The Kinds of Behavior That
"Among the believers are men true to what they promised Allah. Among them is he who has fulfilled his vow, and among them is he who awaits [his chance]. And they did not alter [the terms of their commitment] by any alteration."19
"[They are] those who fulfill the covenant of Allah and do not break the contract."20
The believers’ devotion to Allah is evident in how eagerly they are committed to Islam. Indeed, no worldly benefit, no material or other interest can in any way tempt them away from their devotion and loyalty to Allah. And nothing is more alluring to them than earning the approval of Allah. Their devotion inspires them to continually work for the religion and to do good deeds with zeal, as encouraged by Allah in the Qur’an:
And Allah gives glad tidings that He will reward the faithful:
Through the Qur’an’s verses Allah has communicated to people the kind of morals and way of living with which He is pleased. It is only believers who comply with Allah’s command in the best way. Even when they have knowledge of it, most people neglect the lifestyle with which Allah is pleased because they lack the goal of pleasing Him. On the other hand, believers try to abide by every verse in the Qur’an attentively and not make concessions in this matter. Even when they meet a situation contrary to their worldly inclinations, they do not show the slightest intimidation; rather, they fulfill the most difficult tasks with great zeal throughout their lives.
Indicative of believers’ eagerness for Allah’s acceptance is their pursuit of what pleases Allah most. When a believer encounters several options, he chooses the one, which he expects Allah would like best. He bases his decisions on criteria established by the Qur’an, the sunnah and then his conscience. In the Qur’an, Allah has informed believers of the most acceptable way to live in His sight and described to them the mode of behavior that most pleases Him. Thereafter throughout their lives, believers are guided by the conscience that constantly suggests the best and most righteous course of action. Among a range of options, conscience directs man to the right path based on knowledge from the Qur’an.
The following exemplifies Allah’s guidance in the matter:
Allah commands people to say "that which is best" to one another. Saying a kind word is an act that earns Allah’s approval. However, saying "that which is best" is what earns the most of Allah’s approval and increases His reward because Allah informs us that it is a most acceptable deed.
Similarly, Allah states in the Qur’an that a misdeed may be countered with one equivalent to it. However, He also draws attention to the fact that forgiving and displaying an exemplary attitude to improve the morality of the offender is better:
As we are informed in the verse, repaying an evil act with one equivalent to it is a manner that conforms to Allah’s law. However, forgiving is the manner that is more acceptable and leads a person to earn the most of Allah’s pleasure. In a situation where one is able to exact his right, managing to control rage and forgiving an offender is the mark of moral perfection. That is because the person refuses to obey the wishes of his baser self and displays noble patience only to earn the good pleasure of Allah. As the following verse states:
The difference with zealous people is recognized from their undaunted and unyielding choice of the best manner. No matter what the circumstance, they show determination to do what most pleases Allah. In return Allah gives them glad tidings that He will guide them to salvation:
As mentioned earlier, the majority of people in ignorant societies try to derive benefit from the society they live in through their personal relations and even from their closest friends. In case a conflict of interests arises, they never hesitate to put their own interests first and, in the blink of an eye can readily sacrifice people they hold dear. That is because they prefer themselves to anything and everyone.
However, the situation is different for believers. They do not set primarily individual goals and thus do not concentrate only on personal interests but consider the interests of other believers and of Islam. Indeed, when the interests of believers and Islam are observed, their own interests are likewise observed. They are not overcome by worldly concerns, but what is most important to them in this life is to attain a mode of behavior which most pleases Allah because that is what will be of real use to them in both this world and the next. Those who have this type of mentality always work for the benefit of Islam with great zeal.
At this point it would be useful to clarify what is "the interest" of Islam. Allah revealed His religion to all people as a guide upon the path of truth.
