THE MILDNESS AND FORBEARANCE OF GOD’S MESSENGER
Mildness is another dimension of the character of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. He was a bright mirror in which God reflected His Mercy.
Mildness is a reflection of compassion. God made His Messenger mild and gentle, not harsh and stern. Due to his mildness, God’s Messenger gained many converts to Islam and surpassed numerous obstacles on his way to ultimate victory.
After the victory of Badr, the Battle of Uhud was a severe trial for the Muslim community in Madina. Although God’s Messenger was of the opinion that they should face the enemy on the outskirts of Madina, the majority of the Muslim army urged him to go out into the open for a pitched battle. When the two armies met each other at the foot of Mount Uhud, God’s Messenger positioned fifty archers in the pass of ‘Aynayn and ordered them not to leave their place without permission, even if they saw that the Muslims had won the victory decisively.
The Muslim army, one third of the enemy in number and equipment, had almost defeated the Makkan polytheists at the beginning of the battle. Seeing the enemy fleeing the battlefield, the archers forgot the Prophet’s command and left their positions in pursuit of them. However, Khalid ibn Walid, the cavalry commander of the Makkan army, saw this and, riding round the mountain, attacked the Muslim army from behind. The fleeing enemy soldiers turned back, and as a result, the Muslims, caught in the cross-fire, experienced a reverse. More than seventy Muslims were martyred and God’s Messenger was wounded. He might have reproached those who urged him to come into the open for a pitched battle and the archers who left their place contrary to his orders. But he did the reverse and showed leniency to them. The Qur’an says:
It was by the mercy of God that you were gentle to them; if you had been harsh and hard of heart, they would have dispersed from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them in the affair. And when you are resolved, then put your trust in God; surely God loves those who put their trust (in Him). (Al ‘Imran, 3.159)
This verse shows, besides the need for leaders to be mild and lenient to those who make well-intentioned mistakes, the importance which Islam attaches to consultation in public administration.
The mildness and forgiveness of God’s Messenger was a reflection of God’s Names, the All-Mild, the All-Clement and the All-Forgiving. God does not stop providing for people despite their rebellion or unbelief. While the vast majority of people disobey Him either in unbelief and explicit or implicit association of partners with Him or transgression of His Commandments, the sun continues to send them its heat and light, clouds come to their aid with their tears – rain – and the earth never stops feeding them with its various fruits and plants. This is because of the Clemency and Forgiveness of God Almighty, which God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, reflected through his compassion, mildness and forgiveness.
Like the Prophet Abraham, whom he used to say that he resembled, God’s Messenger was mild, imploring, clement and penitent (Hud, 11.75), and also gentle to believers and full of pity and compassionate for them (al-Tawba, 9.127). Abraham, upon him be peace, was never angry with people, however much they tormented him. He wished for good even for his enemies. He implored God and shed tears in His Presence. Since he was a man of peace and salvation, God made the fire into which he was thrown cool and safe for him (al-Anbiya’, 21.69). Like him, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was never angry with anybody because of what was done to him. When his wife ‘A’isha, may God be pleased with her, was made the object of a slander, he did not think to punish the slanderers even after ‘A’isha was cleared by the Qur’an. Bedouins often came to his presence and behaved impolitely, but he did not even frown at them. Although extremely sensitive, he always showed forbearance towards everybody, whether friend or foe. His sensitivity was such that if, for example, a needle pierced his finger, it would give him more pain than others feel when speared. Despite this, he tolerated all the impudence of people.
As recounted earlier, he shared out the spoils of war after the Battle of Hunayn, when a man named Dhu l-Huwaysira objected, saying: ‘Be just, o Muhammad!’ This was an unforgivable offence against the sacred character of a Prophet whose role was to establish justice in the world. Unable to endure such offences against God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, ‘Umar reacted: ‘Let me kill this hypocrite, o God’s Messenger!’ But the Messenger did nothing other than say:
Who else will show justice if I am not just? If I do not show justice, then I have been lost and brought to naught.38
According to another version, he said:
If I am not just, then, by following me, you – the people – have been lost and brought to naught.39
In addition, he implied that that man would later take part in a seditious movement, which came true during the Caliphate of ‘Ali. Dhu l-Huwaysira was found dead among the Kharijites killed in the Battle of Nahrawan.
