Tafsir / The Prophet Muhammad / الفتاوى العطائية (al-Fatawa al-'Ata'iyya)

“The Prophet’s Sublime Character” – Tafsir of Surah al-Qalam Verse 4

“The Prophet’s Grand Level of Character:

Tafsir of Surat al-Qalam Verse 4

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  • Allah the Majestic states regarding His beloved in the noble verse of surat al-Qalam:

{ وإِنك لعلى خلق عظيم } فيه ثلاثة أقوال.أحدها: دين الإسلام، قاله ابن عباس.والثاني: أدب القرآن، قاله الحسن.والثالث: الطبع الكريم. وحقيقة «الخُلُق»: ما يأخذ به الإنسان نفسه من الآداب، فسمي خُلُقاً، لأنه يصير كالخِلْقة في صاحبه. فأما ما طبع عليه فيسمى: «الخِيم» فيكون الخِيم: الطبع الغريزي، والخُلُق: الطبع المُتكلَّف. هذا قول الماوردي. وقد سئلت عائشة رضي الله عنها عن خُلُقِ رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، فقالت: كان خُلُقُه القرآن. تعني: كان على ما أمره الله به في القرآن.

“{You are indeed on a grand level of character}. This has three opinions: [1] the first opinion is it means ‘the religion of Islam’ and this was held by Ibn `Abbas. [2] The second opinion is that it refers to the ‘etiquettes and rules of the Qur’an’. This is what al-Hasan held. The third opinion is that it means ‘the noble and generous nature.’ The reality of ‘khuluq’ is the etiquettes a human being gains or acquires himself and it is called khuluq because it becomes part of the person’s nature. As for the natural disposition in a person, this is referred to as ‘al-khiyam’ which is something instinctual, innate or dispositional. Thus, khuluq is an acquired nature. This is al-Mawardi’s explanation.`A’ishah (ra) was asked about the character of the Messenger of Allah (saw) and she replied: ‘his character was the Qur’an’ meaning he was completely in conformity to all the commands Allah gave him in the Qur’an…” (Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 4:156).

  • Imam Abu ’l-Qasim al-Junayd comments on this verse as recorded by Imam Abu `Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami in his Haqa’iq al-Tafsir:

وقال الجنيد: وخلق أجمع فى أربعة أشياء فى السخاوة والأنفة والنصيحة والشفقة

“And al-Junayd said: khuluq combines for matters: [1] generosity (sakhawah); [2]; dignity (anafah); [3] counsel (nasihah) and [4] affection and kindness (shafaqah)…” (al-Sulami, Haqa’iq al-Tafsir, 2:344 and cf. F. Mayer, Spiritual Gems, p.170).

Notes:

  1. The particle inna (إِن): this is emphatic in its import thus grounding something with surety removing doubt.
  2. The pronoun ka– (ك): in the second person form ‘you’ (sighat al-mukhatab) which again eliminates doubt and personalises the reference.
  3. The letter lam (ل): here grammatically stands for emphasis.
  4. The preposition `ala (على): here it figuratively refers to notability or greatness (li’l-isti`la’) denoting mastery, firmness and being established beyond doubt.
  • Thus, linguistically, the Prophet’s noble character is entirely vindicated in the Qur’an al-Karim. This is one of the many Divine certifications of our beloved Prophet (saw).
  • Imam al-Junayd’s comment on the verse that alludes to great character comprising of four aspects is telling and significant – especially for the da`wah carrier.

[1] generosity: This is essential for building love and closeness. It is also a direct means of gaining immense reward from Allah and is one of the attributes the Prophet is defined with as his generosity (jud) was limitless.

كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أجودالناس، وكان أجود ما يكون في رمضان، حين يلقاه جبريل، وكان جبريل يلقاه في كل ليلة من رمضان فيدارسه القرآن، فلرسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم حين يلقاه جبريل أجود بالخير من الريح المرسلة . وروى أبو هريرة وفاطمة رضي الله عنهما ، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم : أن جبريل كان يعارضه القرآن

“The Messenger of Allah (saw) was the most generous of people more so in Ramadan wherein Jibril would meet him every night and recite the Qur’an with him and where the Prophet was more generous in the good than the winds that brought the rain…” (Bukhari, Sahih [#3220]). It was also known about the Prophet (saw) that he left nothing for the next day out of his immense generosity in giving:

كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لايدخر شيئا لغد

“The Prophet (saw) never left anything in the house for the next day…” (Tirmidhi, Sunan [#2362]).

  • Al-Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyims states in Wabil al-Sayyib that Allah is the most generous and wants this characteristic to be exemplified in His creatures:

والجود من صفات الرب جل جلاله، فإنه يعطي ولا يأخذ، ويطعم ولا يطعم، وهو أجود الأجودين، وأكرم الأكرمين، وأحب الخلق إليه من اتصف بمقتضيات صفاته، فإنه كريم يحب الكرماء من عباده، وعالم يحب العلماء، وقادر يحب الشجعان، وجميل يحب الجمال

“Generosity is one of the attributes of the Lord Majestic and Exalted is He. He gives and does not take, He feeds and is not fed; He is the most noble and generous of those who are noble and generous. The most beloved of His creation to Him are those who seek to acquire the characteristics implied by His attributes. For He is Generous (karim) and loves those among His slaves who are generous; He is All-Knowing and loves those who have knowledge; He is All-Powerful and loves those who are courageous; He is Beautiful and loves beauty…” (Ibn al-Qayyim, Wabil al-Sayyib, p.543).

