Wisdom: A Fresh Look at Islam (Part 4)

Inspired by the Prophet's Wisdom
By Faysal Burhan

Teaching wisdom is an integral part of the mission of the earlier Prophets. The Quran speaks of Prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them), how they were sent to teach wisdom along with their respective scriptures. In this series of articles, Faysal Burhan closely studies and analyzes the Prophetic tact and wisdom in different aspects of his life and he also invites all Muslims to follow and revive the Prophetic Tradition.
Wisdom dictates that certain matters should be introduced at certain times and in an appropriate manner.

Part 1  -  Part 2  -  Part 3

The Prophetic Tradition of Prioritization

All judgments must be weighed, with consideration given to all possibilities surrounding a matter.

Setting out priorities is another Prophetic tradition among the lost and forgotten Prophetic traditions.

An example of this is that on their way to the battle of Uhud a group of hypocrites left the Prophet and his men and returned home.

This group initially wanted to stay in the city of Madinah to meet the Quraysh army, which came to avenge their dead in the battle of Badr a year earlier. The hypocritical disobedience and withdrawal from the Muslim army created a split among the Muslims.

While this was taking place, the guidance of God came with a new revelation outlining an important social Prophetic tradition: the tradition of prioritization of affairs based on their relative importance. Let us read and ponder the next verse:

{Why should you be divided into two parties about the hypocrites? Yet, Allah has upset them for their (evil deeds).} (An-Nisa’ 4: 88)

This verse shows that there is a social sunnah that tells us to consider and prioritize our affairs in terms of importance. What was important for the believers then was victory in the battle in which they were about to engage.

Furthermore, in critical times such as this, believers must be cohesive and united. Nothing must be allowed to hamper the march or lower the morale of the soldiers. The believers must not discuss the defection of the hypocrites; this matter can be discussed later. They must not be distracted, but must concentrate on the battle ahead of them, which has a higher priority at this moment.

The Sunnah of Quality versus Quantity

In another Islamic social Prophetic sunnah of consideration of quality as related to quantity. God says:

{But those who were convinced that they must meet Allah, said: "How often, by Allah's will, has a small force vanquished a big one? Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere.} (Al-Baqarah 2: 249)

Many programs and projects fail due to broken promises and lack of punctuality.

This verse speaks about a small group of believers of the People of the Book who attained victory over an enemy of a greater number and force. After their victory, they realized that God granted them this victory for their strong faith in Him and for their perseverance.

Thus a believer must seek to achieve quality, not quantity, and bring about success through perseverance and through hard work, not through irresponsible and sloppy actions. The mass-production of improperly manufactured commodities will bring less consumer satisfaction than the production of fewer commodities of exceptional quality. Consider what God says in the Quran:

{If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred, if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand.} (Al-Anfal 8:65)

It is clear from this verse that people are evaluated by virtue of quality not quantity and that believers must strive to improve their faith, education, economic, industrial, and technological systems before they can measure high on the scale of evaluation.

The Sunnah of Punctuality and Keeping Promises

Many programs and projects fail due to broken promises and lack of punctuality. Therefore, often programs established by young communities turn into disappointments. Inconsistent attendance and failure to keep promised appointments are prime elements in the decline of these programs or schools. Islam instituted guidelines to protect against this illness. We read in the Quran a description of the believers:

{The Believers must eventually win out, those who humble themselves in their prayers, ... and those who are faithfully true to their trusts and to their covenants.} (Al-Mu’minun 23: 1-8)

Also, we note a warning from the Sunnah (Tradition of Prophet Muhammad) about not keeping appointments. It is reported that the prophet said:

"The signs of a hypocrite are three: if he speaks, he lies (in his speech); if he promises, he breaks his promise; and if he is entrusted (with something), he betrays (what he is entrusted with)." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Keeping appointments and being punctual is a tradition that must be considered and continually practiced to ensure more successful schooling as well as other personal and community activities.

The Prophetic Tradition of Consistency

Another Prophetic tradition closely related to the tradition of punctuality is the tradition of consistency. Persistence, continuity and steadiness are the foundation of many successful undertakings. Political and economic indicators are investors' guides and green lights for their ventures. Investment risks are high in any country with an unstable government. In the same way, one expects the yield or success of any institution or enterprise with an inconsistent system of operation to be limited and ineffective.

The blessings derived from consistency result in Almighty's Divine benediction

This Prophetic tradition of consistency calls for continuity and persistence, even with small means, resources, and efforts. The Prophet illustrated this tradition when he said:

"The actions (undertakings) most pleasing to Allah are those which are most continuous, even if they are small." (Al-Bukhari)

The blessings derived from consistency result in Almighty's Divine benediction and foster success.

