Examples of Courage Among the Prophets and Sincere Believers
Because of their faith, believers behave with great devotion and courage, at times when others would be unable to do the same. For example, even when unbelievers scheme to ensnare them, or threaten them with physical violence, the faithful, who attract attention with their sense of determination, bravery, and decisiveness, never behave as the unbelievers want, because they are certain that what they are doing is right, and they never deviate from their faith or from the morality of the Qur'an.
The unbelievers want to make the faithful abandon their efforts in preaching the superior morality. As will be explained with several examples in the coming pages, the Qur'an informs us that unbelievers have behaved like this throughout history.
The faithful are aware that unbelievers continually plot to trap them. Indeed, it is the Qu'ran that informs them of this. The purpose of these snares is to cause the faithful material and psychological harm. But, in spite of everything, as Allah has promised, the faithful remain upright and honorable, and engage themselves courageously in a battle of ideas against them. This is a command of Allah's:
You who believe! If any of you renounce your religion, Allah will bring forward a people whom He loves and who love Him, humble to the believers, fierce to the disbelievers, who strive in the Way of Allah and do not fear the blame of any censurer. That is the unbounded favor of Allah which He gives to whoever He wills. Allah is Boundless, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 54)
The faithful at the time of our Prophet (saas) engaged personally in wars against the unbelievers. These times of war were situations in which the unbelievers suffered heavily in loss of morale. But, the attitude of the faithful was otherwise. The prophets and their companions left a potent example of courage to all the Muslims who followed them. During these wars, some Muslims lost part or all of their property. Others lost arms and legs or relatives, but their courage never gave way. In the Qur'an, Allah relates that Muslims in the past were extremely steadfast, and informs us their saying, "... We belong to Allah and to Him we will return." (Surat al-Baqara, 156) when a disaster struck them. Their courage shows what a tremendous devotion they had towards our Prophet (saas) and to the Qur'an. While the hypocrites avoided doing battle, with the excuse that the weather was too harsh, believers sacrificed their lives and property. When the order for war was handed down to our Prophet (saas), the hypocrites amongst them began to make themselves apparent. A large number of those who had until then described themselves as Muslims, revealed the disease in their heart. This is described by Allah in the following verse:
Those who believe say, "If only a sura could be sent down." But when a straightforward sura is sent down and fighting is mentioned in it, you see those with sickness in their hearts looking at you with the look of someone about to faint from fear of death... (Surah Muhammad, 20)
As can be discerned from the above verse, cowardice is one of the most pronounced characteristics of hypocrites. In another verse, we are told:
When you see them, their outward form appeals to you, and if they speak you listen to what they say. But they are like propped-up planks of wood. They imagine every cry to be against them. They are the enemy, so beware of them. Allah fight them! How they are perverted! (Surat al-Munafiqun, 4)
When the order arrived, the hypocrites, who claimed that they were Muslims, who until then had vouched that they would fight, tried to act as if it was not they who had said such things. They did not keep their promises. Allah declared the following on the matter:
… More fitting for them would be obedience and honorable words. Once the matter is resolved upon, being true to Allah would be better for them. (Surah Muhammad, 20-21)
They were afraid to fight because they did not have a sure faith in Allah and the Hereafter, and therefore, failed to show the courage typical of true believers. When the sincere Muslims heard these verses, their determination increased. To emphasize this sentiment in the faithful, Allah tells us in one verse: "… Some of them have fulfilled their pact by death and some are still waiting to do so, not having changed in any way at all." (Surat al-Ahzab, 23) Those who were of sincere faith resigned themselves to such severe tests, because courage is a characteristic of the believer. And, is not something that can be imitated. Allah ordains a number of trials for people, during which it is possible to determine who is telling the truth and who is lying.
In the Qur'an, Allah frequently refers to the superior morality of the faithful, and their devotion to Him. In a number of verses, He gives examples of their courage. The following is one example dating from the time of our Prophet (saas):
When the believers saw the Confederates they said: "This is what Allah and His Messenger promised us. Allah and His Messenger told us the truth." It only increased them in faith and in submission. (Surat al-Ahzab, 22)
As is to be understood from the above verse, the faithful are those who trust only in Allah, and depend solely on Him. They commit themselves unconditionally to Him. When their enemies are gathered against them, they are not distressed, for they know that it is Allah Who created their enemies, and willed the difficult trials which they face. They know that Allah's power encompasses all things, and that their enemies can have no power independent from His. And, therefore, when they encounter situations such as that described in the above verse, they put their faith in our Lord, the Creator of all. Their refusal to give up when they receive bad news, their turning to Allah under every circumstance, and the fact that their morale is never weakened, causes unbelievers to despair and become filled with fear.