  • The da`wah carrier must realise that Allah is the Real and True owner of all wealth and has apportioned it according to His Will and Wisdom. He should spend this wealth in the way of Allah and to aid the cause of the call with sincerity and desire to gain the full pleasure of Allah. He should remember this habit of his beloved Prophet and emulate that as it exalted his character (see Min Muqawwimat al-Nafsiyyah al-Islamiyyah, pp.132-134 for references).

[2] dignity: self-worth and self-dignity are important traits for a believer as this is a means of shunning reprehensible things or those matters that are loathsome and detestable. A believer is a refined personality that avoids anything distasteful and more so of the da`wah carrier who has given up pleasures of this life knowing the urgency of the call he is committed to.

[3] counsel: giving sincere advice to one’s brother and sister is a form of love as one does it out of the recipient’s benefit. Advice is also a means to enable us to keep within the boundaries of the Shari`ah and serves as a reminder of our duties in case we fall short – especially the requirements of the da`wah which can be personally demanding, taxing and straining.

[4] kindness: The Prophet’s kindness was boundless. His temperament was unparalleled and his affection and compassion towards all was known to all:

وَسَأَلْتُهُ عَنْ مَخْرَجِهِ كَيْفَ كَانَ يَصْنَعُ فِيهِ؟، فَقَالَ: كَانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَخْزُنُ لِسَانَهُ إِلَّا مِمَّا يَعْنِيهِم وَيُؤَلِّفُهُمْ وَلَا يُفَرِّقُهُمْ -، أَوْ قَالَ: يَنَفَرَّهُمْ شَكَّ أَبُو غَسَّانَ – يُكْرِمُ كَرِيمَ كُلِّ قَوْمٍ وَيُوَلِّيهِ عَلَيْهِمْ، وَيَحْذَرُ النَّاسَ وَيَحْتَرِسُ مِنْهُمْ مِنْ غَيْرِ أَنْ يَطْوِي عَن أَحَدٍ منهم بَشَّرِهِ، وَلَا خُلُقِهِ وَيَتَفَقَّدُ أَصْحَابَهُ وَيَسْأَلُ النَّاسَ عَمَّا فِي النَّاسِ وَيُحَسِّنُ الْحَسَنَ وَيُقَوِّيهِ وَيُقَبِّحُ الْقَبِيحَ وَيُوَهِّيهِ، مُعْتَدِلُ الْأَمْرِ غَيْرُ مُخْتَلِفٍ، لَا يَغْفُلُ مَخَافَةَ أَنْ يَغُفْلُوا أَوْ يَمَلُّوا، لِكُلِّ حَالٍ عِنْدَهُ عَتَادٌ، ولَا يَقْصُرُ عنَ الْحَقِّ وَلَا يُجَوِّزُهُ، الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُ مِنَ النَّاسِ خِيَارُهُمْ، أَفْضَلُهُمْ عِنْدَهُ أَعَمُّهُمْنَصِيحَةً وَأَعْظَمُهُمْ عِنْدَهُ مَنْزِلَةً أَحْسَنُهُمْ مُوَاسَاةً وَمُؤَازَرَةً

“[Imam Husayn said]: I asked [s: my father Imam `Ali] regarding the coming out of the Messenger of Allah (saw) and he replied: The Messenger of Allah (saw) would control his tongue and only spoke that which was necessary [s: and of concern]. He did not waste his time in useless conversations. He made those who came to visit him feel at home he did not make them feel scared or ill at ease. He respected and honoured the notables of every people. He also chose a leader for them. He warned the people of Allah’s punishment [s: and urged them to be cautious]. He also protected himself from troubling or harming people. Besides being cautious and commanding others to be cautious, he never lacked in courtesy towards others. He was concerned for the affairs of his companions, made himself aware about the relationships between them and rectified their faults. He praised good deeds and encouraged them. He explained the harmful effects of bad things and removed and stopped them. He followed the middle path in all matters. He did not neglect the guiding of people, it is possible that they became unmindful of their religious duties, or exceeded in a matter resulting in them becoming disheartened. For everything there was a special arrangement. He did not fall short of the truth, nor did he exceed the limits in this. Those who attended his gatherings were the best of people. The best person in his eyes was the one who would give sincere counsel and wished everybody well. The one with the highest status in his eyes was that person who considered, comforted and helped the creation the most…” (Tirmidhi, Shama’il [#319]).

  • The da`wah carrier should be most kind and affectionate towards his brother and this should be the baseline. They should remind each other of the great duty Allah has honoured them with which is to carry the message of Islam and convey the call of re-implementing Islam in life’s affairs and be bonded on this. Although the demands of this call will be heavy and difficult nevertheless, they should remind each other that their beloved Prophet was the most affectionate, compassionate and kind to his companions and they too had the utmost love, respect and adoration for him and each other. This is indeed one of the best characteristics to possess and it is a Prophetic characteristic (see Min Muqawwimat al-Nafsiyyah al-Islamiyyah, pp.119-120 for references).

And with Allah is all success.

Peace and blessings be upon our beloved, Muhammad.

HIs Family, Companions and all who follow them.

s.z.c.

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