Communicating to people the beliefs and practices of the religion and the happiness its morality brings combined with all its spiritual and material benefits is an obligation upon all believers. They fulfill this obligation both by being role models living by the principles of the Qur’an and by communicating it to people in word or disseminating relevant publications. A believer considers calling even a single person to eternal salvation an important form of worship. This is a main aspect of "the interest" of Islam. In areas related to the attainment of social and individual peace and prevention of immorality, misery and injustice, believers put their own interests aside. This approach is inferred from one of Prophet Muhammad’s (saas) sayings:
"None of you believes until his desire is in accordance with what I have brought."27
In such situations believers may even renounce their rights on occasion. When confronting a sincere preference for another over one’s self, some people might entertain misconceptions; they may define this attitude of believers as "naiveness." There are some who think according to the inaccurate conditioning of society and will say, "Are you the ones who will save the world?" However, contrary to what they imagine, believers do not really give up personal benefit for a worldly cause; they expect the rewards of their sacrifices from their Lord. For this reason they eagerly render services for Islam, communicate good morals and invite people to eternal salvation. Allah gives glad tidings that in return for their eager determination He will grant them much better and higher rewards.Consequently, a person who sets personal interests aside and observes the interest of religion actually gains the best benefits possible, both in this world and beyond. That is because through his zealous efforts he attains both the good pleasure of Allah and a good life in this world. Of this Allah states the following:
"Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do."28
It is possible to observe the behavior of believers in the course of their daily lives. For instance, a believer does not hesitate to set a profitable business aside to engage in another task without worldly returns if he believes it will please Allah more. Similarly, he may readily give money which he had saved to finance a charity project designed to communicate the moral values of the Qur’an to people. As the examples reveal, a zealous believer immediately sets his personal interests aside and gives himself up to the service of religion without any hesitation.
A person’s incentive to renounce his rights in certain situations is related to his awareness that what he does is a great gain for him. He may ignore a profitable deal and even incur a considerable material loss; however, he will attain something over and above all that: the approval of Allah. Besides, a believer knows that the one who gives and withholds possessions is Allah. The one who provides his sustenance, bestows abundance, and increases his earnings is Allah; therefore, it is useless to be greedy or to worry about consequences. Allah declares that in return for their good morals and zealous efforts, believers will obtain additional abundance:
Preferring the interests of Islam to personal ones is not limited to material issues. There might be cause to make bodily sacrifices as well. For instance, services may be needed when one feels exhausted, hungry or unwell. At such times, believers continue to offer their services without hanging back or showing any indolence. That is because they consider material or physical sacrifice not as a difficulty but a special opportunity created for them by Allah. These are immediate opportunities awaited by believers who strongly desire to feel close to Allah and to earn His consent. For this reason, without feeling the slightest distress, they turn towards the most beneficial duty. No doubt, the zeal and determination they show are indications of their faith and sincerity.
One who aims to attain the good pleasure of Allah in the life of this world will show great determination to live the good morals with which Allah is pleased. Those who do not have a sincere faith in Allah and who are not eager to earn His pleasure will find it burdensome. That is because good morals entail a perfect exercise of conscience and will. Those who do not have the zeal and fervor of faith in their hearts fail to show sensitivity of conscience and will. Consequently, they fail to show good morals in the true sense.
Believers who embrace religion enthusiastically, on the other hand, willingly live by the moral principles described in the Qur’an and derive pleasure from it. At times they may face tempting situations, but when they refuse to follow their baser instincts, they feel great pleasure in this accomplishment and in being committed to good morals. They often encounter difficulties and problems yet display a brave and daring character.
Against an aggressive attitude likely to arouse anger, they show patience and restrain themselves. They repay a bad deed with a good one. When treated unjustly, they prefer to be generous and forgive, even though they are in the right. Throughout the most difficult and distressing situations they willingly forego their own preferences, giving priority to the wishes of other people and taking pleasure in making sacrifices for other believers. When they realize that they have made a mistake, they put forth-sincere effort to rectify the situation. Although they might be in need themselves, they give to orphans, to the poor, to the wayfarer and to those who ask in compliance with the command of Allah. They always exercise justice and display an honest attitude when they testify, even when against their own interests. They neither spy on each other nor backbite one another. Above all, they are committed to live by the values of the Qur’an until their last breath.
Only the zeal of faith grants a person the ability to live by the good values of the Qur’an. The commitment of believers to good values shows the depth of their faith. There are indeed moments when Muslims struggle with the desires of their lower selves and when they are tempted by satan. However, despite everything, Allah’s conscientious servants show determination to live by the moral values that will please Allah due to their devotion to Him and their aspiration to be close to Him.