The people who most demonstrated the courage which is described in the Qur'an as an excellent characteristic of believers were without doubt the prophets. Below we list some of the events in the Qur'an which happened to the prophets and the pious believers who set an example of courage.
Prophet Muhammad (saas)
Our Prophet (saas) was the blessed person entrusted with Allah's revelation, and the last to be made a prophet. The outstanding morality he possessed, and his devotion to Allah and His religion, are cited as examples to Muslims in many verses of the Qur'an. Our Prophet (saas), once fled with a companion when his enemies were after him, and took refuge in a cave. The words he spoke there, as an advice to the man who was with him, make light of his trust in Allah, and the courage which resulted from it:
If you do not help him, Allah did help him when those who disbelieved drove him out and there were two of them in the Cave. He said to his companion, "Do not be despondent, Allah is with us." Then Allah sent down His serenity upon him and reinforced him with troops you could not see. He made the word of those who disbelieved undermost. It is the word of Allah which is uppermost. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba, 40)
Our Prophet (saas), who reminded the companion at his side that Allah was always with them, implying that there was no need to despair, continues to be an example for all Muslims. That period was one during which the faithful battled physically with the unbelievers. All who fought for the religion of Allah during that difficult period were examples of courage. Our Prophet (saas), who was the most severely threatened, because he was the leader of the Muslims, is the finest example of the courage among them.
Prophet Ibrahim (as)
Prophet Ibrahim (as) is cited by Allah in the Qur'an as an example on a number of varied subjects. The most important virtues of the Prophet Ibrahim (as) were the deep faith which he possessed, his great devotion to Allah, and his great courage in doing battle against the unbelievers. In a verse of the Qur'an, Allah refers to him as "a community unto himself" (Surat an-Nahl, 120). This accorded status should be regarded as an example by all Muslims. Every Muslim schould become "a community in himself", which is to say, that even if he is alone, he can possess faith, courage and determination, by which he may also inspire others.
In a number of verses, Allah relates the examples of the courage that was coupled with powerful insight in Prophet Ibrahim (as). One account provided in the Qur'an describes the astounding courage shown by him in the face of the unbelievers who worshipped idols:
One of his followers in faith was Ibrahim when he came to his Lord with an unblemished heart, and said to his father and his people, "What are you worshipping? Is it falsehood—deities besides Allah—that you desire?" "So what are your thoughts about the Lord of all the worlds?" He took a look at the stars and said, "I am sick." So they turned their backs on him. He turned surreptitiously to their deities and said, "Do you not eat? What is the matter with you that you do not speak?" He turned on them, striking out with his right hand. (Surat as-Saffat, 83-93)
As we are told in these verses, Prophet Ibrahim (as) opposed himself to the entire tribe, and through clever dialogue, made them recognize that their idols were not deities, but only manmade sculptures of wood. The unbelievers, who had not until then ever met anyone who denounced their idols, were angered by and wanted to punish him:
They came rushing back to him. He said, "Do you worship something you have carved when Allah created both you and what you do?" They said, "Build a pyre for him and fling him into the blaze!" They tried to outwit him but We made them the lowest. He said, "I am going towards my Lord; He will be my guide." (Surat as-Saffat, 94-99)
In spite of their rage, Prophet Ibrahim (as) continued to speak of the existence and unity of Allah, carrying out his duty with courage. Knowing that all people, including the tribe who were so violently opposing him, are under the control of Allah, he behaved steadfastly, showing his boundless trust in our Lord. The leaders of the tribe wanted to throw him into a fire, but Allah saved him by a miracle. This is a proof of Allah's promise of help to all believers who battle fearlessly on His path.
