How was the adherence of the prophet muhammad to his promises?
“… Fulfill your (part of the) covenant, I shall fulfill My (part of the) covenant…” (Baqarah, 2; 40)
Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: “O you who believe! Fulfill the obligations…” (al-Maidah 5; 1). Therefore, believers must observe their promises. First of all, faith is a type of promise or an agreement. It means that a believer makes promises to Allah the Almighty. In addition, personal and social promises are also made. No matter what kind of promise we have made, we need to keep our promises; because it is the essence of our religion, rule of our faith, and order of Allah the Almighty.
Adherence to our promises occupies a very important place in the foundation and continuance of the social order; because, improvement of personal and social life depends on mutual relationships, and these relationships are based upon various agreements and promises. Without agreements social and economic growth cannot continue. The significant amount of complaints and setbacks in affairs are the result of breaking promises. It is a vested right to expect the fulfillment of agreements. In other words, those who do not keep their promises violate others rights and do not fulfill their obligations at the same time. Allah the Almighty invites His servants to be careful in this regard saying:
“…and fulfill the promise; surely (every) promise shall be questioned about.” (al-Isra 17; 34) As internalizing this good moral is to the advantage of a servant, not fulfilling its requirements is to his/her disadvantage. While distrust, anger, and enmity will prevail around those who are not observant of their promises; tranquility and peace will emerge in places where obligations are fulfilled. As a result, people will become more attached to each other with love and respect. Allah the Almighty states that He will bestow great blessings upon such observant people in the following verse:
“…So whosoever breaks his oath breaks it only to his soul’s hurt; while whosoever keeps his covenant with Allah, on him will He bestow immense reward.” (al-Fath 48; 10)
It is narrated by Abu Huraira:
“The Prophet said that “Allah says, ‘I will be against three persons on the Day of Resurrection’” and then He counts the first one which is who makes a covenant in His Name, but he proves to be treacherous. (Bukhari, Buyu’ 106) In another tradition, the Prophet (pbuh) expresses that if a believer breaks his/her promises, he/she will have an attribute of hypocrisy until he/she gives it up. (Bukhari, Iman, 24)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) describes the tragic end of such people on the Day of Judgment in his following saying:
“…On the Day of Judgment there will be a flag for every person guilty of the breach of faith. It will be raised in proportion to the extent of his guilt …” (Muslim, Jihad, 15) In other words, a distrustful person will be exposed on the Day of Judgment in front of other people and will distinguished by raising a flag. This will make him/her more disgraced and ashamed.
Abdullah b. Abbas said that “there is no people who betray a pledge, but that Allah gives their enemies power over them.” (Muwatta, Jihad, 4) Thus, he pointed out that those who do not keep their promises will be liked by neither Allah the Almighty nor His servants and will face many troubles.
In many places of the Qur’an, our Lord expresses that He is observant of His promises and His promise will never change in His presence. After Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) had performed the funeral prayer of one of his companions, he made the following invocation and proclaimed that Allah the Almighty is faithful to His promises:
“O Allah! Son of so and so is in Your protection, so guard him from the trial in the grave and the punishment in Hell. You are faithful to Your promise and worthy of praise. O Allah! Forgive him and show him mercy. You are the forgiving and the merciful one.” (Abu Dawud, Janaiz, 54-56) The statement of “being faithful to the promises” in this prayer emphasizes that Allah the Almighty will fulfill His promises, reward the performer of good deeds, and always be with the truth and truthful. Since our Lord Almighty likes to see this attribute in His servants, He says:
“… and fulfill your (part of the) covenant, I shall fulfill My (part of the) covenant …” (Baqarah, 2; 40) and commands them to fulfill their obligations. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), the most perfect servant of Allah the Almighty and the most observant of His commands, often touched the covenant of the servants with their Lords and asked for Allah’s forgiveness:
“…I am Your slave and I am abiding to Your covenant and promise as best as I can…” (Bukhari, Daawat, 16) Our blessed Prophet (pbuh) always observed his covenant with Allah, his Lord, and never broke his promises. As a person who knew all aspects of the Prophet’s life, Ibn Abbas (r.a.) said about the Messenger of Allah (pbuh): “when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) gave a promise, he would certainly fulfill it.” (Bukhari, Shahadat, 28)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was always fair and upright in his relationships with his business partners, his customers, and other people as well. Besides, being faithful to his promises was a distinguishing characteristic of his even before his prophethood. When he made a promise to someone, he kept it no matter what the circumstances were.
