of these – loving for others what you want for yourself. Love is a strong feeling and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to feel what they feel is called empathy. The Prophet(SAW) taught us throughout his life, how to empathise with others and I’ll be sharing a few examples.
The story of Ikrimah (RA)
Amr bin Hisham, nicknamed Abu Jahl (father of ignorance) by the Muslims, was a cousin to the Prophet’s(SAW) father and a Qurayshi leader of the Banu Makhzum tribe. He was a man who had declared war against the Prophet (SAW), the muslims and islam.
He had tortured muslims just for believing. Bilal(RA) was an African slave owned by Ummayah ibn Khalaf, who was best friends with Abu Jahl. Abu Jahl asked permission to deal with Bilal and his acceptance of Islam, which was granted. Abu Jahl would whip Bilal all night until he would become exhausted. When the heat would reach its peak, he would lay Bilal down upon the scorching sand and put a rock on top of him to pin him down. Bilal would be tied to horses made to run. Bilal’s faith would not be shaken: he became known by the calls of ‘Ahad, Ahad!’- ‘One God, One God!
He had killed muslims just for believing. Mujahid states, ‘The first martyr was Sumayya, the mother of Ammaar, who was martyred during the early days of Islam when Abu Jahl pierced his spear into the most private part of her body.” (Al-Bidaya Wa Nihaya, Ibn Kathir volume 3, page 59)
Abu Jahl was at the head of multiple plots to assassinate the Prophet Muhammad(SAW) when he was praying at the Ka’ba and also the plan before migration to Madinah where all tribes would provide a young warrior to attack the Prophet(SAW) when he left his home so that the blood would not be on any one tribe.
He eventually led an army into the battlefield with the intent of killing the Prophet (SAW) and as many Muslims as possible, at the head of the army leaving Makkah for the battle of Badr to support Abu Sufyan. This man made it very clear what his position was in regards to the prophet(SAW) and Islam and eventually died with those same convictions.
His son, Ikrimah had fought by the side of his father and in fact continued his father’s work after his father’s death fighting in the battle of Uhud and the battle of Khandaq (Trench) where he was one of the few who crossed the ditch, only narrowly escaping with his life in retreat.
Nine years after this battle, the Prophet (SAW) marched on Makkah to open it to Islam. Knowing the strength and size of the Muslim community now, Quraysh saw them approaching and decided to leave the way open for them because they knew that the Prophet had given instructions to his commanders not to open hostilities. Ikrimah and some others however went against the consenus of the Quraysh and attempted to block the progress of the Muslim forces. Khalid ibn al-Walid, now a Muslim, met and defeated them in a small engagement during which some of Ikrimah’s men were killed and others who could, fled. Among those who escaped was Ikrimah himself.
Any standing or influence that Ikrimah may have had was now completely destroyed. The Prophet(SAW) entered Makkah and gave a general pardon and amnesty to all Quraysh who entered the sacred mosque, or who stayed in their houses or who went to the house of Abu Sufyan, the paramount Quraysh leader. However he refused to grant protection to a few individuals whom he named – at the top of this list was Ikrimah ibn abi Jahl. When Ikrimah learnt of this, he slipped out of Makkah in disguise and headed for the Yemen.
Umm Hakim, Ikrimah’s wife, then went to the camp of the Prophet. With her was Hind bint Utbah, the wife of Abu Sufyan and the mother of Mu’awiyah, and about ten other women who wanted to pledge allegiance to the Prophet. Despite Hind having mutilated the uncle of the Prophet(SAW), Hamza(RA) she was accepted amongst the believers. Then, the wife of Ikrimah, Umm Hakim professed her faith in Islam and said: “O Messenger of God, Ikrimah has fled from you to the Yemen out of fear that you would kill him. Grant him security and God will grant you security.”
“He is secure,” promised the Prophet. Umm Hakim set out immediately in search of Ikrimah. Reaching right up to the coast of the Red Sea, south of Jordan, in the region of Tihamah, modern day Aqabah Gulf, where Ikrimah was negotiating transport with a Muslim seaman who was saying to him: “Be pure and sincere and I will transport you.” “How can I be pure?” asked Ikrimah. “Say, I testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” “I have fled from this very thing,” said Ikrimah. At this point, Umm Hakim came up to Ikrimah and said: “O cousin, I have come to you from the most generous of men, the most righteous of men, the best of men . . . from Muhammad ibn Abdullah. I have asked him for an amnesty for you. This he has granted. So do not destroy yourself.” “Have you spoken to him?” “Yes, I have spoken to him and he has granted you amnesty,” she assured him and he returned with her.
