Handling Disagreements and Criticism
When someone is on the right path and calling others to guidance, how do people react? Do they readily accept the correct way? No. They criticize and discourage the preaching person. At the end of previous ayaat we learnt that the musrikeen [idolaters] accused the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam of being tutored from somewhere. How should have the Prophet responded to such an accusation? Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala teaches him the proper course of action in the following ayaat backed by Divine wisdom.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says,
Ayah 106 – Follow the Revelation
The word ittabi’ [اتَّبِعْ] means “to follow, obey and act accordingly”. In ayah 106, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala guides the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam to a specific course of action. He tells the Prophet not to worry about the acceptance or non-acceptance of the call. The best response to their accusations and criticisms was to keep following the Wahi [revelation, i.e. the Qur’an] that he received from his Rabb. He should continue preaching with his message of truth that was the belief that no one is worthy of worship but Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. Believing in Allah and remaining steadfast on the way ordained by Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala should free the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam from worrying about the unbelievers and their unfortunate non-acceptance of the call.
Then it was said, “…and turn away…” [وَأَعْرِضْ] meaning forgive them, be forbearing and endure their harm and ignore them. We should remember that this ayah was revealed at the end of Makkan period and the opposition was intense. When a person is in a non-authoritative and helpless position facing intense opposition what can he do, realistically? Be patient and overlook the opposition. Violence won’t help rather it might bring more harm. Therefore, the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam was commanded to turn away from what they were saying until Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala brought relief to him, supported him and made him triumphant over them. Turn away can be explained as: Don’t pay any attention to them; don’t associate yourself with them; don’t do what they are doing; if they are saying blasphemous statements about Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala don’t join them; if they are eating haram don’t eat with them.
Ayah 107 – Had Allah Willed
If Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala had willed He could have forced the mushrikeen to believe in Him. He would have directed all people to guidance, and not even one of them would have committed Shirk. Allah’s is the perfect will and wisdom in all decrees and decisions, and He is never questioned about what He does, while they all will be questioned. Therefore, the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam should not worry about them.
He has not been made a hafeez [حَفِيظ] or a wakeel [وَكِيل] over them. Hafeez means “a watcher who observes their statements and deeds”. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala has neither made him to stand guard over what they do nor has he been authorized to punish them. He should not have any anxiety on their account. Why was this said? It is because if a person keeps watching others and busies himself in that, he won’t be able to do any of his own work. The Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam was given the responsibility of spreading the message of Allah, he could not afford to waste his time or energy being concerned over what other people are doing in their lives.
What does “had Allah willed He would have guided them” mean? Does that mean Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala “chose” for them to be unbelievers? No. Rather it means Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala doesn’t “force” a people to choose a path in life. It’s not the way of Allah. He gives people a free will. They can choose any path that they will. The Question is: Which path will we choose, the path of Allah or the path of misguided people? Everyone will be recompensed for what they chose for themselves.
Ayah 108 – The Prohibition of Insulting Others’ False Gods
The word tasubbu [تَسُبُّواْ] is from seen-ba-ba [Subb] which means “to insult, to call names or to abuse”. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala prohibits His Messenger and the believers from insulting the false deities of the idolaters. Insulting their deities will lead to a bigger evil than its benefit, for the idolaters might retaliate by insulting the God of the believers, Allah, none has the right to be worshipped but He. `Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas radhiAllahu `anhu commented on this Ayah: “They (unbelievers) said, ‘O Muhammad! You will stop insulting our gods, or we will insult your Lord.’” Thereafter, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala prohibited the believers from insulting their idols.
It is worth noticing that in the ayah it was said, “…lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge…” meaning while they would be insulting in retaliation they do not even have the knowledge about the One Who they are abusing. They will utter bad words about Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala out of ignorance but it would be due to the provocation of the Muslims. Therefore, we should refrain from insulting or speaking bad things about others’ false deities. We should simply ignore them.
The Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam said,
مَلْعُونٌ مَنْ سَبَّ وَالِدَيْه
“Cursed is he who insults his own parents!” The Companions asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! And how would a man insult his own parents?” He said,
يَسُبُّ أَبَا الرَّجُلِ فَيَسُبُّ أَبَاهُ وَيَسُبُّ أُمَّهُ فَيَسُبُّ أُمَّه
“He insults a man’s father, and that man insults his father, and insults his mother and that man insults his mother.”
At the end of this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says, “Thus We have made pleasing to every community their deeds,” meaning every deed is made fair seeming to its followers which is why they keep on doing it. The idols were made pleasing for the idolaters which is why idolaters’ love and defense for their idols was intense; which is why they kept on worshipping them and following the rituals that they followed. This has been true for every nation that has lived on this earth. Every nation finds their rituals pleasing no matter how misguided they may be.
All people will return to their Lord for the Final Gathering. Then they will be compensated for their deeds, good for good and evil for evil.
– In Ayah 106, we learn about the obligation of knowing and following the commands of Qur’an.
– In the face of criticism a person should focus on what he intends to do. We should ignore their criticism, opposition and mockery. Being tangled up in arguments with others won’t allow us to do our work either. Everything that is said in this dunya is not worth our attention. We should learn to ignore. This way we will be at peace. We need to learn how to select beneficial information, and not waste our energies on everything that is being said.
– We learn the obligation of turning away from the mushrikeen [idolaters]. Turning away means we should not participate in anything that has to do with their Shirkya practices. Don’t get involved in their practices and rituals.
– In Ayah 107, we learn that a person should convey the message of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. If people accept it, it’s for their own benefit. If they reject it then their matter is with Allah, we are not a hafeez or wakeel over them.
– We also learn that Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala has given us free will, we should not abuse this blessing. We will be questioned about what choices we made in this life. How we utilized our time and skills?
– In Ayah 108, we learn the obligation of leaving all those actions that lead to a greater evil. For example, during the Makkan period the Muslims endured severe hardship had they revolted at that time or answered back to the strong Quraysh a war would have erupted while Muslims were still too weak. Therefore, they let it go and even persevered a three year complete boycott. Similarly, when there is a rift between husband and wife, the wife insists on Khul [annulment] because it’s her right. Yes, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala has given her this right but it has been observed that a divorce brings greater damage. They could reconcile their differences, compromise and live respectfully.
– We learn the obligation of leaving those things that may offend or provoke other people. Any action that provokes another person should be stayed from. Yes, we should convey to the people what’s allowed and not allowed but there should be wisdom in our approach. For example, there is a wife who is unhappy about her domestic responsibilities or has financial concerns. If she starts yelling at her husband the moment he steps in, it might provoke the husband to yell back at her. No solution will be reached rather their differences will widen. On the other hand, if she watches her emotions and is careful about the “right time” to talk, the husband might actually listen to her. Similarly, a mother will be yelling at her children to clean their room and sometimes children answer back their parents with even a higher tone. Therefore, the manner in which we talk to others is really important.
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