The Prophet’s Manner and Method in His Call to Islam

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How was the manner of the prophets in the message? What is the prophets method in his call to islam?

“Say: This is my Way: I call on Allah with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follow me – Glory be to Allah! – and I am not of the idolaters.” (Yusuf 12; 108)

In order to be successful in conveying the message of Islam it should be well planned and programmed. Muslim missionaries have to apply the correct methods and approaches in order to reach their goals. If the method is wrong and so repels people, it may not be enough to achieve its goal. This is why the method of inviting a non-believer to Islam is a very important part of the mission. According to the following verse acting wisely and using moderate language in inviting people to Islam is required by Allah the Almighty:

“Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and Most Gracious: for thy Lord knows best, who have strayed from his path, and who receive guidance.”(al-Nahl 16; 125) “Wisdom” and “beautiful language” are very important for those who preach about Islam. Wisdom means being careful and perceptive in preaching, telling the truth, avoiding leading people to the wrong path, making the right decisions, and supporting the sermon with easily understandable arguments. Wisdom requires paying attention to an audience’s intellect, ability, and circumstances as well as delivering the message in an appropriate way.

“Beautiful preaching,” on the other hand, means to try to persuade the audience not only by convincing them through logical methods but also by appealing to their feelings. The command of arguing with them in best ways refers to the requirement of being serious in fulfilling the call to Islam. Therefore, a Muslim preacher should speak beautifully and refrain from harsh and hurtful words and behavior. The mission of a preacher is to tell people what Islam is about and make people trust in his teachings. The rest is up to Allah.

This matter is expressed in the following verses:

“And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender.” (al-Ankabut 29; 46)

 “Say: This is my Way: I call on Allah with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follow me – Glory be to Allah! – and I am not of the idolaters.” (Yusuf 12; 108)

Perception is a characteristic distinguishing what is right and wrong. From the meaning of the above mentioned verses it can be understood that those who call to Islam should always act with perception and sure knowledge. Moreover, inviting people to Islam with sure knowledge is a special sign of following the Prophet (pbuh).

It should also be remembered that as a natural result of the passage of time following the Messenger of Allah’s death, it might be necessary to apply different methods, more suitable for the changed and improved conditions of the time. Applying such methods is not against the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh). On the contrary, it is one of the methods he practiced in his mission. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) never stuck to inflexible, frozen, and weary methods. This is why believers need to know in detail and follow meticulously all of the methods of invitation applied by the Prophet (pbuh). Here we believe that it would be helpful to present some of those methods to the Muslim preachers.

A. Starting From the Closest Relatives

One should start to fulfill the obligation of commanding the right and forbidding the wrong from himself; because it is impossible for the preachers who neglect themselves to become successful. Next comes the close relatives. Those who would like to make their call universally heard should comply with the rule of gradualism. They have to pass the circles around them one by one when preaching their message. For example, someone’s neighbors and relatives would accept his teachings more easily than those who are not close to him. When the relatives and neighbors of those who accept the invitation are considered, it can be clearly perceived that by this method Islam can spread much more easily in the society. If someone’s relatives do not support and help him, other people would find it difficulty to trust and believe in his message.

On the other hand, one also needs his relatives’ help in order to achieve success in his mission. This fact is emphasized in the Qur’an as follows:

“They said: O Shu’aib much of what you say we do not understand, in fact among us we see that you had no strength were it not for your family, we should certainly have stoned you; for you had among us no great position.” (Hud 11; 91)

When Lot (A.S.) became helpless in the face of the perversion of his people, he perceived the absence of his relatives to help him and said:

“Would that I had the power to resist you or that I could betake myself to some powerful support.” (Hud 11; 80)

After mentioning Lot’s (A.S.) words, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) made the following explanation:

“May Allah have mercy upon Lot. He was taking refuge in a very strong support (His Lord)… As a blessing of his supplication Allah bestowed upon all the prophets after him relatives to support them.” (Ibn Hibban, XIV, 86)

On the other hand, Islam attaches special significance to maintaining and strengthening relations with relatives. Keeping in touch with relatives (Sila-i Rahm) is considered one of the greatest virtuous deeds. One is primarily responsible for himself and his relatives. Allah the Exalted states in the Qur’an:

“…Blood-relations among each other have closer personal ties, in the Decree of Allah. Than (the Brotherhood of) Believers and Muhajirs…” (al-Ahzab 33; 6)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), who gave priority to charity and to helping those whom he was responsible for, also began from his relatives to awaken in them religious sentiment, which is more important. Allah the Almighty commands to protect ourselves and our relatives from the Hell fire in the Qur’an:

“O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones…” (al-Tahrim 66; 6)

In order to achieve this goal a Muslim should not cut his relation with his family even if they are against him or they are not very religious people. He should visit them as much as possible and keep his connections with them alive. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:

“One who severs the tie of kinship would not enter Paradise.” (Muslim, Birr, 19)

Those who preach about Islam should show similar closeness to their neighbors, with whom they are always together. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was even concerned about his non-Muslim neighbors and visited them when they were sick.

A young Jewish boy used to serve the Prophet and when he became sick, the Prophet went to visit him. He sat near his head and asked him to embrace Islam. The boy looked at his father, who was sitting there; the latter told him:

“Obey Abu al-Qasim” and the boy embraced Islam. The Prophet came out saying:

“Praises be to Allah Who saved the boy from the Hell-fire.” (Bukhari, Janaiz, 80)

Thus a Muslim preacher should follow the prophetic customs and improve his relations with his close relatives even if they adhere to some false beliefs and incorrect actions. He should consider all means and take advantage of every opportunity in order to achieve his goal. We see this approach in the life of our beloved Prophet (pbuh). Ali (r.a.) said that:

“When the verse “And admonish thy nearest Kinsmen.” (al-Shuara 26; 214) was revealed, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) called me and said:

“O Ali! Allah the Almighty commanded me to warn my nearest kinsmen. This made me worried. I know that whenever I try to tell them about my mission, I will face some unpleasant treatment. This is why I kept quiet for a while. Upon which Gabriel (A.S.) came to me and said:

“O Muhammad! If you do not fulfill what you are commanded, your Lord will punish you.” O Ali! Prepare for us a meal and put some lamb meat in it. Also bring some milk in a cup. Then invite Abdul al-Muttalib’s clan so that I can talk to them and convey to them the message that I have been ordered to.”

Ali (r.a.) prepared the things that the Prophet (pbuh) had ordered and offered them to the guests. When Abu Lahab saw that such a small amount of food, which could only be enough for one person, satisfied forty people’s hunger, he said:

“It is amazing. Your friend enchanted you with a great spell. Indeed we have never seen such a spell in our lives.” He did not give the Prophet (pbuh) the opportunity to speak and everybody left.

Abu Lahab’s words hurt the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) so much that he stayed quiet and did not speak in that gathering at all. (Ibn Hanbal, I, 159; Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, II, 62; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, III, 88-89; Yaqubi, II, 27)

However, he never stopped conducting his mission, ignoring all the obstacles he faced along the way. The very next day, after the above mentioned incident, he gathered his relatives together again and told them:

“All praises are due to Allah. I praise Him and ask help from Him. I believe in Him and trust in Him. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah. He is One and Only. He has no partners and there is none like Him. Of course, one who was sent to look for pasture would come back and tell a lie to his relatives. By Allah even if I tell lies to everybody in this world I would not do that to you. Even if I deceive all the people in this world, I could not deceive you. Allah is such a God that there is no god save Him.

By Allah you will die like going into a sleep. You will be resurrected like waking up from a sleep and be questioned for everything that you have done. You will see the reward for your good deeds and be punished for your evil deeds. The result of this is to live forever in Paradise or in Hell. You are the first people whom I warn.

O sons of Abdul al-Muttalib! By Allah I do not know anybody amongst the Arabs who brought something more superior to this world and the Hereafter than the thing that I have brought to you. I invite you to two words which are easy on the tongue but heavy on the balance of the Hereafter: to proclaim that there is no god but Allah and I am His servant and His Messenger. Allah the Almighty has commanded me to invite you to this.