As Ikrimah approached Makkah news reached the Prophet (SAW). Recognising that his father’s name amongst the Muslims was Abu Jahl (father of ignorance), he turned to his companions and said: “Ikrimah is coming and I am hopeful that he will embrace and accept Islam. In his presence, none of you should refer to his father as Abu Jahl as it will hurt his feelings.
Even if he becomes a Muslim and he recognizes that his father was wrong in his beliefs and his ideas and in what he did, it is still his father! It would hurt his feelings to hear people, his new brothers and sisters in fait,h to refer to his father as the father of ignorance so do not refer to him as abu jahal in the presence of his son Ikrima.
These are the manners of the Prophet(SAW) – he was able to able to put himself into Ikrimah’s shoes and understand how he would feel in that situation.
Ikrimah and his wife came up to where the Prophet was sitting. The Prophet got up and greeted him enthusiastically. “Muhammad,” said Ikrimah, “Umm Hakim has told me that you have granted me an amnesty.” “That’s right,” said the Prophet, “You are safe.”
“To what do you invite?” asked Ikrimah. “I invite you to testify that there is no god but Allah and that I am the servant of Allah and His messenger, to establish Prayer and pay the Zakat and carry out all the other obligations of Islam.” “By God,” responded Ikrimah, “You have only called to what is true and you have only commanded that which is good. You lived among us before the start of your mission and then you were the most trustworthy of us in speech and the most righteous of us.”
Stretching forth his hands he said, “I testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger.”
Then Ikrimah said: “I ask you to ask Allah for forgiveness for me for all the hostility I directed against you and for whatever insults I expressed in your presence or absence.” The Prophet replied with the prayer: “O Lord, forgive him for all the hostility he directed against me and for all the expeditions he mounted wishing to put out Your light. Forgive him for whatever he has said or done in my presence or absence to dishonour me.”
Ikrimah’s face beamed with happiness. “By God, O messenger of Allah, I promise that whatever I have spent obstructing the way of God, I shall spend twice as much in His path and whatever battles I have fought against God’s way I shall fight twice as much in His way.” From that day on, Ikrimah was committed to the mission of Islam as a brave horseman in the field of battle and as a steadfast worshipper who would spend much time in mosques reading the book of God. Often he would place the mushaf on his face and say, “The Book of my Lord, the words of my Lord” and he would cry from the fear of God.
Ikrimah remained true to his pledge to the Prophet. Whatever battles the Muslims engaged in thereafter, he participated in them and he was always in the vanguard of the army. At the battle of Yarmuk he plunged into the attack as a thirsty person after cold water on a blistering hot day. In one encounter in which the Muslims were under heavy attack, Ikrimah penetrated deep into the ranks of the Byzantines. Khalid ibn al-Walid rushed up to him and said, “Don’t, Ikrimah. Your death will be a severe blow to the Muslims.”
“Let us carry on, Khalid,” said Ikrimah, now at the peak of motivation. “You had the privilege of being with the Messenger of God before this. As for myself and my father, we were among his bitterest enemies. Leave me now to atone for what I have done in the past. I fought the Prophet on many occasions. Shall I now flee from the Byzantines? This shall never be.”
Then calling out to the Muslims, he shouted, “Who shall pledge to fight until death?” Four hundred Muslims including al-Harith ibn Hisham and Ayyash ibn Abi Rabiah responded to his call. They plunged into the battle and fought heroically without the leadership of Khalid ibn al-Walid. Their daring attack paved the way for a decisive Muslim victory.
Exemplary bonds of brotherhood
When the battle was over, the bodies of three wounded mujahideen lay sprawled on the battleground, among them Al-Harith ibn Hisham, Ayyash ibn Abi Rabi’ah and Ikrimah (RAA). Al-Harith called for water to drink. As it was brought to him, Ikrimah gave a groan, and Al-Harith averted his face indicating to give the water to Ikrimah first. The water-carrier went to Ikrimah with the water but on reaching him, he pointed at another of his brothers Ayyash who was severely wounded too and looking at Ikrimah. “Give it to Ayyash.” The water-carrier again moved to quench the thirst of Ayyash but just as he arrived by him, he breathed his last. On realising he has passed away, he returned to al-Harith and Ikrimah only to find that they too had passed away.