In other verses of the Qur'an, Prophet Ibrahim's (as) show of devotion to Allah, and the courage he demonstrated, are held up as examples of the behavior for believers to aspire to:
His people argued with him. He said, "Are you arguing with me about Allah when He has guided me? I have no fear of any partner you ascribe to Him unless my Lord should will such a thing to happen. My Lord encompasses all things in His knowledge so will you not pay heed? Why should I fear what you have associated with Him when you yourselves apparently have no fear of associating partners with Allah for which He has sent down no authority to you? Which of the two parties is more entitled to feel safe, if you have any knowledge?" Those who believe and do not mix up their faith with any wrongdoing, they are the ones who are safe; it is they who are guided.' (Surat al-An‘am, 80-82)
Prophet Musa (as)
Amongst the prophets reported in the Qur'an is Prophet Musa (as). The courage and patience he showed in the face of a savage tribe of unbelievers is an example for Muslims. Pharaoh, the despotic ruler of Egypt, who was far from the truth of the religion, cowed his people by violent and shameful methods, and spread fear everywhere with his tyranny. At that time, we know from the Qur'an that Pharaoh tortured those who did not bow to him, cutting off their arms and legs.
Despite these circumstances, Allah charged Prophet Musa (as), who had been taken in at the palace as a child, and brought up by Pharaoh, with calling him and his circle to follow the morality of religion. Facing Pharaoh, who was notorious as an extremely unjust ruler, and who oppressed his people, obviously required great faith and courage. With the faith and determination which Allah placed in his heart, Prophet Musa (as) warned and admonished Pharaoh. When Prophet Musa (as), who had grown up in Pharaoh's palace, set himself against his system of superstitions, and declared Allah to be the only god, Pharaoh was enraged. The Qur'an describes Pharaoh's fury in the following manner:
He (Pharaoh) said (to Musa), "Did we not bring you up among us as a child and did you not spend many years of your life among us? Yet you did the deed you did and were ungrateful." (Surat ash-Shu‘ara', 18-19)
Eventually, Pharaoh began to question Prophet Musa (as), thinking that, if he could get the better of him in debate, the matter would be closed. He tried to belittle Prophet Musa (as) before his circle of associates and the rest of the society. When this did not work, he threatened to throw him in prison. With rigid determination, Prophet Musa (as) continued to tell Pharaoh of the existence of Allah.
When, finally, Prophet Musa (as) brought about a series of miracles, Pharaoh began to better understand the gravity of the situation, but now began to think Prophet Musa (as) was practicing sorcery. His pride and conceit prevented him from seeing what was obviously supernatural. Conspiring with his inner circle, he dared to set a trap for Prophet Musa (as).
Although he knew that Pharaoh was a cruel and tyrannical ruler, Prophet Musa (as) showed not the slightest weakness in carrying out the command of Allah and, ignoring all danger, stood firm against Pharaoh and demanded that he abandon his perverted ways. Even when threatened with death by Pharaoh, Prophet Musa (as) informed him of Allah's commands, without the least hesitation. Throughout this interchange, part of which is related in the Qur'an, Prophet Musa (as) was not at all intimidated by Pharaoh's threats.
He (Pharaoh) said, "If you take any deity other than me, I will certainly throw you into prison." He (Musa) said, "Even if I were to bring you something undeniable?" (Surat ash-Shu‘ara', 29-30)
The sorcerers instructed by Pharaoh to outperform Prophet Musa (as) came instead to faith as a result of his destroying their tricks, and making them seem inferior. With the courage that faith ignited in them, they declared their faith openly and publicly in front of Pharaoh. Without being intimidated by Pharaoh's threats of torture and execution, they continued to declare their faith.
We are told of this honorable behavior of the sorcerers in the Qur'an:
The magicians threw themselves down in prostration. They said, "We believe in the Lord of all the worlds, the Lord of Musa and Harun." Pharaoh said, "Have you believed in him before I authorized you to do so? This is just some plot you have concocted in the city to drive its people from it. I will cut off your alternate hands and feet and then I will crucify every one of you." They said, "We are returning to our Lord. You are only avenging yourself on us because we believed in our Lord's Signs when they came to us. Our Lord, pour down steadfastness upon us and take us back to You as Muslims." (Surat al-A‘raf, 120-126)
This extraordinary response by the sorcerers shows how immediately faith lead people to bravery, and superior morality.