O sons of Abdul al-Muttalib! I am sent as a Prophet to the whole of humanity in general and to you in particular. You have seen some of the miracles you have never seen before. Would you accept to be my helpers and brothers on my mission and gain Paradise in return? Which one of you would pledge allegiance to me?”

Not only did everybody refuse the Prophet’s invitation but they also laughed and scoffed at him. And then they left. (Ibn Hanbal, I, 159; Ibn Sa’d, I, 187; Haythami, VIII, 302; Baladhuri, I, 119)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) continued to warn his relatives. He did not pay attention to their mockery and insults. One day he (pbuh) set off until he climbed Safa hill and called the tribes of Quraish loudly:

“Be on your guard!” They said:

“Who is it calling out load?” They said:

“Muhammad.” They gathered round him, and he said:

“If I were to inform you that there were horsemen emerging out of the foot of this mountain, would you believe me?” They said:

“We have not experienced any lie from you.” He said:

“Well, I am a warner to you before a severe torment. Allah the Almighty ordered to me to warn my closest kinsmen. I will be able to help you neither in this world nor in the Hereafter unless you say “There is no god but Allah.”

Abu Lahab then began to curse and shout, and even picked up a rock to throw at him. (Muslim, Iman, 355; Ibn Sa’d, I, 200; Diyarbekri, I, 288) But the Prophet (pbuh) kept preaching Allah’s message and fulfilling his responsibility of prophethood. He called every tribe by its name saying:

“O Bani Abd Munaf! Buy yourselves from Allah; O Bani Abdul-Muttalib! Buy yourselves from Allah; O mother of Az-Zubair bin Al-Awwam, the aunt of Allah’s Apostle, and O Fatima bint Muhammad! Buy yourselves from Allah, for I cannot defend you before Allah. You can ask me from my property as much as you like.” (Bukhari, Manaqib, 13-14; Muslim, Iman, 348-353)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) sometimes similarly admonished his close relatives, especially his daughter Fatimah, in the following years. We also know that Fatima’s childhood was spent during the weakest years of Islam when Muslims were oppressed the most. Fatimah (r. anha) had to bear as much hardship as her father and other Muslims were facing. When her father delivered his message to people, she either waited for him out of concern or followed him in order to protect him. One day the Prophet (pbuh) went to the Ka’bah and was talking to people about Islam. However, people did not listen to him and on the contrary attacked him with all kinds of weapons. Fatimah (r. anha), who was watching this scene from a corner, was left horrified and took her bleeding father back home after people left to tend to his wounds.

On another occasion when Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was prostrated and praying in the mosque, polytheists put camel intestines on his back and made fun of him, Fatimah (r. anha) picked up the intestines and threw them away befor taking her father home. When her mother Khadijah (r. anha) passed away, she helped her father together with her sisters, shared in his sufferings and s feeling his pain. Fatimah (r. anha) cleaned his wounds while Zainab (r.anha) carried water to her. Despite all these hardships Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) began to convey his message to them first and asked them to be prepared for the Hereafter.

Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) started his mission under such hard conditions, and there were only a handful of people amongst his relatives that supported him. Furthermore, there were those amongst his relatives who had not embraced Islam until after the conquest of Mecca, and there were even those who were never honored by Islam. Nevertheless, his mission required him to begin with his relatives and he fulfilled this requirement perfectly.

B. Paying Attention to Time and Place

Öğren lisân-ı asr ü rüsûm-i zemâneyi

Bak tab-ı nâsa vakte münâsip tekellüm et[1]

 Şeyhülislam Muhammed Es’ad

One should take circumstances and possibilities into consideration provided that they are not contrary to the basic principles and spirit of Islam. Time and place play a very important role in having a positive effect upon the listener. Watching for people’s most appropriate time and choosing the most suitable place have certainly an accelerating effect upon achieving a goal. Otherwise, a preacher would cause boredom, opposition, and antagonism in his listener, and he may even eventually become a shield between his audience and the Divine truth. Conveying a message at an appropriate time and place generates positive and effective results while words spoken out of place and time may end up causing the listener to dislike and reject them.

In this context poet Ziyâ Paşa’s warning is very meaningful:

Bir yerde ki yok nağmeni takdîr edecek gûş

Tazyî-i nefes eyleme, tebdîl-i mekân et!

“If somewhere there is no ear to value what you say, do not waste your breaths. Change your place (and find those who would appreciate your words.)”

Therefore preachers should primarily determine the conditions of their time and place, and then they should plan accordingly. An ill-timed beginning may end up in failure. This was why when Abu Dhar (r.a.), who had just embraced Islam, asked:

“O Messenger of Allah! What would you command me to do?” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told him:

“O Abu Dhar! Keep your conversion to Islam as a secret and go back to your town. And whenever you hear me calling people openly to Islam, come back to us.” (Bukhari, Manaqib, 6)

The following incident narrated by Aisha (r. anha) shows how careful the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was about observing the best time and place when performing his mission.

“Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told me:

“Do you know that when your people (Quraish) rebuilt the Ka’ba, they decreased it from its original foundation laid by Abraham?” I said,

“O Allah’s Apostle! Why don’t you rebuild it on its original foundation laid by Abraham?” He replied:

“Were it not for the fact that your people are close to the pre-Islamic Age of Ignorance (i.e. they have recently become Muslims) I would have done so” (Bukhari, Hajj, 42)

Time is also very important when taking a stand against the opponents of the mission. Farwa b. Musaik (r.a.) said that:

“One day I asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

“O Messenger of Allah! Should I get together with the believers of my tribe and fight against the non-believers?” He allowed me to do it and appointed me as the leader of my tribe to fulfill this task. When I left Medina, the Prophet (pbuh) asked:

“What happened to the Gutaifi man?” after he was told that I had left, he sent someone to me and called me back. When I arrived, I saw that he was with some of his Companions. The Prophet (pbuh) told me:

“Invite your people to Islam. Accept the conversion of those who accept Islam, but do not be hasty in fighting against those who refuse. Wait until I send you another order.” (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 34/1)

During the Meccan period Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) abstained from impulsive behavior and actions which did not bear results in his fight against idolatry. He first invited people to accept the principles of faith thus he primarily strived to establish a strong basis for the Islamic faith.

On the other hand, it is also necessary to take the time and place into consideration when educating and bettering believers. Abu Wail (r.a.) narrates:

“Abdullah b. Mas’ud (r.a.) used to give a religious talk to the people every Thursday. Once a man said:

“O Aba Abdur-Rahman! (By Allah) I wish you could preach to us daily.” He replied,

“The only thing which prevents me from doing so, is that would I hate to bore you, and no doubt I take your interests into account when in preaching by selecting a suitable time just as the Prophet used to do with us, for fear of making us bored.” (Bukhari, Ilm, 11-12)

It is necessary to be brief and terse in speech not to bore the audience and not to upset those who have urgent things to do. A preacher should not be too persistent and cause his listeners animosity.

Again Abu Wa’il (r.a.) reported:

Ammar delivered a sermon to us which was short and eloquent. When he descended (from the pulpit) we said to him:

O Abd al-Yaqzan! You have delivered a short and eloquent sermon. Would it not have been better had you lengthened it? He said: I have heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say:

“The lengthening of prayer by a man and the shortning of the sermon is the sign of his understanding (of faith). So lengthen the prayer and shorten the sermon, for there is charm (in precise) expression.” (Muslim, Jumu’a, 47)

In another narration Ikrima (r.a.) said that:

“Ibn Abbas (r. anhuma) said, “Preach to the people once a week on Fridays, and if you won’t, then preach to them twice, but if you want to preach more, then let it be three times a week only, so as not to make the people fed-up with the Qur’an. If you come to some people who are engaged in talk, don’t start interrupting their talk by preaching, lest you should cause them boredom. You should rather keep quiet, and if they ask you, then preach to them at a time when they are eager to hear what you have to say. And avoid the use of rhymed prose in invocation for I noticed that Allah’s Apostle and his Companions always avoided it.” (Bukhari, Daawat, 20)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) paid the utmost attention to time and place in conveying his message. Sometimes he made explanations when he was asked a question; sometimes he prepared his audience by using salient language in his speech when he was going to teach something important. Thus his speeches were not just common words forgotten the very next day but they have become valuable instructions and unforgettable beautiful memories left to his followers.

