CHAPTER 11: THE FAITH TRIUMPHANT
“Do not be dejected nor grieve. You shall be the uppermost if you are Believers.” (3: 139)
The first thought which comes to mind on reading this verse is that it relates to the form of Jihaad which is actual fighting; but the spirit of this message and its application, with its manifold implications, is greater and wider than this particular aspect. Indeed, it describes that eternal state of mind which ought to inspire the Believer’s consciousness, his thoughts, his estimates of things, events, values and persons.
It describes a triumphant state which should remain fixed in the Believer’s heart in the face of every thing, every condition, every standard and every person; the superiority of the Faith and its value above all values which are derived from a source other than the source of the Faith.
It means to be above all the powers of the earth which have deviated from the way of the Faith, above all the values of the earth not derived from the source of the Faith, above all the customs of the earth not colored with the coloring of the Faith, above all the laws of the laws of the earth not sanctioned by the Faith, and above all traditions not originating in the Faith.
It means to feel superior to others when weak, few and poor, as well as when strong, many and rich.
It means the sense of supremacy which does not give in before any rebellious force, before any social custom and erroneous tradition, before any behavior which may be popular among people but which has no authority in the Faith.
Steadfastness and strength on the battlefield are but one expression among many of the triumphant spirit which is included in this statement of Almighty God.
The superiority through faith is not a mere single act of will nor a passing euphoria nor a momentary passion, but is a sense of superiority based on the permanent truth centered in the very nature of existence. This eternal truth is above the logic of force, the concept of environment, the terminology of society, and the customs of people, as indeed it is joined with the Living God Who does not die.
A society has a governing logic and a common mode, its pressure is strong and its weight heavy on anyone who is not protected by some powerful member of the society or who challenges it without a strong force. Accepted concepts and current ideas have a climate of their own, and it is difficult to get rid of them without a deep sense of truth, in the light of which all these concepts and ideas shrink to nothingness, and without the help of a source which is superior, greater and stronger than the source of these concepts and ideas.
The person who takes a stand against the direction of the society – its governing logic, its common mode, its values and standards, its ideas and concepts, its error and deviations -will find himself a stranger, as well as helpless, unless his authority comes from a source which is more powerful than the people, more permanent than the earth, and nobler than life.
Indeed, God does not leave the Believer alone in the face of oppression to whimper under its weight, to suffer dejection and grief, but relieves him of all this with the message:
“Do not be dejected nor grieve; you shall be the uppermost if you are Believers.” (13:139)
This message relieves him from both dejection and grief, these two feelings being natural for a human being in this situation. It relieves him of both, not merely through patience and steadfastness, but also through a sense of superiority from whose heights the power of oppression, the dominant values, the current concepts, the standards, the rules, the customs and habits, and the people steeped in error, all seem low.
Indeed, the Believer is uppermost-uppermost on the basis of the authority which is behind him and his source of guidance. Then, what is to be said of this earth, what of the people, what of the dominant values of the world, the standards current among people, while he is inspired by God, returns to God for guidance, and travels on His path?
The Believer is most superior in his understanding and his concept of the nature of the world, for the belief in One God, in the form which has come to him from Islam, is the most perfect form of understanding, the greatest truth. The picture of the world which this Faith presents is far above the heaps of concepts, beliefs and religions, and is not reached by any great philosophers, ancient or modern, nor attained by idolaters or the followers of distorted scriptures, nor approached by the base materialists. This picture is so bright, clear, beautiful and balanced that the glory of the Islamic belief shines forth as never before. And without doubt those who have grasped this knowledge are superior to all others. [See the chapter “Teeh wa rukam.” in the book, “Khasais al- Tasawwar al-Islami wa Muqawwimatuhu”, by the author.]
The Believer is most superior in his values and standards, by means of which he measures life, events, things and persons. The source of his belief is the knowledge of God and His attributes as described by Islam, and the knowledge of the realities prevalent in the universe at large, not merely on the small earth. This belief with its grandeur provides the Believer with values which are superior to and firmer than the defective standards made by men, who do not know anything except what is under their feet. They do not agree on the same standard within the same generation; even the same person changes his standard from moment to moment.
