Examples From The Lives Of The Prophets
And True Believers
The struggling against disbelievers constituted a major part of the efforts of the prophets and the true believers who followed them. These noble people were faced with many incidents that would otherwise have seemed unfortunate. Yet, when confronted with these trials, that trait which was their most distinguishing became apparent; no matter how trying the circumstances were, they felt the peace and comfort of knowing that nothing is apart and independent of God. Such a knowledge aided them to adopt a positive attitude...
The messengers of God and the true believers led their lives assured of the fact that God will help them during the hard times and that everything will ultimately turn out in their favour, and based their entire outlook on this fact. This superior trait of theirs, derived from a profound faith, sets a good example for all believers.
Verbal Attacks of Disbelievers
As we learn from the Qur'an, believers encountered groups of disbelievers and hypocrites who resorted to all kinds of methods to prevent them or divert them from the right path. The Qur'an gives a detailed account of the insulting and slanderous language used by the disbelievers:
You will be tested in your wealth and in yourselves and you will hear many abusive words from those given the Book before you and from those who associate others with God. But if you are steadfast and do your duty, that is the most resolute course to take. (Surah Al 'Imran: 186)
In the above verse, God makes it clear that the lies and slander which appeared evil to the believers were, in actuality, good. In another verse, God relates this fact with another example that took place in the time of the Prophet (saas):
There is a group of you who propagated the lie. Do not suppose it to be bad for you; rather it is good for you. Every one of them will incur the evil he has earned and the one who took it on himself to amplify it will receive a terrible punishment. (Surat an-Nur: 11)
Effectively, such circumstances encountered by believers in the past were the tactics employed by the disbelievers to deter and dissuade them from adhering to the tenets of Islam. Yet, the believers always remained steadfast, assured of the fact that these wicked attempts would ultimately turn out beneficially for them, and their cause would prevail in the end. That is why they responded to such slander and verbal attacks with moderation and wisdom; not for a moment did they forget that patience and putting one's trust in God would lead them to success. They were aware that, as the Prophet (saas) said, "whoever remains patient, God will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience." (Bukhari)
As is in these examples from the past, it is essential for believers of today to submit themselves to the destiny created by God, and to put their faith in the truth that everything develops in accord with a divine purpose. A believer who lives by these principles will also attain the greatest rewards possible in this world. Because, God promises to help His servants who put their trust in Him, and assures them that they will find themselves without "a way out":
If God helps you, no one can vanquish you. If He forsakes you, who can help you after that? So the believers should put their trust in God. (Surah Al 'Imran: 160)
The Physical Attacks of Disbelievers
Throughout history, disbelieving societies has always perceived believers' commitment to the religion of God, their living by its principles and spreading the message of God, as a threat. That is why, for the purpose of demoralizing the believers, they employed evil methods such as slander or deceit. And, in some cases, when these methods failed, they did not hesitate to employ more severe methods, such as threat, torture, and arresting or driving believers out of their homes.
The ill-treatment believers are subjected to in their struggle with disbelievers is merely evidence of the insolence of disbelievers. However, believers always recognize the good in such abuse, aware that God has surely ordained it for a purpose. They are very well aware that true righteousness is to show patience and putting trust in God. God describes this trait of their in the following manner:
...[T]hose with true righteousness are those who believe in God and the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the prophets, and who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travellers and beggars and to set slaves free, and who attend to their prayers and give alms; those who honour their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast in poverty and illness and in battle. Those are the people who are true believers. Those are the people who go in fear of God. (Surat al-Baqara: 177)
Some of these positive character traits are illustrated in a story in Surat al-Ahzab, relating an incident that took place in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (saas). According to the story, during a battle, the believers were tested and severely shaken when the disbelievers came at them from all sides. In such trying circumstances, hypocrites and those with sickness in their hearts devised various excuses, thus exposing who they were.
In such times, the hypocrites who had, for some time, blended into the community of believers, became known. These people, similar to cancerous cells developing invisibly inside the body, immediately retreated at such times of hardship, though God's help and support always remained with the believers.