A further example of courage and devotion to Allah related in the Qur'an is Prophet Musa's (as) never losing his trust in Allah, even at a time when his own people thought he was defeated. Out of fear, his tribe abandoned him and left him to struggle on his own. But Prophet Musa (as) showed how the courage of even a single sincere believer is capable of thwarting unbelievers, and once again, Allah kept His promise of help to His faithful followers, by rescuing him from Pharaoh:
And when the two hosts came into sight of one another Musa's companions said, "We will surely be overtaken!" He said, "Never! My Lord is with me and He will guide me." So We revealed to Musa," Strike the sea with your staff." And it split in two, each part like a towering cliff. And We brought the others right up to it. We rescued Musa and all those who were with him. Then We drowned the rest. There is certainly a Sign in that yet most of them are not believers. Truly your Lord is the Almighty, the Most Merciful. (Surat ash-Shu‘ara', 61-68)
Prophet Sulayman (as)
Prophet Sulayman (as) was one of the bravest and most determined of prophets in spreading the supreme morality. Allah bestowed on him a great kingdom. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to encouraging morality among his people, and developing methods for that purpose that were unprecedented. His courage deeply affected a number of communities, and his wisdom, understanding and determination aroused the wonder of other tribes. In sending word to the Queen of Sheba, who had large armies arrayed against him, he used a very insightful method to bring her and her tribe into the faith:
She said, “Council! A noble letter has been delivered to me. It is from Sulayman and says: ‘In the name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful. Do not rise up against me, but come to me in submission.’” She said, "Council! Give me your opinion about this matter. It is not my habit to make a final decision until I have heard what you have to say." They said, "We possess strength and we possess great force. But the matter is in your hands so consider what you command." She said, "When kings enter a city, they lay waste to it and make its mightiest inhabitants the most abased. That is what they too will do. I will send them a gift and then wait and see what the messengers bring back." When it reached Sulayman he said, "Would you give me wealth when what Allah has given me is better than what He has given you? No, rather it is you who delight in your gift. Return to them. We will come to them with troops they cannot face and we will expel them from it abased and humiliated." (Surat an-Naml, 29-37)
This determination and courage of Prophet Sulayman (as), not tainted with any desire for anything of this world, but aimed solely for seeking the good pleasure of Allah, affected the Queen of Sheba deeply, and brought her to the faith:
... She said, "My Lord, I have wronged myself but I have submitted with Sulayman to the Lord of all the worlds." (Surat an-Naml, 44)
Prophet Nuh (as)
Prophet Nuh (as) was one of the prophets who preached the religion of Allah with great determination to a tribe that refused to heed his words. Prophet Nuh (as) tried for a very long period of time, through countless methods and tactics, to bring the tribe to the true path. But, not only could his people not understand what he was trying to explain, they could not even stand listening to him. As experienced by every prophet, they used every manner of harassment against him, not hesitating to assail so righteous a person. Though, he persisted in telling them of the existence of Allah and the Hereafter, with tremendous patience and determination, Prophet Nuh's (as) followers amongst his tribe were very few in number. The verses of the Qur'an inform us of Prophet Nuh's (as) struggle in the following manner:
He said, "My Lord, I have called my people night and day but my calling has only made them more evasive. Indeed, every time I called them to Your forgiveness, they put their fingers in their ears, wrapped themselves up in their clothes and were overweeningly arrogant. Then I called them openly. Then I addressed them publicly and addressed them privately." (Surah Nuh, 5-9)
As with other prophets, Prophet Nuh (as) was subjected to the insults, threats and assaults of the furious unbelievers.
They said, "Why should we believe you when the vilest people follow you?" (Surat ash-Shu‘ara', 111)
They said, "Nuh, if you do not desist you will be stoned." (Surat ash-Shu‘ara', 116)
However, he did not relent or abandon his task of preaching the message, but continued to tell his people about Allah's commandments with courage and determination. Throughout the long period he remained with his people, he persisted in this noble and superior moral conduct.
The quality of morality we see in Prophet Nuh (as) is that of a believer who does not fear the condemnation of his accusers, but instead fears only the loss of the favor of Allah, to whom he surrenders himself entirely. In this manner, Prophet Nuh (as) set an important example for all Muslims who came after him.