He is most superior in his conscience and understanding, in his morals and manners, as he believes in God Who has excellent names and attributes. This by itself creates in him a sense of dignity, purity and cleanliness, modesty and piety, and a desire for good deeds, and of being a rightly-guided representative of God on earth. Furthermore, this belief gives him the assurance that the reward is in the Hereafter, the reward before which the troubles of the world and all its sorrows become insignificant. The heart of the Believer is content with it, although he may pass through this life without apparent success.
And he is most superior in his law and system of life. When the Believer scans whatever man, ancient or modern, has known, and compares it with his own law and system, he realizes that all this is like the playthings of children or the searchings of blind men in comparison with the perfect system and the complete law of Islam. And when he looks from his height at erring mankind with compassion and sympathy at its helplessness and error, he finds nothing in his heart except a sense of triumph over error and nonsense.
This was the attitude of the early Muslims toward the hollow expressions of pomp and power and the traditions which had enslaved the people of the Days of Ignorance. Ignorance is not limited to any particular age, but is a condition which reappears whenever people deviate from the way of Islam, whether in the past, present or future.
This was the response of al-Mughira ibn Shtuba when he encountered the forms, manners, standards, and expressions of Jahiliyyah in the camp of Rustum, the famous Persian general.
“Abi Uthman al-Nahdi reports: When al-Mughira crossed the bridge and reached the Persian army, they seated him and asked Rustum’s permission for an audience. In spite of their defeat, they had not changed any of their show of pomp. Al-Mughira proceeded. The people were all in their military uniforms, many wearing crowns, and clothed in gold-threaded garments. The floor was thickly carpeted (the carpet extending to three hundred or four hundred steps) and was to be traversed to reach the general. Al-Mughira proceeded, his hair braided in four braids, and climbed on the throne and sat beside Rustum. The attendants jumped on him and pulled him down. He then said, ‘We had heard that you were a sensible people, but I see that you are the most foolish nation. Among Arabs all are equal and no one is slave to another, except when one is captured on the battlefield. I imagined that you treated each other equally as we do. It would have been better if you had informed me that some of you are lords over others rather than treating me like this. This IS not good manners, and we do not do it. I have come at your request and not on my own. I know now that your situation is weak and that you will be defeated. No kingdom can survive with this character and mentality.”
A similar attitude was shown by Rabati bin ‘Amer in front of Rustum and his courtiers before the battle of al-Qadisyyah:
“Before the battle of al-Qadisyyah, S’ad bin Waqqas sent Rabatl bin ‘Amer as a messenger to Rustum, the commander of the Perslan army and their ruler. He entered the tent which was all carpeted and curtained with silk and velvet. Rustum sat on a golden throne, crowned and wearing precious stones and pearls. Rabati, in tattered clothes, with a shield, sitting on a small horse, entered. He did not alight from his horse for some distance; then he alighted and tied the horse to a large pillow. He proceeded armed and helmeted. They said to him: ‘Take off your arms’. He replied: ‘I have not come on my own but on your request. If you do not like it, then I will go back’. Rustum said: ‘Let him come’. He came forward leaning on his spear, making holes in the carpet. Rustum asked him: ‘For what purpose you have come?” He replied: ‘God has sent us to bring whoever wishes from servitude to men into the service of God alone, from the narrowness of this world into the vastness of this world and the Hereafter, from the tyranny of religions into the justice of Islam”. (Ibn Kathir: Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah)
Conditions change, the Muslim loses his physical power and is conquered, yet the consciousness does not depart from him that he is the most superior. If he remains a Believer, he looks upon his conqueror from a superior position. He remains certain that this is a temporary condition which will pass away and that faith will turn the tide from which there is no escape. Even if death is his portion, he will never bow his head. Death comes to all, but for him there is martyrdom. He will proceed to the Garden, while his conquerors go to the Fire. What a difference! And he hears the voice of his Generous Lord:
“Let it not deceive you that the unbelievers walk about in the land. A little respite and their abode is Hell, and what an evil place! But for those who fear their Lord are Gardens through which rivers flow, to abide therein -a hospitality from God; and that which is with God is best for the righteous.” (3:196-198)
The society may be drowned in lusts, steeped in low passions, rolling in filth and dirt, thinking that it has enjoyment and freedom from chains and restrictions. Such a society may become devoid of any clean enjoyment and even of lawful food, and nothing may remain except a rubbish heap, or dirt and mud. The Believer from his height looks at the people drowning in dirt and mud. He may be the only one; yet he is not dejected nor grieved, nor does his heart desire that he take off his neat and immaculate garments and join the crowd. He remains the uppermost with the enjoyment of faith and the taste of belief.