As can be appreciated, observing the best time and place is of the utmost significance in conveying the message of Islam. This is why a preacher of Islam should always look for the most appropriate time and place in order to fulfill his responsibilities properly.

C. Observing the Circumstances of the Audience

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) neither feared anybody nor gave in to the oppressions of the polytheists of Quraish in his mission. Rather, he invited people to Islam day and night, openly and secretly, and applied all possible methods and treated people according to their status while performing his mission. He paid attention to people’s level of intellect, social status, life styles, tendencies and expectations as much as possible.

In order to achieve the objective in preaching one should know of the audience’s circumstances just as much as he should have solid knowledge in how to preach. Knowledge about an audience is necessary and important just like a doctor’s knowledge about his patients. Otherwise it would be like writing prescriptions without knowing what was wrong with the patient. This is why in the Qur’an Allah the Almighty emphasizes the significance of acting in accordance with the polytheists’ state of mind:

“Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance…” (al-An’am 6; 108)

This verse attracts our attention to the possible adverse effects of taking an aggressive stance towards the audiences’ beliefs and ideologies, and it commands us to avoid such an attitude.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) knew his addressee very well and chose the most appropriate way to approach them. He talked to people in a way they could understand and corresponding to their intellectual level. He advised his Companions to do the same. Muhammad b. Atiyya, who came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) along with the delegates of Sa’d b. Bakr, elucidated the Prophet’s practice in this matter saying: “Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) talked to us in our dialect.” (Hakim, IV, 363) The following saying of Ali (r.a.) also enlightens us in this respect:

“Talk to people according to their level of comprehension.” (Bukhari, Ilm, 49)

Preaching done by someone who is not aware of the common problems of his society will never be successful. This is why Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) always gave his examples from matters about which his listeners knew and were interested in. He paid special attention not to confront his audience with a totally unknown world and with an issue which they could not comprehend. He talked to people in a simple and understandable language and convinced them by easily acceptable, yet effective ways. A good example of this can be seen in the conversion of Husain, father of Imran (r.a.):

“People from Quraish came to Husain whom they greatly respected and said:

“Talk to this man for us. He criticizes and talks against our gods.” So they went together to the Prophet (pbuh) to discuss the issue. Polytheists sat close to the door and Husain entered. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:

“Make some space for the old man.” Husain’s Muslim son Imran and his friends were in the gathering. Husain told the Prophet (pbuh):

“What is it that we hear from you? You refuse our gods and talk against them; whereas your father was an intelligent and nice man, who was devoted to his ancestors’ religion.”

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asked him:

“O Husain! How many gods do you worship?” He replied:

“Seven on the earth and one in the sky, eight in total” Allah’s Apostle asked again:

“When something happens to you, to which one of them do you pray?” He said:

“To the one in the sky.” He (the Prophet) asked:

“When something happens to your property to whom do you pray?” He gave the same response:

“To the one in the sky” Then the Prophet (pbuh) asked him:

“Even though only one of them answers your prayers, why do you attribute partners to Him? Do you think you make them contented by your praises or are you afraid that they can destroy you?” He replied:

“For neither of these two reasons” (In this part of the narration) Husain added:

“Just then I realized that I have never talked to someone like him.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:

“O Husain! Accept Islam and save yourself.” When Husain asked:

“I have my relatives and people from my tribe with me. What should I tell them?” The Prophet (pbuh) told him:

“Say: O Allah! I ask for guidance from You to perfect my task. Increase my knowledge which will benefit me.” Husain made this prayer for a while and then converted to Islam. Imran (r.a.) stood up and kissed his father’s head, hands, and feet out of happiness. When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) saw this scene, he was moved so much that he began shedding tears. He said:

“I cry for what Imran just did. He did not stand up when his unbelieving father entered the room. He did not even look at his face. But as soon as he converted to Islam he fulfilled his responsibility/duty towards his father. This is why I was moved so much.” When Husain wanted to leave, the Prophet (pbuh) turned to his Companions and told them:

“Stand up and see him to his house.” When the polytheists from Quraish saw him coming out along with a big crowd they said:

“Husain also abandoned his religion” and they left without talking to him. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, I, 337; Tirmidhi, Daawat, 69)

Another striking example for treating the listeners’ according to their circumstances happened during the conquest of Mecca. Abbas (r.a.) brought Abu Sufyan, who had accepted to convert to Islam, to the Apostle of Allah (pbuh). So he embraced Islam at Marr al-Zahran.

Abbas (r.a.) said to the Prophet (pbuh):

“Apostle of Allah, Abu Sufyan is a man who likes taking pride, if you do something for him.” He replied:

“Yes, you are right. (Announce to people when entering into the city that) he who enters the house of Abu Sufyan is safe, and he who closes his door (and does not come out) is safe.” (Abu Dawud, Kharaj, 24-35)

Thus, the Prophet (pbuh) treated the leader of Mecca in a manner that was pleasing to him and his heart warmed to Islam.

Similarly the Prophet’s approach to Wail b. Hujr a Yemenite ruler is also an appropriate example for this context. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) had informed his Companions that Wail was coming to Medina three days before his arrival and said:

“Obeying Allah and His Messenger, Wail b. Hujr is coming from Hadramawt, from a faraway place. He is from a lineage of kings.” Then Wail b. Hujr approached and greeted the Messenger of Allah. The Prophet (pbuh) responded his greetings.

Wail said:

“I came here longing for Islam and migration.”Allah’s Messenger told him:

“Greetings and welcome” and then took off his cloak and laid it down. They sat together on the cloak. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was very happy with Wail’s visit and asked the Muslims to gather in the mosque. When believers gathered in the mosque, he went to the pulpit and took Wail with him. After saying his praises to Allah and praying for the prophets, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) gave a sermon and prayed for Wail and his father Hujr. (Ibn Sa’d, I, 349; Haythami, IX, 374)

The Prophet’s warmth towards and different treatment of Wail was due to his high status amongst his people which might have encouraged the conversion of others.

Likewise, treating people according to their conditions was applied to those who had already embraced Islam so as to improve their spiritual state. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) observed the state of the people whom he was addressing them talking about Islam and he also answered people’s questions according to their circumstances. He followed methods proper to his audience. For instance, the Prophet (pbuh) answered the question of “Which is the best deed?” saying:

“To believe in Allah and His Apostle then to participate in Jihad in Allah’s way and then to perform Hajj-Mabrur” (Bukhari, Hajj, 4)

“Remembrance (dhikr) of Allah the Almighty” (Muwatta, Qur’an, 24)

“…to love for the sake of Allah and to hate for the sake of Allah.” (Abu Dawud, Sunna, 2)

“Ritual prayer” (Ibn majah, Tahara, 4)

“Serving one’s parents(Ibn Athir, Usd al-Ghabah, IV, 330)

“Migration” (Nasai, Bay’a, 14). Thus, he gave different answer to the same question according to the time and the state of the enquierer. He gave them advice that best fit their situations. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) analyzed his audience’s needs, means, and state and then followed the best approach. When Abu Huraira (r.a.), who was a poor Companion, asked:

“What form of sadaqah is best?” He replied:

“For those who are poor, it is to help people by their power and strength.” (Abu Dawud, Zakat, 40) However, when the same question was asked by Sa’d b. Ubada, who was a tribal leader, he said:

“Water (is best). He dug a well.” (Abu Dawud, Zakat, 41)

It is nothing but natural to have a different approach depending on the person since people’s natures and status vary. This is why a preacher should have the knowledge, culture, and emotional sensitivity to be able to analyze people’s spiritual state, ability, and character.