While hypocrites acted despicably, the believers were aware of the ultimate good in the hardships they faced. They recognized themselves as going through what the verses of the Qur'an had informed them of, and thus, attained a deeper faith and loyalty to God:
When the believers saw the Confederates they said: "This is what God and His Messenger promised us. God and His Messenger told us the truth." It only increased them in faith and in submission. (Surat al-Ahzab: 22)
As the example above also suggests, a trying situation may turn out to be a great blessing for the believers while it leads astray into further disbelief those who fail to appreciate the good. Meanwhile, as well as distinguishing the good from evil, these events served to nullify the efforts of the disbelievers. In Surat al-Ahzab, that the disbelievers failed to attain success but only returned in rage and deeper hatred, is stated as follows:
God sent back those who disbelieved in their rage without their achieving any good at all... (Surat al-Ahzab: 25)
The Emigration of Muslims
If needed, leaving one's possessions and assets behind and emigrating elsewhere is a form of worship as stated in the Qur'an. Therefore, Muslims emigrating for the cause of God always see the good in such forced removal from their homes. Indeed, in the Qur'an, those emigrating for the cause of God are mentioned among those who can hope for God's Mercy:
Those who have believed and who have migrated and striven for God's sake may expect God's mercy. God is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat al-Baqara: 218)
The rationale of ignorance considers one's fleeing from his home country due to unrest or out of exile to an unfamiliar country as a misfortune, utterly throwing his life into disarray. Yet, it must be mentioned that, believers are, from the outset, aware that they will be disliked by the majority of people who deny the religion of God. Consequently, such an oppression is, in actuality, a manifestation of the truth of the verses of God. That is why believers who emigrate or are driven out of their homes always face such circumstances with great zeal and anticipation. The superior morality of believers who lived in the time of the Prophet (saas) and their unshakable faith is one of the best examples of today's believers. Aware that obedience to the Prophet (saas) would earn them God's pleasure, they willingly endured all forms of hardship with pleasure. For the good of the Muslims, they did not hesitate to leave their country, willingly abandoning all their worldly possessions.
In return for their upstanding morality and the positive way in which they perceived these events, God promised them His infinite Paradise and mercy. Surely, God is true in His promise:
Their Lord responds to them: "I will not let the deeds of any doer among you go to waste, male or female-you are both the same in that respect. Those who have migrated and were driven from their homes and suffered harm in My Way and fought and were killed, I will erase their bad actions from them and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing under them, as a reward from God. The best of all rewards is with God." (Surah Al 'Imran: 195)
In addition to God's infinite rewards in the Hereafter, God also gives the glad tidings of abundant benefits and resources in this world too. This is recounted in Qur'an as follows:
Those who migrate in the Way of God will find many places of refuge on the earth and ample sustenance. If anyone leaves his home as a refugee for God's and His Messenger's sake, and death catches up with him, it is God Who will reward him. God is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat an-Nisa': 100)
As for those who migrate for God's sake after being wronged, We shall give them good lodging in the world, and the reward of the hereafter is greater still if they only knew-those who are steadfast and put their trust in their Lord. (Surat an-Nahl: 41-42)
The Exemplary Faith of the Prophet (saas)
The Prophet Muhammad (saas), as is the case with all other prophets, encountered various hardships throughout his life, and set a perfect example for all Muslims through his patience and faith in God. A situation recounted in the Qur'an relates the superior morality and the unwavering faith of the Prophet Muhammad (saas).
When the Prophet (saas) left Mecca, the disbelievers pursued him for the purpose of killing him. As a result, he took shelter in a cave. In their search, the disbelievers managed to eventually come upon the entrance of the cave. Even in such a distressful moment, the Prophet (saas) advised his companion not to worry and reminded him to put his trust in God:
If you do not help him, God did help him when the disbelievers drove him out and there were two of them in the Cave. He said to his companion, "Do not be despondent, God is with us." Then God sent down His serenity upon him and reinforced him with troops you could not see. He made the word of the disbelievers undermost... (Surat at-Tawba: 40)
Clearly, the sole reason why the Prophet (saas) felt no fear or distress at such a moment, when his life was in evident danger, was for his trust in God and his awareness that God ordains everything in one's destiny for a purpose. Ultimately, he reached Medina unharmed and thus the emigration, a great milestone in the history of Islam, had begun.
The Superior Morality of the Prophet Musa (as)
The Qur'an provides a detailed account of the Prophet Musa's struggle with the Pharaoh, a man who has gone down as one of the most oppressive rulers in history. The Pharaoh responded to message of God communicated to him by the Prophet Musa (as) with threats and abuse. The superiority of the Prophet Musa's morality and his trust in God when faced with Pharaoh, who resorted to all sorts of methods to divert him from the right path, is truly an example for all believers.