As related by Anas ibn Malik, a Jewish woman offered a roasted sheep to God’s Messenger after the conquest of Khaybar. Just before he took the first morsel to his mouth, God’s Messenger stopped and told the others at the meal not to eat of it, saying: This sheep tells me that it is poisonous. Nevertheless, a Companion, named Bishr, died immediately after he took the first morsel. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, sent for the woman and questioned her on why she tried to poison him. The woman replied:
If you are really a Prophet, the poison will not affect you. If you are not, I wanted to save people from your evil.
God’s Messenger forgave the woman for her conspiracy to kill him.40
While the Prophet was once returning to his house after talking to his Companions in the mosque, a Bedouin pulled him by the collar and said rudely: ‘O Muhammad! Give me my due! Load up these two camels of mine. For you will load them up with neither your own wealth nor the wealth of your father.’ To this impertinence, God’s Messenger gave the response, without showing any sign of offence: Give that man what he wants!41
Zayd ibn San’an narrates:
Once, God’s Messenger borrowed some money from me. I was not yet a Muslim then. I went to him to collect my debt before its due time, and insulted him, saying; ‘You the children of ‘Abd al-Muttalib, are very reluctant to pay your debts!’ ‘Umar became very angry with this insult of mine and shouted; ‘O enemy of God! Were it not for the treaty between us and the Jewish community, I would cut off your head! Speak to God’s Messenger politely!’ However, God’s Messenger smiled at me and, turning to ‘Umar, said: Umar, pay the man his debt! And add to it the amount of twenty gallons because you have frightened him!
‘Umar relates the rest of the story:
‘We went together. On the way, Zayd spoke to me unexpectedly: ‘O ‘Umar! You got angry with me. But I have found in him all the features of the Last Prophet recorded in the Torah, the Old Testament. However, there is this verse in it: ‘His mildness surpasses his anger. The severity of impudence to him increases him only in mildness and forbearance.’ In order to test his forbearance, I uttered what I uttered. Now I am convinced that he is the Prophet whose coming the Torah predicted, so, I believe and bear witness that he is the Last Prophet.’42
The mildness and forbearance of God’s Messenger sufficed for the conversion of Zayd ibn San’an, who was one of the Jewish scholars of the time.
God’s Messenger himself was extremely meticulous in practising the religion. Nobody could imitate him in performing supererogatory prayers. Despite being sinless, he spent more than half the night praying in tears, and sometimes fasted two or three days successively. Every moment, he took a further step towards the ‘praised station’ set for him by God. However, he was very tolerant towards others; in order that his Umma should not be put under a heavy burden, he did not perform the supererogatory prayers in the mosque. When a complaint was circulated about an imam (prayer leader) because he prolonged the prayer, the Prophet climbed the pulpit and said:
O you people! You cause aversion in people from prayer. Whoever among you leads a prescribed prayer should not prolong it, for there are among you people who are sick or old or who are in urgent need.43
Once his congregation complained to God’s Messenger about Mu’adh ibn Jabal that he prolonged the night prayer. His love for Mu’adh did not prevent the Messenger from reproaching him, saying, Are you a trouble-maker? Are you a troublemaker? Are you a trouble-maker?44
The mildness and forbearance of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, captured the hearts and preserved the unity of the Muslims. As stated in the Qur’an, if he had been harsh and hard-hearted, people would have dispersed from about him. But those who saw him and listened to him were endowed with Divine manifestations to the extent that they attained the rank of sainthood. For example, Khalid ibn Walid was the general of the Quraysh who caused the Muslims to experience a reverse in the Battle of Uhud. However, when he was not included in the army that went out for a military campaign on the day following his conversion, he was upset and sobbed.
