Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|The most noble of people|
|08/11/01 at 03:01:58|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
The most noble of people
The idea of nobility is recognized by all societies. Everywhere in the world we find people who are distinguished and hold special positions in society. These positions need not be official. Many achieve good reputation through their personal good qualities such as courage, generosity, kindness or sagacity. Many build on what their fathers and grandfathers have achieved of distinction. This is how the noble class develops and manages to hold sway in society.
When hereditary distinction is combined with affluence, the family which enjoys both is recognized as one of the most noble. Social orders may differ in their outlook and the systems they establish, but the idea of distinction imposes itself on all societies although the factors which bring distinction to any person may differ.
In a tribal society like the one which lived in Arabia at the time when the Prophet was given his message, social distinction was very much present in people's minds. Everyone wanted to achieve high honor in his own tribe, and every tribe worked hard for the achievement of high position among the rest of Arabian tribes. There were several areas of distinction over which people vied with one another.
There were also rigid constraints which made some people lag behind, although they possessed all the qualities which make for the achievement of a highly distinguished position. A man from a mediocre clan in a middle of the road tribe who might have a great personality could never aspire to come near the position which was enjoyed by an average person from one of the top clans of Quraish, the master tribe in the whole of Arabia.
Islam preached equality among all people. That was by no means easy for the Arabs to accept. Those who have accepted Islam, however, were soon to learn that the proper standards of distinction among people were their degree of faith and consciousness of their Islamic duties. That, however, did not preclude the idea of nobility being achieved by some people. Hence, they were keen to ask the Prophet about it.
Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate on the authority of Abu Hurairah that the Prophet was asked: "Who are the most noble of people? He said: 'The most noble in God's view are the most God-fearing among them'. They said: 'We are not asking you about that'. He then replied: 'The most noble among them, then, was Joseph, a Prophet and son of a Prophet and grandson of God's friend'. They again said. 'It is not that either that we are asking you about'. He inquired of them: 'Are you then asking me about the metals of the Arabs?' They answered in the affirmative. He said: 'Those who were the best among you in the days of ignorance are the best in Islam, provided that they acquire a deep knowledge of it'."
This is a Hadith of great significance. The first answer the Prophet gave to his questioners points out a basic Islamic principle: nobility is based on faith and adherence to its requirements. This is a field open to all of us in equal measure. None is handicapped by any external factor.
It is our own free choice which sets us on the road to nobility and it is our own desire to achieve nobility and readiness to work for it which ensures what grade of distinction we acquire. The Prophet tells us that it is through strong faith and abiding by its teaching, fulfillment of its duties and willingness to exceed duty in order to do voluntary works which earn reward from God that give people honor, distinction and nobility.
The Prophet says that the most noble among us in God's sight is the most God-fearing. Family lineage or hereditary position is not enough to give anyone a single degree higher than the rest. A strong faith, knowledge of the principles of Islam and its teachings, good actions and readiness to always do one's Islamic duty, even when it imposes a heavy burden, ensure for us the sort of distinction and honor which does not end with the end of our days in this world.
The Prophet's questioners had something else in mind. They were aware of the Islamic view of true honor and distinction, because the Prophet's first answer is stated in the Qur'an. Then the Prophet gave them a different answer which combines truly noble lineage with distinguished personal qualities such as profound knowledge, high moral standards, great position in society, good manners and handsome appearance.
These qualities were not all combined together in one person as they were in the case of Joseph who himself was a Prophet. His father, Jacob, was also a Prophet and his grandfather Isaac, was one as well. Abraham, his great-grandfather was not only one of the greatest messengers God has sent to mankind, but he was also a friend of God. Joseph was the man for whom the title of the most noble among mankind could be claimed.
The Prophet's questioners still had something different in mind. They mentioned that to the Prophet and he made sure, before giving another answer, that he understood what sort of information they sought. They confirmed that they were asking about the tribal ancestry in which Arabs took so much pride.
We note here that the Prophet's question is expressed in a metaphor. "Are you asking me about the metals of the Arabs?" Tribes are likened to metals and it is a very apt metaphor. Metals differ in many aspects: value, weight, strength, purity, solidity, etc. Moreover, metals can be shaped and put to many uses in the same way as people are shaped by their environment, upbringing, education and faith. Differences among people are caused by many factors, some are internal while others are external.
Their acceptance of Islam is a positive step to earn them distinction, but they still differ in how they are influenced by it, how much knowledge of it they acquire and how much they allow it to shape their thinking.
All that makes for a very wide range of distinction, in the same way as metals differ. Metals are not only different from one another, but samples of the same metal differ in quality, color and weight.
The Prophet's answer to this specific point tells of his profound insight in human nature and how Islam affects people and make of them better human beings. He recognizes that there are people who achieve distinction of character, wisdom and position in all societies, Islamic or non-Islamic.
Even in the most ignorant of societies, such as the Arabian pagan society in the days which preceded the advent of Islam, there were good people of noble character. They could only have achieved that through adopting certain values and abiding by certain principles.
In every social order there are good values and those who abide by them are distinctly better than those who observe no value when it comes in conflict with their personal interests. When people who are prepared to abide by high values and principles are also endowed with a good measure of intelligence and wisdom, they are bound to distinguish themselves in their societies.
The Prophet's answer tells us that if people of this sort accept Islam, understand it well and exert their efforts to implement it in their lives and abide by its rules, they become the most noble among Muslims.
This means in effect that they become the most noble of all mankind. Islam is the most complete of religions and its teachings have been devised by God to make of every man or woman a person of high morals, good manners and a likable character.
When Islamic teachings have a chance to do their work in a person who combines good personality with knowledge, intelligence and wisdom, they achieve the best results.
A seed which is planted in rich soil is bound to produce the best fruit. Islam which makes of all people good men and women also achieves its best results with people who are essentially good, intelligent and wise. Most importantly, however, the Prophet's answer tells us that distinction is not something that people have by luck. They have to work for it and achieve it through their determined efforts. What is more is that people can squander what distinction they may happen to have, or increase it many folds, depending on whether they accept Islam and implement it or not.
[i]By Adil Salahi - Arab News - 08 October 1999[/i]
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
Haniff (with 2 f's)
|Re: The most noble of people|
|08/11/01 at 22:15:29|
|Excellent article!!! |
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