In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most beneficent:
Islam spread from a desert land in present-day Saudi Arabia to as far as the Philippines and Malaysia in a relatively rapid manner. Contrary to the saying that Islam spread by the sword are the countless stories of the impact of words and actions alone. Beginning with the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) nickname Al Ameen, the trustworthy, the first converts accepted Islam not only out of obedience to the power of Allah’s awesome words, but also because of the Prophet’s (pbuh) reputation of honesty and truthfulness. Who better to emulate in every way than the one who was sent to warn us, and guide us? In his last sermon, the Prophet (pbuh) said ‘Indeed the best among you is the one with the best character.’ (Abu Dawud) Who is more admired by mankind also than those who have a good character? I have recently come across the issues of Muslims in the “western” workplace or university. Instead of being sought-after employees, however, they are seen as lazy and incompetent to the point of warranting dismissal. Some students party so much in university they are placed on probation for having low scores. Combine this with what people hear on the news, and what can we expect people to think?
This tarbiya is inspired by an article by Suhaib Webb which was recently circulated. It recounted an encounter with a non-Muslim who had a bad opinion of Muslims on the whole because his experiences were from the things he heard on the news. If all that non-Muslims can associate Muslims with is terrorism and insolence, we have failed in dawah. It is a symbol of the Ummah’s weakness that we cannot inspire non-Muslims by example alone. Some of us are still students, many of us have graduated and moved on to the workplace. At this point, we can look at every interaction with strangers or neighbors as potential dawah opportunities. There are some key traits that to embody which can help us improve ourselves, and please Allah.
Honesty: “Woe to those that deal in fraud, – those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account- on a Mighty Day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds” (Qur’an, 83: 1-6).
The Prophet (pbuh) was known to have been an honest trader even in times of expected theft and corruption. The smallest act such as carelessly wasting printer paper can impact a small, humble firm in a big way. Being aware that Allah will call us to account, as He sees all things, for every deed we do on this earth should also make us conscious of the consequence of every action we take. For those who live and work in Muslim-majority places, a hadith reported by Abu Hurairah tells us, ‘Do not be envious of one another; do not artificially inflate prices against one another; do not hate one another; do not shun one another; and do not undercut one another in business transactions; and be as fellow-brothers and servants of Allah.’ (Muslim)
Timeliness: Most of us live in environments where punctuality is expected, and respected. We should be on time for lecture, for work, or for gatherings. Can we imagine the Prophet (pbuh) giving the excuse of “Desi standard time” or “Arab standard time” after turning up late for something? Indeed lateness can be seen as a sign of arrogance since it is a disregard of others’ time constraints. The attempt to be on time for other things may also help some improve performing their salahs in a timely manner.
Backbiting: Gossip is practically unavoidable in today’s age of instant messaging, texts and fast travel. But it is also well-known that gossiping about co-workers is unacceptable no matter how widespread its practice may be. There are many verses in the Qu’ran and in hadiths that warn us of the seriousness of backbiting, including this hadith found in Tirmidhi: “Is there anything that topples people on their faces (or he said, on their noses) into the Hell-fire other than the jests of their tongues?” For those who are in an environment of constant backbiting, the alternative may be to not give them something to talk about and instead discuss things and people you are pleased with.
The mercy of Allah is immeasurable. We can, however, recognize the magnificent blessing he sent to us in the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Not only did the messenger lead his community, but he was also a courteous neighbor and diplomat to surrounding nations like the Arab Christians and Jews. At the same time, he tells us “ ‘I am just God’s servant,’ (Bayhaqi) he said, and ‘I have only been sent as a teacher.’ (Ibn Majah) We follow this teacher’s sunnah to improve our iman and inshaAllah our taqwa or God-conciousness. These sunnah acts, on our part, should essentially lead to us being role models and teachers for others, inshAllah.