Discourse 33: The Signs of a Muslim
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللٌّهِ يَقُولُ فِي خُطْبَتِهِ: أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ، إِنَّ الْعَبْدَ لاَ يُكْتَبُ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ حَتّى يَسْلَمَ النَّاسُ مِنْ يَدِه وَ لِسَانِهِ، وَ لاَ يَنَالُ دَرَجَةَ الْمُؤمِنِينَ حَتّى يَأْمَنَ أَخُوهُ بَوَائِقَهُ وَ جَارُهُ بَوَادِرَهُ، وَ لاَ يُعَدُّ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ حَتّى يَدَعَ مَالاً بَأْسَ بِهِ حِذَاراً عَمَّا بِهِ الْبَأْسُ. إِنَّهُ مَنْ خَافَ الْبَيَاتُ اَدْلَجْ…
The Messenger of Allah (S) said in one of his speeches: “O' People! Surely a servant will not be counted as one of the Muslims until other people are protected from his hand and his tongue; and he will never reach the stage of a true believer until his brother (in faith) is safe from his evil and annoyance, and his neighbour is protected and safe from his harshness and anger; and he will never reach the stage of being one with Taqwa (Allah conscious) until he keeps away from those erroneous actions which cause him to spiritually pollute himself. Surely the person who fears that he will remain asleep, keeps active and moves at night…” 1
In reality, in this tradition the three words: Muslim, Mo`min and Muttaqi have been explained, and for each of these words, there is a special level that one must strive to attain.
The Prophet (S) stated that, “A person cannot be considered as a Muslim until other people are safe from his hand and tongue and if this is not the case, then such a person is not a Muslim. In addition, a person is not considered a Mo`min until his Muslim brother and neighbours are safe from him annoying or aggravating them.”
The Prophet (S) used two forms of the words سلم” “ and أمن” “ in this tradition since the reality of Islam is complete submission (تسليم) and also making sure that others are safe or protected from the person (سالم) and both of these concepts are contained within the understanding of the word Islam.
Thus, a person must be safe from both the physical (hand) of another Muslim as well as his tongue.
A Mo`min or true believer is a person whose friends and neighbours are safe from his hands, while a Muttaqi or one who possess consciousness of Allah (SwT) is one who refrains from all doubtful things. If a person pollutes his soul with doubtful actions, then surely he is not a true Muttaqi!
Anyone whose tongue acts like a snake or scorpion and is busy hurting others through his speech whether it be by makes of backbiting, levelling false accusations against others, making fun of other people, humiliating them, destroying their character, cursing them, etc… and injures other people is not considered a Muslim!
There are many people who are tricked and misled by Shaitan and thus when they are involved in a serious conversation, they protect their tongue (from speaking bad things). However when they are busy joking with others, they perform these same things which they would not do while engaged in a serious discussion. For example, when a person is busy joking with others, he may humiliate or make fun of his Muslim brother or bug him and then he will say, that “I was only joking with you and I did not mean what I said.”
Sometimes, such joking is even worse than speaking the truth because when a person is speaking the truth, he is limited and maintains restrictions and boundaries in what he is saying. However when one begins to joke around, then these limits and boundaries are often transgressed.2
If we look carefully through history, we see that court jesters and clowns used to speak truthful things to those in their presence, but they spoke of such truths in their jokes and amusements. The function of them was not just to keep the kings busy, rather, one of the philosophies of them was that whenever those around the king could not tell something very important to him directly, they would pass the information on to the clown or jester and he would convey this information to the king in a way of amusement! Thus, the jokes and playing of the jester was actually more serious than the truth!
A true believer is one who is very respected in Islam and we are not permitted to joke in this way with a true believer nor can we destroy his character or personality. May we seek refuge with Allah (SwT) if one of us - under the pretence of making a joke - destroys the character of another believer!3
At this point, we look at the topic of refraining from doubtful things.
In the Science of Jurisprudence ('Ilmul Fiqh), actions which are Makruh (discouraged) fall into the category of being permissible to perform and it has been mentioned that in all areas where there is a doubt - whether the act is obligatory or forbidden - the principle is that it is permissible. However at the same time, they are many instances in which these same doubtful things act as a bridge towards certain forbidden acts. It is for this reason that a person must not make his way to the ultimate level of these permissible acts - meaning the makruh things.
Why? This is said because the final level of the permissible acts is the edge where the forbidden acts begin and there is a possibility that at any moment, a person could trip and fall into the forbidden deeds.
In the commentary of Nahjul Balagha of Ibne Abil Hadid it is written that:
أَلاَ وَ إِنَّ حِمَى اللٌّهِ مَحَارِمُهُ.
“Be advised that the protected limits of Allah (which we must not transgress) are those things which He has made impermissible.”4
There is an area which a person is prohibited from entering into and if he moves closer to it, we see that sometimes through transgressing the boundaries, one will become overcome by the evil whisperings such that he may proceed to move forward (towards the haram acts) due to the excuse that:
كُلُّ مَشْكُوكِ جَايِزٌ كُلُّ مَظْنُونِ جَايِزٌ.
“All doubtful things are permissible, and all actions which one is uncertain about are (also) permissible.”