The Qur'an explains the period of Musa's mission as follows: The Pharaoh who ruled in Egypt exercised absolute power over the children of Israel. On the other hand, the Prophet Musa (as) and his people were a minority in the country. Therefore, from the perspective of the ignorant, who judge things merely from the way they appear, and thus falsely suppose that the powerful wins out over the just, would expect success for the Pharaoh. Yet, this is delusion, for God commands as follows:
God has written, "I will be victorious, I and and My Messengers." God is Most Strong, Almighty. (Surat al-Mujadala: 21)
God kept his promise He gave to His Prophets and granted victory to the Prophet Musa (as) against the Pharaoh. God supported him through his brother Harun as well as His own protection. In addition, God granted several miracles for the Prophet Musa (as) to perform and set him apart from all other people by speaking to him. We can draw lessons from Musa's struggle as related in the Qur'an. It clearly reveals how what may appear adverse for the believers can, in an instant, turn out in their favour by the Will of God.
One such event took place in the following manner: The Pharaoh and his army set out to capture Musa (as) and his companions after fleeing Egypt. By the time the children of Israel had reached the sea, the Pharaoh and his soldiers had nearly caught up with them. At that moment, the words of Musa (as) were very moving; although the Pharaoh and his soldiers were within grasp, and there was no way of escape, he did not despair of God's help, and thus maintained a composure that was truly exemplary. This story is recounted in the Qur'an as follows:
So they pursued them towards the east. 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': 60-68)
In this story, our attention is drawn to the notable qualities of the Prophet Musa (as): throughout his difficult struggle, he continually kept his mind occupied with the remembrance of God's help, saw good in whatever befell him, and even in his most trying moments, strove to put his trust in God and maintained his loyalty towards Him.
Unswerving Submission of the Prophet Yusuf (as)
One of the most beautiful examples in the Qur'an about the change of a seemingly adverse situation in favour of the believers is the life of the Prophet Yusuf (as).
The Prophet Yusuf (as), from his earliest years, and throughout his life, was known for his mature behaviour through adversity and his strong loyalty to God. His conduct through trying circumstances was a great example for believers. The Prophet Yusuf (as), who regarded God as his guardian, sought the goodness in whatever befell him and was aware that no matter what he faced was from Him. Therefore, throughout his life, he recognized every opportunity as a test and always remained faithful and upright.
The Prophet Yusuf (as) was first subjected to unjust treatment by his own brothers who had been jealous of him. They threw him into a well, and thus kept him away from their home and their father. However, God saved him from the well when a caravan came passing by. The travellers rescued the young Yusuf and sold him to some prominent person in Egypt. The wife of the owner of the house, impressed by Yusuf's beauty, "solicited" him, as the Qur'an relates. Therefore, Yusuf (as) was again treated unjustly, this time wrongly accused by this woman. Although the investigation carried out revealed evidence in favour of Yusuf (as), he was imprisoned:
Then, after they had seen the Signs, they thought that they should still imprison him for a time. (Surah Yusuf: 35)
As is evident, Yusuf (as) was slandered only because of his virtuous character. As a result of this accusation, Yusuf (as), who remained in prison for a long period of time, showed patience in the face of all the difficulties of prison life, and put his trust in God. As the Qur'an relates, by the way he conducted himself and his superior submission to God, he was truly an example for all believers.
Surely, Yusuf (as) received the greatest rewards, both in this world and beyond, in return for his patience, putting his trust in God, and recognizing the good in whatever befell him. God placed him in authority over the state-treasury and made him a ruler in the country. His recognizing the good in all that happened to him and his prayer to God is related in the Qur'an as follows:
He raised his parents up onto the throne. The others fell prostrate in front of him. He said, "My father, truly this is now the interpretation of the dream I had. My Lord has made it all come true; and He was kind to me by letting me out of prison and brought you from the desert when Satan had caused dissent between me and my brothers. My Lord is kind to anyone He wills. He is indeed All-Knowing and All-Wise. My Lord, You have granted power to me on earth and taught me the true meaning of events. Originator of the heavens and earth, You are my Friend in this world and the Next. So take me as a Muslim at my death and join me with the righteous." (Surah Yusuf: 100-101)
Truly, this story is a great example of the rewards believers receive in return for their sincerity and their putting trust in God. Whatever happens to a sincere believer, he must strive to find and grasp the purpose of those events. He should take refuge in God, and pray for such insight. A Muslim must never forget that any event, great or small, that may concern him in the course of the day, are by no means against him. This is something entirely contrary to truth of fate, an immutable law of God. God definitely ordains everything in favour of believers. As a great blessing, God may reveal the purpose and good of something into the heart of a believer. Yet, even if not, a believer must show patience and be able to say "it is for some good."