Abdullah b. Abul Hamsa’ (r.a.) narrates, “Before the Holy Prophet (pbuh) declared his prophethood, I had bought something from him. I was a bit short on cash and so I asked the Prophet to wait whilst I went and got some money from home. The Prophet agreed to wait there but when I went home I completely forgot about it. After three days when I suddenly remembered, I rushed to see the Prophet who was standing and waiting for me at the same place where he had promised me. He did not show any displeasure at seeing me, just advised,
“O young man! You have put me in a difficult situation as I have been waiting here for you for three days.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 82)
Allah’s Apostle’s reason for waiting was not to get his money back but was because of his faithfulness to his promises. He became so sensitive about keeping his promises that even his enemies benefited from his mercy. It has been reported on the authority of Hudhaifa b. al-Yaman who said:
“Nothing prevented me from being present at the Battle of Badr except this incident: I came out with my father Husail to participate in the Battle, but we were caught by the disbelievers of Quraish. They said:
“Do you intend to go to Muhammad?” We said:
“We do not intend to go to him, but we have other reasons for going back to Medina.”
So they took from us a covenant in the name of Allah that we would turn back to Medina and would not fight on the side of Muhammad (pbuh). So, we came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and related the incident to him. He said:
“Both of you go; we will fulfill the covenant that you made with them and seek Allah’s help against them.” (Muslim, Jihad, 98)
Another incident which shows how breaking a promise does not befit a Muslim happened during the Hudaibiyah Treaty. One of the conditions of the treaty was to return all the refugees coming from Mecca to Medina. Just when they were signing the treaty, Abu Jandal (r.a.), son of Suhail b. Amr, the representative of Quraish, came to the Prophet (pbuh) dragging the chains attached to his feet. Because Abu Jandal (r.a.) had converted to Islam, he had been tortured by the Meccan polytheists. He found a way and escaped from them and took refuge in Muslims. Suhail told them that his son was the first person to be returned according to the treaty and hit Abu Jandal’s face with the stick in his hand. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), who was sorrowfully watching what was going on, asked Suhail to leave Abu Jandal out off the deal. However the hard hearted polytheist did not accept the Prophet’s request. Abu Jandal (r.a.) begged and asked for help from the believers while he was handed to the polytheists. The believers could not stand his situation and began to weep. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) appeased Abu Jandal saying:
“O Abu Jandal! Be patient a little more. Ask for your reward from Allah the Almighty. Without a doubt Allah the Most High will soon create a solution and ease for the weak believers like you and others. We have signed a peace agreement with these people and made a covenant with them in the name of Allah. They promised us in the name of Allah, too. We cannot break our promise, for breaking promises is not appropriate for us.” (Ibn Hanbal, IV, 325; Ibn Hisham, III, 376)
What happened to Abu Jandal (r.a.) soon happened to another sincere believer named Abu Basir (r.a.). Polytheist asked him to be returned, too. Abu Basir (r.a.) killed Hunays, one of his two guardians on his way back, and made the other one run away. He took Hunays’ sword, clothes, and other belongings. He took them to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and said:
“O Messenger of Allah! Take one fifth of these for yourself.” The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“If I took one fifth of these, it would mean that I broke our agreement with them. However your actions and what you do with the possessions of that man is completely your own concern.” (Waqidi, II, 626-27)
The following incident which happened to a shepherd named Yasar during the Battle of Khaibar also deserves our attention. According to the reports, Yasar, who earned his livelihood by grazing the herds of a leading Jewish man, really wanted to meet the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and one morning when he went out of the castle to graze his herd, he met Allah Messenger (pbuh). After a short conversation with the Prophet, Yasar converted to Islam. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) changed his name to Aslam. Then Aslam asked the Prophet (pbuh) about what he needed to do with his herd. The Prophet (pbuh) replied:
“Turn them back and then chase them off. They will surely go back to their owners.” Aslam took a hand full of pebbles and threw them at the sheep and shouted: “Go back to your owners. By Allah! From now on, I will never see you again.” The sheep went back to their castle, as if an unseen hand was directing them. And the shepherd, with the Muslim army, proceeded towards the castle to fight. (Ibn Hisham, III, 397-98; Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, I, 38-39)
Thus, by sending the herd back instead of keeping them as war booty the Prophet (pbuh) assured that the shepherd fulfilled his obligation. Furthermore, this incident happened when the battle prolonged and believers were having a food shortage, which increases the significance of Prophet’s attitude about faithfulness to promises.