The Sunnah of Ascertainment of News (Tabayun)

Islam calls for the ascertainment and verification of the truthfulness of any news, especially bad news, before we react to it. On the other hand, buhtan is to convey bad news to others without first verifying it. This golden rule of tabayun has many positive impacts on society.

First, it discourages those who fabricate news from repeating this evil act.

Second, it reduces the chance that the originator misunderstood the news. Speaking directly to the originator will eliminate the untrue news.

Furthermore, speaking directly to the originator may not only correct this misunderstanding but will also put the source on the spot, in case he or she is guilty of fabrication. The next time around, this person will think twice before attempting to do such a thing. On the other hand, not facing the originator will encourage this person to do it again, since there was no penalty for doing it the first time.

Because this rule is discounted by many Muslims, many rips and tears appear in the fabric of Muslim communities. God, in His divine wisdom, warned us of such consequences. He said:

{Oh you who believe, if a sinner comes to you with news (especially bad news), verify it, so that you do not harm people in ignorance and afterwards regret what you have done.} (Al-Hujurat 49: 6)

Why do Muslims not value and practice the sunnah of ascertainment, which is so elemental for unity? The sunnah of ascertaining the veracity of news must be consciously practiced by every Muslim at all times.

The Sunnah of Reasonable and Gradual Approach

Gradual Approach in all matters, especially Da'wah and education is the essential Islamic ground work. Do not expect to reach the top level floor without climbing on the steps first. The principles of wisdom, discussed earlier, strictly apply in introducing and propagating Islam to people. God commanded:

{Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with hikmah (wisdom) and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.} (An-Nahl 16: 115)

Wisdom dictates that certain matters should be introduced at certain times and in an appropriate manner. In propagating Islam for example, the person being addressed must be addressed beautifully and selectively at his or her level of understanding. Subjects that may turn things negative or promote differences must not be addressed, and subjects that are common and promote better relations should be invited and cherished.

A true believer should always be low-key, easy, sensitive, humble, considerate, with a heart alive in loving God and His Prophet, and with a vision that extends far beyond his or her immediate circle, are descriptions of a true believer inviting people to Islam. One can learn great many lessons during the birth of Islam and in the way it was introduced to the people.

For example, Islam prohibits alcohol, but Almighty God did not initiate the teaching of Islam with the prohibition of alcohol. In fact, alcohol prohibition came about in three stages, the last of which was several years after the migration of the Prophet to Madinah.

The immediate reason for the Revelation of verse 5: 90, which prohibits alcohol, was the marketing of alcohol by two Ansar tribes. If gradual introduction of a matter is practiced by God, why are we so hasty to introduce Islam as the religion of prohibition of alcohol and expect people to quit drinking alcohol the minute we introduce Islam to them? This is just an example. In a similar manner, God instituted modesty and fasting. Each came years after the first call to Islam.

Islam is a system of many aspects, each of which fits in at a certain time and place. Applying Islamic systems in an untimely or inappropriate manner produces an improper Islam which is out of balance. As long as we pay no attention to the wise policies of God, Muslims will fail in schooling and home education as well as in the process of outreach. Believers must not expect a child to run before he or she can walk; neither should they expect to get to the top of the ladder without first climbing the lowest steps.

The Sunnah of Prerequisites and Maturity

the twelve years in Makkah were a period of building faith and of training

Associated with the Prophetic tradition of reasonable and gradual approach is the tradition of Maturity. Maturity of faith and of strategy, including military and political, are a prerequisite to the next higher undertaking. The history of the rise of Islam indicates that there was no forceful retaliation by the Prophet and his companions during the first twelve years of the Makkan period.

This policy was vindicated despite all the attacks, tortures, and social and economic boycotts that the Muslims suffered. What could we draw from this? Could this policy imply that forceful encounters with a strong enemy at this early stage pose a measurable risk to the health of the new and few Muslims? Could this policy imply that maturity of an establishment is a prerequisite for it to yield what is expected of it?

Undoubtedly, both of these conclusions are correct. It appears that the twelve years in Makkah were a period of building faith and of training, the period of ground work and discipline education (tarbiyah). This type of concentrated faith-build up is a prerequisite to all obligations and to the establishment of Islam. Let us look at chapter 73, which teaches intensive training as a must. After the first Revelation, and for the first year from the birth of Islam, God Almighty commanded Prophet Muhammad to stay up praying during the night. Upon this order, the Prophet and some of his companions were constantly and intensively offering night prayers until God, with another revelation, lifted this order and made it no longer mandatory. Saa'd ibn Hisham said:

"I asked Aisha (the wife of the Prophet) to tell me about the Prophet's night prayers. She said: "Did you not read the Surah of Al-Muzzammil (chapter 73)?"

