Delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 23 June 2016 at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
Our discussion on Verse 63 of Surah Furqaan is not complete. By way of reminder, Verses 63 says:
وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلاَمًا
“And the servants of the Beneficent (Allah) are those who walk on the earth humbly; and when the ignorant address them, they answer; ‘Peace’.
After the detailed discussion on humility and how it relates to Verse 63 of Surah Furqaan, tonight we discuss the second quality of the Servants of Rahman that is mentioned in the same verse when it says that when ignorant people speak to them or address them, they simply reply by saying “peace” and move on.
Again by showing a particular approach and behaviour as in the first part of the verse, they are said to not get embroiled in arguments with ignorant people. That’s what we see at face value of this verse.
But at a deeper level, this verse is referring to more than not just getting embroiled in meaningless arguments, rather it is highlighting an attribute that manifests in their lifestyle and that is on the whole they personify the attribute of forbearance or “hilm” in Arabic.
Ignorant people are those who have no logic or power of reasoning, Servants of Rahman abstain from arguing with this group but rather display forbearance with them.
Their logic is not to reply to everything that the ignorant say to them – if the ignorant swear at them, they don’t swear back or compete to swear louder or be more vulgar!
“Salaam” or “peace” is a word we sometimes utter out of love for someone when meeting and greeting them or departing from them.
But this “salaam” or “peace” that is uttered to the ignorant is more one of happiness for parting ways with such people in a noble manner (it’s a way of saying good riddance in a decent manner).
THOSE WITH WHOM WE DO NOT HAVE FORBEARANCE
You might ask at this point whether we are always meant to display forbearance with everyone and the answer is not always. There’s the exception to the rule.
Verse 63 of Surah Furqaan speaks about a group who argue for sake of argument – they have no purpose in their discussion and thus it’s useless to argue with them.
But sometimes the purpose is not meaningless argument.
And thus Surah Baqarah Verse 194 says:
فَمَنِ اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ فَاعْتَدُواْ عَلَيْهِ بِمِثْلِ مَا اعْتَدَى عَلَيْكُمْ
“Whoever then commits aggression (by fighting) against you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you”.
Here the confrontation comes in the form of intelligent, organised plots to defeat the Muslims. Under those circumstances, one cannot keep silent and avoid the situation by saying “peace” and moving on. Rather, one is required to speak out and to fight such people with the proviso that one is restricted to responding equally to their aggression and no more.
MANIFESTATIONS OF FORBEARANCE
In certain places the Quran speaks about forbearance (hilm) itself while other places it refers to manifestations of forbearance like not responding to ignorant people as well as swallowing one’s anger when others provoke us.
Some ulama say that forbearance is a quality of the soul being composed and consequently when you get angry you are able to swallow your anger due to this composure. This swallowing of one’s anger is as a result of one’s consciousness of Almighty Allah.
Thus Surah Aali Imraan Verse 134 says that those who are consciousness of Allah are those who:
وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ
“and who restrain (their) anger and pardon the faults of men.”
The word “hilm”/forbearance appears in the Quran 15 times. On 11 occasions it is in reference to certain Prophets (a.s):
For example, the Quran refers to Prophets like Ibrahim, Ismail, Shuaib (peace on all of them) and others to have this attribute of “hilm”.
And forbearance is described in many narrations as well.
Someone asked Imam Hassan Mujtaba (a.s) “what is hilm?” to which he replied that it is to “swallow your anger and to have self control”.
In other hadith hilm is defined as having “stability” – in other words people with hilm are not reactionaries when being provoked!
Our community is continuously provoked in religious matters and often if we answer, the provocateurs are not interested to listen. Sometimes on Facebook, one issue can receive 500 comments and simply go in circles as they are just arguing for sake of arguing and nothing else.
To such people we say “salaam” and should not be reactionary.
CONSEQUENCE OF DISPLAYING FORBEARANCE
Hilm which sometimes manifests as “self control” can have amazing unexpected results. Surah Fussilat Verse 34 says:
وَلا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ
“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel [the evil] with one which is better; then verily he between whom and you there was enmity [will become] as though he was a closed friend.”
By repelling evil with something better, the animosity that might have existed in the heart of the one who acted badly towards you will change into a warm friendship.
And consequently all Prophets had this attribute.
For example Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) is informed of the good news of a son (Ismail) who is haleem (forebearing).
Imam Ali (a.s) says that the “perfection / climax of knowledge is forbearance, and the climax of forbearance is having much tolerance”.
Some ahadith say that hilm is the beauty of a human being because through hilm you make friends by melting hearts.
Prophet Muhammad (sawa) was sitting in the mosque in Madina when a bedouin spoke to him (sawa) in a rough manner by grabbing his abaa (cloak) and in the process the edge of the abaa which was rough scratched the neck of Prophet. While doing this he demanded certain gifts from the Prophet (sawa).
The Prophet (sawa) entertained this rude man and then asked him “did I hurt you”? The man replied “no”?
Then the Prophet (sawa) asked him “why are you trying to hurt me”?
And the man responded “because I know you respond to bad with something that is good”. And the Prophet (sawa) smiled when he heard this and instructed his companions to give him what he wanted.
Similarly Imam Ali (a.s) once stood in the mosque and offered to the people to ask him whatever they wanted to ask. An arrogant person said very rudely that he will ask a question that Imam Ali (a.s) will not be able answer.
So the man asked the question but Imam Ali (a.s) actually answered him. This situation caused the man to be rather embarrassed and became a close follower of Imam Ali (a.s) after that.
And then there’s the example of Maalik Ashtar, the great governor of Egypt under the rulership of Imam Ali (a.s). He was walking in the streets of Kufa and someone threw rotten vegetables on his face but did not know who he was.
Maalik removed it and did not react. People in the market reproached this character and informed him who this person was that he sought to insult and the man was shocked.
He then ran after Maalik and found him in the mosque but he was praying salaah. When he finished, the man apologised and Maalik said that instead of reacting, he rather came to mosque to make 2 rakaats salaah to ask Allah to give him good akhlaaq!
In daily life, we can be sucked into arguments very easily which can be sectarian, or domestic, or at work, or with society in general – in all these environments there are ignorant people – leave them and have forbearance towards them – that is the best approach.