Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayaat 110 – 112 [Part 1]
In previous ayaat, Muslims were asked to enjoin good and forbid evil in order to remain steadfast in their faith. In the present ayaat, this has been further emphasized with the addition that these were the reasons why Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala called the Ummah of Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “Khayr al-Umam,” meaning the best of communities, dignified and elevated.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala states that the Ummah of Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is the best nation ever.
Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu commented on this ayah, “(You, Muslims, are) the best nation of people for the people, you bring them tied in chains on their necks (capture them in war) and they later embrace Islam.”
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ
“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind.”
It means the best people for the people. It means that the Ummah of Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is the most righteous and beneficial nation for mankind. Hence Allah’s description of them,
تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ ۗ
“You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.”
Why the Best of Communities?
We find different reasons for this at various places in the Qur’an, for example, in Surah al-Baqarah we read,
وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا
“And thus we have made you a just community…” (2:143)
Muslims have been termed the best nation because of their choosing the middle way or because of their moderation. This characteristic is visible in all the aspects of a Muslim’s life.
In the ayah under study, another reason that has been pointed out is that you have been created for spreading good or for being beneficial to other people. We are not to live selfish lives, aloof having concern for other people. Rather, we are to wish well for everyone and be in their service. When we are sitting down to eat, we have to make sure that our neighbor does not go to bed hungry. Whether we have a lot or little, we are encouraged to show compassion and spend on others’ needs as well. Similarly, we have to be concerned about others’ spiritual and moral reformation. When we see someone doing wrong, we are not to turn our face away but to step ahead and stop the person from doing the wrong.
We have the power to stop it by our limbs then we must stop it. If we cannot stop it by our hands then we must speak up and stop it and the least and the weakest form of enjoining good and forbidding evil is considering it wrong in our heart.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani writes: The second distinguishing feature of this community is that they “believe in Allah.” Hence, we learn it is emaan that raises one ranks in the Sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and al-Hakim recorded that Hakim ibn Mu’awiyah ibn Haydah narrated that his father said that the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
أَنْتُمْ تُوَفُّون سَبْعِينَ أُمَّةً، أَنْتُمْ خَيْرُهَا، وَأَنْتُمْ أَكْرَمُ عَلَى اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَل
“You are the final of seventy nations, you are the best and most honored among them to Allah.”
This is a well-known hadeeth about which at-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan,” and which is also narrated from Mu’adh ibn Jabal and Abu Sa’eed radhiAllahu ‘anhum. The Ummah of Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam achieved this virtue because of its Prophet, the most regarded of Allah’s creation and the most honored Messenger with Allah, salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam with the perfect and complete Law that was never given to any other prophet or messenger before him. In Prophet Muhammad’s Law, few deeds take the place of the many deeds that other nations performed. For instance, Imam Ahmad recorded that ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
أُعْطِيتُ مَا لَمْ يُعْطَ أَحَدٌ مِنَ الْأَنْبِيَاء
‘I was given what no other prophet before me was given.’
We said, ‘O Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam! What is it?’ He said,
نُصِرْتُ بِالرُّعْبِ، وَأُعْطِيتُ مَفَاتِيحَ الْأَرْضِ، وَسُمِّيتُ أَحْمَدَ، وَجُعِلَ التُّرَابُ لِي طَهُورًا، وَجُعِلَتْ أُمَّتِي خَيْرَ الْأُمَم
‘I was given victory by fear, I was given the keys of the earth, I was called Ahmad, the earth was made a clean place for me (to pray and perform Tayammum with it) and my Ummah was made the best Ummah.’”
The chain of narration for this hadeeth is Hasan. There are several ahadeeth that we should mention here.
The Two Saheehs recorded that Az-Zuhri said that, Sa’eed ibn Al-Musayyib said that Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrated to him, “I heard the Messenger of Allah saying,
‘A group of 70,000 from my Ummah will enter Paradise, while their faces are radiating like the moon when it is full.’ ‘Ukkashah ibn Mihsan Al-Asadi stood up, saying, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Supplicate to Allah that I am one of them.’ The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, ‘O Allah! Make him one of them.’ A man from the Ansaar also stood and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Supplicate to Allah that I am one of them.’ The Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, ‘‘Ukkashah has beaten you to it.’”
Imam Ahmad recorded that Jabir said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam saying,
إِنِّي لَأَرْجُو أَنْ يَكُونَ مَنْ يَتَّبِعُنِي مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ رُبُعَ الْجَنَّــة
‘I hope that those who follow me will be one-fourth of the residents of Paradise on the Day of Resurrection.’
We said, `Allahu Akbar’. He then said,
أَرْجُو أَنْ يَكُونُوا ثُلُثَ النَّاس
‘I hope that they will be one-third of the people.’
We said, `Allahu Akbar’. He then said,
أَرْجُو أَنْ تَكُونُوا الشَّطْر
‘I hope that you will be one-half.’”
Imam Ahmad recorded the same hadeeth with another chain of narration, and this hadeeth meets the criteria of Muslim in his Saheeh.
Imam Ahmad recorded that Buraydah said that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
أَهْلُ الْجَنَّةِ عِشْرُونَ وَمِائَةُ صَفَ، هذِهِ الْأُمَّةُ مِنْ ذلِكَ ثَمَانُونَ صَفًّا
“The people of Paradise are one hundred and twenty rows, this Ummah takes up eighty of them.”
We ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to include us among the people of Paradise, ameen.
Muslim recorded Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu saying that the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
نَحْنُ الْآخِرُونَ الْأَوَّلُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ، نَحْنُ أَوَّلُ مَنْ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّــة
“We (Muslims) are the last (to come), but (will be) the foremost on the Day of Resurrection, and will be the first people to enter Paradise…”
These and other ahadeeth conform to the meaning of the ayah,
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ
“You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’roof (all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah).”
Therefore, whoever among this Ummah acquires these qualities, will have a share in this praise.
Qatadah said, “We were told that ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab recited this ayah (3:110) during a Hajj that he performed when he saw that the people were rushing. He then said, ‘Whoever likes to be among this (praised) Ummah, let him fulfill the condition that Allah set in this ayah.’” Ibn Jarir recorded this.
Those from this Ummah who do not acquire these qualities will be just like the People of the Scriptures whom Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala criticized when He said,
كَانُواْ لاَ يَتَنَـهَوْنَ عَن مُّنكَرٍ فَعَلُوهُ
“They used not to prevent one another from wrongdoing that they did…” [al-Ma’idah 5:79]
This is the reason why, after Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala praised the Muslim Ummah with the qualities that He mentioned, He criticized the People of the Scriptures and chastised them, saying, “If only the People of the Scripture had believed,” in what was sent down to Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “it would have been better for them.”
Only a few of them believe in Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and in what was sent down to you and to them. The majority of them follow deviation, disbelief, sin, and rebellion.