Companions who observed the Prophet’s sensitivity in this respect and personally lived with the awareness of it were also very careful about fulfilling their promises. Jabir b. ‘Abdullah narrated:
“Once the Prophet (pbuh) said to me,
“If the almsgiving money of Bahrain comes, I will give you a certain amount of it.” The Prophet had breathed his last breath before the money of Bahrain arrived. Later when the money of Bahrain finally arrived, Abu Bakr announced, “Whoever was promised or owed money by the Prophet should come to us.” I went to Abu Bakr and said, “The Prophet promised me so and so.” Abu Bakr (r.a.) gave me a handful of coins and when I counted them, they were five-hundred in number. Abu Bakr then said, “Take twice the amount you have taken besides.” (Bukhari, Kafalah, 3)
Another nice example, which attracts Allah’s contentment and is pointed out in the Divine Word, was presented by Anas (r.a.).
“My uncle Anas bin An-Nadr was absent from the Battle of Badr. This was bothering him very much. He said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I was absent from the first battle you fought against the pagans. By Allah! If Allah gives me a chance to fight the pagans, no doubt Allah will see how bravely I will fight.” So he was present at the Battle of Uhud. On the day of Uhud when the Muslims turned their backs and fled, he said, “O Allah! I apologize to You for what these (i.e. Prophet’s companions) have done, and I denounce what these (i.e. the pagans) have done.” Then he advanced and Sa’d b. Muadh met him. He said “O Sa’d bin Muadh ! What I wish for is Paradise. By the Lord of Ka’bah! I smell Paradise’s aroma coming from the side of the Mountain of Uhud,” Later on Sa’d said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I cannot achieve or do what he (i.e. Anas bin An-Nadr) did. We found my uncle martyred. He had more than eighty wounds by swords and arrows on his body. His body was mutilated so badly that none except his sister could recognize him by his fingers.” The following verse was revealed concerning him and other men of his sort: “Among the Believers are men who have been true to their Covenant with Allah: of them some have completed their vow to the extreme (they fought and were martyred), and some still wait (their turn): but they have never changed (their determination) in the least.” (al-Ahzab 33; 23)” (Bukhari, Jihad, 12)
The companions were very sensitive about their promises to Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) and they tried to fulfill it no matter what the circumstances were. Those who did not have enough strength to fulfill their promises manifested behaviors accordant with the saying: “(if I cannot fulfill it) at least I can die trying to do it.” Bara b. Ma’rur (r.a.) was one of them. Bara (r.a.), who was one of the twelve Medinan representatives present at the Aqaba Allegiance, had promised the Prophet (pbuh) that he was going to come to Mecca for pilgrimage the following year. However, he became sick before the pilgrimage season. He told his family:
“Because of my promise to Allah and His Messenger (pbuh), turn me towards the Ka’bah. Because, I promised him that I would come.” Thus he became the first one who turned to the Ka’bah both in his life time and after his death. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) with his companions visited Bara b. Ma’rur’s grave when he came back to Medina. Then he led Bara’s funeral prayer and said: “O Allah! Forgive him. Show mercy to him and be pleased with him.” (Ibn Abdilbar, I, 153; Ibn sa’d, III, 619-20)
Being observant of promises, which is one of the most important principles of Islamic ethics, was lived by the Messenger of Allah and manifested in his actions and sayings in its most perfect way. Holding on to this wonderful moral of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), mercy of the worlds, will be the most important step in realizing the peace and safety of the society. Happiness in this world and in the Hereafter depends on such principles.
 The Prophet (pbuh) repeated his request to Suhail:
“Don’t do this. Give him to us.” But Suhail refused. Then Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) made another request:
“Then take him under your protection for me.” Suhail did not accept this request, either. When Mikraz and Huwaytup witnessed Prophet’s insistence, they said: “O Muhammad! For you, we accept to take him under our protection and we will not torture him. (Waqidi, II, 608; Balazuri, I, 220) So the Prophet (pbuh) felt relieved and went back.
 Aslam, the new convert, was later martyred and his body was brought to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). While Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) with some companions was walking towards the body, he turned his face away. When companions asked why he had done that, he said: “Right now he is with two of his angel brides.” This companion had later become the answer of the following riddle among Muslims: “Who went to Paradise directly without performing a single prayer?”
Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş, Erkam Publications