Surah Nahl (No. 16 - The Bee) Verses 120-128
The Faith of Abraham the Hanif
THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM THE HANIF
Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was a descendant of one of the earliest of the great Prophets, Abraham (peace and blessing be upon him) who is described in the Quran as Hani,f which means one who follows the straight path, or the path of moral rectitude and avoids every kind of deviation from that path. That is Islam, the natural religion of mankind which was revealed to Adam (peace be on him) and all the great prophets (peace be on them) who brought the message of Allah for the guidance of mankind. There is a Hadith recorded in Qazi Zainul Abidin's Qamusul Quran to the effect that our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has said that he was leaving for his followers the Hanifi (religion) which is white (pure) and generous and the night of which is like its day. The last Ruku of Surah Nahl (XVI) comprising verses 120 to 128 is of special significance in this connection. The verses have been rendered into English by Pickthall as follows:
"Verily, Abraham was a patriarch obedient to Allah, by nature upright, and he was not of the idolators;
"Thankful for His bounties; He chose him and guided him unto a straight path.
" And we gave him good in the world, and in the Hereafter he is among the righteous.
"And afterwards We inspired thee (Muhammad, saying): Follow the religion of Abraham, as one by nature upright. He was not one of the idolators.
"The Sabbath was appointed only for those who differed concerning it, and verily, thy Lord will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that wherein they used to differ.
"Call unto the way of the Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation and reason with them in the kindest way. Verily, thy Lord is best aware of him who strayeth from His way, and he is best aware of those who go aright.
"If ye punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith ye were afflicted. But if ye endure patiently, verily it is better for the patient.
"Endure thou patiently (o Muhammad). Thine endurance is only by (the help of) Allah. Grieve not for them, and be not in distress because of that which they devise.
"Verily Allah is with those who keep their duty unto Him and these who are doers of good."
- Relying on Shah Waliullah's translation I have substituted the word patriarch for the word nation used by Pickthall for translation of the word Ummat in the text of verse 120. Shah Waliullah has taken the word Ummat to mean Buzurgwar. Shah Rafiudddin has used the word Peshwa in his Urdu translation. It appears that the word Ummat in the text is a form of the word Imam which means leader. Abraham (peace be on him) was a patriarch also in the Biblical sense.
Abraham (peace be on him) was the founder of the first house of Divine worship at Mecca, called Bakkah in III-95. His prayer in verses 35 to 41 of Surah Ibrahim (XVI) with reference to "Thy Sacred House" is one of the many sublime prayers which the Quran teaches us. He was favoured by Allah in this world as in the Hereafter. He was head of the line of great prophets whose teachings helped mankind to rise to the stature of "Allah's vice regents" on earth for whom Allah has "made subservient in all that is in the heavens and in the earth". The last of the line of prophets was, as we all know, our Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him). A believer's lasting reward is in the Hereafter, but the teachings of the Quran do not require believers to overlook their legitimate shares of the good things in this world. In the parable of the Quran he is advised:
"And neglect not thy portion of the world" (XXVIII-77).
There is "in store a goodly portion out of that which they have earned" for those who say;
"Our Lord! Give unto us in the world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good and guard us from the doom of the Fire" (II-201; 202).
- The observance of Sabbath as a day of the week to be set apart for prayer and rest from worldly occupations was enjoined on Christians and Jews only. Sabbath is not only enjoined on Muslims who have only their Friday congregational prayers. On that day business is to be suspended only for a short time between the call for prayer and the end of congregational prayer. The relevant verses of the Quran are the 9th and the 10th of the Surah Al-Jumaah (LXII):
"O ye who believe! When the call is heard for the prayer of the day the congregation, haste unto remembrance of Allah and leave your trading. That is better for you if ye did but know. And when the prayer is ended, then disperse in the land and seek Allah's bounty and remember Allah much, that ye may be successful".
The idea which Muslims generally have that Friday is to be observed as a day of suspension of business like the Sabbath of Jews and the Christians is clearly erroneous. The injunction to disperse and seek of Allah's bounty indicates that the conclusion of the Friday congregational prayer believers are expected to resume the work which they suspended at the time of Azan for the Friday congregation. The ways of seeking Allah's bounty in His wide world are endless. The Quran repeatedly urges believers to exert themselves for that purpose, subject to limit of the Siratal-Mustaqim or the path of moral rectitude, that is, Islam.
- It is one of the merits of believers that they "enjoin right conduct and forbid what is wrong" (III-110). The mission of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was to call "upon the way of thy Lord". In verse 135 wisdom and moderation and kindness in the performance of the duty are enjoined. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) has set the perfect example of compliance with this injunction. His whole life is the supreme of dedication to the service of Allah and steadfast perseverance. The warning that Allah is Best Aware of those who go aright is a safeguard against intolerance. A believer whose faith is staunch is steadfast in following the path of moral rectitude. His opposition to inequity of every sort is equally unrelenting. He is thus firm in avoiding bigotry and intolerance.
- The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his followers of his time (may Allah be pleased with them) patiently suffered persecution for many years and when Allah gave them victory over his enemies of Mecca he forgave them all, except for of the worst miscreants who were punished each in accordance with the measure of the wrongs which he had done. The virtue of Sabr is commended and enjoined throughout the Quran. It means, as explained in Tasfir-i-Haqqani, control of fear, anger, grief, and selfish desires, and acting sensibly. Shah Abdul Qadir has in his Muzahul Quran stated that Sabr means, Mehnat Saharna or endurance of hard work. The word means, in short, self-discipline and fortitude and endurance. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has, throughout his life, set the highest example of virtue of Sabr which is an essential virtue of a true believer. Believers are told to seek Allah's help through Sabr and prayer as Allah is with those who practise Sabr (II-45; 153). In III-200 believers are exhorted to "practise Sabr and outdo all others in Sabr. The importance of Sabr is emphasised in Surah Al-Asr (103) thus:
"Verily, man is in a state of loss, save those who believe and do good work and exhort one another truth and exhort one another to Sabr".
Believers should bear in mind that Allah is with those who practise Sabr and those who ward off evil and those who are doers of good. So long as these qualities remained characteristic of he mass of Muslims Allah favoured them with His bounties in generous abundance for centuries. May Allah guide us and give us the good sense and strength to keep our duty to Him and again deserve His bounties by steadfast obedience to His laws and adherence to the Siratal Mustaqim.