D. Observing Gradualism

Gradual legislation of religious responsibilities is one of the ways in which Allah has facilitated them for His servants. Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:

“(It is) a Quran which we have divided (into parts from time to him), in order that you may recite it to men at intervals: we have revealed it by stages.” (al-Isra 17; 106)

Aisha (r. anha) talks about the gradualness in the Qur’anic legislation saying:

“The first reveled chapter of the Qur’an was one of the Mufassal[2] chapters. Paradise and Hell was described in that chapter. Regulations about the lawful and the unlawful started to be reveled after people warmed to Islam. If the command of “do not consume alcoholic beverages” had been revealed first, people would have said “we will never give it up.” Similarly, if the order of “do not fornicate” had been revealed first, people would have said “we will never give it up.” When I was a little girl playing in Mecca, Muhammad (pbuh) received verses (about faith and the Day of Judgment) such as:

“Nay, the Hour (of Judgment) is the time promised them (for their full recompense): and that Hour will be most grievous and most bitter.” (al-Qamar 54; 46) Chapters like Baqara and Nisa (which contain verses related to daily transactions) were revealed when I was with him (the Prophet) in Medina.” (Bukhari, Fada’il al-Qur’an, 6)

As it is known the earliest revelations were about matters related to faith such as belief in the Oneness and Unity of Allah, giving believers the good news of Paradise and warning unbelievers and the disobedient about the Hell. After people learned such issues and strengthened their faith, verses related to daily matters began to be revealed. Since people are so accustomed to their habits, they cannot easily give them up, and trying to save people from their bad habits without paying attention to gradualism may cause negative reactions and alienation.

Even the earliest revelations about faith possessed stages. The first verses to be revealed were about the Islamic faith, then verses criticizing polytheist beliefs came later. Ibn Sa’d points out this issue as follows:

“Until Allah the Almighty told the people of Quraish that their idols were false and that their unbelieving ancestors had gone to Hell, they were just mocking. At that time, they listened to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and many weak members of their society converted to Islam and their numbers, decreased. Moreover, when the verses criticizing their beliefs their opposition to the Prophet toughened and they began to show enmity.” (Tabaqat, I, 99)

Gradualness was also observed in the Medinan revelations addressing the believers. Especially since this was the method applied in almost all issues like correcting old habits and establishing new rules and regulations. For instance, this was the method applied in declaring ritual prayer, fasting and almsgiving that were obligatory upon believers or this was the method applied in prohibiting alcohol, fornication and usury. Let’s elucidate some of these regulations below by giving examples:

Two sets of ritual prayer, one in the morning and one in the evening, had been declared obligatory in chapter al-Muddaththir (74) in the early years of the revelation. Afterwards, the night prayer was ordered in the beginning verses of chapter Muzzammil (73) and Muslims performed the night prayer for about a year as an obligatory act of worship. This obligation was reduced to supererogatory status by the last verse of the same surah. Five daily prayers were declared obligatory in the eleventh year of the Prophet’s mission. Until the Migration these prayers consisted of only two cycles for both travelers and residents, but after migration they were increased to four cycles for residents and continued to be two cycles for travelers. During migration Friday prayer was made obligatory and later holiday prayers were ordered. (Tâhirü’l-Mevlevî, p. 58-65)

When various verses and prophetic traditions are examined, we can see that this important act of worship was declared obligatory in three stages. First with the verse “…Fasting is prescribed for you…” (al-Baqarah 2; 183) fasting three days a month were ordered. In the 184th verse of surat al-Baqarah (2) feeding a person in need was allowed for those who wished not to fast and finally with the 185th verse of the same chapter all of the above were abrogated and fasting in the month of Ramadan was announced obligatory for everyone. (Jassas, I, 226-227)

The prohibition of alcohol took place according to the following stages:

  1. In Mecca the following verse had been revealed “And of the fruits of the date-palm, and grapes, whence you derive strong drink and (also) good nourishment. Lo! Therein is indeed a portent for people who have sense.” (al-Nahl 16; 67) In this verse it was stated that people extract alcoholic drinks and good nourishment from dates and grapes. Thus, people were made feel that alcoholic drinks were different than good nourishment and they are not considered good and acceptable. Here there was an implication that they were going to be banned. There was no other revelation about alcoholic drinks during the Meccan period.
  2. After Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) migrated to Medina, Allah the Almighty revealed the following verse in answer to people’s questions: “They question you about strong drink and games of chance. Say: in both is great sin, and (some) utility for men; but the sin of them is greater than their usefulness…” (al-Baqarah 2; 219) After this verse’s revelation many Muslims gave up alcohol, while some others continued to drink.
  3. While a Companion was leading the maghrib (evening) prayer, he made a mistake in his recitation and changed the meaning of the verse. As a result of which, the following verse was revealed:

“O you who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when you are drunken, till you know that which you utter…” (al-Nisa 4; 43) .

After this the number of believers who were consuming alcohol decreased significantly. A caller of the Prophet (pbuh) used to announce when they were about to pray: “those who are drunk must not come close to the prayer.” With this verse believers realized that alcohol was soon to be prohibited and so they were prepared for such a prohibition.

  1. Finally, most of the believers gave up alcoholic drinks. Some of them were suffering from the unpleasant side effects of consuming alcohol. Umar (r.a.) prayed to Allah by saying “O Allah! Send us a clear and certain ruling about alcohol,” upon which Allah the Almighty revealed the last verses relating to this matter:

“O you who believe intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination, of Satan’s handywork: eschew such (abomination), that you may prosper. Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will you not then abstain?” (al-Maidah 5; 90-91)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) called Umar (r.a.) and recited those verses. When the Prophet (pbuh) came to the part “will you not then abstain?” Umar (r.a.) said:

“Yes, O Lord, we abstain, we abstain.” Not just him, but rest of the believers was also repeating the same words. After the revelation of those verses, a town crier walked around Medina announcing by the order of the Prophet (pbuh):

“Beware! Alcohol is prohibited.” Alcohol flowing from pierced water-skins and broken jars flooded the streets.

Then the Prophet (pbuh) said that:

“God’s curse falls on a group of people who deal with alcohol. The one who distils it, the one for whom it has been distilled, the one who drinks it, the one who transports it, the one to whom it has been brought, the one who serves it, the one who sells it, the one who utilizes money from it, the one who buys it and the one who buys it for someone else.” (Ibn Hanbal, I, 53; II, 351; Nasai, Ashriba, 1-2; Hakim, II, 305)

The Qur’an approaches the issue of chronic social diseases tolerantly, not forcefully and tried to heal them through gradual stages which continued until achieving the goal.

Similar stages apply to the case of the prohibition of usury. The same method was applied and the prohibition of usury had been prohibited in four steps. Thus, the prohibition of usury demonstrates an exact similarity to the prohibition of alcohol.[3] This might be considered a Divine sign, for there are common points between them. Indeed, both of them have harmful sides and people with weak characters get fooled by the supposed benefits. This is why there are similarities between the methods and the features of the each of the stages of their prohibition.

The first verse in relation to usury was Meccan and no other verse was revealed during the Meccan period regarding this matter:

“That which you give in usury in order that it may increase on (other) people’s property has no increase with Allah; but that which you give in charity, seeking Allah’s countenance, (will increase); it is these who will get a recompense multiplied.” (al-Rum 30; 39)

In this verse, the unworthiness of usury and its lack of reward are stated, but nothing is mentioned about its unlawfulness.

The second stage began with a verse revealed in the Medinan period:

“And of their taking usury when they were forbidden it, and of their devouring people’s wealth by false pretences. We have prepared for those of them who disbelieve (amongst the Jews) a painful doom.” (al-Nisa 4; 161)

Here it is stated that some of the Jews, who continued to engage in usurious transactions even though it had been prohibited for them, were punished by Allah the Almighty. Those who have a moderate level of understanding and perception understood that usury was soon going to be banned.

Even though usury was prohibited in the third stage, this prohibition was not an absolute prohibition, rather, it was a limited one. Excessive types of usury or doubling and multiplying type was prohibited.

