And whatsoever He has created for you on this earth of varying colors [and qualities from vegetation and fruits, etc. (botanical life) and from animal (zoological life)]. Verily! In this is a sign for people who remember. The Holy Quran 16:13

Fundamentals of Wisdom in Light of Surat Luqman – Part 3

Transcript of the Friday Sermon delivered by Dr. Munawar Haque on Dec 09, 2016

Brothers and sisters! Today’s khutba is a continuation and concluding part of my previous two khutbas on the fundamentals of wisdom in light of a few verses of Surat Luqman. In our discussion of verses 12 to 16 of this surah, we came to know how man using his pure nature guided by human reasoning in the right direction, begins to reach the universal truths and realities of this universe. Other points that we came to learn through these verses were about Allah’s noble attributes of being al-Ghani (the Self-Sufficient) and al-Hameed (the only One who is truly worthy of all praise and thanks), and about how shirk was neither compatible to logic not intellect. We noted the divine advice to respect and honor one’s parents. Lastly, it was seen that the human soul has been granted with an insight that distinguishes between good and evil.

InshaAllah, we will continue with our discussion on the problem of good and evil, and then move to verses 17 to 19 of the surah in which Luqman shares his gems of advice with his little son.

In the natural scheme of things, the rule of law should be that good should beget good and evil should beget evil. But, we find sometimes that people who are good and honest often have to suffer. They are wronged. They are not respected while crooks and criminals who exploit others often become rich, famous, and powerful. Therefore the logical rule that good should beget good and evil should beget evil does not always seem to apply, here in this world. Evil flourishes while good languishes.

As far as the physical laws are concerned, they are effective, as they follow a natural pattern, and bring about the natural results as expected, but the moral laws in this world, as we saw from the above examples do not always bring about the desired expected results. A burning coal if held in the hand will burn it, but telling a lie, which is an issue of morality, will have no perceptible harmful effect on the tongue. Consuming poison is fatal but no immediate harm comes out of consuming food earned through unlawful means. It can be concluded, therefore, that as far as the physical laws are concerned, this world is complete, but as far as the moral laws are concerned, this world is incomplete, as the results coming out from them are not always reconcilable with the actions performed.

This situation necessitates that there should be another life; another world, where moral laws should bring about the correct results; where people are suitably rewarded or punished in proportion to the good or evil they did. This is not quite the case in this world. It is simply not possible to render punishment in due proportion to those who commit genocides and other crimes against humanity. Similarly it is impossible to duly reward the great benefactors of humanity, who themselves may have led a very challenging and tough life with no material gains or benefits whatsoever. This explains the intellectual reasoning and natural instincts for faith in the hereafter (Iman bil Akhirah).  Thus the wisdom or hikmah founded on one’s intellect and instincts dictates that there should be another world in which all the human deeds whether good or bad must be rewarded fully; This is another hikmah that Luqman is passing on to his beloved son. The next advice Luqman gives to his son is:

يَا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا أَصَابَكَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

“My son, establish salah and command what is right and forbid what is wrong and bear with patience whatever befalls you. Surely, these acts require courage.” (Luqman, 31:17). The prayers have to be a part and parcel of a believer’s life. It is a medium of having a constant link with Allah (SWT).

Natural instinct also leads human beings to promote actions that are known to be right and good and to oppose actions that are known to be wrong and evil. The terms Amr-bil-Maroof (enjoining what is good) and Nahi ‘an il-Munkar (forbidding from what is evil) are one of the most fundamental terms of Qur’an and always appear as an inseparable organic whole. While feeding the hungry, providing medical facilities to the sick, taking care of the needy, and extending similar services are all important in their own right, and constitute service to humanity, yet promoting good and forbidding evil is the biggest public service one can offer to humanity. The highest good a true believer could do to humanity is to try to direct people from the wrong path to the right path and save them from the fire of hell. Not doing so is being cruel to one’s fellow humans. People should be called towards the right path—the path of Allah; the path that will take them to paradise, and save them from hell-fire. This mission of calling people to good and forbidding them from evil should start from one’s own family members.  

وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا

“O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire fueled by people and stones” (al-Tahrim, 66:6).

وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ 

“Let there be a group among you who call others to good, and enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong: those who do this shall be successful” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:104).

It is to be noted that only enjoining what is good and not forbidding what is bad is only doing half the work, and is only half the truth. Truth should be total truth. Thus, Amr-bil-Maroof and Nahi ‘anil-Munkar should always go hand in hand.

