THE PROPHET’S TRUSTWORTHINESS IN HIS RELATIONS WITH CREATURES
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was trustworthy and encouraged trustworthiness. Once, during the last ten days of the month of Ramadan, his wife Safiyya visited him while he confined himself in mosque for constant prayer. As he escorted her home, two of his Companions happened to pass by. The Messenger stopped them and, unveiling the face of his wife Safiyya, said to them, Look, this is my wife, Safiyya!
They said: ‘God forbid any evil thought about you, O Messenger of God!’ The Messenger had wanted to warn them against any evil suspicion about him, which might cause them to lose their faith and thereby condemn them to eternal Hellfire. He gave them and us a lesson, saying, Satan continuously circulates within man in his blood vessels.3
God’s Messenger was the embodiment of trustworthiness. The Makkans called him ‘the Trustworthy One.’ Even after the declaration of his Prophethood, they continued to entrust their precious goods to him although they regarded him as an enemy.
He warned his people against lying, breaking one’s word and breach of trust. Like breaching a trust and breaking one’s word, lying was also, in his words, ‘a sign of hypocrisy’.4 He was so meticulous in this matter that once he saw a woman call her child saying, ‘Come on, I’ll give you something!’ He asked her whether she would really give the child something. When the woman replied that she would give him a date, God’s Messenger warned: If you were not to give something, that would be a lie!
He was not only against deceiving humans, but even warned people against deceiving animals. Once, annoyed at seeing one of his Companions call his horse using deception, he said:
You should give up deceiving animals. You should be trustworthy even in your treatment of them!5
Once, on the way home from a military campaign, a few Companions took the chicks of a bird from the nest to pet them. The mother-bird returned after a short while and on finding the chicks gone, began to fly around in distress. When God’s Messenger was informed of this, he was so grieved that he ordered the chicks to be returned immediately. By this he demonstrated that it was not befitting for those who should be representatives of trustworthiness to hurt any living creatures.6
His Companions, those of the generation of Islam who imbibed his Message, were each an embodiment of trustworthiness. By virtue of this and other laudable virtues, cities and states were submitted to the Message they conveyed. During the caliphate of ‘Umar, the embodiment of justice, Abu ‘Ubayda was the commander of the Muslim armies in Syria. When the emperor of Byzantium set out to recapture Hims with a large army, Abu ‘Ubayda decided to evacuate the city since there were only a handful of soldiers in his company. He gathered the people of Hims in the city quarter and announced:
We collected the protection tax from you because we had to defend you. Now we are too weak to defend you against the assault of the emperor of Byzantium. In this case, we return the tax we collected.7
All the taxes collected were returned to the non-Muslim people of Hims. Pleased with the Muslim administration, Christian priests and Jewish rabbis flocked to the churches and synagogues and prayed for God to grant the Muslims victory against the armies of the Byzantine emperor.
Such was the attitude of Muslim conquerors and administrators in the lands they ruled. Muslims stayed in Spain for eight centuries. If there were left in that land Christians in sufficient numbers and with sufficient power to recapture it after eight centuries, this was due to the religious tolerance of the Muslim administration. Muslim rulers, whether in Europe or Asia or Africa, did not interfere with the religion, language or native culture of the conquered peoples. If they had done so, there would have been no Christians or Jews left to recapture Spain or the Balkan countries or Palestine to carry out genocides therein, or to destroy peoples, cultures and languages almost all over the world.
Islam emphasizes trustworthiness and security between people to the extent of condemning and forbidding suspicion and backbiting. The Qur’an declares:
O you who believe! Avoid much of suspicion for suspicion in some cases is a grave sin. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor it. And fear God, verily God is the Acceptor of repentance, the Most Merciful. (al-Hujurat, 49.12)
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was so sensitive on this point that when once ‘A’isha said of a woman, ‘How long the neck of that woman is!’, he commented:
You have backbitten against her and thereby eaten of her flesh!8
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, always prayed to God as follows:
O God! I seek refuge in You from hunger, for how bad a companion it is! I also seek refuge in You from betrayal, for what an evil confidant it is!9
The following is also one of his severe admonitions against betrayal and disloyalty:
When God gathers together on the Day of Judgement all the people preceding and to come, a banner will be raised on behalf of every man of disloyalty and it will be announced: This is because of the disloyalty of so and so!10
The heart of God’s Messenger was utterly closed to all kinds of evil, but open to all sorts of good. He lived in a climate of security, faithfulness and trustworthiness. He never cheated, lied, betrayed, spoke behind anyone’s back or slandered anyone. He never harboured evil suspicion of anyone. In return, people relied on him, and confided in him. His enemies spoke all kinds of slander against him but no one ever accused him of lying and disloyalty. Those who turned their backs on him were deceived and dragged along into wrong ways.
