“Failure cannot cope with persistence. ” Napoleon Hill
We again find these words in the following verse: “And Allah increases in guidance those who seek guidance: and the things that endure, good deeds, are best in the sight of your Lord for blessings, and best in the returns that they ultimately yield.” [Sûrah Maryam: 76]
Both verses come in the context of engaging those unbelievers who are deluded by the provisions of their worldly lives. In the first verse, the permanent blessings of our good deeds are compared with the transient blessings of worldly prosperity, represented by “wealth and children.”
In the second verse, the context is similar, since it is immediately followed by the verse: “Have you then seen the sort of man who rejects Our signs, yet says: ‘I shall certainly be given wealth and children’?”
In both cases, the “permanent blessings” of righteous deeds are presented in the context of wealth, children and the life of the world in general. This tells us something important. It tells us that there is no opposition between worldly prosperity and spiritual prosperity. The two forms of blessing are being compared in their degree of worth, not contrasted as opposites.
The Qur’ân and Sunnah do not teach us to forsake or disparage our worldly lives in order to attain success in the Hereafter. The tow worlds are not mutually exclusive. This is why the Qur’ân teaches us the supplication: “Our Lord! Give us the good in this world and the good of the Hereafter, and save us from the punishment of Hell.”
People are not divided into those who aspire for this world and those who renounce the world to focus on the Hereafter. Not at all. Rather, the distinction is between those people who pin their hopes exclusively on their worldly existence and care nothing for the Hereafter, and those who seek the good in both.
Logic and common sense tell us that achieving the good in both this world and the Hereafter is the best possible scenario. A believer, therefore, does not renounce the world, but aspires to what is wholesome and good within it. We see that the prophets and Messengers – though they made great sacrifices, suffered rejection, and endured hardship and poverty for the sake of their faith – they were not people who lived in distress of the world. They were happy people, who were at peace with their worldly lives.
What Allah reminds us in these verses and others is that we should not get caught up in he pursuit of worldly rewards at the expense of the Hereafter. We should work for success in both, keeping in mind that the rewards of this world are transient and those of the Hereafter are eternal.
This is emphasized by the order of words in these verses. Allah says: “the things that endure, good deeds.”
Allah could have said “enduring good deeds” or “good deeds that endure”. Instead, Allah emphasizes the quality of permanence, drawing our attention to how it contrasts with worldly blessings like “wealth and children”. Once this contrast is established strongly in our minds, we are then informed of the way we can attain these permanent blessings – by engaging in acts of righteousness.
This is powerful. Nothing causes worry for human beings more than the loss of what we have, the loss of wealth, of health, and the inevitable loss of youth. There is no stronger context, then, for us to be reminded of the enduring value of our good deeds.
The same can be said for any suspicion about Allah that contradicts our belief that He is All-Powerful, Most Generous, and Most Merciful.
The Qur’ân provides us with examples of those who had bad expectations about their Lord. For instance, Allah tells us about the disbelievers of Mecca who went up to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and argued that if they accepted the faith, they would endanger the strong position of Mecca as well as their personal status and property.
It sayd in the Qur’ân: “And they say: ‘If we follow the guidance with you (O Muhammad), we shall be carried off from our country.’ What! Have We not established for them a sure sanctuary, whereunto the produce of all things is brought (in trade), a provision from Our presence? But most of them do not know.” [Sûrah al-Qasas: 57]
These were people of Mecca were afraid that tribes of Arabia would turn against them if they abandoned their idols and turned to the worship of the one true God. They worried they would lose their prestige they enjoyed among the Arabs by being the caretakers of the Ka`bah and the idols, and feared that the various Arab tribes would fight them instead.
This shows their bad expectations of Allah. They expected that Allah would not protect His religion and assist those who uphold it. In spite or recognizing the truth in Islam’s message, they thought that falsehood would prevail.
We find another good example of someone expecting bad about Allah in the Sunnah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
A man once said: “Allah will not forgive so-and-so.”