While suffering all the mockery and cruelty met out by his people, Prophet Nuh (as) nevertheless carried out the instructions of our Lord and maintained a sure faith in Allah's promise of help:
Build the Ark under Our supervision and as We reveal and do not address Me concerning the wrongdoers. They shall be drowned. He began to build the Ark and every time some nobles of his people passed him by, they ridiculed him. He said, "Though you ridicule us now, we will certainly ridicule you as you do us. You will soon know who will receive a punishment which disgraces him and find unleashed against himself an everlasting punishment." (Surah Hud, 37-39)
After Prophet Nuh's (as) long struggle, Allah punished the people who rejected him, by drowning all those who mocked, ill-treated and menaced him. Prophet Nuh (as), however, was saved along with those who were faithful. The story of Prophet Nuh (as) is an example showing us that Allah will not allow the deeds of those who battle with courage and determination on His path to go unrewarded. It is to show that, through their patience, they will attain success in this world and the next, and that He will surely exercise His revenge on those who try to impede or suppress them.
In the Qur'an, Maryam is described as an upright, patient, sincere and faithful believer, who did not fear the condemnation of her accusers. Allah chose Maryam and educated her miraculously. Maryam was superior through her closeness to Allah, and her moral excellence:
Her Lord accepted her with approval and made her grow in health and beauty. And Zakariyya became her guardian. Every time Zakariyya visited her in the sanctuary, he found food with her. He said, "Maryam, how did you come by this?" She said, "It is from Allah. Allah provides for whoever He wills without any reckoning." (Surah Al ‘Imran, 37)
Despite being subjected to unjust slander, Maryam, who was miraculously made pregnant by Allah with Prophet 'Isa (as), did not deviate from Allah's commandments, carrying out everything He instructed her to do to the letter.
Maryam was truly a chaste woman, and a devout believer in Allah. That her people considered her as having committed an immoral deed, despite her known moral excellence, was truly a test from Allah. From her youth on, Allah had always helped her, and throughout her life, turned every deed of her to good. Maryam never forgot that all things are under Allah's control, and maintained a strong faith that Allah would exonerate her from all such false accusations.
Indeed, Allah helped her in this task too, and told her to keep silent. When her people attempted to talk to her, Allah instructed her to remain silent, and only show 'Isa (as) to those who slandered her. This way, Allah helped Maryam and saved her from having to offer a difficult explanation. As relief, Allah made 'Isa (as) instead offer the explanation that was expected from her. Due to this miracle, the plot hatched against Maryam was thwarted. This is related in the Qur'an as follows:
She said, "How can I have a boy when no man has touched me and I am not an unchaste woman?" (Surah Maryam, 20)
She brought him to her people, carrying him. They said, "Maryam! You have done an unthinkable thing! Sister of Harun, your father was not an evil man nor was your mother an unchaste woman!" She pointed towards him. They said, "How can a baby in the cradle speak?" He said, "I am the servant of Allah, He has given me the Book and made me a prophet." (Surah Maryam, 27-30)
The courage shown by Maryam, though she was subjected to various forms of slander, and the determination she maintained, brought her great respect among all believers. While praising her name, Allah informs the faithful in the Qur'an that He made her an example for all believers, and that she achieved high stature in His sight:
Allah has made an example for those who believe: The wife of Pharaoh when she said, "My Lord, build a house in the Garden for me in Your presence and rescue me from Pharaoh and his deeds and rescue me from this wrongdoing people." And Maryam, the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her chastity—We breathed Our Spirit into her and she confirmed the Words of her Lord and His Book and was one of the obedient." (Surat at-Tahrim, 11-12)
Prophet Lut (as), Prophet Shu‘ayb (as) and Prophet Hud (as)
The tribes to whom Prophets Lut (as), Shu‘ayb (as) and Hud (as) were sent had exercised depravity to extremes, and fallen completely away from the morality that is upright. Prophet Lut (as) noted that the most prominent characteristic which made his tribe different from others was that they had given themselves up to gross sexual perversion. Those who did not listen to Prophet Lut's (as) message when he invited these people to behave morally, decided that the way to be rid of him and his preaching was to expel him from the city. However, the perverted people were not aware of how close they were to immanent danger. Allah sent angels to Prophet Lut (as) to give him the good news that the tribe's end was at hand:
And Lut, when he said to his people, "Do you commit an obscenity not perpetrated before you by anyone in all the worlds? You come with lust to men instead of women. You are indeed a depraved people." The only answer of his people was to say, "Expel them from your city! They are people who keep themselves pure!" (Surat al-A‘raf, 80-82)
They said, "Lut, we are messengers from your Lord. They will not be able to get at you. Set out with your family—except for your wife—in the middle of the night and none of you should look back. What strikes them will strike her as well. Their promised appointment is the morning. Is the morning not close at hand?" (Surah Hud, 81)
As may be discerned from these verses, Prophet Lut (as) believed in Allah, and warned the tribe, but in response, he was threatened with banishment. However, this in no way frightened him, for he knew that Allah's help was close at hand.
