الحمد لله رب العالمين و الصلاة و السلام على اشرف المرسلين سيدنا محمد سيد الاولين و الاخرين و على اله و اصحابه و من دعا بدعوته و استن بسنته الى يوم الدين. ) سُبْحَانَكَ لَاعِلْمَ لَنَا إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا إِنَّكَأ َنْتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ(

 

All praises belong to Allāh. We send prayers and salutations on the most honorable among the Messengers, our leader Muḥammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the leader of the early ones and the later ones, as well as on his family, his companions, and those who call towards his message and adopt his Sunnah until the day of resurrection. “To You belongs all purity! We have no knowledge except what You have given us. Surely, You alone are the All-knowing, All-wise.”

The Practice of More or Less

This is an article meant to be a complement to two recent articles on the subject of practicing Islām. The intent here is to demonstrate how it is necessary for us, as Muslims, to bridge the gap between those who practice and those who practice less.

There is no denying that as Muslims, as a matter of fact, as human beings, we are bound to live as positive contributors to our social environment, through dignity and respect, despite our differences. One may use any word they wish: tolerance, open-mindedness, accepting diversity. All words refer to the ability the most honorable ones among us have in sincerely displaying a high standard of character when dealing with others.

The first matter to establish and agree on, is that there is a categorization among the Muslims which has been established by naṣṣ (textual evidence) of Qurʾān, and which will always exist until the end of times.

“Then We gave the Book as an inheritance to those whom We chose from among Our servants; among them is the one who wrongs himself, and among them is also the one who takes a middle course, and of them is the one who is foremost in virtuous deeds by Allāh’s permission; this is the great excellence.” (s. al-Fāṭir,v. 32)

One wishing to see a full tafsīr of this verse, may consult this article.

Below are three statements on the tafsīr of this verse which are most relevant to our present discussion:

It has been narrated that while delivering a sermon, ʿUmar Ibn Al-Khaṭṭāb raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, after having read the above verse, that Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Our foremost ones have gone ahead, our middle coursed ones are saved, and our wrongful ones are forgiven.’[1]

It has also been narrated through Abū Dardā, that Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘The foremost one will enter Paradise with no accounting; the middle coursed one will go through an easy reckoning and then enter Paradise; the wrongful one will be held, until he thinks he is doomed, at whichpoint, he will be overtaken by the mercy of Allāh and will enter Paradise.’[2] This is yet another glad-tiding for accepting Allāh’s oneness, although one may be lacking in their observance of Allāh’s commands. It is also a glad tiding for those who observe Allāh’s commands, through being freed from a reckoning or going through an easy one.

Ibn-ʿAṭā explains: Allah Taʿālā has mentioned the wrongful ones first in the verse so they may not despair from His favor. It is also said that he has mentioned them first so they may know that their sins do not distance them from their Lord. It is also said that this order was set because, generally, one’s initial spiritual state is that of disobedience, followed byrepentance [tawba] and then steadfastness [istiqāma].

According to Ibn-ʿAṭā’s explanation, if this verse is directed at anyone, it is to those who practice least. Yet, those who practice their Islām more diligently can benefit from the order of spiritual progress explained by Ibn-ʿAṭā. If we accept that spiritual progress is a natural progress, as explained by Ibn-ʿAṭā, then we convince ourselves to give salām because we are sure they’re good Muslims. It’s only that they are at a spiritual stage which is less advanced. There is nothing wrong with greeting others with all due respect and consideration, and with no fear of being judged. If the fear of being judged is the only reason why we fail to do so, then we are running away from annoyance while forsaking an obligatory or commendable matter. It is one of the traits of Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to endure annoyance from others. Being judged is a light matter, especially from a person with whom we do not have regular dealings (spouse, sibling, co-worker etc…).

In fact, those who practice Islam diligently should greet the less diligent ones with even more warmth than they would normally do to ones similar in practice to themselves. This is so because if the diligent Muslims were to forsake greeting the less-practicing ones, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, then by what miracle will they be drawn towards their category? Guidance lies with Allāh, but Allāh has made means for everything in this world. The guidance of the first category of Muslims to the second category, or their capacity to remain within that first category is dependent on the dealings of those Muslims who have the fate of being in a higher category.

Why Keep Company?

Keeping company with one another has been encouraged in the Qurʾān by Allāh’s affirmation that He has bestowed His bounty on the people of īmān by making them brothers.

“Remember the blessing of Allāh upon you: When you were enemies to each other, and He brought your hearts together, so that, you became brothers through His blessing.” (s. Āl-ʿImrān, v. 103).

The main objective of companionship is to assist one another and strengthen one another.

“He is the One who supported you with His aid and with the believers,and He united their hearts.” (s. al-Anfāl, v. 62-63). It is also narrated in ḥadīth, ‘The relationship of the believer with another believer is like (the bricks of) a building, each strengthens the other.’[3]

There are even greater benefits in the ākhira (hereafter), such as the ability of those who are superior to intercede on behalf of those who are inferior, thus allowing them to gain forgiveness and high stations in Paradise (through that intercession).

