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What The Qur'an Teaches: Advocate Of The Divine Faith

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

In the name of God, the Lord of Grace, the Ever Merciful Who speaks better than he who calls people to God, does what is right, and says, ‘I am one of those who have surrendered themselves to God’? Good and evil cannot be equal. Repel evil with what is better, and he who is your enemy will become as close to you as a true friend. Yet none will attain this except those who are patient in adversity; none will attain it except those endowed with truly great fortune. If a prompting from Satan should stir you up, seek refuge with God. He alone is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Clearly Expounded; Fussilat: 41: 33-36)

This part of the surah concludes by painting an image of the advocate of the divine faith, describing his personality, discourse and fine manners. God’s Messenger, and indeed every advocate of God’s way, are called on to adopt such ways. The surah began by describing the hostile attitude of those called upon to accept the faith and how they met this call with arrogance. Now, the advocates of divine faith are being told what course to follow, regardless of how their advocacy is met and how their efforts are received.

An advocate of the divine faith must put his addressees face to face with reality. He has to confront people’s deviation, ignorance, and inflated appreciation of their own deeds, as also their instinctive abhorrence of being told that they are wrong. He is opposed by people’s determination to serve their own interests and maintain positions that might be threatened by the principle of equality of all people, which is basic to divine faith. To face all this as part of the task of advocating divine faith is indeed very hard. Yet it is something truly great: “Who speaks better than he who calls people to God, does what is right, and says, ‘I am one of those who have surrendered themselves to God’?”

Taking all this into account, a word of advocacy, calling on people to believe in God’s oneness, is the best word that may be said on earth. It is at the forefront of good words that are raised to God in heaven, provided it is endorsed by good action and confirmed with self-surrender to Him. Thus, such advocacy becomes pure and sincere, free of self-interest. The advocate’s aim is merely to discharge his duty by presenting the divine message. Once he has discharged his duty, he should not care whether his words are rejected or whether people are rude or boastful in their denials. He is merely presenting what is good, which puts him in the higher position. Anyone who opposes him entertains evil, and, as such, is far below an advocate of God: “Good and evil cannot be equal.” Advocates of the divine message cannot return evil with its like. A good deed cannot be equal in its impact or value to a bad one. Patient perseverance, forbearance and rising above the desire to return evil with its like eventually brings people back to their senses. Their earlier hardness softens and they become friendly: “Repel evil with what is better, and he who is your enemy will become as close to you as a true friend.”

This rule proves true in the overwhelming majority of cases: a stormy attitude will be replaced by calmness, fury by cordiality and arrogance by humility. All this may result from a good word, a soft tone and a smile to meet the fury of one whose anger gets the better of him. Had such a person been met with a similarly furious approach, he would only be more quarrelsome and completely lose his self-control.

Such a forbearing attitude requires a great heart, one that can forgive when it might otherwise return evil with its like. Such ability is necessary for forbearance to be effective. Otherwise, forbearance may be thought a mark of weakness. If the party resorting to evil feels that a kindly attitude results from weakness, he will not respect it. Indeed, kindness will not have any effect on the matter. Moreover, such kindness and forbearance are limited to personal insults and injuries. When the attack is leveled at believers’ faith, trying to turn them away from it, then every form of resistance should be employed, or else, we remain patient in adversity until God makes His judgment in the matter.

Such forbearance, which requires us to repel an evil deed with a good one, rising above feelings of anger, is a sublime grade which cannot be attained by everyone. It does not merely require patience in the face of adversity; it is also a blessing which God bestows on His servants who try hard to achieve it: “Yet none will attain this except those who are patient in adversity; none will attain it except those endowed with truly great fortune.” We say that it is a sublime grade; in fact it is so sublime that Muhammad, God’s Messenger, who never showed anger for anything personal, yet nothing could stand to his anger when it was for God’s sake, is told, as indeed every advocate of the divine message is told: “If a prompting from Satan should stir you up, seek refuge with God. He alone is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” Anger may open the way to Satan’s prompting who will then try to persuade us to be impatient and unforgiving when others resort to evil. In such a situation, we will do well to seek refuge with God against Satan. This is the best shelter against Satan’s efforts to exploit our anger.

God, man’s Creator, knows the keys to each and every heart, as well as its abilities and qualities. He knows where and how Satan can penetrate his machinations. Therefore, He protects the advocates of His message from stirred up anger as we face what excites the fury of even the most forbearing of us. Yet this too is a difficult road to follow, requiring that we submit here, as in every situation, to divine directives, to the exclusion of all else.

 

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