Saturday, May 14, 2011
What the Qur'an teaches: Qualities of the faithful
In the name of God, the Lord of Grace, the Ever Merciful
Whatever you are given is but for the enjoyment of life in this world, but that which is with God is much better and more enduring. (It shall be given) to those who believe and place their trust in their Lord; who shun grave sins and gross indecencies; and who, when angered, will forgive; who respond to their Lord, attend regularly to their prayer, conduct their affairs by mutual consultation, and give generously out of what We have provided for them. (Consultation, Al-Shura, 42: 36-38)
True belief in God has a great effect on human life. To place one’s complete trust in God is something such a belief entails, but the Qur’an gives prominence to this quality: “(It shall be given) to those who believe and place their trust in their Lord.” This is indeed the first practical manifestation of believing in God’s oneness. A believer knows God’s attributes, believes in them all and is certain that no one does anything unless He wills and nothing occurs without His sanction. Hence, his trust in God is complete. Everything he does or refrains from doing is aimed at winning His pleasure. Such a feeling is necessary for everyone. It enables man to stand with his head raised high, feeling inner certainty, reassured, fearing no one, able to withstand adversity, full of contentment in times of ease. Yet this feeling is far more necessary to a leader who is eager to fulfill his responsibilities.
“Who shun grave sins and gross indecencies।” Purity of heart, which ensures that behavior is free of grave sin and indecency is a product of sound faith. It is also a necessary requirement for wise leadership. No one can maintain purity of heart and then indulge in grave sins and gross indecencies. A heart that lacks purity is totally unsuitable for leadership: Its guiding light is obliterated by sin. Faith heightened the sensitivity of the first generation of Muslims enabling them to attain supreme standards. It qualified them to provide a leadership of unprecedented and unequalled qualities. They remain the model to be emulated by later generations.
God is fully aware of man’s weaknesses। Therefore, He has set the mark that qualifies people for the position of leadership at shunning grave sins and gross indecencies, not ordinary ones. His grace ensures that minor sins will be overlooked. This is an act of grace that He bestows on us which should arouse our feeling of humility before Him.
“And who, when angered, will forgive।” This quality, mentioned immediately after the implicit reference to God’s forgiveness of man’s errors and sins, encourages an attitude of mutual forbearance and forgiveness between people. It highlights a characteristic of believers, which makes them forgive when something angers them. Again we see the Islamic approach to human weakness. It does not require man to do anything beyond what he is capable of. God knows that anger is a natural human reaction and that it is not always bad. Feeling angry at something committed against God, faith, truth or justice is commendable and can bring about good results. Therefore, Islam does not forbid anger or consider it a sin. It recognizes it as a natural feeling, thus preventing conflict between man’s religion and nature. However, it takes man by the hand to help him overcome his anger, encouraging him to pardon and forbear. It further makes such forgiveness one of the important qualities of believers. It is well established that the Prophet was never angry at anything related to his own person. His anger, when it occurred, was only for God’s sake and was overpowering. Yet such a high standard was set by Muhammad (peace be upon him) who attained a high standard of greatness. Hence, God does not make this a standard that believers should attain to, but rather sets it as an ideal to strive for. What they are required to do is to forbear and forgive when angry, rising above the desire to retaliate, as long as this remains within the personal sphere.
“Who respond to their Lord।” They remove all impediments that prevent such response. These impediments are within the human soul, created by one’s desires, aspirations and ambitions. When all these impediments are removed, man finds the way to God smooth and wide open. His response is then free of any restraint or impediment.
The type of response is then shown in detail। The first aspect is that believers “attend regularly to their prayer.” Prayer is given great importance in Islam. It comes second only to the first rule of faith, which is the declaration of one’s belief in God’s oneness and in Muhammad as God’s Messenger. Prayer provides the bond between man and his Lord, and gives a practical example of human equality, with worshippers standing shoulder to shoulder in rows, with no distinction whatsoever between them.
Perhaps this is the reason why prayer is immediately followed, in this instance, by the quality of consultation within the Muslim community, giving it precedence over the payment of zakat which is normally mentioned together with prayer. Thus, believers “conduct their affairs by mutual consultation.” As it is phrased, the statement makes consultation a characteristic that pervades every aspect of their lives. As we have already said, this is a Makkan statement made long before the establishment of the Islamic state. This means that this quality is characteristic of the Muslim community in all situations, even though no state or government had as then been established. In fact, the state is only a natural by-product of the Muslim community and its intrinsic qualities. The Muslim community incorporates the state and together they ensure the implementation of the Islamic code of life both at individual and society levels.
For this reason, consultation was an early quality of the Muslim community and applied to a far greater area than the political arena. It is an essential aspect of Islamic life and a distinctive quality of the community entrusted with the role of leading mankind. Needless to say, it is a fundamental quality of sound leadership.