This is critical to understand and practice upon. If those who practice less are deprived of the company of those who practice more, their practice will only worsen as they progress towards death. ʿAbdullāh Ibn-ʿAbbās  explains, ‘Does anyone other than people corrupt people?”

In other words, either corruption or righteousness is a guaranteed effect of companionship. Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) also explains this through his saying, ‘A person is on the religion of his friend, so let each one of you carefully consider whom they befriend.’[4]

Those Muslims who are less-practicing and yet love their Islām, should attempt to keep the company of those who practice more than them. Likewise, Muslims who practice more should attempt to befriend the Muslims who practice less so they may benefit from their companionship. The problem of forsaking the salām requires much more than a simple online discussion. It’s a behavior that requires actively seeking Allāh’s assistance to correct. In doing so, we hope to comply to Allāh’s command in assisting one another towards righteousness and taqwā. It’s just as important as, if not more, than dressing in accordance to the precepts of Islām.

There are numerous examples from Rasūlullāh r that exemplify adopting kindness when dealing with others. One such example is when he reprimanded ʿĀisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) for being harsh to a Jewish woman. He said, ‘O ʿĀisha, adopt gentleness, because indeed Allāh-Taʿālā is gentle and He loves gentleness. He grants through gentleness that which He does not grant through harshness, and which He does not grant through anything else.’[5]

Afshush Salam

Greeting our fellow Muslims is the simplest form of social interaction. The salām is ‘the greeting of the people of Paradise’, and it is ‘The word (they receive) from a Merciful Lord’ (s. Yāsīn, v. 58). Regular salām through many weeks, months, years can go a long way in preserving a Muslim’s Islām or taking them to the next category of piety. This is nobility of character. That is, for one to be able to maintain honorable dealings with those who fail to do so, or those whose demeanor is repulsive. It is mentioned in ḥadīth that, ‘The believer will certainly reach, through his noble character, the rank of the one who pray during the hours of the night and fast abundantly.’[6] It is also mentioned that those who will sit the closest to Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) on the day of qiyāma are those whose character is the most noble[7]; the noble next to the noblest.

According to ʿUmar, the less diligent are ‘forgiven’ and according to Abū-Dardā’s ḥadīth, ‘will be overtaken by the mercy of Allah and will enter Paradise.’ One may as well look at them as people of Paradise when dealing with them. Their road to Paradise is just different and we are responsible for contributing to better that journey.

It is narrated about ʿUmar Ibn al-Khaṭṭāb raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), that he once took someone as a brother for the sake of Allāh in Madīna-Munawwarah, and that the person eventually moved to Shām (Syria). ʿUmar later enquired about his state of affairs from someone coming from Shām. The person replied, ‘That man is shayṭān’s brother!’ ʿUmar asked ‘Why?’ He replied, ‘He indulges in major sins to the point that he even drinks liquor.’ ʿUmar then said, ‘Inform me prior to leaving for Shām’. He then wrote to his friend in Shām:

“Hā Mīm .This is revelation of the Book from Allāh, the Mighty, the All-Knowing, the One who forgives sins and accepts repentance, the One who is severe in punishment, the One who is the source of all power. There is no god but He. To Him is the ultimate return (of all).” (s. Ghāfir, v. 1-3)

Following the verse, Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) then reprimanded and rebuked him.

When the man came to read the letter, he wept, and said, ‘Allāh has said the truth and ʿUmar has indeed discharged naṣīḥa (well-wishing advice).’ He then repented and returned to his good ways.

It is worthy to note that ʿUmar’s advice was received well and had the desired effect. This is because, rather than shunning the brother, he kept the man as his brother in Allāh, even after having been informed about his state of affairs. Finally, the advice was discharged through a letter privately (with wisdom).

The salām of the practicing Muslims to the less-practicing ones, taking them as brothers or sisters for the sake of Allāh and advising them when there is an opportunity to do so, will go a long way in improving their practice, in shā Allāh. Having dealings with them while living as a contributor to the betterment of society will have an even greater effect. Furthermore, doing all this for the sake of Allāh will guarantee that results are reached.

The above is a reminder to all our Muslim brethren. A reminder that Allāh has put us in the same verse insūra Fāṭir; our differing levels of practice are none but a source of strength for us. Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), whom we all profess to believe in, is our link to Allāh and his teachings and lifestyle should be our aim. Muslims who practice less should make a sustained effort to educate themselves about the Rasūl ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his practice of Islām. Those who follow that practice outwardly should make a sustained effort to learn how to take example on him inwardly, by adopting his noble character when dealing with others.

We ask Allāh to favor us all with an Islām that is granted acceptance, which constantly grows, and which we meet Allāh with.

Was-salāmu ʿalaykum wa raḥmatullāhi wa barakātuh.

[1] Al-Durr al-Manthūr, al-Suyūṭī

[2]MusnadImāmAḥmad, Mustadrak al-Ḥākim

[3] Al-Bukhārī and Muslim

[4]Abū-Dāwūd and Tirmidḥī

[5]Al-Bukhārī

[6]Abū-Dāwūd and Ibn-Ḥibbān

[7]Al-Tirmidhī