26 Mar, 2023 | Sunday 4-Ramadan-1444
The unique Quranic generation

In the decisive battle against the Romans during the time of Caliph Umar (radiAllahu anhu), the Muslim soldiers although outnumbered by the enemy proved mysteriously indomitable and strong-willed opponents. The Roman commanders were baffled, how could the once barbaric and irregular desert army display such vigor and chivalry against a battle-hardened Roman army? They sent some informers to see how the Muslim soldiers spent their time, especially at night. As drinking and womanizing were the common practices of the conquering army, the generals were perplexed and frightened to hear the 'stories' of those Muslims. This is what they were informed.

One informer said, "They are knights by day and monks by night. They pay for what they eat in territories under their occupation. They are first to salute when they arrive at a place and are valiant fighters who just wipe out the enemy.

Another testified, "During the night it seems they do not belong to this world and have no other business than to pray, and during the day when one sees them mounted on their horses, one feels that they have been doing nothing else all their lives. They are great archers and great lancers, yet they are so devoutly religious and they remember Allah so much and so often that one can hardly hear them talking about anything else.

The third informed, 'You will find them prayerful; during the day you will find them fast. They keep their promises, order good deeds, suppress evil, and maintain complete equality among themselves." (Excerpts from Islam and the World. Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi. IIFSO. 1983).

Such were the characteristics of the first generation of Muslims who, within a few decades conquered the land beyond Arabia and brought about an extraordinary social revolution. They made the mountains move, rivers give way to their search for human liberation, and above all, human hearts surrendered to Allah. As Shaheed Syed Qutb of Egypt put it they were 'the unique Quranic generation. They were the people who were once stooped in barbarity, but Islam revolutionized them and elevated them to the peak of human perfection. Islam changed their hearts, molded their character, uprooted their ignorance, and reconstructed their society in the noblest and most divine fashion. They were the Arabs who were on the verge of self-destruction owing to their lawlessness, vulgarity, and stupidity, and to use the Quranic terminology, their ignorance (Jahiliyyah). They were the people despised by the then-two superpowers, the Persians in the east and the Romans in the west, to the extent that neither of them even wanted to conquer them.

These men and women created a world where a young woman could travel alone between the two distant places of Arabia without any fear for her chastity. They were the people who offered their last sip of water to their fellow Muslim brothers who they thought were needier. They created a society where sinners rushed to Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) to be punished in this world rather than suffering from the fire in the hereafter. Islam promises victory for those who live by its teachings and the generation that grew up with the Qur'an fulfilled that promise. They established a world order which was not only just but based on compassion and spiritual height.

They are pride for mankind and role models for Muslims. Allah, the Exalted, lovingly mentions them: "Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him". [98: 8]

They were the people who deserved this glad tiding from Allah, not because they were the 'chosen' people, but because they earned it through their sweat and blood, firm belief and action, loyalty to Allah and Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) , passion for Akhirah and maximization of worldly tools. They made a conscious decision to serve humanity in their physical and spiritual need. They preferred to die for others, rather than to have for their own selves. They were the people who challenged the existing order of the Quraish aristocracy, Arab arrogance, and super-power haughtiness of the Persians and the Romans. When success kissed their feet in their missions they used to prostrate before their Lord, as success was not for their narrow self-interest but for humanity, and above all for the pleasure of Allah.

Their features and characteristics are mentioned in many verses of the Quran. Like compassionate physicians, they lovingly cured the disease of the human soul, showing no sympathy for the disease itself. The contrasting nature of, their character created in them a consummate personality that pulled everyone towards them except those who were bent on evil. Their glowing face and appearance displayed their tranquil heart and spiritual fulfillment.

"Muhammad is the messenger of Allah and those who are with him are firm and unyielding towards all deniers of the truth, (yet) full of mercy towards one another. You see them bowing and prostrating seeking Allah's bounty and His pleasure. Their mark is on their foreheads from the traces of prostration." [48: 29].

The Muslim personality is rooted in knowledge and conviction. The knowledge elevated human beings to a status above all other creatures. The Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) has emphasized so much on knowledge that one wonders how Muslims have allowed themselves to be so stooped in ignorance as we are today. Knowledge is the lost camel and Muslims are asked to grab it wherever they find it. Acquiring basic and essential knowledge of Islam is obligatory for every Muslim, man, and woman. Knowledge widens horizons, gives conviction, and creates tranquillity. Conviction moves a man to action and gives steadfastness, patience, perseverance, dedication, and consistent commitment in life.

