Now that we have gone through an explanation of the ayah, including the background of its revelation and related clarifications, the only thing that remains to be determined is the nature of the four ranks of people blessed by Allah. We have to find out as to what is the basis on which these ranks have been established, how they are inter-connected and how are they different from each other, and whether or not can these converge into one person.
Commentators have written in great details about this subject. Some say that all these four ranks can be found in one person. According to them, all these attributes are overlapping because the one identified as ‘prophet’ in the Qur’an has also been called by the title of ‘siddiq’. For example, it has been said about Ibraheem aalyhi sallam, “Indeed, he was a man of truth, a prophet” [19:41] and about Yahya aalyhi sallam, “and a prophet from among the righteous” [3:39]; and similarly, about Essa aalyhi sallam, “and he shall speak to the people in the cradle” as well as in the middle age, and shall be one of the righteous” [3:46]
The outcome is that, though these four attributes and ranks are distinct in terms of meaning and sense, yet it is possible to find all these combined in one person. Let us take an example to illustrate the proposition. Religious scholars are identified by their attributions, such as Mufassir, a Muhaddith, a Faqih, a Muwarrikh. But, there could be some scholars who may combine in their person the excellence of all these fields. In our own time, when the trend is towards inter-disciplinary education and training, it is not so difficult to conceive the convergence of the attributes of a doctor, an engineer and a pilot, all in one person.
However, in accordance with commonly recognized practice, a person gets to be identified with an attribute which comes to take a dominating position in his life-work because of which such a person is usually associated with that particular field. It is for this reason that commentators generally take ‘Siddiqeen’ to mean the most illustrious Companions of the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam and ‘Shuhada’ to mean the martyrs of the battle of Uhud and ‘Saliheen’ as signifying the general run of righteous Muslims.
Imam Ragheeb al-Isfahani has determined that all these four ranks are different. The same things find mention in Tafseer al-Bahr al-Muhit, Ruh al-Ma’ani and Mazhari. The sense of this approach is that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has, in this ayah classified true Muslims in four categories or ranks and for each He has appointed stations of precedence, and common Muslims have been induced to see that they do not lag far behind in their efforts to achieve the rankings of any of these ideal ones. Waging the best of their intellectual and practical struggle, they must do the best they can to reach such stations of excellence. However, the station of Prophethood is something which can never be acquired by effort and struggle, but there is something one still gets to have and that is the company of the prophets. Imam Ragheeb says that the highest among these ranks is that of the prophets, may peace be upon them. They enjoy the support of the Divine power. They are like someone who is seeing something from a close range. Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has said about such people, “Do you argue with him over what he sees?” [53:12]
The Definition of the Siddiqeen
The second rank is that of the Siddiqeen. These are people close to the blessed prophets in the quality of spiritual excellence. They are like someone seeing something from a distance. Somebody asked Ali radhiAllahu anhu, “Have you seen Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala?” He said, “I cannot worship something I have not seen.” Then, he further said:
“Though people have not seen Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala with their eyes, but their hearts have seen Him through the realities of faith.”
By his act of ‘seeing’, Ali meant the kind of sighting he has referred to later, for such intellectual or intuitive perception is like seeing.
The Definition of the Shuhada
The third rank is that of the Shuhada. These are people who recognize their ultimate objective through the chain of reasons and proofs. They have no access to direct vision, that is, mushahada is what they miss. They are like someone seeing something in a mirror from a close range – very similar to what Harithah radhiAllahu anhu said, “I feel I am seeing the Throne of my most sublime Lord.”
The expression, “That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him” in the famous hadith may also be interpreted to mean this very kind of ‘seeing’.
The Definition of the Saliheen
The third rank is that of the Saliheen. These are people who recognize their ultimate objective through following the precepts of Shariah. It is like someone sees something in a mirror from a distance. In the other part of the famous hadith quoted above:
“And if you cannot see Him, then, He sees you anyway”
the reference may be to this very level of ‘seeing’. In short, this investigative approach taken by Imam Ragheeb al-Isfahani shows that all these ranks are ranks that reflect the quantum of knowledge one has of His Lord, and that the different gradations that are there are based on the respective rankings of this knowledge. As for the subject of the ayah, it is clear enough. Here, all Muslims have been given the glad tidings that those who are totally obedient to Allah and His Messenger shall be with those who hold higher ranks in Paradise. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala bless us all with this life. Aameen.