Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayah 159
Even though the mistake made by some of the Companions in the Battle of Uhud caused grief to Prophet Muhammad, he did not reproach him. It was a special favor of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that He created Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to be a man of high morals and forgiving. Had he not been so forgiving, people would not have come out of the shame of their mistakes.
In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala addresses the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and instructs him to be more gentle and affectionate in dealing with the people.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala addresses His Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and reminds him and the believers of the favor that He has made his heart and words soft for his Ummah.
“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them,” Hasan Al-Basri said that this, indeed, is the description of the behavior that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam with.
In a world that is selfish and greedy, it is a special favor of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala on a person that he makes their speech and heart soft.
At another place in the Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you.” The severe person is he who utters harsh words and harsh-hearted is someone with a cold, hard heart.
Ibn Katheer writes, had this been the Prophet’s behavior people would have scattered away from him. However, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gathered them and made him kind and soft with them, so that their hearts congregate around him.
‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr said that he read the description of the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in previous Books, “He is not severe, harsh, obscene in the marketplace or dealing evil for evil. Rather, he forgives and pardons.”
From this, we learn the character of a Muslim. A Muslim is not severe, harsh or obscene. Let us compare this with ourselves. How is our conduct in the home or marketplace? How is our speech? What kind of words do we utter? Does it befit a Muslim?
Pardon those Who Have Hurt You and Ask Allah for Their Forgiveness
فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ ۖ
“So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter.”
The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to ask his Companions for advice about various matters, to comfort their hearts, and so they actively implement the decision they reach.
For instance, before the battle of Badr, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked his Companions for if Muslims should intercept the caravan (led by Abu Sufyan). They said, “O Messenger of Allah! If you wish to cross the sea, we would follow you in it, and if you march forth to Barkul-Ghimad we would march with you. We would never say what the Children of Israel said to Musa, ‘So go, you and your Lord, and fight you two, we are sitting right here.’ Rather, we say march forth and we shall march forth with you; and before you, and to your right and left shall we fight.”
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam also asked them for their opinion about where they should set up camp at Badr. Al-Mundhir bin `Amr suggested to camp close to the enemy, for he wished to acquire martyrdom.
Concerning the battle of Uhud, the Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked the Companions if they should fortify themselves in Madinah or go out to meet the enemy, and the majority of them requested that they go out to meet the enemy, and he did.
He also took their advice on the day of Khandaq (the Trench) about conducting a peace treaty with some of the tribes of Al-Ahzab (the Confederates), in return for giving them one-third of the fruits of Madinah. However, Sa’ad bin ‘Ubadah and Sa’ad bin Mu’adh rejected this offer and the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam went ahead with their advice.
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked them if they should attack the idolaters on the Day of Hudaybiyyah, and Abu Bakr radhiAllahu ‘anhu disagreed, saying, “We did not come here to fight anyone. Rather, we came to perform ‘Umrah.” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam agreed.
On the day of Ifk, (i.e. the false accusation), the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to them, “O Muslims! Give me your advice about some men who falsely accused my wife (‘A’ishah). By Allah! I never knew of any evil to come from my wife. And they accused he from whom I only knew righteous conduct, by Allah!” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked ‘Ali and Usamah about divorcing ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha. In summary, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to take his Companions’ advice for battles and other important events.
Ibn Majah recorded that Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
“The one whom advice is sought from is to be entrusted.”
This was recorded by Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, and An-Nasa’i who graded it, Hasan.
After You Have Consulted Allah and the People, Then Be Firm in Your Decision
فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
“And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].”
It means if you conduct the required consultation (istekhara and seeking mashwara – advice of the people) and you make a decision, then trust Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala over your decision, for He loves those who put their trust in Him.
Ayah 160 reminds us that help is from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We can make the best plan and have as many resources as possible but if Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala forsakes us, we will not be successful. Therefore, as believers we need to mend our relationship with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and do not consider ourselves self-sufficient or free of need. We need the help of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and on Him we should rely.
May He enable us to draw and implement lessons from the life of Rasoolullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to follow the Sunnah in every aspect of our lives and be of those who put their trust in Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, ameen.
In this ayah, we learn the beautiful character of Rasoolullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. His Seerah should not be a moment for us to be in awe but we “must” also draw lessons and work on our own character refinement.
Harshness does not make one a strong person. It is gentleness, compassion, willingness to listen to someone and willingness to help people that make someone a strong person.
Remember that people are different. Take time to understand the nature or personality of the person before dealing with them.
We should ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to beautify our speech and character and ask Him for a soft tongue and heart. It means that we speak good words to everyone and we do not carry any rancor for anyone in our heart.
One of the most beautiful traits of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was his ability to forgive people. People caused him physical and verbal harm but he would pardon them. Sometimes, the harm was unintentional such as what the archers did in the Battle of Uhud. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was instructed by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to not only pardon them but to also seek forgiveness for them. This is a lesson that we also learn in the story of Prophet Yusuf ‘alayhi salaam. Near the end of the story, when the family reunites in Egypt, Prophet Yaqoob and Yusuf ‘alayhim salaam seek forgiveness from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala on behalf of the ten brothers. Only a Muhsin [he who does everything at the level of excellence] can do this.
An important thing to learn about forgiveness is to forgive a person in such a way as if whatever wrong they did has been erased from our memories. It means when we meet them we do not remind them, by our body language or speech, of what they did in the past.
We also learn the importance of consultation. When there is a matter to be decided, first seek consultation with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala meaning do istekhara and then discuss the matter with someone you trust and know that s/he would not intend to harm you. Do this even if in the past this person’s advice did not give the desired results. It teaches us to give people a second chance.
We learn that after taking the necessary precautions (such as consultation), we should be confident about our decision.
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