Thus, such a person may begin to perform those actions which could cause him to enter into sin and they will be classified as forbidden (haram) acts. All of these acts are permissible to perform, however at the same time we must not approach the boundaries of the forbidden acts since this boundary is one full of danger.
Of course we are not saying that we must refrain from all Makruh (reprehensible) acts, however there is a difference here and in certain instances, we must be extremely careful. If a person wishes to stay away from the danger boundary, then one must also distance oneself from the uncertain and doubtful acts.
The final sentence in his tradition is that if a person succeeds in destroying the mystique behind sins and no longer feels frightened at performing forbidden acts, then one will easily contaminate one's pure essence. When some sinners speak to others about their life and the actions that they had performed in the past, they say, “The very first time that I performed such and such a sin, I felt my entire body tremble. However after continuously performing that sin, it became second nature for me.”
Thus in summary, what protects a person is being frightened of performing a sin. However when committing sins becomes common place, then one resorts to trying to justify sinning and one will try to make every doubtful act something permissible.5
- 1. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 74, pg. 177
- 2. Some of the sins which result in creating a curtain between a person and Allah (SwT) are: Rejecting and changing the talk that one is hearing when it is vain, futile, joking discussions which only make others laugh. In order to better understand this issue, pay attention to the following traditions:
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللٌّهِ: إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَتَكَلَّمُ بِكَلِمَة فَيَضْحَكُ بِهَا جُلَسَاؤُهُ يَهْوى بِهَا أَبْعَدَ مِنَ الثُّرَيَّا.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has said, “Surely sometimes a person speaks something where those present in the gathering begin to laugh and thus he becomes even further away (from Allah) than the Pleiades (one of the constellations in the sky.)”
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللٌّهِ: كَثْرَةُ الْمِزَاحِ، تَذْهَبُ بِمَاءِ الْوَجْهِ.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has said, “Making many jokes results in one's honour being removed.”
عَنْ أَبِي مُحَمَّدٍ قَالَ: لاَ تُمَارِ فَيَذْهَبَ بَهَاؤُكَ وَ لاَ تُمَازِحْ فَيُجْـتَرَأُ عَلَيْكَ.
It has been narrated that Abi Muhammad - Imam Hasan b. `Ali al-`Askari (as) has said, “Do not disagree with others or else your respect will be removed; and do not make too many jokes, so that you are not treated with immodesty.”
- 3. Hakam b. Abil `As (the father of Marwan who later on attained the Khilafat) was one of the strongest enemies of the Messenger of Allah (S) and he annoyed the Prophet quite alot. One of the ways that he bugged the Prophet (S) was that whenever the Messenger of Allah (S) would walk through the streets of Makkah, he would follow him and make fun of him and would try to imitate the way and manner in which the Prophet walked. Through this, the enemies of Islam laughed and taunted (the Prophet).
Finally one day, the Messenger of Allah (S) turned around and saw that this enemy was busy in imitating him in his actions, the Prophet told him:
“Stay as you are.”
From that point on until the day he died, his body was constantly trembling and he died in a state of intense quivering. (Punishment of Sins, pg. 10)
- 4. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 4, pg. 232
- 5. As for the punishment and effects of performing sins, some of the Scholars of Akhlaq have mentioned many punishments and effects that performing sins have on a person of which, we will suffice mentioning just three of them:
1. The Effect on the Soul of the Person. Sin have an effect on the heart and soul of a person who commits them. If the sin had no other effect than to cover the heart with spiritual darkness, then this in itself would be enough to keep away from them.
When an oppressor raises his hand to hit the oppressed person, the first detriment is that the oppressor's heart is darkened.
In the Islamic narrations it has been mentioned that for every sin that a person performs, a black dot is placed on one's heart and through the repetition of sins, these black dots increase until the time that they take over the entire heart, and as the Noble Qur’an has stated:
…وَ أَحَاطَتْ بِهِ خَطيِئَتُهُ…
“…and are surrounded by their evil deeds and sins….” (Surat al-Baqarah (2), Verse 81)
By this we mean that when a person's entire presence is polluted with sin, then it is very hard for one to return back to the straight path. At the time when the black dots on the heart are few and the rest of the heart is still bright (with the Divine Light), one must work hard to remove those few black specks, however when the sins become many, then even those few bright spots will become covered over.
2. Effects of Sinning in One's Life: The person is - by nature - societal and one of the most important merits that a person possesses is his interdependence upon others in his life. Thus, if people were to lie to one another, then everyone would lose confidence in each other such that no one else would ever be able to have trust in anyone and everyone would have to be extra careful that others do not fool them. It is because of this that lying and performing sins, slowly transform the societal life of people into a life of individualism and the spirit of help and assistance to others is removed from the society.
3. Effects of Sinning in the Next World: We must fully accept the fact that sins are never destroyed and they are always with a person. For example, a lie that was told many years ago will follow a person step by step - even in the next world - and it will be with him continuously, just as the Noble Qur’an has stated that:
يَوْمَ يَنْظُرُ الْمَرْءُ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ
“On that day shall humanity see all that their hands had sent forth.”
Therefore, on that day, all of the actions of a person will be physically manifested in front of him.