The path of guidance and mildness

Fethullah Gülen: The path of guidance and mildness

Question: “It was by a mercy from God that (at the time of the setback), you (O Messenger) were lenient with them (your Companions). Had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would surely have scattered away from about you. Then pardon them, pray for their forgiveness, and take counsel with them in the affairs (of public concern); and when you are resolved (on a course of action), put your trust in God. Had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would surely have scattered away from about you” (Al Imran 3:159). Could you evaluate the relationship between mildness and the path of guidance in light of this Divine verse?

Answer: The quoted verse was revealed in relation to the Battle of Uhud. As you know, at first, the Muslims suffered a temporary defeat at Uhud, however, this relative and partial failure at the beginning of the battle concluded with a crowning victory later on.

Let us briefly consider the wording of the verse first. “It was by a mercy from God that you were lenient with them.” The Arabic “ba” (by) in the phrase “fa-bi-ma at the beginning denotes closeness. Thus, it is possible to say, “You treated them leniently, thanks to God’s mercy, grace, guardianship and protection.” First, God Almighty stated that the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is aided by special Divine grace and guardianship. In saying so, God eliminated from minds the possibility of His Messenger’s having committed any faults.

In order to understand the special and distinguished position of the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in this respect, it may be useful to remember the Divine address about guidance to Prophets Moses and Aaron, peace be upon them. As you know, while sending them to invite the Pharaoh to follow the true path, God Almighty commanded them to be mild: “But speak to him with gentle words, so that he might reflect and be mindful or feel some awe (of Me, and behave with humility)” (Ta-Ha 20:44). On the other hand, the Qur’an mentions the fact the Pride of Humanity already embodied such an exalted character by stating, “you were lenient with them” (linta lahum).

After revealing the Qur’anic character of the Prince of the Prophets, God Almighty drew attention to the beautiful results of his exalted and lofty qualities by stating, “Had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would surely have scattered away from about you.” Afterwards, He revealed consecutive commandments about asking forgiveness for them and not abandoning consultation by stating: “Then pardon them, pray for their forgiveness, and take counsel with them in the affairs...

The elixir that changed defeat into victory

Before the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, went to Uhud, he consulted with his Companions, and for the sake of establishing the discipline of consultation, he acted in accordance with their opinion.[1] However, the result was a temporary defeat, which caused serious loss.[2] In case the noble Prophet was suffering from hurt feelings, God Almighty commanded His Messenger to act with leniency, ask forgiveness for them, and thirdly to consult with them once more about what needed to be done.

While the polytheists were boastfully proceeding back to Mecca, the Messenger of God gathered his Companions and expressed the necessity of pursuing them, and the Companions acted upon his opinion. Not even a single person from among those who joined the Uhud campaign stayed behind.[3] When we consider this situation, it is possible to understand that consultation yields fruitful results. With the consultation they held prior to Uhud, the blessed Companions experienced the disastrous consequences of the slightest resistance. Even those among them who were unable to walk set about pursuing the polytheists’ army, climbing onto their friends’ shoulders. As a result, the defeated group pursued the Meccans until Hamrau’l-Asad and turned into a victorious group.

So, if we wish to be the center of attraction in the sight of those we address, we should not give up the qualities of a mild attitude, being personable and speaking respectfully; for—as it is also stated in the verse—crude attitudes and harsh behavior will cause people to stay away from us.

There can be many different forms of harshness. While a speaker’s uttering unseemly words in an improper tone and shouting abruptly can be harshness, reviling people severely or letting someone down by turning our backs and walking away are also different forms of harshness. All of these behaviors are likely to repel others. What really matters in this respect is Divine morality, as represented by the blessed Prophets. Given that God Almighty commands Prophets Moses and Aaron to speak with gentle words, even to the Pharaoh who dared to claim to be a deity, and given that He honors and appreciates the noble Prophet for his mild attitude and speech, it shows that this is the essential Divine principle that should be applicable in every period. So, no matter what happens, believers have to treat the people around them with mildness.

Limits of mildness, and upholding the truth

Considering those who obstinately insist on the same wrongs and refuse to understand fair counsel, taking a stance against them is an expression of upholding the truth. To elucidate further, those who lay their hands on anything without distinguishing between what is lawful and unlawful, who lead a self-indulgent life and harm others with this state of theirs should firstly be warned in a mild manner. If they do not respond positively, it is necessary to take a certain stance against them. As is known, a verse with the following meaning was revealed about the three people who did not take part in the Tabuk campaign:

“...And (God turned in mercy also) to the three left behind and whose cases had been deferred. (They felt such remorse that) the earth was too narrow for them despite all its vastness, and their souls became utterly constricted for them, and they came to perceive fully that there is no refuge from God except in Him” (at-Tawbah 9:118).[4] It was actually a trial for those people. As a result of God’s mercy, there was no engagement with the enemy during the Tabuk campaign. If there had been any real engagement, they would have committed a major sin by escaping from it. For this reason, as a manifestation of Divine mercy, after fifty days God Almighty revealed that He had forgiven them. During these fifty days however, the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, did not speak to them and he also banned the Companions from speaking with them as they had not participated in that campaign on the path of God. Those days, the Hypocrites did not take part in military campaigns. Consequently, the believers who did not take part in the Tabuk Campaign were temporarily considered to be in the same category. The believers took an attitude against them because they had failed to stay firm on the path. Nobody had greeted or talked to them. This can be seen as an expression of upholding the truth.