Wealth and self are two concepts to which the ignorant society attaches great importance. In fact for many, they are practically the sole purpose of existence. Throughout their lives people strive to attain a status through which they can be respected and gain superiority. In the Qur’an, Allah draws attention to the fact that hoarding wealth and being esteemed in society are the passions of many ignorant people:
"Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return [i.e., Paradise]."30
In another verse Allah informs us that wealth and status are but trials:
With unquenchable desire in their hearts, people in ignorant societies aspire to wealth. Their greatest fear is harm to their possessions or something of which they are proud because the damage affects their main purpose in life. For this reason they dedicate everything to the protection of their wealth and themselves and the furtherance of their worldly interests. Their ignorant view that the life of this world, its possessions and its alluring pleasures are more valuable than Allah’s acceptance of them accounts for such an attitude.
Believers, on the other hand, immediately set aside the material benefits (to which people of ignorance dedicate their lives) in order to earn the good pleasure of Allah and Paradise. They are aware that they are being tested through their possessions and their selves and that Allah is the real owner of favors granted in this world. As a matter of fact, Allah may well take back what He has entrusted at any time He wills because Allah holds absolute control over everything in the universe.
The "self" of a man, which is his body, will ultimately undergo a rapid process of deterioration after six or seven decades and his possessions will bring him no benefits in the Hereafter. But when a person uses his means for Allah’s cause, he will meet contentment both in this world and beyond. Believers submit themselves to Allah, and it is the zeal in their hearts that makes submission possible. In the Qur’an their state is related as follows:
The verse concludes:
This reminder allows believers to continually experience happiness and zeal in their hearts. When required, they eagerly spend their wealth for a good purpose in return for the pleasure of Allah. They use their selves (bodies) to render services to the religion and do good deeds for the approval of Allah. No doubt, they are aware that at times their properties and lives may be in danger, but they accept that willingly for they consider it a gain. In the Qur’an, Allah instructs believers to encounter every difficulty with acceptance and willingness:
The Qur’an also narrates an incident showing how zealously believers submitted their wealth and life to Allah. A group of believers at the time of Prophet Muhammad (saas) sincerely desired to fight for the cause of Allah but circumstances prevented them. Allah appreciated their sincerity and excused them:
"There is no blame upon those who, when they came to you that you might give them mounts, you said, ‘I can find nothing for you to ride upon.’ They turned back while their eyes overflowed with tears out of grief that they could not find something to spend."35
This is an evident indication of how a sincere believer desires to use his property and life for the cause of Allah and the kind of zeal he feels for this cause. No doubt, the type of service a believer may render will change according to time and situation. At the time of Prophet Muhammad (saas) a struggle had to be waged to protect the rights of believers. In our day Muslims need to strive in intellectual realms and serve in scholarly fields.
Every person who makes serious sacrifices to live by the values of the Qur’an and communicate its beauties to others can expect a reward from his Lord. The reward of those who spend their time and possessions in this world for the cause of Allah is confirmed in the Qur’an as follows:
Allah commands believers to compete with one another in doing good deeds. This competition, however, is not the sort of race engaged in ignorant societies for the purpose of defeating others. On the contrary, it is a race for the proliferation of virtues and good deeds. The intent of believers to compete is not to derive worldly gain or to establish superiority over other people. Rather, they race to comply with Allah’s commands, to live the values with which Allah is pleased, and to attain the approval of Allah. Their engagement in such competition is a manifestation of their fear of Allah and their faith. Indeed, the efforts a person puts forth serve as a reliable measure of his sincerity and commitment. He wants Allah to be satisfied with him, to have mercy on him, and to deem him worthy of His Paradise, so he puts forth an all-out effort. Exercising his reason, conscience and physical ability to the full, he strives to live by the Qur’an in the most perfect way possible. Indeed, Allah informs us that it is their sincere effort and striving that renders believers foremost in the sight of Allah.
The attitude of Prophet Zakariyya (as) is given as an example:
"So We responded to him, and We gave to him Yahya, and amended for him his wife. Indeed, they used to hasten to good deeds and supplicate Us in hope and fear, and they were to Us humbly submissive."40
Here, Allah has drawn attention to the fact that to hasten to good deeds is also an attribute peculiar to prophets. Throughout their lives the prophets strove to win the consent of Allah, so believers who look to prophets as role models follow in their footsteps.
