Three characteristics of the righteous

Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar

During the past few weeks we have witnessed the passing away of a number of elders within our community. In my khutbah today I would like to pay tribute to them by briefly reflecting on a beautiful Qur’anic verse, which one of these deceased elders shared with me shortly before his passing. Allah, the Sublime, proclaims in verse 134 of Surah Ali-`Imran:
“(The Righteous Believers) are those who spend (out of what God has provided for them), both in Prosperity and in Adversity and Hardship: and who subdue and control their anger, and pardon and forgive their fellow human beings (for offenses committed against them); for God loves those who are devoted to doing good and acting virtuously.” (Qur’an 3:134)

The above Qur’anic verse identifies three key characteristics of those it describes as the muhsinin (i.e. those who imbibe the quality of ihsan and thus accomplish beauty and excellence in their execution of acts of goodness and righteousness). The three sublime qualities of the muhsinin are described as follows:

1) Infaq fi Sabili Allah – First, the muhsinin are those who embody the natural desire to be benevolent. They are philanthropic and charitable not only during times when they are well off and it is easy for them to do so, but also during times of difficulty and strained financial circumstances. It is also instructive to note that infaq or spending here does not only refer to their wealth but also of themselves (i.e. their time, energies and skills) in the way of God i.e. the way of the marginalized in society.

Infaq or spending of one’s wealth or oneself is so critical to the life of a Muslim that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessing be upon him) taught: “Each person’s every joint must do a charity every day the Sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it is a charity; a good word is a charity; every step you take to perform prayers is a charity and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.” (This hadith was reported by the companion Abu Hurayra and recorded in the collections of Bukhari and Muslim)

2) Kazimin al-Ghayth – Second, the muhsinin are those who control their inner rage. Here it is expedient to note that there are two key words for anger in the Qur’an, the commonly used term for anger is ghadab, which is externally expressed anger in the form of words or deeds; and the term ghayth, which refers to the internal aspect of ghadab or anger and can thus best be translated into English as inner rage to distinguish it from the former. This means that it is natural to become frustrated or annoyed with someone’s wrongful or provocative behavior but to be able to subdue and restrain its external expression is a sublime characteristic. A corresponding teaching from the Sunnah is the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) repeated advice to one of his companions to not become angry (la taghdab). On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him): “A man said to the Prophet, ‘Give me advice.’ The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, ‘Do not get angry.’ The man asked repeatedly and the Prophet answered each time, ‘Do not get angry.’” (Related by Bukhari & Muslim)

3) `Afina `an al-Nas – Last but not least, the muhsinin are those who are pardoning and forgiving towards all of humanity. They are self-reflective and do not judge or gloat in the wrongs and indiscretions of other people. They are fully conscious of their human frailty and do not hold grudges. They imbibe the divine quality of al`Afwu i.e. the all-Pardoning God, who not only freely pardons but loves to pardon. This divine attribute is most eloquently expresses in the well-known supplication that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) loved to repeat during the holy month of Ramadan: O God, Thou Art the Pardoner, Thou loves to Pardon, so Pardon Me.

In conclusion, I advise myself first, and all of us, to try our best during this New Gregorian year of 2018 to embody these three sublime qualities in our lives. We make pray that Allah pardons, all of our deceased relatives and friends, and grants them salvation in the life hereafter.

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