As a consequence, Allah said: “Who is this who presumes to exceed My authority by declaring that I will not forgive someone? Indeed, I have forgiven that person and brought your deeds to naught.” [Sahîh Muslim (4753)]
Sheikh Muhammad al-Hamad
In his commentary on the classical Islamic legal treatise al-Mumti`, Sheikh Muhammad b. Salih al-`Uthaymin, wrote: “It is wrong for a Muslim to carry out any Sunnah act that results in causing harm to others.”
This is an astute observation from one of our most eminent contemporary scholars, and it has far-reaching implications.
It is certainly commendable to put our Prophet’s Sunnah into practice as much as we can. We should most certainly strive to exemplify our Prophet’s noble character. It is the quality of a true believer to want to emulate Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and it is a way for us to earn Allah’s rewards. The more we succeed in exemplifying the Prophet’s example, the better we will be.
However, there are things to consider when seeking to put a particular Sunnah into practice. Chief among these is to ensure that we follow the general spirit of the Sunnah in the application of any particular practice, and that we never let our practice of the Sunnah become a justification for harming others.
Let’s start with a simple example: the tooth stick (siwāk). Brushing the teeth with a tooth stick is one of the Prophet’s practices, and it is something he encouraged. It is therefore a practice Muslims engage in seeking Allah’s blessings. However, this does not mean that it is good when we see some Muslims engage in this practice without any consideration for others in the mosque by making noises and spitting, and even bumping their fellow worshippers with their arms.
The same can be said for kissing the black stone during the Hajj and other acts of devotion where crowding is a problem. In such cases, a Muslim must consider the meaning of worship and the spirit in which acts of devotion are supposed to be carried out. A Muslim should also consider the rights that other people have to good, brotherly and sisterly treatment.
We should be eager to carry out a particular Sunnah practice in our worship, but we should be equally eager to respect the rights of our fellow worshippers. We are supposed to love for our brothers and sisters what we love for ourselves and we should hate to treat others in a way that we would dislike being treated. Therefore, though a Sunnah act might encouraged in and of itself, it is better to refrain from it when putting it into practice will cause people discomfort or harm.
Another simple example is that of lining up the ranks before congregational prayer. Some people take this too far by stretching and pushing, causing discomfort for their fellow worshippers. They justify their actions by saying they want to line up their ankles and shoulders. They might even frown at their immediate neighbors during prayer.
There is no doubt that straightening the ranks is part of the perfection of our prayers, but not at the cost of irritating people and distracting them from their prayers. The straightening of the ranks should be carried out as much as possible within the bounds of kindness, gentleness, decorum, and good taste. We are not supposed to overturn the primary purpose of congregational prayer – which is to bring the people’s hearts together in worship – by pursuing a finer point.
This applies to the imams who lead the prayer as well as to the people in the ranks. It is good for the imam to pay attention to the straightness of the ranks, but the circumstances of the worshippers must also be taken into consideration, especially the elderly, the infirm, and newcomers to the mosque.
The imam should give priority to strengthening the ties of goodwill between them and cultivating the love of the Sunnah in their hearts. He should do this by showing them kindness and by being easygoing with them. He should instruct them gently and correct them without being harsh. This will make them want to follow his example.
Likewise, when we follow the Sunnah of greeting each other with salām, the greeting of peace, we need to consider our manner of greeting. It is not enough to simply utter the word itself, when one’s expression is dark, one’s is frowning, and one’s tone is harsh. Such a “greeting” has no welcome in it. A smiling face and a pleasant tone should accompany the greeting of peace.
What we say about initiating the greeting is equally valid for the reply. It is not correct to reply to a greeting offered in affection with a tone of indifference or irritation. A greeting offered in a good manner should be responded to in a manner that is equal or better.
These considerations of decorum, good taste, and good manners apply to all the countless aspects of a Muslim’s good conduct, like giving advice, calling to righteousness, being hospitable to one’s guests, and honoring our parents.