One of the main conspirators against the Prophet(SAW) was the head of the munafiqoon in Madina (hypocrites, pretenders who did not believe in Islam), Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salool. When his son comes to the Prophet (SAW) saying that my father has died and I know that he was completely opposed to you and he said terrible, reprehensible things about you but he was my dad and I worry about him. The Prophet (SAW) on the spot removes his shirt, takes off his own shirt and he gives it to him and he says wrap him in this. Use this as his shroud and bury him in it.
What would we do to have the shirt of the Prophet (SAW). Can you imagine being buried in the clothing of the prophet (SAW). What an honor. What a blessing and even though Allah(SWT) made it clear this would not forgive his sins and what he had done wrong but the
Prophet (SAW) is thinking of the son and putting himself in the son’s shoes imagine what he feels like losing his father. That is empathy.
The younger grandson of the Prophet(SAW), Hussain (RA), the son of Ali and Fatima
(RAA) had a severe stutter to the point where he could not even complete a sentence. What makes it even worse is the fact that the older brother Hassan (RA) was very eloquent and well-spoken – a very gifted public speaker. As, a child this is very difficult to come to terms with and really knocks personal confidence.
Once the Prophet(SAW) was sat with quite a few companions and his grandsons are sitting with him. As they are all talking, Hussain(RA) wants to join in because he loved his grandfather. The Prophet(SAW) turned and faced him and everyone went quiet out of respect for the Prophet(SAW). The kid is stuttering so badly that it starts to become awkward and some of the people start exchanging glances as its so uncomfortable and they feel for the kid because he cannot even get through a single sentence. it starts to get really kind of like awkward but the Prophet(SAW) never once interrupts him or hurries to finish his sentence for him.
The Companions said they looked at the face of the Prophet (SAW) to see how is he reacting and they said he had a big smile on his face. He didn’t care if it took five minutes for him to finish what he was saying but he let him finish what he was saying and when he was finished, the Prophet (SAW) turned back to the Sahaba who are now uncomfortably silent and broke the awkward silence saying laqad waratha ‘an ‘ammi Musa (he inherited this from his uncle Moses) turning this perceived negative into a positive. Don’t feel bad for him, rather envy him because he shares a trait with one of the great Prophets of Allah(SWT).
He put himself in the child’s shoes and realised what he needed most at that time – love, support and acceptance for who he was.
Bashir (RA) was a young child from the Ansari helpers in Madinah whose father had gone out in one of the battles with the Prophet(SAW), and as the army returned home, the families of the soldiers would all rush out to the entrance of Madinah to welcome them back. Bashir (RA) was at the front waiting for his father and as each person entered he would ask them ‘have you seen my father?’ And each would respond no. Slowly, line by line, each of them returned until the Prophet(SAW), who would always remain at the back of the army watching out for all of them arrived. At this point, the son of Bashir realised that his dad was not coming back and began to cry.
The Prophet(SAW) stops his riding animal and he picks up this crying child and hugs him. He continues to hold him until he stops crying he calms down and then he says to him “ Amaa tardhaa an akoona ana abaaka wa ‘aa-isha ummak? Don’t cry, don’t worry. From today I am your father and Aisha is your mother. To embrace somebody else’s child as your own. Empathy and look how it beautifies a person’s conduct and character.
The reward for good character
There is a saying that your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying. So how do we remain motivated to empathise with others giving from what we love and loving others for the sake of Allah(SWT)?