Perfect reliance on God
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was totally reliable. His trustworthiness had, in fact, two aspects: one in his relationship with people, the other in his relationship with God. While the former manifested itself as complete reliability, the latter was exhibited as his perfect reliance on God. When combined, these two aspects always bring about a peaceful atmosphere of steadfastness and security.
The Qur’an gives several examples concerning the Prophets’ confidence in, and perfect reliance on, God. To cite only a few of them:
And recite to them the news of Noah, when he said to his people: ‘O my people! If my stay (with you) and my reminding (you) of the signs of God is unbearable to you, then I put my trust in God, so come together with your partners and come to an agreement on your plan! Then let not your affair be a worry to you, pass your sentence on me, and give me no respite. (Yunus, 10.71)
(Abraham said to his people:) “I call God to witness and bear you witness that I am free from all that you ascribe as partners in worship to God, beside Him. So, plot against me, all of you, and give me no respite. I put my trust in God, my Lord and your Lord. There’s not a moving creature but He has grasp of its forelock. Verily my Lord is on a straight path.” (11:54-6)
Indeed there has been an excellent example for you in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: ‘Verily we are free from you and from whatever you worship besides God; we have rejected you, and there has arisen between us and you hostility and hatred for ever, until you believe in God alone, - except Abraham’s saying to his father: ‘Verily I ask forgiveness (from God) for you, but I have no power to do anything for you before God. Our Lord! In you (alone) we put our trust, and to You (alone) we return in repentance, and to You (alone) is our final return.’ (al-Mumtahana, 60.4)
The nature of unbelief consists in deviation and opposition. An unbeliever sees the world in darkness and feels himself alone in an alien world. Whereas, for a believer, the whole universe is a cradle of brotherhood. He feels himself connected to everything around him. By its nature, unbelief cuts off relations between things and, as a result, an unbeliever feels enmity against everything, especially against believers. He cannot bear their existence, so he tries his hardest to eradicate belief from the surface of the earth. That is why all the Prophets encountered severe opposition and, together with their followers, suffered pitiless acts of cruelty. But, it is due to their complete confidence in and perfect reliance on God that they never lost heart because of what befell them in God’s Way, nor did they weaken (in will) nor were they brought low (Qur’an, Al ‘Imran, 3.146).
The Messenger’s reliance on God made him fearless. He appeared in the heartland of a large desert where one of the most uncivilized peoples of the world lived, and, despite their harsh treatment - to the extent that even his uncle was one of his most bitter enemies - he challenged the whole world and, through complete trust in God, carried his mission to victory. He had only a handful of men and his victory came in a very short period. This is an unparalleled achievement in world history. We can understand his fearless nature, which developed out of his absolute confidence in God, through the following anecdotes.
As reported by his biographers, the tribe of the Quraysh conspired to kill him. They selected one man from each clan and, as a result, around two hundred men, under the command of Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab, besieged his house. God’s Messenger told ‘Ali, his cousin, to spend the night in his bed and, throwing some dust at those surrounding the house while reciting the verse, We have put a barrier before them, and a barrier behind them, so We have covered them up, so that they cannot see (Ya Sin, 36.9), he departed without being seen by anyone.11 He left Makka with his closest friend, Abu Bakr, and reached the cave of Thawr, which is at the top of a high, steep mountain. Meanwhile, the chiefs of the Quraysh had dispatched search parties to seize him. One of those search parties climbed the mountain up to the cave. Abu Bakr became anxious, fearing for the life of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, but the latter comforted him, saying, Do not be anxious, for God is with us, (9:39), and added: What do you think of the two men beside whom God is the third?12
In the the Battle of Hunayn, the Muslim army was forced to retreat. All but a few thought they were about to lose. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, spurred on his horse forward and shouted:
I am a Prophet. This is not a lie! I am the son of ‘Abd al-Muttalib!13
His courage and steadfastness were enough for his Companions to collect themselves and ultimately to gain the victory.
As related through various channels, during the military campaign of Ghatfan and Anmar, a courageous chieftain named Ghowras unexpectedly appeared at the side of God’s Messenger, who was lying under a tree. Ghowras unsheathed his sword and asked God’s Messenger, ‘Who will save you from me now?’
God will, the Messenger replied. He then prayed: O God, suffice me against him in any way You will!
At that moment, Ghowras was knocked down, and his sword slipped from his hand. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, took the sword and asked him: Now, who will save you from me?