“O ye who believe devour not usury, doubled and multiplied; but fear Allah; that ye may (really) prosper.” (Al-i Imran 3; 130)

Later the last and comprehensive prohibition of usury was revealed:

“Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom the evil one by his touch has driven to madness. That is because they say: trade is like usury, but Allah has permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past…O you who believe! Fear Allah, and give up what remains of your demand for usury, if you are indeed Believers.” (al-Baqara 2; 275, 278)

With this verse, not only the ruling about usury was announced, but also the period of Qur’anic legislation came to an end. In this matter Umar (r.a.) said that:

“The last revelation is the one about the prohibition of usury. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) had passed away before he had a chance to interpret this verse. Therefore you should abstain from both usury and transactions that carry doubts about usury.” (Ibn Majah, Tijarah, 58)

Regulations about acts of worship and daily transaction were usually made during the Medinan period. There is also a gradual approach to these regulations and their application. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) trained his Companions gradually in every aspect of life and religion until they reached perfection. For instance when Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) sent Muadh to Yemen, he advised (him):

“You are going to people of a (Divine) Book. First of all invite them to worship Allah (alone) and when they come to know Allah, inform them that Allah has enjoined upon them five prayers every day and night; and if they start offering these prayers, inform them that Allah has enjoined upon them, Zakat (charitable tax). And it is to be taken from the rich amongst them and given to the poor amongst them; and if they obey you in that, take Zakat from them and avoid (don’t take) the best property of the people as Zakat.” (Bukhari, Zakat, 41, 63; Muslim, Iman 29-31)

The first thing that we need to expect from people, be they Muslims or non Muslims, is a valid faith and strong Islamic understanding. After achieving this, we can ask them to live according to their faith. The easiest way and most effective remedy to realize this goal is the method of facilitating things for people and giving them good news. If there is the danger of warding people away and encouraging them to leave the religion, then one should not interfere with other people’s un-Islamic and immoral deeds temporarily. However, after they learn the requirements of the religion, their old habits and life styles cannot be tolerated.

One of the reasons why Jalal al-Din Rumi and other Sufi masters have become successful in making contemporary society love Islam in the East and in the West was due to their successful application of the principle of gradualism. They have always paid attention to people’s natural traits.

Of course, gradualism is essential to missionary activities. However, this should not, in a way, be considered concession and laxity; because laziness and idleness are the distinguishing characteristics of human beings. The important thing is to purify body and soul of these negative attributes. One should consciously avoid preaching everything that may support such negative attributes and behavior.

E. Seizing every Opportunity

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) knew that he had to employ the best methods and most appropriate instruments and that he had to give his entire time in order to achieve success in his mission. He had to find ways and seek opportunities to convey the message of Allah to humanity. This is why he seized every opportunity he got and searched for other means to reach people, because the message of Islam or the only way to attain eternal salvation in the Hereafter, had to be transmitted to humanity without losing any time.

Anas b. Rafi’, a resident of Medina, came to Mecca together with a group of young people. They wanted to sign an agreement with the tribe of Quraish against the Medinan tribe of Hazraj. When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) heard of their visit to Mecca, he came to them. He sat next to them and asked:

“Would you like me to tell you something better than the reason why you are here?”

When they asked what it was, the Prophet (pbuh) talked to them about Islam saying:

“I am the Messenger of Allah. Allah has sent me to His servants. I invite them to Allah. I tell them to worship Him, not to attribute partners to Him. Regarding such, Allah has sent a book to me.” Then he recited some verses from the Qur’an.

The Prophet (pbuh) wanted to show these young people, who had gone to the city for worldly reasons, the path to eternal salvation. He spoke of Islam to everyone in Mecca, but a few people accepted his invitation. Thus, he would run to those new faces visiting Mecca hoping that some of them might open their heart to the Truth, and what he had hoped became a reality. A young man named Iyas b. Muadh said:

“Dear friends! By Allah this is better than what we are here for.” However, he was silenced by his friends’ insults and oppressive words. When they returned to Medina, the battle of Buas arose. Soon Iyas b. Muadh passed away. Those who were waiting at his death bed witnessed that he was incessantly busy with the recitation and remembrance of Allah. Nobody had doubts that he passed away as believer; because Iyas (r.a.) accepted Islam when he had heard about it from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). (Hakim, III, 199; Ibn Hanbal, V, 427)

The Prophet’s hope had not been in vain and one person had attained eternal salvation. “Ibn Abbas reported:

“Once a man named Dimad b. Sa’laba from the tribe of Azd Shanu’a came to Mecca to perform minor pilgrimage. He was man who aspired to be a doctor and tried to improve his knowledge. He used to cure people who were under the influence of a charm or spell. When he heard the Meccan polytheists say that Muhammad (pbuh) was under a spell, he thought:

“If 1 were to come across this man, Allah might cure him at my hand.” He left the polytheists and began to look for the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), but he was unable to find him on the first day. On the following day he met him and said:

“O Muhammad, I can protect (one) who is under the influence of a charm, and Allah cures the one whom He so desires at my hand. Do you desire (this)?” Upon this the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Praise is due to Allah, we praise Him, and seek His help and forgiveness. We take refuge in Him from the evil of our selves. He whom Allah guides aright there is none who can lead him astray, and he whom He has led astray there is none who can guide him, and I bear testimony to the fact that there is no god but Allah, He is One, having no partner with Him, and I bear testimony to the fact that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.” After this he (Dimad) like what he heard and said:

“I have never heard such nice words. Repeat them to me.” After the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) repeated his words thrice, Dimad said:

“By Allah, I have heard the words of soothsayers and the words of magicians, and the words of poets, but I have never heard such words as yours, and they reach the depth of the ocean (of eloquence); bring forth your hand so that I should take oath of fealty to you and Islam.” So he took an oath of allegiance to him and converted to Islam. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Is it (this allegiance of yours) on behalf of your people too.” He said:

“Yes, it is on behalf of my people too.”

Allah’s Messenger asked again:

“Is it for you and on behalf of your tribe, too?”

He replied:

“Yes, it is for me and on behalf of my tribe, too.” (Muslim, Jumu’a, 46; Ibn Hanbal, I, 302; Ibn Sa’d, IV, 241)

Right after our beloved Prophet (pbuh) convinced Dimad al-Azdi (r.a.) to convert to Islam, he took his allegiance on behalf of his tribe. Consequently, he appointed Dimad as a teacher to his tribe.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was mocked and stoned in Taif where he had gone to look for potential new converts and opportunities. When he was on his way back to Mecca, he sat under a tree to rest. He was wounded and in pain. Just then a slave named Addas came by him and he forgot all his pains. He began to tell Addas about Islam. Addas said:

“O Messenger of Allah! Tell me about Yunus b. Matta.” When the Prophet (pbuh) told him about everything that had been revealed to him about the Prophet Yunus (A.S.) by Allah the Almighty, Addas converted to Islam saying:

“I bear testimony that you are Allah’s servant and Messenger.” Then he kissed Prophet’s head, hands, and feet. (Ibn Hisham, II, 30; Yaqubi, II, 36)

Addas (r.a.) was Allah’s Messenger’s (pbuh) only gain from the city of Taif, where some of his relatives were also residing. He became very happy by Addas’s conversion. Maybe he was thinking that the conversion of one slave was worth all his pain and effort.

Later, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) thought to migrate to Medina and spread Islam there. He set off on another difficult and dangerous journey. Even though idol worshippers mobilized all their means to kill him and despite many other dangers he never gave up doing his mission. He talked about Islam to everyone he met. Sa’d b. Dalil[4] narrated from his father:

“Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) and Abu Bakr (r.a.) stopped by during their migration to Medina. At that time, one of Abu Bakr’s daughters was with us for fostering. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) wanted to go to Medina by the shortest rout. We told him:

“This is the road of Gair in the passage of Raquba. There live there two thieves named Muhanan from the tribe of Aslam. Let us go and take care of them.” The Prophet (pbuh) told us:

“Take me to them.” So we set off our journey. When we passed Raquba and arrived the foot of a hill, one of the thieves said to his friend:

“This man is from Yemen.”[5] Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) called them and talked to them about Islam and asked them to accept Islam. They then converted to Islam. He asked them their names and they replied:

“We are Muhanan (two despised people).” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“On the contrary, you are Mukraman (two honored people).” Then he asked them to go to Medina as forerunners. (Ibn Hanbal, IV, 74)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was not concerned about conveying his message even during the times when his enemies wanted to kill him. He delivered the message of Islam even if his listeners considered themselves despicable and worthless. Thus, he praised those two thieves and brought them into the Muslim community.

