By Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi رحمہ اللہ
Sent by Muskan Fatima
At the time when Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم was invested with the mantle of prophethood, a general sense of pessimism springing from the then prevalent notions of worthlessness of human nature and hopelessness of Divine succor filled the air. The ancient religions of the east and the mutilated Christianity, especially in the West, had an equal share in producing that mental climate. The Philosophy of re-birth, preached by the religions of ancient India, which assigned no place to the will and decisions of man, meant that the present life was but a form of retribution for one’s actions during his previous life with which the Christian dogma of Original Sin and atonement had joined hands to shake the confidence of millions, all over the world, in the despondence and amenability of human actions. Mankind had lost faith in the mercy of God Whose eternal and immutable decree seemed to have condemned man to a pre-determined destiny without reference to his evil or virtuous behavior. But Muhammad Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم affirmed that man was born with a clean slate and perfect freedom of action. Man was, declared Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم, the author of his actions, both good and evil, and deserved reward or punishment in according with his own decisions to shape the course of his actions. Discarding the theory of vicarious atonement, the Qur’an established once for all that every man was his own redeemer.
“And that for man shall be naught, save that wherefore he maketh effort, and that his endeavor shall be presently observed” (Qur’an 53:39-40)
This was a message of salvation to man, which gave him a new confidence in him and in his ability to chart out his destiny. He applied himself with a renewed vigor, confidence and determination to shape up his own life and brighten the future of humanity.
Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم also declared that sins were but temporary deviations from the right path, inherent in the nature of man, and were brought about by ignorance, mistake and the promptings of the devil or man’s own sensual desires. But the innate urge of man was to regret his mistake and seek pardon of Allah with a contrite heart. To be broken in spirit by a sense of the guilt and to seek the forgiveness of Allah showed the goodness of human nature and attracted mercy of the Lord. This gospel of hope and good tidings was a revolutionary message to the despondent humanity condemned forever by the guilt or Original Sin and one’s past misdoings. What a great change it meant in the prevailing atmosphere of gloom and depression of spirits is illustrated by the fact that Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم came to be known as ‘Apostle of Repentance.’ Repentance, he said, did not involve faint-heartedness, nor did it arise from fear of disapprobation, but was a bold and daring step of the first man, Adam علیہ السلام, who had thus shown the nobility of his innate nature. Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم told that repentance had the sacredness attached to the acts of devotion of Allah سبحانہ وتعالی. He preached the virtues of seeking pardon so forcefully that even the irredeemable sinners, who had lost all hope of forgiveness, resolved to turn away from the sinful ways and to begin a new life of virtue and uprightness, and many of them attained a sublimity of spirit that was envied by others.
Describing the clemency of Allah سبحانہ وتعالی Who is ever willing to forgive the sinners, the Qur’an employees a diction so alluringly charming that one wonders whether Allah loves them more who seek forgiveness after deviating from the path of virtue. The Quran’s verse quoted here shows how forbearing and how magnanimous Allah سبحانہ وتعالی is to the man who cares to turn towards Him for exoneration of his sins. Says the Qur’an:
“Say thou: O my bondmen, who have committed extravagance against themselves, despair not of the mercy of Allah; verily Allah will forgive their sins altogether.
Verily He! He is the forgiving, the Merciful.” (Qur’an 39:53)
Some of the verses of the Qur’an exhorting the believers to acquire positive merits and to win their way to the everlasting bliss address them in these words:
“And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and toward the Garden as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (Evil): “And those who spend (of that which Allah hath given them) in ease and in adversity, those who control their wrath and re forgiving toward mankind; Allah loveth the good; “and those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember Allah and implore forgiveness for their sins – Who forgave sine save Allah only? – And will knowingly repeat (the wrong) they did.
“The reward of such will be forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide for ever – a bountiful reward for workers! (Qur’an 3:133-36)
Among the characteristic of the true believers, enumerated in another verse, repentance take precedence of all others.
“They are those who repent, who worship, who praise, who fast constantly, who bow down, who prostrate themselves, who command the reputable and restrain from the disreputable and who keep the ordinances of Allah: and bear thou glad tidings to the believers.” (Qur’an 9:112)
The place of honour accorded to those who repent of their sins is illustrated by the verse of the Qur’an revealed on the occasion of the forgiveness of the three companions رضی اللہ عنہم of Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم, who had been excluded from other followers for their failure to accompany Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم in the expedition of Tabuk. Before the verse alludes to the mistake of these companions being condoned by Allah سبحانہ وتعالی, it mentions Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم and the Ansar and the Muhajirin رضی اللہ عنہم in order that no stigma be attached to them after their mistake had been pardoned. The Qur’an, in this way, teaches all believers, who take the companions رضی اللہ عنہم of Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم as models of virtue that no ignominy attaches to man after a genuine change of heart. The way these verses explain the consequences of the blotting out of sins and elation of the repentant sinners can hardly be found in the scriptures of other religions or treatises on ethics. These verses read:
“Allah hath turned in mercy to the Prophet, and to the Muhajirin and the Ansar who followed him in the hour of hardship. After the hearts of a party of them had almost swerved aside, then turned Him unto them in Mercy. Lo! He is full of Pity, Merciful for them.
“And to the three also (did He turn mercy) who were left behind, when the earth, vast as it is, was straitened for them, and their own souls were straitened for them till they bethought them that there is no refuge from Allah save toward Him. Then turned He unto them in mercy that they (too) might turn (repentant unto Him). Lo! Allah! HE is the Relenting, the Merciful.” (Qur’an 9:117-18)
Remission of sins leads us to one of the chief attributes of the Divine Being, that is, His mercy and compassion. The bounty of Allah’s mercy is the constant theme of the Qur’an. Says Allah سبحانہ وتعالی: “My mercy embraced all things;”10 while a celestial Tradition of Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم tells us: “Verily, my mercy overcomes my anger.” To be despaired of Allah Ta’ala’s mercy was made a cardinal sin. Quoting Y’aqubعلیہ السلام11 and Ibrahim علیہ السلام, two great prophets of Allah سبحانہ وتعالی, the Qur’an announces:
“Verily, none despraireth of the comfort of Allah except a people disbelieving” (Qur’an 12:87) and “who despraireth of the mercy of his Lord save those who are astray?” (Qur’an 15:56)
The misery and suffering the human race endured in the world was, according to the Jewish and Christian doctrines, but a feeble image of the never-ending agony which awaited man in the future world. The monastic orders of the Medieval Ages had taken up this doctrine, which, in itself, was sufficiently revolting, but they had developed it with an appalling vividness and minuteness. The humanity scared by these ghastly visions was shown by Rasulullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم the all-embracing mercy of Allah Ta’ala and the efficacy of repentance which could wipe the slate clean of even the most vicious among the castaways of society.
(to be continued)