I said: "Yes".

She said, "Truly, Allah obliged the Messenger of Allah and his companions (to rise up, at night, in prayer), for twelve months, until their feet were swollen. After the twelve months, Allah relaxed this commandment in a revelation that is at the end of the Surah."

Let us now read and examine some of the verses of this chapter to establish the purpose of the intensity of night prayer.

{Oh you folded in garments! Stand (to prayer) by night, but not all night, half of it or a little less, or a little more; and recite the Quran in slow, measured, rhythmic tones. Soon We shall send down to you a weighty Message. Truly the rising by night is most potent for governing (the soul), and most suitable for (framing) the word (of prayer and praise).}

It is clear from the verses above that a heavy and major task will be placed upon the shoulders of the Prophet (receiving the Revealed Message of Allah), and that the night prayer is a source of power from which our faith can draw strength. Let us affirm the purpose of greater night prayer, which is in verse five:

{Truly the rising by night is most potent for governing (the soul), and most suitable for (framing) the word (of prayer and praise).}

Thus, greater faith becomes a prerequisite in this case. At the end of the chapter, the Revelation that relaxed the intensity of night prayer beautifully says:

{Your Lord knows that you stand forth (in prayer) almost two-thirds of the night, or half the night, or a third of the night, as does a party of those with you. But Allah appoints night and day in due measure.

He knows that you are unable to keep count thereof. So He has turned to you (in mercy). Read, therefore, of the Quran as much as may be easy for you.

He knows that there may be (some) among you in ill-health; others traveling through the land, seeking Allah's bounty; and yet others fighting in Allah's cause. Read, therefore, as much of the Quran as may be easy (for you); and establish regular charity; and loan to Allah a beautiful loan.

And whatever good you send forth for your souls (i.e. non-obligatory acts of worship such as thikru-Allah, prayers of the night, additional fasting, etc.), you shall find in Allah's presence, which is certainly better and greater in reward. And seek the Grace of Allah, for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.}

when conditions are better, as faith develops and there is less chance of failure, the situation can be relaxed

One can simply conclude from studying the parts of this magnificent chapter pertinent to the topic of this section that greater faith is a prerequisite to more severe situations, and that one must treat a matter according to its own circumstances, even if the substance of the matter is the same, which in our case is the night prayer.

In the beginning of the road to new ventures, it is a prerequisite to develop greater faith and extensive training and preparation. We called this in earlier chapters the Prophetic tradition of preparation. But when conditions are better, as faith develops and there is less chance of failure, the situation can be relaxed.

In the above verses, we see that prayer was continuous most of the night at first. This causes an increase of faith and greater attachment to God, which was needed to comfort the believers, especially in the hard times of the initial rise of Islam. Then we see that God relaxed His order, but this was a year later. Undoubtedly, during that year, there was such an increase of faith in the hearts of the early Muslims that they must have passed the threshold of danger.

Thus, condensed education and discipline in deep faith is a prerequisite for many tasks, however simple or complex, including political maturity and organization. This is why Muslims should not go to an under taking when they are unprepared for and ill in faith and can expect no fruitful achievement. Did we not study why the call of God to repulse the unbelievers came only after the Prophet first established a strong hold in Madinah, and by having alliance of the Christians and Jews around him?

The history of the rise of Islam indicates that the Prophet never engaged in any undertaking knowing that he was not a near-match or that he was less than prepared for it. Even for the battle of Badr which was not expected by the Muslims, the Prophet displayed the best strategies and discipline for that battle's special circumstance. Then, the three hundred Muslims were equipped only to intercept a caravan belonging to Quraysh. They were not equipped to face the one-thousand fighters with whom Quraysh insisted on starting a war with the Muslims. See our article "Focus on the Focus on Early History of Islam (A Refreshing Look at the Sirah)" for more explanation and references.

Political strategies and military affairs are no less important than other Prophetic Traditions. The life of the Prophet is our beautiful model and example to follow. This must hold true not only for the simple act of ablution, but also for well balanced, well conducted, and more complex political, and social undertakings.

The author also invites the readers to read: the Sunnah of Itqan and the Sunnah of Careful Consideration (Tathabbut) articles. These articles are crucial to the Muslim's healthy and fruitful life.

Source: Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies (IAIS) - http://www.islamic-study.org. Article republished with author's kind permission.
Related Links:
Freedom of Expression vs. Respect for the Prophet
Prophet Muhammad: What Most Non-Muslims Don't Know
How to Benefit from the Quran?
The Wise Leader (Peace be upon him)
Prophet Muhammad and the Jews in Madinah

Faysal Burhan works for the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the dual roles of bringing the true message of Islam to the public, as well as finding common ground between all Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

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