Conveying the message of Islam was the only reason why Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) conducted his battles. Even during his battles he tried to inform people about Islam. For example, during the siege of Haibar a Jewish man asked for mercy and took refuge in the Muslim army. After he gave very valuable information about the enemy, he asked:

“O Abu al-Qasim! You will protect me and you will not shed my blood, will you?” Allah’s Messenger told him:

“You are safe and under our protection.” Jewish man asked:

“Forgive my wife who is in the castle of Nizar” He (Allah’s Messenger) replied:

“I forgive your wife, too.” And then he invited him to Islam. The Jewish man requested a few days in which to think and finally converted to Islam. (Waqidi, II, 647-48)

Since the object of a battle was to invite people to Islam and deliver its message to others, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) acted with the hope of saving people in eternity even during battle time.

Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) seized every opportunity to teach significant matters to his Companions and to place the beauty of Islam into their hearts. Umar b. Khattab (r.a.) narrates:

“Some Sabi (i.e. war prisoners, children and woman only) were brought before the Prophet. A woman amongst them had milk in her breasts to feed and whenever she found a child amongst the captives, she took it to her chest and nursed it. The Prophet asked us,

“Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?” We replied,

“No, if she has the power to not throw it (in the fire).” The Prophet then said,

“Allah is more merciful to His servants than this lady to her son.” (Bukhari, Adab, 18; Muslim, Tawba, 22)

Another day Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) saw Abu Huraira (r.a.) planting a tree and asked:

“O Abu Huraira! What are you planting?” He replied:

“I am planting a tree for myself.” Then The Prophet (pbuh) told him:

“Would you like me to tell you of a better tree than this?” Abu Huraira replied affirmatively and excitedly began to wait for Prophet’s answer. Then the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Say: subhanallahi wa-al-hamdu lillahi wala ilaha illalahu akbar (Glory and all praises be to Allah. And there is no god but Allah the Greatest). For each one of these words a tree will be planted for you in Paradise.” (Ibn Majah, Adab, 56)

Thus, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) taught his Companion Abu Huraira (r.a.) another virtuous deed in addition to planting trees. When he was teaching that deed, he used the action of his Companion to make abstract issues more easily understandable. Here the Prophet (pbuh) also pointed out that one can earn spiritual rewards in his afterlife through the remembrance of Allah and he taught one of the most virtuous formulas of that remembrance.

F. Facilitating things and not making them difficult

“Allah does wish to lighten your (difficulties): for man was created weak (in flesh).” (al-Nisa 4; 28)

Facilitation is one of the principles that a preacher of Islam should know and comply with. That the religion has come to facilitate and not to make things difficult is something repeated many times in the Qur’an and in the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh). There are several wisdoms behind this principle. The principle of facilitation is an inherent part of conveying the message of religion and making people accept Islam. This principle is also valid in every other aspect of life.

Human nature is apt to choose that which is easy and is prepared to accept something only after becoming accustomed to it. Offering something difficult to do, on the other hand, may push the listener away, and may even cause complete rejection. This is why it is necessary be equipped with a gradual method of presenting the easiest option and going from easy to difficult, from the essentials to the particulars, and from known to unknown provided that it remains within the boundaries of legality. People have various characters and temperaments, so one needs to take the weakest one into consideration and to act in a way that everyone else can. Allah the Almighty states:

“…Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty…” (al-Baqarah 2; 185)

“…He has chosen you and has not laid upon you any hardship in religion…” (al-Hajj 22; 78)

When the surah of Inshirah (94) was revealed, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) became very happy that Allah the Almighty ordained two eases for each difficulty and he said:

“One hardship cannot overcome two eases; because “So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief: Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.” (al-Inshirah 94; 5-6) then he (pbuh) joyfully came to his Companions.[6] (Hakim, II, 575)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) perfectly manifested Allah’s Mercy to His servants in every step of his life. Indeed, it is expressed in a saying of the Prophet (pbuh):

It was narrated by Anas b. Malik (r.a.):

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Facilitate things to people (concerning religious matters), and do not make it hard for them and give them good tidings and do not make them run away (from Islam).” (Bukhari, Ilm, 11)

In order to ensure ease in communicating with people, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that “we are ordered to talk to people in accordance with their level of comprehension” (Daylami, I, 398/1611; Ali al-Muttaqi, X, 242) and he did not approve speech and behavior which are too hard for the addressee to understand.

Abu Huraira narrates the following incident in this context:

“A Bedouin stood up and started urinating in the mosque. The people caught him but the Prophet (pbuh) ordered them to leave him and to pour a bucket or a cup of water over the place where he had urinated. The Prophet (pbuh) then said,

“You have been sent to facilitate things and not to make them difficult.” (Bukhari, Wudu, 58; Adab, 80)

Taking the Bedouin’s old habits into account Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was patient with him even under such circumstances where one would become easily upset. He made things easy for him and expressed that his followers should do the same.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) often emphasized that he was a tolerant person. Another example occurred in the incident known as “i’la” in which the Prophet (pbuh) stayed separated from his wives for a month. He gave his wives the option to choose between this world and Allah and His Messenger. And he told them to consult their families. He then went first to A’isha (r. anha) and said:

“O A’isha! I want to propose something to you, but wish no hasty reply before you consult your parents.” She said:

“O Messenger of Allah! What is that?” He (the Holy Prophet) recited to her a verse,٭ whereupon she said:

“Is it about you that I should consult my parents, O Messenger of Allah? Nay, I choose Allah, His Messenger, and the Last Abode; but I ask you not to tell any of your wives what I have said He replied:

“If one of them will ask me, I will inform her. God did not send me to be harsh, or to cause harm, but He has sent me to teach and make things easy.” (Muslim, Talaq, 29)

Allah the Almighty states that His servants will gain honor by means of piety and only by the level of their piety they can be superior to one another. Despite its significance, Allah the Almighty advises His servants to act in moderation even with regards to piety. Thus, He manifests His endless Mercy to His servants. It is stated in a verse

“So fear Allah as much as you can…” (al-Taghabun 64; 16)

When we compared this verse with the following one we can see that there is a great relief for the believers with respect to fearing God: “O ye who believe fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam.” (Al-i Imran 3; 102)

When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) took allegiance from his Companions he would tell them to do good deeds to the extent of their ability and strength. A wonderful example of this is narrated by Umayma bint Ruqayqa (r.anha):

“I went to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) with the women who took an oath of allegiance with him for Islam. They said:

“O Messenger of Allah! We take a pledge with you not to associate anything with Allah, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to kill our children, nor to produce any lie that we have devised between our hands and feet, and not to disobey you in what is known.” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

“In what you can do and are able to do.”

Umayma continued, “They said,

“Allah and His Messenger are more merciful to us than ourselves. Come, let us give our hands (in alliegance) to you, Messenger of Allah!” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

“I do not shake hands with women. My word to a hundred women is like my word to one woman.” (Muwatta, Bay’ah, 2; Tirmidhi, Siyar, 37)

Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) would ask from his followers even to act moderately in performing acts of worship saying:

“…Do (good) deeds which are within your capacity (without being overtaxed)…” (Bukhari, Iman, 32) Because of this he sometimes had to rebuke some of his Companions who had not been acting according to his command. One of these incidents took place as follows:

“Jabir (r.a.) reported that Mu’adh b. Jabal used to pray with the Apostle (pbuh), then came and led his people in prayer. One night he said the night prayer with the Apostle of Allah (pbuh). He then came to his people and led them in prayer beginning with Surat al-Baqara. A man turned aside, pronounced the taslim (salutation for concluding the prayer), then prayed alone and departed. The people said to him:

“Have you become a hypocrite, so and so?” He said:

“I swear by Allah that I have not, but I will certainly go to Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) and will inform (him) about this.” He then came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and said:

“O Messenger of Allah, we look after camels used for watering and work by day.” Mu’adh said the night prayer with you. He then came and began with Surat al-Baqara. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) then turned to Mu’adh and said:

“Are you there to (put the people to) trial? Recite: “By the Sun and its morning brightness” (al-Shams 91), “By brightness” (Duha 93) “By the night when it spreads” (al-Layl 92), and “Glorify the name of thy Lord most high” (al-A’la 87).” (Muslim, Salat, 178; Bukhari, Adhaan, 60, 63, 66)

A deed which strains people’s limits was not approved by the Prophet (pbuh), even if it was an act of worship. This is why he forbade actions which draw people away from the congregation; whereas he promised salvation from the Hellfire for those who facilitate things to others saying:

“Should I inform you whom the Hell will not burn? Hell will not burn those who are affable, kind, and facilitate things to others.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 45)

Islam, the religion of mercy, compassion, and love, wants goodness for humanity and guides people to the easiest and most appropriate paths according to their standards. Therefore it cannot be allowed that some people who do not understand the true Islam make it difficult and so draw people away from it because of their false views and thoughts. Those who fall into such a mistake will be responsible for a great sin. However, it should not be forgotten that by facilitating things people should not be encouraged to negligence and laziness. One should never make concessions for Allah’s and His Messenger’s commands under the disguise of facilitation.

