Learning graceful forbearance from the Prophet (PBUH)


It is well known fact that the Prophet (PBUH) was met by fierce opposition from his people when he started inviting them to Islam. But what was his response to their hostility towards him? Did he tell himself: Well, I have given the message and, therefore, my responsibility is over? Why should I put my life through further danger? Here I am trying to help these people and they behave like this? Why should I suffer for their sake – and that too at their hands?

A common man under these circumstances would have behaved exactly like this. But, one who had seen the reality; one who knows that the blind has reached the edge of the valley and that one extra step will lead to his destruction – if one knows all this and his heart is agonizing to save him then he cannot sit quietly. He will plead with him to stop for his own benefit.

In the same way when a visionary sees that evil powers of the world are dominating all aspects of life; they are controlling all human institutions, and they are not listening to the voice of truth and justice; then he doesn’t deceive himself by saying: Okay! I tried my best; they are not listening; so, what can I do? A visionary doesn’t behave like this. He knows that, left unchallenged and unchecked, evil powers will take control of all aspects of life. The result of this will be that humanity will suffer untold miseries. So, he continues to raise his voice against injustice. Whatever his eyes see he continues to invite people to it. The Quran has expressed this reality in these words:

فَاصْدَعْ بِمَا تُؤْمَرُ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
(15:94)

So, O Messenger! You proclaim openly what you have been ordered; and do not care about the Mushrikeen (مشرکین) – those who mix others with Allah to direct their lives.

From beginning to end it is this aforementioned reality that the Quran has repeated time and again in different ways using different metaphors and formulas. Invitation, propagation, giving glad tidings, and warning – are nothing but different facets and explanations of the same reality:

وَادْعُ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ ۖ إِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ هُدًى مُّسْتَقِيمٍ
(22:67)

O Messenger! Continue calling them to the Divine Message because you surely are on the straight path.

فَلِذَٰلِكَ فَادْعُ ۖ وَاسْتَقِمْ كَمَا أُمِرْتَ ۖ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ
(15:42)

O Prophet (PBUH)! Your duty is to keep inviting them towards Islam; reach out to everyone and do this with steadfastness, as you have been commanded. In this regard do not follow their whims and wishes.

The Prophet (PBUH) was told to provide proof and evidence in support of the truth of his message and to present it in a beautiful and endearing way:

ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۖ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
(16:125)

O Messenger! Do not entangle yourself with them. You continue your program of inviting people to the way of Allah with wisdom and kindly exhortation and discuss matters with them in the best possible manner. Allah knows best who is following the right path and who has gone astray. Speak in a way that touches the heart:

وَقُل لَّهُمْ فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ قَوْلًا بَلِيغًا
(4:63)

And speak with them about themselves which enters straight into their heart. This will help those who still have in their hearts even a small desire to accept the truth – to avoid falling into hell, the pit of destruction.

وَذَكِّرْ بِهِ أَن تُبْسَلَ نَفْسٌ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ
(6:70)

Leave them alone but continue to convey to them the teachings of the Quran so that none is destroyed through not receiving Allah’s guidance. And do not be disheartened that they do not listen to you.

لِّيُنذِرَ مَن كَانَ حَيًّا وَيَحِقَّ الْقَوْلُ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ
(36:70)

And O Messenger! This code of life has been given to you so that you may warn the nation which still exhibits signs of life and wants to survive. If they still refuse to adopt the right path, they will themselves see that whatever We had said was the truth and not poetry.

In fact, warning those who are traveling on the wrong path in their journey of life; and that they are headed for destruction, is also a form of glad tiding. To warn a person of the consequences of ingesting poison is actually a blessing for him – it saves his life. Warning people to take appropriate shelter because a severe tornado is approaching, is actually good news for them for their own safety and wellbeing. Ignoring this warning is actually inviting death and destruction. This is the purpose of the warning by the Quran. The messenger himself has been called a warner:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ شَاهِدًا وَمُبَشِّرًا وَنَذِيرًا

O Prophet! You will be the bearer of glad tidings to the people who follow this System; and warn them about the destructive results of disobeying it (33:45, 28:46, 38:65, 46:9, 48:8, 51:51, and 53:56).

Actually, warning and glad tiding are, in fact, two lines of the same couplet, two branches of the same root, two sides of the same coin:

وَمِن قَبْلِهِ كِتَابُ مُوسَىٰ إِمَامًا وَرَحْمَةً ۚ وَهَـٰذَا كِتَابٌ مُّصَدِّقٌ لِّسَانًا عَرَبِيًّا لِّيُنذِرَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا وَبُشْرَىٰ لِلْمُحْسِنِينَ
(46:12)

The book revealed earlier to Moses was a code of correct guidance and a source of mercy for human beings. However, it did not stay in its original form. Now this Book has been sent to practically prove the claims mentioned in that earlier book. This Book has been revealed in an explicit clear language (Arabic), so that you can warn those who have left the right course and have adopted aggressive and unjust ways. Also you can give glad tidings to those who lead balanced and righteous lives.