As well as this, a believer’s essential character should be mildness in words, attitudes and behaviors that attract people to them. People should be treated according to their merit and standing. Naturally, a different relationship will be established with everyone depending on his or her general situation. However, everyone should receive their fair share of your hospitality according to their position. It is necessary to find ways of maintaining a good relationship with a hero of the heart who endeavors for the good of the whole nation, as well as with an ordinary believer or someone with a different philosophy of life.

The sole way for building bridges between hearts

By various different means, it is necessary to reach all people in society, and to keep our hearts open to everyone. Actually, the essential idea of dialogue is based on this point. Establishing a relationship with people depends on treating them with mildness in our behavior, attitude and words. Without realizing this, you cannot convey your thoughts in a perfect and complete fashion. If you wish people to benefit completely or at least partially from what you have to say, to have positive feelings toward you or at least not be against you, and to prevent those who act against you, you should build bridges by acting with kindness and mildness, and thus let them know you correctly.

If you wish to glorify the name of God, to let everyone know about the noble Prophet, to let the bright face of Islam be recognized—as opposed to those who defame it—and to pour into others’ hearts the essence distilled from our spiritual heritage, then you must open your heart to everybody no exceptions, and you must embrace all. Even if it is necessary for you lay your head down like a cobblestone to be able to pour your feelings and thoughts into the spirits of other people, you still will have not done much... for there is the sake of God, of the Pride of Humanity, and of the people who live and let live with the Islamic teaching and thus convey its message to the four corners of the world.

Returning to the beginning, the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, demonstrated with his words, attitude and behaviors for his whole lifetime that he was virtually an embodiment of mercy. The Divine verse meaning: “We have not sent you (O Muhammad) but as an unequalled mercy for all the worlds” (al-Anbiya 21:107) also points to this fact. It is possible to see the manifestations of this truth in so many scenes of his life. For example, after the peaceful conquest of Mecca, he spoke to those people who until that day had done every evil to him, including their entrance to Mecca, addressing them just as Prophet Joseph, peace be upon him, had addressed his brothers: “No reproach this day shall be on you. May God forgive you; indeed, He is the Most Merciful of the merciful” (Yusuf 12:92). Thus he showed us the climax of mildness, forgiveness, mercy and tolerance.[5]

Mercy to the worlds

This gentle and mild attitude of the Prince of the Prophets yielded excellent returns. As chapter Nasr states, people embraced Islam in throngs. If we evaluate the issue from a perspective of historical recurrences, we can say the following: Whatever factors were influential in people’s acceptance of Islam yesterday, the same factors hold true today and will be true tomorrow as well. As Bediüzzaman stated in The Damascus Sermon, if we can effectuate the sublime integrity and lofty truths of Islam in our behaviors, then followers of other religions will accept Islam in communities; maybe some continents and states of the earth will embrace Islam.[6]

Indeed, the noble Prophet is the embodiment of mercy. Nobody can ascend to this elevated rank with respect to reflecting the Divine Essence. However, our eyes must constantly be on this horizon. In a secondary sense, we must try to adopt the qualities he embodied. It is necessary to pray to God so that He renders us compassionate and merciful, for this at the same time is the greatest means for God Almighty to have mercy on us. Remember that in one instance the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, stated: “God will not show mercy to a person who shows no mercy to people.”[7] In another, he stated: “Have mercy on those on earth, so that who is above the heavens will have mercy on you.”[8]

In this respect, the devoted souls in our time must fix their gaze on the horizons of becoming an embodiment of mercy and always walk on this path. No matter how far their potentials take them, as long as they are pursuing such an ideal, they will be with the Paragon of the Horizons of the path they walk, and enjoy togetherness with him, peace and blessings be upon him.

[1] Darimi, Ruya, 3; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 3:351.
[2] Sahih al-Bukhari, 26; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 1:30.
[3] Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirat an-Nabawiyya, 4:52; Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya wa an-Nihaya, 4:49.
[4] Sahih al-Bukhari, Tafsir Surah (9), 17-18; Sahih Muslim, Tawbah, 53.
[5] Sunan an-Nasa’i, Sunan al-Kubra, 6/382; Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Kubra, 9/118.
[6] Nursi, Bediüzzaman Said, The Damascus Sermon, Istanbul: Sözler, 1996, p. 29.
[7] Sahih Muslim, Fada’il, 66; Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Birr, 16.
[8] Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Birr, 16; Sunan Abu Dawud, Adab, 58.

This article has originally been published in Turkish on 29/02/2016.

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