Like Khalid, Ikrima and ‘Amr ibn al-‘As were among those who did great harm to God’s Messenger and the Muslims. When they believed, each became a sword of Islam drawn against unbelievers. Ibn Hisham, the brother of Abu Jahl, converted to Islam shortly before the death of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. He became so sincere a Muslim that just before his martyrdom at the Battle of Yarmuk two years after the death of God’s Messenger, he did not drink the water that Hudayfa al-‘Adawi offered him, asking him to take it to the one lying nearby groaning for water. He died, having preferred his Muslim brother over himself.45
Those people attained high ranks in the enlightening atmosphere of God’s Messenger, upon him peace and blessings. They were included among the Companions, those regarded and respected as the most virtuous people after the Prophets by almost the whole body of the Muslim Ummah since the earliest days of Islam. In order to explain their greatness, Said Nursi, the great Muslim revivalist of the twentieth century, says:
I had been wondering why even the greatest of saints like Muhyi al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi are unable to attain the rank of the Companions. One day God Almighty enabled me to perform in prayer a prostration, which I have succeeded in doing only once during my life. I concluded that it is impossible to attain the ranks of the Companions because all the prostrations of the Companions were like that in meaning and merit.46
It was God’s Messenger who brought up the Companions. It is enough to establish the greatness of the Companions that they succeeded despite their small number in conveying Islam to the farthest areas of Asia and Africa within a few decades, and Islam was rooted in those areas so deeply that, despite the concerted efforts of the global enemy powers for centuries backed with all kinds of machinery and technological facilities, to remove it from the surface of the earth, it continues to gain new momentum every passing day and is the sole alternative for the future salvation of humankind. The Companions, may God be pleased with them all, developed from the wretched state of the pre-Islamic Age of Ignorance to being guides and teachers of a considerable part of mankind until the Last Day, and the vanguard of the most magnificent civilization of history.
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was a man of absolute balance. His universal compassion did not prevent him from executing Divine justice, and his mildness and forbearance did not go to extremes of overlooking any breach of Islamic rules or self-humiliation. For example, in a military campaign, Usama ibn Zayd threw an enemy soldier to the ground. When he was about to kill him, the man confessed belief. However, judging that confession to be due to fear of death, Usama killed the man. When informed of the incident, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, became so angry with Usama that he reprimanded him severely, saying: Did you cleave his heart open and see (whether his confession of belief was due to fear of death)? He repeated this so many times that Usama said later: ‘I wished I had not yet become a Muslim on the day I was scolded so severely.’47
Likewise, one day, Abu Dharr got angry with Bilal and insulted him, saying: ‘You, the son of a black woman!’ Bilal came to God’s Messenger and reported the incident in tears. The Messenger reproached Abu Dharr, saying: Do you still have a sign of Jahiliya? Repentant of what he did, Abu Dharr lay on the ground and said: ‘The head of Abu Dharr will not be raised (meaning he will not get up) unless Bilal put his foot on it to pass over it.’ Bilal forgave him and they were reconciled.48
Such was the brotherhood and the humanity Islam created between once savage people.
38. Muslim, “Zakat,” 142, 148; Bukhari, “Adab,” 95, “Manaqib,” 25.
39. Bukhari, “Adab,” 95; Muslim, “Zakat,” 142.
40. Bukhari, “Hiba,” 28; Abu Dawud, “Diyat,” 6.
41. Abu Dawud, “Adab,” 1; Nasa’i, “Qasama,” 24.
42. Suyuti, al-Khasa’is, 1.26; I. Hajar, al-Isaba, 1.566.
43. Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 28, “Adhan,” 61.
44. Muslim, “Salat,” 179; Nasa’i, “Iftitah,” 71; Bukhari, “Adab,” 74.
45. Hakim, Mustadrak, 3.242.
46. Said Nursi, Sozler, Istanbul, 1986, 459.
47. Muslim, “Iman,” 158; I. Ma’ja, “Fitan,” 1.
48. Bukhari, “Iman,” 22.