Therefore, the Prophet (PBUH) was both a warner and a source of glad tidings:

إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ بِالْحَقِّ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا ۖ وَلَا تُسْأَلُ عَنْ أَصْحَابِ الْجَحِيمِ
(2:119)

It is in accordance with Our Plan that We have sent you, O Messenger, with truth so that you may give glad tidings to those who live in accordance with Allah’s Revelation; and a warning to those who do the opposite. If the latter do not pay heed to your warning then they would be destroyed and become companions of hell – and you will not be held responsible for their agonizing end.

The aim of the enemies of the Prophet (PBUH) was to crush his revolutionary movement. But the Prophet (PBUH) faced that storm of opposition with fortitude, equanimity, patience, forbearance, perseverance and inner resolve. The more intense the storm and fury of the opposition, the more intense he made his call to the Truth.

Here was this small life-invigorating Ship of Truth surrounded from all sides by an ocean of violent storm of miseries and hardships. Powerful winds of aggression were trying to turn it over and serpents and alligators of oppressive forces were repeatedly raising their ugly heads from underneath the waters as if to swallow this caravan in one just bite.

But, O Prophet (PBUH), you just keep yourself focused on your goal and your mission. Leave to Allah to deal with these people:

وَذَرْنِي وَالْمُكَذِّبِينَ أُولِي النَّعْمَةِ وَمَهِّلْهُمْ قَلِيلًا ; إِنَّ لَدَيْنَا أَنكَالًا وَجَحِيمًا ; وَطَعَامًا ذَا غُصَّةٍ وَعَذَابًا أَلِيمًا ; يَوْمَ تَرْجُفُ الْأَرْضُ وَالْجِبَالُ وَكَانَتِ الْجِبَالُ كَثِيبًا مَّهِيلًا
(73:11-14)

All those people who are intoxicated by their wealth, belie Our Laws. Leave them to Our Law of Requital; and give them a little respite. Our Law will take care of them. We have prepared fetters and handcuffs for them, which will put a stop to their wickedness and arrogance. And food will get stuck in their throats and choke them; a grievous painful torment. Such will be the end of the capitalistic system, whereby their wealth becomes a punishment for them. What they have acquired by exploiting others chokes them to death. The destruction is built into the system itself. On that Day, all these great leaders and their followers shall tremble before your power and strength. And the leaders who at present look like mountains will become like sand dunes, slipping away on their own.

These types of people have been making fun of the message of truth throughout history; they have hurled humiliating jokes at messengers; they have engaged in sarcastic remarks. So, this is nothing new. The same thing used to happen before as well:

وَلَقَدِ اسْتُهْزِئَ بِرُسُلٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ فَحَاقَ بِالَّذِينَ سَخِرُوا مِنْهُم مَّا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ
(6:10)

O Messenger! The fact is that they are not taking the matter seriously. Messengers before you, were, similarly laughed at but what had been laughed at backfired against them. The messengers kept telling them: your structure that is built on straws will not last. Just wait until a storm comes; then you will see the straws scattered all over the place.

فَقَدْ كَذَّبُوا بِالْحَقِّ لَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِيهِمْ أَنبَاءُ مَا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ
(6:5)

Similarly, O Messenger, the people to whom you deliver this guidance are rejecting and ridiculing it but soon they will face the consequences of their mockery.

When you, O Prophet (PBUH), proclaim Our message they deride you; but they also call you a poet and proclaim that you are engaged in drivel and poetry. They accuse you of building castles in the air because you say that powerful oppressors will disappear. But Allah proclaims:

وَمَا هُوَ بِقَوْلِ شَاعِرٍ ۚ قَلِيلًا مَّا تُؤْمِنُونَ
(69:41)

He is conveying Our commands to you. These are not the sayings of a poet or a soothsayer's guesswork. This certainly is Allah's revelation. There are however, very few who use their intellect and logic to ponder on it; and believe in the truthfulness of these sayings and adopt them as a Divine Code of life.

Poetry is not worthy of a messenger. It is against his revolutionary call of life and against the concrete objectives of his mission:

وَمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ الشِّعْرَ وَمَا يَنبَغِي لَهُ ۚ إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا ذِكْرٌ وَقُرْآنٌ مُّبِينٌ
(36:69)

When We explain things in similes or parables, it does not mean that We are not serious and are speaking casually in a poetic manner. We neither taught such poetry to Our Messenger, nor is it worthy of a person who has been assigned to deliver such a revolutionary and vital message. This is certainly not poetry (26:224). These are but historical facts and a code of life which are vivid and illuminating.

