…..continue from the previous posting
Fellow Muslims, Why Gentleness and Graciousness?
3. Islam favours gentleness, promotes refined etiquette, and denounces character bashing.
Islam is a gentle and noble religion. Among the manifestations of gentleness and nobleness in Islam are in da’wah (preaching) for spreading the faith, and in muamalah (compassionate dealing) with people, even those who commit vice or act against norms.
Prophet Muhammad said:
“Indeed, kindness and gentleness does not exist in anything, without beautifying it; and it is not withdrawn from anything, without ruining it.” (Narrated by Muslim)
“Verily, Allah is kind and gentle, loves the kind and gentle, and confers upon the kind and gentle that which he does not confer upon the harsh.” (Narrated by Muslim)
Islam expects gentleness in da’wah. Indeed, the very basis of da’wah is gracious words, even when the one being preached to is a cruel tyrant. For example, when God sent the prophets Musa (Moses) and Harun (Aaron) to Pharaoh, He commanded:
“So speak (O Moses & Aaron) to him (Pharaoh) gently; perchance he may take warning or fear (God). ” (The Quran 20: 44)
Similarly, God commanded Prophet Muhammad and all the preachers after him:
“Invite (all) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows best, who has strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.” (The Quran 16: 125)
In this verse, the Quran teaches man to preach in one of three ways:
- Using wisdom
- Being a good example
- Debating in the best and most gracious manner
In this verse, the Quran specifies that to invite others to Islam, gentle and gracious means of preaching are to be employed, in line with the nature of Islam itself.
God requires dialogue with the People of the Book to be conducted amicably. The Quran says:
“And dispute you not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury).” (The Quran 29: 46)
There is no contradiction between the gentle means advocated for da’wah, and the command for armed jihad. This is because jihad can only be applied when all peaceful initiatives are exhausted and is responded, instead, by act of war or extreme hostility.
This is borne out in Prophet Muhammad’s example. For the first 13 years of his mission, he was commanded to be patient and to conduct his da’wah in a gentle manner, even though he and the Muslims were severely abused and oppressed. He did not retaliate, nor allowed any of his followers to do so. Seeking a peaceful solution, he accepted the offer to migrate to Medina. Yet the attacks against him and Islam continued, eventually escalating into attacks against Medina. It was only after that, did he use jihad to ensure the freedom to preach.
Even after jihad was allowed, Prophet Muhammad continued to prefer a peaceful approach to da’wah. It was for this reason that he signed the Hudaibiah Accord whose terms were unfavourable to Muslims, even though by then, Muslims already had the upper hand.
When Prophet Muhammad sent out his army on a military mission, he always reminded them as follows:
“Wage war in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Slay those who disbelieve in Allah. Wage war, but do not be excessive; do not be treacherous, do not mutilate (the dead) bodies and do not kill the children.” (Narrated by Muslim)
In another hadith (Prophet’s tradition), Prophet Muhammad said:
“Do not kill the old, the children, babies nor women, and do not be excessive. Gather the spoils of war, do good, and be virtuous. Indeed, Allah loves those who do good.” (Narrated by Abu Daud)
It is obvious from these hadith (Prophet’s tradition), that Islam expects gracious conduct even in jihad.
The Quran says:
“And fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits.” (The Quran 2: 190)
In Islam, war should only be waged based on lofty and noble aims – for defence, and to remove impediments to the spread of faith – not because of anger or hatred, nor conducted excessively. That is why Prophet Muhammad prohibited the mutilation of dead bodies (killed during war) and the killing of women and children.
In conducting jihad, Muslims are exhorted to fulfill their promises to those with whom they have an accord; treachery is not accepted as a means of securing the upper hand, even in battle. Allah Almighty says:
“O you who believe! Fulfill (all) obligations.” (The Quran 5 : 1)
“…(but the treaties are) not dissolved with those Unbelievers with whom you have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfill your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loves the righteous.” (The Quran 9: 4)
In the Quran, God also commands Muslims to be good to those who do not wage war against them,
“God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just. Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong. ” (The Holy Quran 60: 8 – 9)
God even favours being forgiving in war. A good example of this was when Prophet Muhammad forgave and spared the people of Mecca upon taking over the city, even though they had caused Muslims much pain before.
Islam acknowledges the weakness of Man who, by nature, will make mistakes, is forgetful, and prone to commit sins. Prophet Muhammad said:
“If you do not commit sin, then Allah will bring forth a group that will commit sin until they begged for forgiveness from Allah, and Allah will forgive them” (Narrated by Muslim)
Prophet Muhammad also taught that vice has various types. A person should not be completely condemned, instead he should be judged on the type of wrongdoing committed.
Islam rejects the practice of generally labelling every sin as kufur (infidels), especially when accompanied by physical, verbal or emotional abuse, as these inhibit repentance and keep man away from religion.
In this respect, God says:
“It is part of the Mercy of Allah that you do deal gently with them. Were you severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so pass over (their faults), and ask for (Allah’s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs (of the moment).” (The Quran 3: 159)
The attitude of Islam towards those who commit vice is not to scold or label them by negative labels, but to explain their errors, and encourage them to repent and improve their way of life.
The above are just some of the illustrations of Islam’s gentleness in dealing with various types of people, whether Muslims or non-Muslims.
History has recorded many episodes where people embraced Islam in hordes, as demonstrated in the Malay Archipelago; not because they had been threatened, or because of the might of the sword. There were even nations which once opposed Islam, but later embraced it without being coerced, as in the case of the Mongols.
Islam favours gentleness and graciousness as much as it rejects harshness.
Adaptation from Seminar Paper 3 presented in the Convention of Ulama organised by PERGAS on 13 – 14 September 2003 which was written by me.
Read also Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Islamic Awakening between Rejection and Extremism, available at http://www.youngmuslims.ca/online_library/books/iabrae/index.htm