By Sheikh Salman al-Oadah
It seems sensible to think that the more sincere and objective a person is, and the more that person safeguards his or her tongue from rashness and thoughtless speech, the safer that person should be from the abuse of others. There will simply be fewer occasions for others to disagree or take offence.
I think this is true to a limited extent. As some of our pious predecessors have said, “One whose heart is pure can speak with more grace.”
Also, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “A believer gets along with people. There is no good in someone who never tries to get along with others nor allows other people to get along with him.” [Musnad Ahmad (9198) and Mustadrak al-Hākim (1/23)]
Nevertheless, it is also true when a person becomes well-known or successful, that person is going to inevitably face more hostility. This is simply because there are more people who are interested in that person’s affairs. Some will be in agreement and some will differ. Others will have their doubts or make accusations. The more famous a person is, the greater this exposure will be. For world leaders and major historical figures – like the prophets and messengers – it can involve the entire human race.
Let us consider two of the most eminent personalities of Islam: Abū Bakr and `Umar. We can hardly find better examples of sincerity and strong faith. It was said of Abū Bakr: “Abū bakr does not excel all of you in fasting or prayer, but he excels you in something that is deep in his heart.” [Ahmad b. Hanbal, Fadā’il al-Sahābah (118) and Abū Dāwūd, al-Zuhd (37)]
Regarding `Umar, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) dreamed he saw him with his shirt trailing him and on another occasion he dreamed he let `Umar drink from milk after he drank some. The Prophet understood these dream to mean that `Umar had the qualities of knowledge and religious faith. [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (81, 3691) and Sahīh Muslim (2390, 2391(]
Abū Bakr and `Umar were the closest people to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during his lifetime. Allah also decreed that they would be buried alongside him. There can be no doubt that of all the Companions, they were his choicest friends and confidants. Heir closeness to their mentor and teacher is an incontestable historical fact.
When we read about their lives, it strikes us how genuinely selfless they were, how ready they were to help people with their wealth, knowledge, influence, and strength. They exerted all their efforts to benefit others without having any ulterior motives. Moreover, they were always ready to forgive those who wronged them.
In spite of all this, they had their share of enemies. What some of their enemies said about them was so vile that it makes you wonder what good this world has to offer. Indeed, the good that Allah has in store for Abū Bakr and `Umar in the Hereafter surely makes what they endured in this world a trifle. Those of us who have been spared such trials may wish we had suffered more in this world if we were to see how Allah rewards those who patiently endure.
The slanders we can read in some books being published, distributed, and even studied in places, books which were written by people with vested interests who target the Prophet (peace be upon him) and those who were close to him – though they are patently false, by their scandalizing the best of humanity, they teach us a valuable lesson. We learn that the people whom Allah favours, those whom He wishes to bestow His most complete blessings, have their detractors who will continue to abuse them even after their deaths, and falsely accuse them of what they are innocent of. This is a way Allah increases their rewards and purifies them of sin. In this is a lesson for all those who wish to live a righteous life, though we cannot hope to measure up to the lofty standards set by Abū Bakr and `Umar. We should be grateful to both of them for this lesson in life. May Allah grant them the best of rewards.
Certainly, when we see the most blameless and eminent people slandered, there is some ulterior motive behind it, some point of contention or disagreement. When people become biased and fanatical about their opinions, they become bigoted and start categorizing people as being in either this category or that. The bigot sees the world as follows: either they agree with me and are an angel in human form and can do no wrong, or they are against me and are a devil in disguise with no redeeming qualities. There is no third option. This is the way ignorant people who are wrapped up in their own prejudices see the world.
This is why it is said that the true test of good character is when there is contention and strife. This is where real magnanimity, understanding, open-mindedness, and good manners can be seen. As for when everyone is already of the same mindset, there is no problem in being cordial and polite. Abū Bakr and `Umar have shown us how to keep ourselves above the vile behaviour of those who would abuse us. Their example teaches us to overlook the abuses of others and to always assume the best about people, and to look to our own shortcomings instead of worrying about the faults of others.
First published in islamtoday.net