G. Giving people good tidings and not making them run away

Garkeder âlemleri bir katre âb-ı mağfiret

Var kıyâs et vüs’at-ı deryây-ı rahmet neydiğin[7]

Bâkî

Making people love Islam should be the primary goal achieved by preachers of Islam. Trying to make people accept something only by fear instills hatred. The Holy Qur’an uses not just the element of fear. On the contrary, when we examine it we can see that Hell and Paradise, believer and non-believer and depictions of good and bad are mentioned as much as they are needed, but the endearing side has more significance.

Saying that “…but My Mercy embraces all things…” (al-Araf 7; 156) Allah the Almighty emphasizes the vastness of His Mercy. This is also underlined by the Prophet (pbuh) in the following report:

“The Prophet said, “When Allah created the Creation, He wrote in His Book–and He wrote (that) about Himself, and it is placed with Him on the Throne—‘Verily My Mercy overcomes My Anger.’” (Bukhari, Tawhid, 15)

Our Lord the Almighty reminds His servants that He is The Forgiving, The Beneficent, and The Merciful. The basmala which we say at the beginning of all our actions and surat al-Fatihah (1), which we recite in every cycle of our prayers reminds us of these Divine attributes all the time. One of the incidents which manifest the endless Mercy of Allah the Almighty was narrated on the authority of Ibn Abbas.

“Some people amongst the polytheist who had committed many murders and had indulged in fornication came to Prophet (pbuh) and said:

“Whatever you assert and whatever you call to is indeed good. But if you inform us that there is atonement for our past deeds then we will embrace Islam. Then it was revealed:

“And those who call not unto another god along with Allah and slay not any soul which Allah has forbidden except in the cause of justice, nor commit fornication; and he who does this shall meet the requital of sin. Multiplied for him shall be the torment on the Day of Resurrection, and he shall therein abide disgraced, except him who repents and believes and does good deeds. Then these! For Allah shall change their vices into virtues. Verily Allah is Ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Furqan 25; 68-70) (Muslim, Iman, 193)

Those who lost their hope because of the sins they had committed regained hope by this good news and attained eternal salvation.

Our Lord, The Beneficent and The Merciful, sent our Prophet (pbuh) as a mercy to humanity. Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) gave people the glad tidings about the beauty of the Hereafter and tried to keep them away from evil. In the following verse Allah the Almighty stated the Prophet’s attribute of being the announcer of the good news before his attribute of being a warner:

“We have not sent thee but as a universal (Messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men understand not.” (Saba 34; 28)

This is because when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) began his mission, he first gave people the glad tidings of Paradise saying:

“I invite you to bear testimony and embrace Islam saying “La ilaha illa-llahu wahdahu la sharika lah (There is no god but Allah, Who is One with no partners). I am His servant and His Messenger. If you accept and acknowledge this, then I will guarantee you that you will enter Paradise.” (Baladhuri, I, 119-120)

“Which one of you accepts to help in my mission and be my brother and thus to attain (a place in) Paradise?” (Ibn Sa’d, I, 187)

Just as those who are invited to embrace Islam and repent for their sins, those who pronounce their faith and endeavor to ascend the steps of perfection in their belief also need such glad tidings. In order to be desirous in performing good deeds and fulfilling their mission people need to hear such pleasing news. This was why Allah’s Messenger sometimes gave his Companions the glad tidings of Paradise. The ten Companions, who are known as “asharah mubashsharah (ten to whom joyful tidings have been given),” are very famous. (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 27; Ibn Hanbal, I, 187-188)

The Prophet’s glad tidings were not limited to those ten Companions. He also gave joyful tidings to many of his Companions and to those who perform good deeds amongst his followers. For instance, his Companions who attended the Battle of Badr (Bukhari, Maghazi, 9) Khadijah (r.anha) (Bukhari, Manaqib al-Ansar, 29), Abdullah b. Salam (r.a.) (Bukhari, Adab, 55; Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 36) and Haritha b. Suraqa al-Ansari (r.a.) are just some of them.

However one should be very careful about giving people joyful news. One should abstain from giving such tidings that may withhold people from acts of worship or may cause laxity in their actions. One should not allow Satan to deceive humans by presenting the Forgiveness and Mercy of Allah the Almighty. Allah the Almighty warns His servants in this matter as follows:

“…nor let the arch deceiver deceive you in respect of Allah…” (Luqman 31; 33) Kazim Paşa says that:

Ümid-i afv ile olma harîs-i isyân kim

Ziyân-resîde eder âdemi hisâb-ı ferâh

“Do not attempt to go astray and commit evil with the hope to be forgiven, because many of those who do calculate loosely end up as losers.”

One should keep a good balance between the two approaches, i.e. being hopeful of being forgiven and fearful of being punished. It is seen in the following report that the Prophet (pbuh), too, was concerned about this matter:

“Once Mu’adh was riding with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Allah’s Apostle said:

“O Mu’adh b. Jabal.” Mu’adh replied,

“Yes, O Allah’s Apostle! What is it?” Again the Prophet said,

“O Mu’adh!” Mu’adh replied thrice,

“Yes, O Allah’s Apostle! What is it?” Then the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

“There is none who testifies sincerely that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is his Apostle, except that Allah will save him from the Hell-fire.”

Mu’adh said,

“O Allah’s Apostle! Should I inform the people about this glad tiding so that they may rejoice?” He replied,

“When the people hear about it, they will solely depend on it.” Yet Mu’adh (r.a.) narrated the above-mentioned tradition just before his death, being afraid of committing the sin of not transmitting this knowledge.” (Bukhari, Ilm, 49)

Just as the existence of those who would become encouraged by such glad tidings and do more good deeds, like Muadh (r.a.), there are also those who may trust such news and become lazy. In fact, the number of the latter group is much greater than that of the former. Therefore, it is a very important principle for a preacher of Islam to calculate the possible effects of his words.

H. Warning about the Divine Punishment

Kıl tevbe seyyiâtına gözler kapanmadan

Vaktiyle gör hisâbını defter kapanmadan

Bursalı Mustafa Huldî٭

Allah’s Messenger’ mission was to teach people the Truth, give them the good news of Paradise, and protect them from Hellfire. He invited people to Islam by frightening those who did not submit themselves and obey the commands of Allah by the glad tidings of Paradise; because fear has a more powerful effect. This is why causing fear is the last resort to show the straight path to those who do not come to it and through good tidings. Since the aim is to save every single human being from receiving the Divine punishment.

Allah the Almighty has prepared a great torment in the Hereafter for those who fail their test in this world. Informing the entire humanity about this truth is the requirement of being this world as a testing place. Those who insist in making mistakes will have to face its consequences.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) warned his followers about the Divine punishment by the order of Allah the Almighty. He began warning from his closest relatives. He addressed to Hashim clan saying:

“I will turn away from you if you come on the Judgment Day with the burden of this world instead of your good deeds. Then you will tell me “O Muhammad,” but I will do this.”

When he was saying “I will do this,” he turned his face from them to another direction and repeated this twice.” (Ibn Ishaq, III, 128; Yaqubi, II, 27)

Thus the Prophet (pbuh) told his relatives about the horror and the punishment they will face on the Judgment Day. And he warned them he would not be able to help them on that Day if they die as non-believers.

