Maria Khan, New Age Islam
17 June 2017
Muslims observe day-long fasting during the
month of Ramadan. This annual month of spiritual training is designed to
develop, among other things, the quality of patience. The nature of the world
is such that it necessarily requires an individual to cultivate patience. For
one inevitably faces instances of loss, unpleasant experiences from others,
disadvantages of various kinds, and so on. Enduring these situations with
fortitude is what builds strong character, one that can go through life without
succumbing to hardships or turning negative.
This is why the Quran attached utmost
importance to patience and in one of its verses it promises “reward without
measure” to the patient. (39:10). In this month, it is useful to reflect on
those verses of the Quran which enjoin patience on its followers and understand
how they have been interpreted by classical commentators of the Quran. The
Prophet of Islam began his missionary career, he had to face stiff opposition
and hostility from people who found his message detrimental to their worldly
interest. Throughout his missionary life, the Quran guided the Prophet on the
behavior he should adopt towards those who had developed enmity for him.
In Chapter 15, the Quran mentions the
previous messengers who came with the divine message to their communities.
Their people, however, poured scorn at them and denied their prophecy. The
context of these verses is the similar treatment that the Prophet Muhammad is
facing at the hands of his community. In response, he is advised to “behave
with seemly patience” (70:5) and to “overlook [their faults] with gracious
forgiveness.” (15:85). The theologian al-Maturidi explains that the Prophet is
told to avoid people’s denunciation without seeking to requite them verbally or
Some are of the opinion that verses which
counsel the Prophet to bear with insult have been abrogated, implying that if
Muslims today face similar circumstances, they must not follow the way of avoidance
and patience. But the philosopher al-Razi, in his Great Commentary running into
32 volumes, points out that the injunction given in these verses is still
valid, as what is intended here is adherence to noble conduct – a command that
by its very nature cannot be revoked.
The Prophet is required to not respond in
like manner to those who pass derogatory remarks and to be large-hearted enough
to pardon the offences of his fellowmen. The reason for this can be understood
in the light of the mission that the prophets are tasked with. A prophet is
charged with the responsibility of people’s moral and spiritual reform.
Muhammad ibn Ahmad writes that the nature of this duty demands that the Prophet
be forbearing towards those who wrong him and become friendly with those who
have developed animosity for him, because he is like a doctor and not a
commander or a tyrant.
The widely regarded Syrian Islamic scholar
Wahhab al-Zuhayli notes that wisdom demanded that the Prophet adopt a peaceful
and reconciliatory course of action with those he had to convey religious
teaching. This is why the Quran repeatedly exhorts the Prophet to not get
enraged at people’s improper conduct, as in this verse: “Bear patiently with
what they say, and ignore them politely.” (73:10). The Prophet is instructed to
avoid his belittling and disparagement. This advice, according to Sayyid Qutb,
was given by God to all of His prophets, and by extension, is also applicable
to the followers of these prophets. For Qutb, keeping patience is jihad – a
struggle against one’s tendency to thirst for revenge when provoked.
The Quran aims to put an end to the actions
that lead to intolerance and violence. At one place it guides Muslims: “If you
want to retaliate, retaliate to the same degree as the injury done to you. But
if you are patient, it is better to be so.” (16:126). In the Quran, the
solution to the problem of enmity is not by way of revenge, but through good
behaviour: “Do good deed in return for bad deed; then you will see that one who
was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.” (41:34)
Al-Tabari, in his influential commentary on
the Quran, argues that the command for patience is not meant solely for certain
special circumstances, rather patience was meant for every situation, both
before God gave permission for war and even after that. In al-Razi’s view,
verses of patience cannot be regarded as abrogated by verses that allow
fighting because the virtues of patience, kindness and tolerance were exhibited
by the Prophet and his Companions even during days of war.
It is said that when the Quran began to be
revealed to the Prophet in 610 AD, it was the month of Ramadan. For this
reason, reading the Quran is one of the important forms of worship for Muslims.
But this is not meant only in the sense of recitation of the words of the
Quran, instead one must delve into the message of the Quran. While reading the
Book, one must reflect on whether one is following the principles laid down in
the Quran in one’s own life. In this sense, Ramadan is a month for
introspection of our thoughts and deeds.
is an Islamic Scholar at Jamia Hamdard University and CPS International member.
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exposition of Qur'anic emphasis on patience and forgiveness. People whom we
remember as Imams and scholars merely offer their own views, speculations and explanations. We are not bound to
read the Qur'an wearing their lenses and say such and such verses are
abrogated. The abrogation hypothesis draws on the verse 2:106 that obviously points to the divine scheme of sending fresh revelations across long historical periods in order to preserve the essential features of divine message that get obscured with time.
Those who suggest that God Almighty changed his
mind with the changing context of the Qur'anic revelation simply do not use reason as
God cannot be God is He were to change His mind while sending His message to
humanity in an infinitesimally small span of time in cosmic scale. And this is what the Qur’an says about those who do not use reason:
the worst of creatures in God’s sight are the deaf and dumb, who do not use
Quran 2:192 supports that Allah
does not hate non-Muslims.
البقرة, Al-Baqara, Chapter #2,
‘And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out
from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than
slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight
you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who
The phrase, unless they (first)
fight you there, is mentione3d in Quran 2:191 implies that Quran only instructs
Muslims to fight only if non-Muslims are the first to fight with Muslims.
البقرة, Al-Baqara, Chapter #2,
‘But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.’
As the phase, if they cease, is mentioned in Quran 2:192
with the phrase, Allah is Oft-forgiving, it implies that Allah would forgive
non-Muslims if they would cease fighting or oppression against Muslims. As Allah would forgive those non-Muslims
would cease fighting with Muslims, do you think Allah would hate them? The reason why Quran 2:191 demands Muslims to
kill non-Muslims wherever they find them is due to they are the first to fight
البقرة, Al-Baqara, Chapter #2,
‘And fight them on until there is no more tumult or
oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease,
Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression.’
As the phrase, tumult or oppression, is mentioned in Quran
2:193 with the phrase, if they cease Let there be no hostility, it implies that
Quran demands Muslims not to have hostility against those non-Muslims who cease
fighting against Muslims. The phrase,
except to those who practice oppression, in Quran 2:193 implies that the
phrase, no hostility, does not apply to those non-Muslims who still keep on practising
oppression against non-Muslims.