Another reason believers race to do good is that they are aware that the life of this world is very short and that death is near. They know death can come upon them at any moment and that then they will feel great regret for not having made adequate efforts toward the good pleasure of Allah. For once a person enters the Hereafter, it is no longer possible to return to the previous world and compete in doing good deeds. Thus, believers race against time to do more and more during the term granted to them in this world. They enthusiastically seize every opportunity to perform a good deed. A prayer of sincere believers is cited in the Qur’an as follows:
With such zeal and determination believers fulfill the command of Allah:
They waste not a moment and hasten to do well with great ardor, knowing that man can never consider his efforts sufficient. They never forget that they will have to give an account of every second lived in this world and that they will be held responsible for every second during which they failed to exercise conscience or indulged in trivial activities when they could have done better things. Beyond the time required for basic personal needs, they engage in a constant search for better things to accomplish.
Aware that physical and mental exertion for the cause of Allah brings great reward, theygreet exhaustion happily and with joy. They see this as an important opportunity for their benefit in the Hereafter, and as soon as their work is completed, they eagerly proceed to another task to please Allah. It is stated in the Qur’an:
In return for their steady efforts and commitment to do good, His faithful servants will be hosted by Allah in the most beautiful mansions and enjoy great blessings for all eternity:
"And the forerunners, the forerunners – those are the ones brought near [to Allah] in the Gardens of Pleasure, a [large] company of the former peoples and a few of the later peoples, on thrones woven [with ornament], reclining on them, facing each other."44
Allah has given glad tidings that those who tire themselves in the life of this world for the consent of Allah will feel no weariness in the Hereafter:
In the Qur’an, Allah has described Himself as:
He draws attention to the fact that the life of this world is a time for testing. Indeed, events which appear to be favorable or unfavorable in the course of this life are critical in terms of revealing a person’s actual character. Calamities, in particular, serve to reveal the degree of a person’s sincerity.
One of the most noticeable qualities of believers is their stable character. In times of prosperity and hardship alike, they display the same sincerity and enthusiasm. Their unique perception of the concept of "difficulty" accounts for this, for they consider times of difficulty as opportunities by which they can prove their devotion to Allah and the strength of their faith. They acknowledge that they are special situations created by Allah to discriminate between "those in whose hearts is a disease" and "those who are sincere in faith to Him." In the face of all they encounter, they show forbearance and put their trust in Allah in compliance with His words:
The Qur’an also states:
Believers feel the security and comfort of knowing that Allah does not impose on them more than they can bear. In the face of an ordeal they remember that this is an incident they will manage to overcome, and therefore they meet it with patience. Thus, no matter how trying an ordeal may be, they earnestly strive while displaying a submissive attitude to Allah.
In addition, they know that ordeals befell believers in the past and that the trials people of the past encountered will come to them as well. A believer aware of this fact is prepared long before he actually encounters difficulties; he has determined that he will remain loyal to his Lord and is thus committed to display patience and submission and put his trust in Allah under all circumstances.
A believer fulfills his commitment to Allah. He faces hunger, poverty, fear, injury or death with steadiness, accepts them and shows a thankful attitude towards his Lord. Even if innumerable difficulties should come upon him one after another and his entire life is spent in hardship, he knows that when he accepts difficulties in this life (lasting but a few decades) with good patience for Allah, he will experience no difficulty throughout eternity – not for a single moment. His earnest behavior will, by Allah’s will, earn him the most beautiful blessings: the pleasure and mercy of Allah and His Paradise. This good news is given in the Qur’an:
There is a final point to be kept in mind. The way believers face difficulties with patience is different from the ignorant person’s understanding of patience, which is simply to endure. Believers’ understanding, however, is not only "endurance" but facing the problems that one must solve and overcome. Therefore, believers do their best to provide solutions by exercising their reason and resorting to all material and physical means. While doing so, they pray to Allah to give them strength and relief:
"Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people."52
It is indeed this attitude in the face of hardship – sincere efforts coupled with acceptance – which reveals genuine zeal. The strength of their faith in Allah and the Hereafter enables believers to struggle hard against difficulties without ever feeling weak-hearted.
It has been stated that among the most important signs of faith and zeal is the attitude believers assume in the face of hardships. Another sign revealing believers’ faith in difficult times is that they never become weak-hearted. On the contrary, when they face hardships, their zeal grows even stronger, for people cannot attain Paradise unless they are tested by difficulties, as were the people of past generations.
Therefore, a believer’s encounter with problems and hardships is inevitable and is a requisite of religion. To put it another way, these tests determine important attributes of believers and give indications of their being on the right path.