The believer holds on to his religion like the holder of a precious stone in the society devoid of religion, of character, of high values, of noble manners and of whatever is clean, pure and beautiful. The others mock his tenacity, ridicule his ideas, laugh at his values, but this does not make the Believer weak of heart: and he looks from his height at those who mock, ridicule and laugh, and he says, as one of the great souls-those who preceded him on the long and bright path of faith, Noah (peace be on him), said:
“You ridicule us! Yet indeed we shall ridicule you as you ridicule.” (11:38)
And he sees the end of this bright path, and also the end of the dark path in the words of God:
“The criminals used to laugh at the Believers, wink at them in passing, and joke about them when they returned to their families. When they saw them, they used to say: “Certainly these people are astray”. Yet they were not sent as watchers over them. Today the Believers laugh at the unbelievers, and watch them while sitting on couches. Did the unbelievers get their reward according to what they used to do”? (83:29-36)
Before this, the Holy Qur’an told us what the unbelievers said to the Believers:
“When Our clear verses are recited to them, the unbelievers say to the Believers: ‘Which of the two parties is superior in station, better in assembly?” (19:73)
Which of the two parties? The great men who do not believe in Muhammad, or the poor who assemble around him? Which of the two parties? Al-Nadr bin al-Harith and ‘Amr bin Hisham and al-Walid bin al-Mughira and Abu Sufyan bin Harb? Or Bilal and ‘Ammar and Khabbab? If the call of Muhammad had been better, would only such people have followed him who did not have any power or position among the Quraish, who assembled in such a lowly place as the house of al-Arqam, while their opponents were the lords of al-Nadwah, the great and glorious assembly hall, and they possessed power, authority and grandeur?
This is the logic of this world, the logic of those of any age or any place who cannot see the higher horizons. It is the wisdom of God that belief remains independent of the glitter and glamour of worldly allurements, such as closeness to the ruler, favor from the government, popularity among the people or the satisfaction of desire. It is only striving, hard work, fighting and martydom. Let him accept it who may accept, who has the certainty in his heart that this is purely for the sake of God and not for the sake of people, or for the allurements and attractions so dear to people. Let him stay away from it who desires pleasures and benefits, and who is greedy for pomp and show, and who is after wealth and possessions, and who gives weight to the considerations of men although these may be light in the balance of God.
Indeed, the Believer does not borrow his values, concepts and standards from people so that he is dependent on the estimation of people; he takes them from the Sustainer of the people, and that is sufficient for him. He does not follow the desires of men so that he has to fluctuate with their changing desires; he depends on the firm balance of the truth which does not fluctuate or lean to one side. Indeed, his inspiration does not come from this passing and finite world; the inspiration of his soul comes from the fountainheads of the universe. Then how can he find dejection in his soul or grief in his heart, while he is linked to the Sustainer of the people, the balance of truth, and the fountainheads of the universe?
Indeed, he is with the truth – and what is beyond the truth but falsehood? Let falsehood have power, let it have its drums and banners, and let it have its throngs and mobs; all this cannot change anything of the truth. Indeed, he is with the truth, and nothing is beyond the truth except error, and the Believer cannot prefer error to the truth. He is a Believer, and whatever be the conditions and the situation, he cannot exchange error for the truth.
“Our Master! Do not let our hearts waver after You have guided us, and bestow on us mercy from Yourself; indeed You are the Bestower. Our Master! You will gather mankind on the Day about which there is no doubt; indeed God does not fail in His promise.” (3:8-9)