Nahi ‘anil-Munkar has three levels as elucidated in a famous hadith which says,

مَنْ رَأَى مِنْكُمْ مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُغَيِّرْهُ بِيَدِهِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ، وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الْإِيمَانِ

"Whosoever of you sees wrong, then let him change it with his hand, and if he is not able to, then let him change it with his tongue, and if he is no able to, then let him change it with his heart (that is, let him recognize it as wrong inside his heart), and that is the weakest of faith.” Amr-bil-Maroof also can be done at different levels—through advice and appeal, and in case of having authority, the good should be established and evil should be eradicated with force of authority, if necessary. Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil is the duty of every person who wants to do some good to the humanity at large. The end of verse 17 says,

وَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا أَصَابَكَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

 “And then bear with fortitude whatever may befall you. Indeed, these are amongst things which require lot of patience and steadfastness.” (Luqman, 31:17).

This tells us that doing Amr-bil-Maroof wa Nahi ‘anil-Munkar is most likely going to be met with resentment and resistance, because truth is bitter. The one who engages in Amr-bil-Maroof wa Nahi ‘anil-Munkar will be told to mind his own business and not to meddle with the affairs of others. If people are told something which hurts their worldly interest, then they might even retaliate and persecute the one who is forbidding them from their wrong practices.

If people who associate others with Allah are told not to commit shirk, they may even get offended that their beliefs and their cultural practices are being challenged. This was exactly the cause of dispute between Muhammad (SAW) and the people of Mecca. It was not a dispute for land, property, money, power or other worldly considerations. The dispute was over the Islamic testimony of faith--La ilaha illallah, which was in direct contravention to their polytheistic beliefs and practices. This led to the verbal abuse, physical persecution and torture of some of the companions of the Prophet (SAW). Some of them were even martyred.

It is in the face of such opposition that endurance, fortitude, patience and perseverance have to be exercised. Historically, the prophets and messengers of Allah were always persecuted by their people for enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. Therefore, those who embark upon this noble mission of Amr-bil-Maroof wa Nahi ‘anil-Munkar have to be prepared for any eventuality, for they may even be harmed by the evil doers. Doing this work needs strength of character, courage, patience, and steadfastness. 

أَقُولُ قَوْلِي هَذَا وَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ لِي وَلَكُمْ وَلِسَائِرِ المُسْلِمينَ وَالمُسْلِمَاتْ فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ 

الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على سيد المرسلين وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين

And the final advice that Luqman gives to his son is:

وَلَا تُصَعِّرْ خَدَّكَ لِلنَّاسِ وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ () وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِنْ صَوْتِكَ إِنَّ أَنْكَرَ الْأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ()

“And do not turn your cheek away from people with scorn or pride and do not walk proudly and haughtily on the earth, for Allah does not like anyone who is self-conceited, and boastful.  Be modest in your walk and keep your voice low. Indeed, the most unpleasant of all the voices is the braying of the donkey”(Luqman, 31:18-19).

The mature human personality has a beauty of its own that comes from humility. The higher one goes up, the more humble one becomes. Such a person is not arrogant and does not show any contempt or scorn towards others. The body language of such a person is not reflective of any pride or haughtiness. Anyone engaged in the mission of Amr-bil-Maroof wa Nahi ‘anil-Munkar, may, if he is not careful get caught in the trap of a superiority complex and begin to have an inflated ego, thinking that he is at a higher level of morality and spirituality than the persons to whom he is giving da’wah. Lack of humility is extremely harmful and brings everything to zero. Priding oneself with one’s knowledge, piety, nobility and wisdom and not having humbleness when dealing with fellow humans takes away all the reward of good deeds that one may have done.

Luqman is advising his son to be humble in his attitude, and behavior, and not to be stiff-necked when interacting with people. While talking, it is good to keep one’s voice soft and low rather than loud and harsh. One’s voice may be reasonably loud if an occasion so required. It is reported that the Prophet (SAW) while delivering his sermons spoke loudly. A leader or commander may often have to speak in a loud voice in order to give a command. What is meant here by low voice is that one should not unnecessarily raise one’s voice to compensate for the weakness of one’s argument. Such type of loud voice is not pleasant and may be likened to the braying of a donkey. One’s manner of walking also should be moderate and humble rather than boastful. The way of walking of a person is suggestive of his or her character. The conceit and arrogance of a person often manifests itself on his face, voice and the way he walks. Allah does not like anyone who is self-conceited, and boastful.

May Allah give us the tawfiq to take heed and live by the teachings of Islam. 

بَارَكَ اللهُ لِي وَلَكُمْ فِي الْقُرْآنِ الْعَظِيْمِ. وَنَفَعَنِي وَاِيِّاكُمْ بِمَا فِيْهِ مِنَ الآيَاتِ وَالذِّكْرِ الْحَكِيْمِ وَتَقَبَّلَ اللهُ مِنِّي وَمِنْكُمْ تِلاوَتَهُ اِنَّهُ هُوَاالسَّمِيْعُ الْعَلِيْمُ