Conducting oneself in compliance with Qur’anic verses in the face of difficulties makes a person someone with whom Allah is content. This being the case, it is a believer’s will to face hardships, as did the prophets, their companions and all true believers who lived throughout history. With excitement and joy they await the moment Allah’s promise will be fulfilled. Being tested with similar difficulties means that they are following in the prophets’ footsteps. Surely, they do not seek out difficulties, but a hardship they encounter will add to their zeal and strength. They hope, additionally, to gain better rewards in return for hardships because they will be of those who remain loyal to Allah without falling weak-hearted and will say:
Another attribute of believers is the joy and happiness they feel while engaging in a deed they expect to earn them the pleasure of Allah. This is "the joy of faith." The joy of faith is a sincere, inner joy that cannot be felt by those who do not live the true religion, for it is a faith-related joy, looking forward to the pleasure of Allah, His mercy and Paradise.
Hardly ever do those whose faith in Allah and the Hereafter is dubious experience such joy. Similar to "ignorant" people they only find joy in what is related to immediate personal interest when they sense something "profitable." However, this is but a temporary joy. Once the worldly benefit is lost, joy also disappears.
Those who lack true faith in their hearts will feel frustrated if earning the pleasure of Allah calls for a task they find hard to perform. They express their reluctance and indifference by carrying out the task discontentedly. They often consider voluntary work or a free service as a waste of time, failing to appreciate that to earn the pleasure of Allah is the best and most precious of all rewards. So they only feel as if they have taken on a great responsibility or made a great sacrifice. At this point emerges the distinctive nature of a believer’s enthusiasm. Whether hard or simple, a duty never frustrates a believer since he wholeheartedly, willingly and gladly renders his services to Allah. This enthusiasm manifests itself in attitudes of joy and happiness.
That believers expect their reward only from Allah is also stated by Allah’s Messenger (saas). Asked what reward there would be for a man who desired fame and compensation for having served in the way of Allah, the Prophet (saas) said,
"There is no reward for him." Then he said, "Allah accepts those deeds which were performed purely for His sake and which were meant to seek His pleasure."55
At the beginning of the book it was stated that people’s faith and closeness to Allah are not the same and that there are some who are sincerely obedient to Allah and others in whose hearts is a disease.56 Scholars have explained this "disease" as hypocrisy or disbelief.
People who do not have wholehearted faith (although they live among believers and assert that they believe) show the reality of their faith in the way they conduct themselves. They lack the zeal to live the religion and gain the good pleasure of Allah, and may even want to weaken a believer’s enthusiasm and discourage him.
However, those who have real faith are not influenced by such people’s words or their acts because they perceive what Allah has informed them in the Qur’an:
The indifference of some people is actually the result of their uncertainty. Aware of this fact, believers do not feel frustrated; on the contrary, they feel more committed to struggle for the interests of Islam since other people do not serve religion and do not put forth any effort to spread the values of the Qur’an. They become more determined to remind them of Qur’anic values and to live by the principles of Islam in the best way.
A great Islamic scholar, Said Nursi, also known as Bediüzzaman (Wonder of the Age), expressed how people who exert sincere effort for the acceptance of Allah approach unenthusiastic people:
"Weak-heartedness and the withdrawal of others becomes a cause that augments the zeal and efforts of sincere believers because they hold themselves responsible for the duties of those who have withdrawn."58
Bediüzzaman observed that every time sincere believers see how those in whose hearts is a disease evade the service of Islam, they embrace the religion with added commitment. The indifference of unenthusiastic people toward adhering to the values of the Qur’an and toward communicating them reminds believers of their own great responsibility. Other people’s unwillingness to adopt good values becomes a cause for believers to conduct themselves even better. In contrast to the non-adherence of those who have no certainty about Allah and His messengers, believers display an exemplary obedience, which says "we hear and we obey."
Those who have not truly adopted faith in their hearts unwittingly contribute to the development of believers in many ways. In no way, however, can they instill their indifference into the hearts of believers because believers derive their zeal and faith from their relationship with Allah rather than the attitude of people surrounding them. Whether or not believers witness such people’s indifference, they strive eagerly to fulfill the commands of Allah. However, observing the weak-hearted serves as a reminder which ultimately turns out to be good for them. While an indifferent person does not give much thought to his eternal life, he unconsciously augments the zeal of sincere believers and encourages them.