The leaders of Prophet Shu‘ayb's (as) tribe were involved in all kinds of corruption and oppression. This perverted people, which set out to ensnare Prophet Shu‘ayb (as), and assailed him and those who followed him, did not recognize the wrong in these injustices they committed.
What prevented them from using still more terrible methods against Prophet Shu‘ayb (as) was that they were afraid of his followers. Shu‘ayb (as) made no compromises in preaching the message, but maintained honorable fight, and, every chance he could, he informed them that he did not rely on his followers but on Allah, and that, if they were going to be afraid, it was Allah they should be fearing.
Those who rejected Prophet Shu‘ayb (as) threatened to drive him from his home, or stone him to death, because he was a man of faith, also threatening his dearest companions and others who followed. Prophet Shu‘ayb's (as) determination and courage in confronting his people is referred to in the Qur'an as an example to consider:
They said, "Shu‘ayb, We do not understand much of what you say and we see you are weak among us. Were it not for your clan, we would have stoned you. We do not hold you in high esteem!" He said, "My people! Do you esteem my clan more than you do Allah? You have made Him into something to cast disdainfully behind your backs! But my Lord encompasses everything that you do! My people! Do as you think best. That is what I am doing. You will certainly come to know who will receive a punishment to disgrace him, and who is a liar. So look out. I will be on the lookout with you." (Surah Hud, 91-93)
Prophet Shu‘ayb's (as) struggle in preaching the message to his people is mentioned in a number of verses:
And to Madyan We sent their brother Shu‘ayb who said, "My people, worship Allah! You have no other god than Him. A Clear Sign has come to you from your Lord. Give full measure and full weight. Do not diminish people's goods. Do not cause corruption in the land after it has been put right. That is better for you if you are believers. Do not lie in wait on every pathway, threatening people, barring those who believe from the Way of Allah, desiring to make it crooked. Remember when you were few and He increased your number: See the final fate of the corrupters! There is a group of you who believe in what I have been sent with and a group who do not, so be steadfast until Allah judges between us. He is the best of judges." The ruling circle of those of his people who were arrogant said, "We will drive you out of our city, Shu‘ayb, you and those who believe along with you, unless you return to our religion." He said, "What, even though we detest it?" "We would be inventing lies against Allah if we returned to your religion after Allah has saved us from it. We could never return to it unless Allah our Lord so willed. Our Lord encompasses everything in His knowledge. We have put our trust in Allah. Our Lord, judge between us and our people with truth. You are the best of judges." (Surat al-A‘raf, 85-89)
As with all of Allah's messengers, when he went to his people to admonish them, Prophet Hud (as) was faced with similar attacks and threats. The people sought to harm him with false accusations, such as that he was mad. But, Prophet Hud (as) remained steadfast despite the harassment meted out against him and his followers with outstanding courage. We are told of the words of Prophet Hud (as) in the Qur'an:
The ruling circle of those of his people who disbelieved said, "We consider you a fool and think you are a liar." He said, "My people, I am by no means a fool, but rather am a messenger from the Lord of all the worlds. (Surat al-A‘raf, 66-67)
He said, "Punishment and anger have come down on you from your Lord. Do you argue with me regarding names which you and your forefathers invented and for which Allah has sent down no authority? Wait, then; I am waiting with you." (Surat al-A‘raf, 71)