The Muslim personality thus has an inner reservoir of strength that emanates from Allah's treasure and it has its external manifestations as well. It is like a strong big tree that has strong roots in the soil and wide branches spread to the sky. Muslims are the people who watch each moment of their life and ask themselves whether they are using their time meaningfully. They utilize their time in a self-assured and confident manner to enjoin good and forbid evil. They use their eyes, ears and other senses to observe, learn and educate themselves every moment of the day. They use their knowledge and develop their skills to make sound judgments, honor truth, and do justice to all, including themselves. They harness the material and spiritual benefits from each moment of existence through consciousness and a feeling of gratitude to the Kind and Merciful Creator.

Muslims are ever vigilant of what is happening around them and the wider world. They read the signs of Allah in nature and learn by looking closely at the technological development of the world and its impact on human life. Muslims are not only fully aware of modern man's latest gadgets, such as the internet, mobile phones, and other high-tech tools but can effectively utilize them for the benefit of mankind. The hallmark of a Muslim personality is to shape their lives in the image of the companions of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) , rather than to pander to the whims and fancies of people engrossed in Jahiliyyah.

Thus a Muslim has a distinct attitude toward life. This dictates his moral character and external manners. His personality shines through his look and behavior. In fact, they become embedded in his nature. Everything he does has characteristic features of an emissary of Allah on earth. As he is conscious of his assignment in the world he illuminates himself with the light of virtue and good manners. The prophet's emphatic call upon Muslims to attain and exercise good manners is a weighty one. Here are a few of examples of what he said on this:

Usamah bin Sharik (radiAllahu anhu) narrates: We were sitting in the presence of Allah's Messenger so quietly as if birds were perched on our heads. Nobody had the courage to open his mouth. Meanwhile, a person came and asked the Prophet, "among Allah's slaves who is the dearest to Him?" The Prophet replied; "One who has the best moral character". (Ibn Habban).

Abdullah ibn Amr narrates: I have heard the Prophet saying, "Should I not tell you who among you is the most likable person to me and who will be the nearest to me on the Day of Judgement?" He repeated this question two or three times. The people requested him to tell them about that person. He said, "He who among you has the best moral character".

Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) has also mentioned "My Lord has taught me good manner and He has mannered me well". [Al Sam'ani]

Building a Muslim personality needs constant and conscious training and practice. It is not merely a collection of dos and don'ts. Effective training requires competent trainers with excellent qualities on whom people can put their trust and confidence. A trainer possessing exemplary character can infuse emotional attachment to the learning process. Who else other than Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) himself possesses this perfect character? The Prophet is the perfect example, the role model, of good moral character to be emulated. Allah, the Merciful Himself, has testified his perfect character in the Qur'an.

"You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last day and remember Allah muck"
[33: 21]

Abdullah ibn Amr says: The Messenger of Allah was neither ill-mannered nor rude. He used to say that the best among you are those who are best in their moral character.
[Sahih al-Bukhari]

Religion is a contract between a servant and his Creator. In Islam, this contract entails two types of relationships - one between man and Allah, and the other, between man and creation. This relationship has essential rights and responsibilities. Muslim life is essentially a life of continuous effort (struggle) to implement Allah's divine will on earth. A servant's success or failure depends on the effective dissemination of that will. He only makes effort to do the best he can. Whether he succeeds or fails in the world is immaterial to him. His ultimate gain lies in the Hereafter. That does not mean that he carries his job with lethargy and inefficiency.

Muslims in the West probably have little chance in the near future to see Islam shaping the life of Western society. Given the extent of Jahiliyyah in the Western psyche and the weaknesses of the Muslim community it is nearly impossible, an arduous and mountainous job. However, if Muslims become cautious of their present obligations and can focus on a challenging future, there is definitely hope in the new generation of Muslim youth.

But, time is running fast. The Muslims are now running a great risk of being ghettoized or assimilated in the melting pot of a universal neo-Jahiliyyah. Here comes the crucial role of the Muslims who simply cannot afford to ignore their obligation. To a Muslim, every moment is a gift from Allah and as such a test. The Prophet has mentioned, "He whose two days are equal is a sure loser".
[Sunan Daylami]

What then are, the features of a Muslim? Among the endless but coherent list, mentioned in the Qur'an and Ahadith, there are some that Muslims can easily remember and instill in their minds. A simple acronym, FEATURES, may prove a useful checklist.

F for Friendliness
E for Efficiency
A for Adaptability
T for Trustworthiness
U for Uncompromising
R for Reliability
E for Expertise
S for Sociability