It was to encourage patience and steadfastness of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions that examples of historical evidences were provided by Allah. The Prophet (PBUH) was told not to feel sad from the extremist behavior of his enemies but that he should continue with steadfastness to complete the divine mission:

وَاصْبِرْ وَمَا صَبْرُكَ إِلَّا بِاللَّـهِ ۚ وَلَا تَحْزَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا تَكُ فِي ضَيْقٍ مِّمَّا يَمْكُرُونَ ; إِنَّ اللَّـهَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوا وَّالَّذِينَ هُم مُّحْسِنُونَ
(16:127-128)

In short, adhere to your program steadfastly. This will be possible only through the help which you receive from Allah. Do not grieve about the unbelievers and do not worry about their schemes. Surely, Allah is with those who, by protecting themselves from life’s dangerous valleys, are always busy in improving the human condition by balance-restoring deeds.

How to remain steadfast during difficulties and challenges – for this, look at the past messengers’ lives? Look at what happened to Dawood?

اصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَاذْكُرْ عَبْدَنَا دَاوُودَ ذَا الْأَيْدِ ۖ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ
(38:17)

O Messenger! Do not worry about their heartbreaking taunts, but remain steadfast in your program. In this regard keep in view the events in the lives of Our previous Messengers. For instance remember the episode of Our servant David. We had bestowed a lot of power to him. He was very swift in the submission to Our law and the enforcement of it despite the difficulties and challenges facing him from all sides.

Therefore, remain steadfast under these challenges:

فَاصْبِرْ كَمَا صَبَرَ أُولُو الْعَزْمِ مِنَ الرُّسُلِ وَلَا تَسْتَعْجِل لَّهُمْ
(46:35)

Do not worry about their opposition but remain firm and steadfast on your program, as was done by the other Messengers who had great courage and firmness of heart. And do not ask for a speedy end for them as that will happen according to Our Law of Requital.

All of Allah’s promises are true. His laws are eternal and unchangeable. But since Allah is merciful, he has given a period of respite before the results appear. This can be likened to the period of time between sowing of the seeds and harvesting the crop. After sowing the seeds a farmer continues to work hard steadfastly with full confidence and knows that harvest will happen at the appropriate time.

فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّـهِ حَقٌّ
(40:77)

O Messenger! You should therefore remain steadfast in the implementation of your program. All promises of Allah are true; whatever is being told to you will happen exactly in that way.

This is what is meant by graceful forbearance:

فَاصْبِرْ صَبْرًا جَمِيلًا ; إِنَّهُمْ يَرَوْنَهُ بَعِيدًا ; وَنَرَاهُ قَرِيبًا
(70:5-7)

So you should remain gracefully steadfast in your program. It will be completed in its own time. They think that the doom is far away. But We see it close by.

وَقُل لِّلَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ اعْمَلُوا عَلَىٰ مَكَانَتِكُمْ إِنَّا عَامِلُونَ ; وَانتَظِرُوا إِنَّا مُنتَظِرُونَ
(11:121-122)

You say, O Messenger, to your opponents who do not believe: “You act according to your program and we act according to ours. Thereafter, you wait for the results of your actions and we too shall wait along with you.”

But Quraysh could not visualize that far into the future. To them what mattered was material superiority: wealth, power, and status, etc. They could not understand that the goal of life could be higher than material superiority. Carlyle has addressed them and other such people when he paid tribute to the Prophet (PBUH). Carlyle says about the Prophet (PBUH): “Did he start on ‘career of ambition;’ and, belying all his character and existence, set-up as a wretched empty charlatan to acquire what he could now no longer enjoy! For my share, I have no faith whatever in that.

“Ah no: This deep-hearted Son of the Wilderness, with his beaming black eyes and open social deep soul, had other thoughts in him than ambition. A silent great soul; he was one of those who cannot but be in earnest; whom Nature herself had appointed to be sincere. While others walk in formulas and hearsays, contended enough to dwell there, this man could not screen himself in formulas; he was alone with his own soul and the reality of things. The great Mystery of Existence, as I said, glared-in upon him, with its terrors, with its splendors; no hearsays could hide that unspeakable fact that, “Here am I!” Such sincerity, as we named it, has in very truth something of divine. The word of such a man is a Voice direct from Nature’s own heart. Men do and must listen to that as to nothing else; – all else is wind in comparison.” [Carlyle, Heroes and Hero Worship, page 75]

 


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