Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Noblest Man

The Noblest Man is the One with Most Taqwa.

Dr Billal Philips

Among the community of believers, some are superior to others; and this superiority is a direct result of their own strivings. It is a superiority linked to Iman, the strength and depth of faith. A living faith drives the one who possesses it to shield himself from whatever displeases Allah.

This shield in Arabic is called "Taqwa." It has been variously translated as "Fear of God", "Piety", as well as "God-consciousness"; and it carries all these meanings and more.

Allah the Almighty clearly expressed the superiority of Taqwa as follows:

“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious - see Al-Baqarah, 2:2). Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”

[Al-Hujurat 49:13]

Allah is here saying that the only factor which makes a believing man or woman truly superior to another is the level of Taqwa. It is this piety or fear of God which elevates man from the level of "thinking animal" to that of governor (Khalifah) of the planets. The importance of the fear of Allah in a Muslim's life cannot be overstressed.

Allah mentioned Taqwa and its derivatives 26 times in the Qur'an, everywhere emphasizing that Taqwa is the driving force behind living faith. Without it, faith is only a meaningless jumble of memorized words and phrases, and 'righteous' deeds only shells of pretense and hypocrisy.

Consequently, piety is preferred over all other considerations in all of life's transactions. Abu Hurayrah (radiallahu`anhu) reported the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu`alaihi wasallam) said:

"A woman is married for four [reasons]: her wealth, her nobility, her beauty, and her piety. Choose the pious one and be successful."

[Narrated by Al-Bukhari (Sahih Al-Bukhari; (Arabic-English), vol.7, pp.18-9, and no.27) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim, (English Trans.), vol.2, p.749, and no.3457)]

No matter how beautiful, rich or well bred a woman might be, if she is not pious, she is inferior to a pious, ugly, poor woman from a dishonorable family.

The converse is also true, as the hadith reported by Abu Hurayrah, Prophet SAW said:

"If a man whose practice of the religion satisfies you, asks you for your daughter in marriage, you should marry them; otherwise there will be corruption in the land."

[Narrated by at-Tirmidzi]

'Abdullah ibn 'Amr reported the Prophet SAW once reprimanded Abu Dharr for derisively calling Bilal ibn Rabab, 'son of a black woman', and then he went on to say:

"Look! Surely you are not better than a brown man or a black man except by fearing Allah more than them."

[Narrated by Ahmed]

This understanding was hammered home time and time again by Allah's messenger SAW. Even in the Farewell Pilgrimage, done shortly before he died, he lectured the people on the insignificance of racial differences and the all importance of Taqwa. The most pious individuals are only known to Allah, because the seat of Taqwa is the heart. Man can only judge people by each other's outward deeds which may or may not be misleading.

Allah the Almighty made that abundantly clear in the following verse:

"There is among people in this life, he whose speech will dazzle you. And he will call on Allah as a witness to what is in his heart; yet, he will be among the most vicious of enemies."

[ Al-Baqarah 2:204]

Therefore, it is not permissible for humans to designate certain people as being particularly saintly and pious to a degree beyond the reach of ordinary humans. The Prophet Muhammad SAW specified among his companions [Sahabah] some whom he gave glad tidings of paradise in this life. [ Among them are ten well known, Abu Bakar As-Siddiq, 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab , 'Uthman bin Affan , 'Ali ibn Talib, Talhah bin Ubaidallah, Az-Zubair, Sa'ad Ibn Abi Waqqas, Sa'id Ibn Zaid, 'Abdul Rahman Ibn 'Awf, Abu 'Ubaidah Ibn Al-Jarrah (see al-'Aqidah at-Tahawiyah, pp.485-7).]

However; such pronouncements were based on revelation and not his own ability to judge the hearts. For example, when the Prophet SAW said concerning those who make a pledge of allegiance known as Bai'ah Ar-Ridwan:

"No one who made the pledge beneath the tree will enter the hellfire,"

[Reported by Jabir and collected by Muslim [Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol.3, p.1034, no.4576]]

He was confirming the Qur'anic verse revealed to that effect: "Allah is pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you beneath the tree..." [Surah Al-Fath 48:18]

Similarly, he judged some whom everyone thought were destined to paradise to be among those destined for the hellfire. All such judgments were based on revelation. Ibn 'Abbas said that he was told by 'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab that on the day of [the battle] of Khaibar, some of the Prophet's companions came and said, "So and so is a martyr and so and so is a martyr," but when they came to a man about whom they said, "So and so is a martyr," Allah's messenger declared, "By no means! I have seen him in hell in a cloak which he took [from the spoils] dishonestly." Allah's messenger then said:

 "Go, Ibn Al-Khattab, and announce among the people three times that only the believers will enter paradise."

[Narrated by Muslim; See Sahih Muslim [English Trans.] vol.1, p.65, no.209]

In Christian tradition down through the ages, some individuals were highly praised for their supposed spiritual achievements. Miracles were attributed to them and the rank of "saint" was bestowed on them. In pre-Christian Hindu and Buddhist tradition, teachers who were supposed to have climbed the ladder of spiritual excellence and who had performed supernatural feats were also given titles like Guru, Avatar, etc., indicating spiritual superiority.

These designations have led the masses to either seek intercession through them or to worship them as gods. Consequently, these religious traditions have lists of saints to whom the masses fervently pray.

Islam, on the other hand, opposes even the excessive praise of Prophet Muhammad SAW who said:

"Do not praise me excessively as the Christians did to 'Eesa ibn Maryam, verily I am only a slave, so call me instead the slave of Allah and His messenger."

[Reported by 'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab and collected by Al-Bukhari and Muslim (See Sahih Al-Bukhari, (Arabic-English), vol.4, p.435, no.654]

[Via MSA]

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