Ghowras began to tremble and entreated God’s Messenger to spare his life. ‘You are a noble, forgiving man; only forgiveness is expected of you,’ he pleaded. God’s Messenger forgave him, and when Ghowras returned to his tribe, he said to them: ‘I have just come from the best of mankind.’14
Trustworthiness is one of the cornerstones of belief. The Qur’an says:
Verily, God commands you to commit the trusts to (the charge of) those qualified for them, and when you judge between men, to judge with justice. Verily how excellent is the teaching which He gives you! Truly God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (al-Nisa’, 4.58)
Breach of trusts is, according to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, a sign of the end of time. Once he said:
When the trust is breached, expect the end of time. When his Companions asked how the trust would be breached, he answered: If a job or post is assigned to the one not qualified for it, then expect the end of time.15
Assignment of a job or post to the one qualified to do it is a social trust and has a very significant role in public administration and social order. The abuse of this principle causes disorder in society. There should be order in all levels of society with some taking responsibility for others. God’s Messenger declared:
Each of you is a ‘shepherd’ [manager] and each of you is responsible for his flock. The ruler is a ‘shepherd’ responsible for his subjects. A husband is a ‘shepherd’ responsible for his family and a woman is a ‘shepherd’ and is responsible in the house of her husband. A servant is a ‘shepherd’ and is responsible for managing the duties or the property his master entrusted to him.16
If everyone in a society from the doorman to the president is mindful about fulfilling his responsibilities, we will be living in a ‘society of trustworthy ones’, for which humankind express their longing in utopias.
Trustworthiness is so essential an aspect of belief that God’s Messenger once declared:
The one who is not trustworthy is not a believer.17
In another of his sayings, he describes a believer as the one whom the people trust concerning their blood and property.18
He also said:
Promise me the following six things and I will promise you Paradise: When you speak, speak the truth; when you give a promise, carry it out; when something is entrusted to you, do not breach it; always keep chaste without being involved in any illicit intercourse; keep your eyes away from what is unlawful and hold your hands back from the forbidden.19
To look lustfully at a woman other than your wife is strictly forbidden by Islam. Concerning this, God’s Messenger declares:
God says: ‘[Such] a glance is like a poisonous arrow from the quiver of Satan. Whoever refrains out of fear of Me, I inculcate belief so firmly in his heart that he tastes it.’20
To live in absolute security is only possible under the rule of trustworthy people. If the Muslim world observes the Divine Trust and becomes the representative of trustworthiness and security in the world, a ‘new world order’ based on justice and balance will be possible. Otherwise, mankind will continue to chase after ‘mirages’ of justice, security and happiness.
Through his truthfulness, trustworthiness and all other laudable virtues, God’s Messenger imprinted an indelible mark upon peoples of every age. His every word and deed pronounced that Muhammad is a Messenger of God, one who was sent to guide people to truth, to bring them out of the darkness of ignorance, savagery, slavery and immorality, into the light of knowledge, high morality, love, compassion and true freedom.
One of Avicenna’s students said to him one day that if, with his extraordinary understanding and intelligence, he were to make a claim to Prophethood, people would gather around him. Avicenna said nothing. Some time passed and they were on a journey together in wintertime. Avicenna awoke from his sleep one morning at dawn, wakened his student and, telling him he was thirsty, asked him to fetch some water. The student put him off and made excuses. However much Avicenna persisted, the student was not prepared to leave his warm bed in the cold winter. At that moment the cry of the muezzin called out from the minaret: God is the Greatest... I bear witness that there is no deity but God. I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God... Avicenna saw that this was a good opportunity to give the answer to his student, so he said: ‘You, who averred that if I made claim to be a Prophet, people would believe in me. Look now and see how the request I just made of you, who have been my student for years and have benefited from my lessons, has not even had the effect of making you leave your warm bed to fetch me some water. But this muezzin strictly obeys the four-hundred-year (now fourteen-hundred-year)-old command of the Prophet. He got up from his warm bed, as he always does every morning together with hundreds of thousands of others, climbed up to that great height and bore witness to the Unity of God and to the Messengership of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. Look, and think how great the difference is!’
3. Bukhari, I’tiqaf, 8; I. Ma’ja, Siyam, 65.
4. Abu Dawud, Adab, 80; I. Hanbal, 3.447.
5. Bukhari, Iman, 24; Muslim, Iman, 107.
6. Abu Davud, Jihad, 112, Adab, 164; I. Hanbal, 1.404.
7. Abu Dawud, Adab, 164; I. Hanbal, 1.404.
8. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, 7.359; al-Targhib ve l-Tarhib, 4.285.
9. Abu Dawud, Witr, 32; Nasa’i, Isti’adha, 19,20; Ibn Ma’ja, At’ima, 53.
10. Muslim, Jihad, 9.
11. Ibn Hisham, Sira, 2.27.
12. Bukhari, Tafsir, 9; Ibn Hanbal, 1.4.
13. Bukhari, Jihad, 52; Muslim, Jihad, 78.
14. Bukhari, Maghazi, 29, Jihad, 83; Muslim, Fada’il, 13.
15. Bukhari, ‘Ilm, 2; I. Hanbal, 3,361.
16. Bukhari, Jumu’a, 10; Muslim, ‘Imara, 20; Abu Dawud, ‘Imara, 1.
17. I. Hanbal, 3.135.
18. Tirmidhi, Iman, 12; I. Ma’ja, Fitan, 2.
19. I. Hanbal, 5.323.
20. Hindi, Kanz al-’Ummal, 5.328.