We see the same situation in Hamzah’s conversion. After Hamzah (r.a.) had spent a sleepless night filled with many doubts, he came to the Prophet (pbuh) early in the morning. And He talked about his doubts:

“O son of my brother! I am in such a conundrum that I cannot find a solution. Please tell me something and show me an exit-way. Upon this our Prophet (pbuh) gave him some advice and told him about both the blessings and the torments of the Hereafter. Thus he frightened his uncle with the punishment and heartened him with the Paradise. As a result of Prophet’s talk Hamzah (r.a.) converted to Islam and attained the certain knowledge. (Hakim, III, 213; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, III, 84)

In the following lines how nicely Jalal al-Din Rumi (q.s.) depicts the efforts of the prophets to save humans from dangers:

“The prophets said, “The foul and evil presage has its support from within your souls. If you are asleep in a perilous place, and a dragon is approaching you from a spot close at hand. And a kindly person has made you aware of it by saying, ‘Jump up quickly, or else the dragon will devour you’ – If you say, ‘Why are you uttering an evil warning?’ He will reply, ‘What warning? Get up and see in the light of day. I myself will deliver you from the midst of the evil warning and will take you home.’

A prophet is such a person who acquaints you with hidden things , like the prophet who has seen what the people of this world have not seen. If a physician says to you, ‘Do not eat unripe grapes, for such an illness (as is caused by them) will produce grave trouble and mischief,’ would you blame the one who advices you saying “why should it cause trouble?” (Mathnawi, III, verses: 2955-2962)

Believers should pay attention to such warning by the prophets and they should be very careful not to forget the Hereafter by indulging in this world. Throughout his twenty-three year long prophetic life Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) gave the glad tidings of Paradise and Divine Mercy to everyone who met and warned them about Hell and its torments. Even though some people resisted and threw themselves into the fire, he strived to save them from falling into the pits of Hell. One day he warned his Companions and emphasized the seriousness of this matter:

“When Allah created Paradise, He said to Gabriel:

“Go and look at it.” He went to look at it, then came back and said:

“O my Lord! By Your might, no one who hears of it will fail to enter it.

He then surrounded it with disagreeable things, and said:

“Go and look at it, Gabriel. He went and looked at it, then came and said:

“O my Lord! By Your might, I am afraid that no one will enter it.”

When Allah created Hell, He said:

“Go and look at it, Gabriel.” He went and looked at it, then came and said:

“O my Lord! By Your might, no one who hears of it will enter it.”

He then surrounded it with desirable things and said:

“Go and look at it, Gabriel.” He went, looked at it, then came and said:

“O my Lord! By Your might and power, I am afraid that no one will remain who does not enter it.” (Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 21-22; Tirmidhi, Jannah, 21)

Here the Prophet’s aim is not to cause hopelessness amongst people but to attract the believer’s attention to the seriousness of the issue of reward and punishment.

Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) frightened those who commit the deeds prohibited by Allah the Almighty with the torment of Hellfire. One of them is as follows:

“The Prophet (pbuh) said:

“When I was taken up to Heaven on the night of ascension I passed by people who had nails of copper and were scratching their faces and their breasts. I asked Gabriel:

“Who are these people, Gabriel?” He replied:

“They are those who were given to back biting and who aspersed people’s honor.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 35)

Regarding those who unjustly want to take people’s property, the Prophet (pbuh) said that:

“Whoever usurps somebody’s land unjustly, he will be punished in such a way that his neck will be encircled with it down in the seven earths (on the Day of Resurrection).” (Bukahri, Mazalim, 13)

When our beloved Prophet (pbuh), the announcer of the good news and the warner, was giving his farewell speech soon before his death and announcing to his followers his last warnings, he stated the significance of people’s rights:

“O People! Whoever had usurped unjustly another’s rights should return it now. He should not think that he will be disgraced. Know well that being disgraced in this world is much lighter that being disgraced in the Hereafter.” (Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, 319)

Upon these warnings some people admitted their previous injustices and mistakes and asked that the Prophet (pbuh) pray for them to be forgiven. Then someone stood up and said:

“O Messenger of Allah! I am a liar and a hypocrite. There is no sin left that I did not commit.” Umar (r.a.) told him:

“O man! You have disgraced yourself.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:

“O Ibn Khattab! Being disgraced in this world is much lighter than being disgraced in the Hereafter.” Thus, he warned the believers about the horror of the Hereafter and told them to be careful not to be disgraced there. The he prayed for the man:

“O Allah! Bless him with righteousness and the maturity of faith. Turn his mistakes into goodness.” (Tabari, Tarikh, III, 190)

Our beloved Prophet also warned those who are not meticulous in their acts of worship. According to the narration of Ali ibn Abu Talib (r.a.):

“The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) said:

“If anyone who is sexually defiled leaves a spot to the extent of the root of a hair without washing, such and such an amount of Hell-fire will be suffered due to it.” Then Ali (r.a.) repeated this warning thrice and said:

“Because of this tradition I treated my head (hair) like an enemy.” From that time on, he cut his hair for the fear of leaving roots of hair dry. (Abu Dawud, Taharah, 97)

To acheive the straight path depends on the strength of the faith in the Hereafter. It is unthinkable that those who have certain faith in the Hereafter can commit evil deeds. Since people usually live their lives by taking into account that which they most fear, it is only natural that the fear of being questioned in the Hereafter and fear from the Divine punishment superceeds other fears. This is why Allah the Almighty mentioned belief in the Hereafter and described Judgment Day in many places in the Holy Qur’an.

We have so far examined the manners and methods that need to be followed by the preachers of Islam. When one follows the proper methods in any given task, it would be possible to obtain result more easily, and doing things without following the proper methods makes it difficult to reach one’s objective. One of the most important goals of believers in this world is to place faith and love for Allah the Almighty into the hearts. Even the simplest jobs like planting a flower or placing a brick into a wall demands the application of the right methods, it is obvious that a sensitive task like addressing people’s souls requires certain manners and methods. A preacher of Islam should apply the above mentioned methods and then expect guidance from Allah the Almighty.

It is said that:

“When someone reaches his goal by applying the proper methods, his tongue begins to utter virtuous and wise words.”

[1] Learn the manners and styles of your time very well. Speak in accordance with the right time by taking people’s natures and tendencies into consideration.

[2] According to the preferred interpretation, mufassal chapters are the ones starting with chapter Qaf (50th chapter) until the end of the Qur’an. Because these chapters are short and thus they are frequently separated by basmalah, they are called as mufassal.

[3] Draz, M. Abdullah, İslâm’ın İnsana Verdiği Değer, p. 218-221.

[4] This Companion became known by the name Dalil (sign or indicator) for he showed the Messenger of Allah a shortcut to Medina and guided him on the rout of Raquba.

[5] What he meant was that the Prophet was from Mecca, because at that time Mecca was in the region of Timhama which was within the borders of Yemen. This is why the Ka’ba was also called “al-Ka’bah al-Yemaniyya. (Ibn Athir, al-Nihaya, V, 300)

[6] The words of ‘usr (difficulty) and yusr ( ease) are repeated in these verses. But the word “’usr” is repeated in the verse with a definite article (ال) whereas the word yusr is repeated in an indefinite form. According to Arabic language repetition of a definite word refers to the repetition of the same thing and the repetition of an indefinite word points to different things. This is why even though the word ‘usr is repeated twice, it means only one difficulty and yusr means two different eases. (See Bukhari, Tafsir, 94)

٭ “O Prophet! Say unto your wives: If ye desire the world’s life and its adornment, come! I will content you and will release you with a fair release. But if you seek Allah and His Messenger, and the Home of the Hereafter, verily Allah has prepared for the well-doers amongst you a great reward.” (Ahzab 33; 28-29)

[7] Even a single drop from the fountain of Mercy is enough to submerge the entire universe (and is enough to forgive all sins). Compare how great and vast the Sea of Mercy is.

٭ “Repent for your sins before your eyes are closed, settle your accounts before your book is closed”

Source: An Excellent Exemplar II , Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications

The Human Reality

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