Abu Umamah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
أَنَا زَعِيمٌ بِبَيْتٍ فِي رَبَضِ الْجَنَّةِ لِمَنْ تَرَكَ الْمِرَاءَ وَإِنْ كَانَ مُحِقًّا وَبِبَيْتٍ فِي وَسَطِ الْجَنَّةِ لِمَنْ تَرَكَ الْكَذِبَ وَإِنْ كَانَ مَازِحًا وَبِبَيْتٍ فِي أَعْلَى الْجَنَّةِ لِمَنْ حَسَّنَ خُلُقَهُ
I guarantee a house on the outskirts of Paradise for one who leaves arguments even if he is right, and a house in the middle of Paradise for one who abandons lies even when joking, and a house in the highest part of Paradise for one who makes his character excellent. [Abu Dāwūd 4800]
Abu Tha’labah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
إِنَّ أَحَبَّكُمْ إِلَيَّ وَأَقْرَبَكُمْ مِنِّي فِي الآخِرَةِ أَحَاسِنُكُمْ أَخْلاقًا وَإِنَّ أَبْغَضَكُمْ إِلَيَّ وَأَبْعَدَكُمْ مِنِّي فِي الآخِرَةِ أَسْوَؤُكُمْ أَخْلاقًا الْمُتَشَدِّقُونَ الْمُتَفَيْهِقُونَ الثَّرْثَارُونَ
Verily, the most beloved of you and closest to me in the Hereafter are those with the best character. Verily, the most hate of you and furthest from me in the Hereafter are those with the worst character: the boastful, the pompous, and the verbose. [Ibn Ḥibbān 5673]
Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: الرَّاحِمُونَ يَرْحَمُهُمْ الرَّحْمَنُ ارْحَمُوا مَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَرْحَمْكُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you. [Tirmidhī, 1924]
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: أَتَدْرُونَ مَا الْمُفْلِسُ Do you know who is bankrupt? They said, “The one without money or goods is bankrupt.” The Prophet said:
إِنَّ الْمُفْلِسَ مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَأْتِي يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِصَلَاةٍ وَصِيَامٍ وَزَكَاةٍ وَيَأْتِي قَدْ شَتَمَ هَذَا وَقَذَفَ هَذَا وَأَكَلَ مَالَ هَذَا وَسَفَكَ دَمَ هَذَا وَضَرَبَ هَذَا فَيُعْطَى هَذَا مِنْ حَسَنَاتِهِ وَهَذَا مِنْ حَسَنَاتِهِ فَإِنْ فَنِيَتْ حَسَنَاتُهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُقْضَى مَا عَلَيْهِ أُخِذَ مِنْ خَطَايَاهُمْ فَطُرِحَتْ عَلَيْهِ ثُمَّ طُرِحَ فِي النَّارِ Verily, the bankrupt of my nation are those who come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers, fasting, and charity, but also with insults, slander, consuming wealth, shedding blood, and beating others. The oppressed will each be given from his good deeds. If his good deeds run out before justice is fulfilled, then their sins will be cast upon him and he will be thrown into the Hellfire. [Muslim 2581]
Living good character
Ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
أَحَبُّ النَّاسِ إِلَى اللَّهِ أَنْفَعُهُمْ لِلنَّاسِ وَأَحَبُّ الأَعْمَالِ إِلَى اللَّهِ سُرُورٌ تُدْخِلُهُ عَلَى مُسْلِمٍ أَوْ تَكْشِفُ عَنْهُ كُرْبَةً أَوْ تَقْضِي عَنْهُ دِينًا أَوْ تَطْرُدُ عَنْهُ جُوعًا وَلَأَنْ أَمْشِيَ مَعَ أَخِيهِ فِي حَاجَةٍ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِنْ أَنْ أَعْتَكِفَ فِي هَذَا الْمَسْجِدِ يَعْنِي مَسْجِدَ الْمَدِينَةِ شَهْرًا وَمَنْ كَفَّ غَضَبَهُ سَتَرَ اللَّهُ عَوْرَتَهُ وَمَنْ كَظَمَ غَيْظَهُ وَلَوْ شَاءَ أَنْ يُمْضِيَهُ أَمْضَاهُ مَلأَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ قَلْبَهُ أَمْنًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَمَنْ مَشَى مَعَ أَخِيهِ فِي حَاجَةٍ حَتَّى أَثْبَتَهَا لَهُ أَثْبَتَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ قَدَمَهُ عَلَى الصِّرَاطِ يَوْمَ تَزِلُّ فِيهِ الأَقْدَامُ
The most beloved people to Allah are those who are most beneficial to the people.
The most beloved deed to Allah is to make a Muslim happy, or to remove one of his troubles, or to forgive his debt, or to feed his hunger.
That I walk with a brother regarding a need is more beloved to me than that I seclude myself in this mosque in Medina for a month.
Whoever swallows his anger, then Allah will conceal his faults. Whoever suppresses his rage, even though he could fulfill his anger if he wished, then Allah will secure his heart on the Day of Resurrection.
Whoever walks with his brother regarding a need until he secures it for him, then Allah the Exalted will make his footing firm across the bridge on the day when the footings are shaken. [al-Muʻjam al-Awsaṭ 6192]