By Khalid Baig
July 27, 2018
ONCE Angel Jibreel (AS) visited the Holy
Prophet (PBUH) in the guise of a man and in the presence of companions. This
happened toward the end of the Prophetic mission and its purpose to summarise
some fundamental teachings of Islam for the education of all of us. Jibreel
(AS), asked questions about Islam, Iman, Ihsan, the Day of Judgement, and Fate.
Regarding Ihsan, the Prophet (PBUH) responded: “It is that you worship Allah as
if you are seeing Him. For though you see Him not, verily He is seeing you.”
Obviously, our worship will be at its best when performed with that feeling.
Ihsan, therefore, means striving for excellence in achieving piety, through an
overwhelming feeling of closeness to Allah. For anyone seeking spiritual
purification, this is the goal.
Abdul Hameed Siddiqi, well known for his
English translation of Sahih Muslim, notes that what is implied by the term
tassawuf are nothing but Ihsan. With that in mind we can understand the joy of
the person who once reported to his mentor that he had achieved Ihsan in his
prayers. He felt being in the presence of Allah every time he stood up for
prayers. “It is great that you should feel that way while praying, “his mentor
replied. “But, do you have the same feelings when you are dealing with others?
Have you attained Ihsan in relations with your spouse and children, in
relations with friends and relatives, in all social relations?” To the
perplexed disciple he went on to explain that one must not restrict the concept
of Ihsan to the performance of ritual prayers. The term is general and applies
to all endeavours in our life.
The Sufi mentor in this story was Dr Abdul
Hai Arfi, himself a disciple of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi. One of the many
great contributions of Maulana Thanvi was that he reintroduced Islamic
teachings regarding social relations and dealings with others as a religious
issue. His message: You must become a good human being before you can ever
become a good Muslim. This message destroys a disastrous and tragic
misconception that reduces Islam to only the performance of the ritual acts of
worship—the pillars—thus robbing it of much of the rest of the building. A very
important and integral section of that building deals with our social
relations. It is concerned with how we behave in the family. How we interact
with relatives, friends, neighbours, colleagues and all the rest of humanity.
The cornerstone of Islamic teachings in this area is the requirement that we do
not cause anyone any hurt through our words or actions.
famous Hadees states, “A Muslim is the one from whose hands and tongue other
Muslims are safe.” [Tirmizi] Keeping others safe from our hands and tongues
does not only mean that we do not hurl stones or abuses at them, it also means
that we do not say or do anything that will hurt them. This Hadees
clearly describes this as a defining trait of a Muslim. While it refers to
“other Muslims,” scholars agree that it is a general requirement that equally
applies to non-Muslims except those who are at war with the Muslims. A person
who, through his intentional or careless actions or words inflicts unjustified
pain on others is not worthy of being called a Muslim.
We can begin to appreciate the value of
this teaching by realizing that most problems in our lives are man-made. Life
can become living hell if there are problems within the family: the tensions
between the spouses, the frictions between parents and children, the fights
between brothers and sisters and other relatives. Today these are common
stories everywhere. But can these problems occur and reach the intensity they
do if everyone is genuinely concerned about not hurting others? The same
applies to relations between friends, neighbours, colleagues, and communities.
Islam wants to build a society, which is a model of civility, courtesy, and
consideration for others. It does so by emphasising these attributes at a
matter of faith.
One Hadees says that Iman (faith)
has seventy-seven branches. The highest one is the declaration that there is no
God except Allah and the lowest one is the removal of harmful objects from the
path. This is consideration. And obviously, there is no trace of Iman below
this. We see this consideration for others throughout the life of the Holy
Prophet (PBUH). Of course, such an attitude shows itself in “minor” details.
For example, whenever the Prophet (PBUH) visited a group were some people were
asleep and others were not, he would greet them with a low enough voice so
those awake could hear him while those asleep would not be disturbed. Every
night when he used to get up for Tahajjud (midnight prayer)—a voluntary
prayer for the rest of us—he would walk out of the bed very quietly so as not
to disturb his sleeping wife.
Whenever he saw someone commit a wrong that
needed to be corrected in public for the education of others, he would mention
it in general terms, not naming the person who did it. This last practice also
shows the two extremes in this regard that must be avoided. On the one hand is
the temptation to compromise on the issue of right and wrong to avoid hurt
feelings. On the other is the temptation to correct the wrong with total
disregard to the fact that one might be insulting or injuring the other person.
While we may see these extreme attitudes in people who seem to be poles apart
in terms of their practice of religion, both stem from the same narrow vision
of religion that holds our dealings with others as worldly affairs, outside the
realm of Islam! It is good to remember that Islam is a way of life. We must
submit our whole life, not a small subset of our choosing, to the commands and
teachings of Allah and His Prophet (PBUH). Our commitment to Islam must not
only be life-long but also life-wide.