MAGNANIMITY AND FORGIVENESS
The most important lesson from the life of Rasoolullah(SAW) is forgiveness and magnanimity. His conduct when he entered Makkah as its conqueror is an example for all humanity for all time, of personal humility, a big heart and mercy. The Quraysh who had tormented him and driven him from his home; who were directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of those he loved the most, his uncles, wife, daughter; who had caused him immense physical and emotional pain were finally at his mercy.
So what did he do? He forgave them all. He announced a general amnesty and that there would be no revenge taking; an age-old custom among the Arab tribes who looted and killed the men and took the women and children as slaves. This was what people expected to see in Makkah also.
People were shocked, astounded. They could not believe their eyes and ears. They hid in their homes at first, fully expecting the victorious Muslim soldiers to break into their homes to loot and rampage as victorious forces are wont to do. But nothing happened. Eventually, Hinda, the wife of Abu Sufyan; a woman who was a bitter enemy of Rasoolullah(SAW) and who was responsible for the mutilation of the body of the uncle of Rasoolullah(SAW), Hamza bin Abdul Mutallib(RA) in the battle of Uhud after he had been killed by Wahshi(RA), an incident that caused untold suffering to Rasoolullah(SAW); left her home to see what was happening. And what did she see? She saw Rasoolullah(SAW) and his companions praying in the Haram and asking for Allah(SWT)’s mercy and thanking Him for His help.
It is true that as a victor Rasoolullah(SAW) could have taken revenge. But that would have opened new wounds which would have set off a new series of conflicts all resulting in delay or defeat of his real mission, the spreading of his Message. By forgiving those who had wronged him, he sent a powerful message that the mission was above all personal considerations and put those who had wronged him in his debt. Instead of fighting him or hating him they were now grateful to him and wanted to please him. At one stroke, he laid to rest all future potential conflicts among his followers without which his mission would have failed. The leader must be prepared to sacrifice his personal benefits for the sake of the goal and must be prepared to set a personal example in this respect. It is only when the followers see the behavior of the leader that they will follow suit. The result will be the success of the mission. Forgiveness is the foundation of this success.
The cause is greater than personal emotions
Perhaps the best and most poignant incident that illustrates Rasoolullah(SAW)’s commitment to the cause and his willingness to sacrifice his personal emotions for its sake was his treatment of the man who killed Sayyidina Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib(RA), his beloved uncle and great supporter.
Out of the 70 Shuhada at Uhud, Al Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib(RA) was given the title of Sayyidus Shuhada. Two of the Taabi’een went to visit Al Wahshi(RA) who was old at the time and asked him to tell them the story of how he killed Hamza(RA). Wahshi said, ‘Shall I tell it to you just as I did to the Messenger of Allah(SWT) when he asked me about it? I was a slave of Jubair bin Mut’aim whose uncle was Tuaima bin Udaibi who was killed in Badr. When the Quraysh went forth to Uhud, Jubair told me, ‘If you kill Hamza, Muhammad(SAW)’s uncle in retaliation for my uncle, then you will be a free man.’ I am Abyssinian and like my countrymen I am good at throwing the spear and I rarely miss with it. When the armies met in battle I went forth looking for Hamza to lie in wait for him. I found him right in the midst of the fray like an enormous camel striking out viciously at our men with his sword. Nothing could withstand him. I made use of bushes and rocks to get close to him but Sibaa bin Abdul Uzza got to him before me. Hamza called out to him, ‘Come over here you son of a woman who does circumcisions.’ He then struck a blow so fast that it seemed to miss his head. But his head flew off and so I knew that he had not missed. I aimed my spear carefully and when sure of it threw my spear which hit him below the navel and emerged between his legs. He tried to move towards me but was overcome. I left him with the spear until he died. Then I went and retrieved my spear and went back to my camp. I had no business with anyone there except Hamza who I killed only to gain my freedom.’
Rasoolullah(SAW) heard of the death of his uncle and he was devastated by it. It was one of the saddest moments in the life of Rasoolullah(SAW). He went to see the body of his uncle. When he saw him, his stomach had been opened and his insides were pulled out. The man who took him there said, ‘This is not how I found him. He has been mutilated.’ This was because Hind bint Utbah the wife of Abu Sufyan had sworn to eat his liver and she ordered that his liver be pulled out. This appearance and violence to him after his death only added to the grief of Rasoolullah(SAW) and he wept profusely.
Wahshi then said, ‘I went back to Makkah and stayed there until Rasoolullah(SAW) opened Makkah. Then I fled to Ta’aif and stayed there until the delegation left to go to Rasoolullah(SAW) to accept Islam. Now I didn’t know where to go. I told people that I would go to Syria or Yemen or some other country. Then someone said to me, ‘He will not kill anyone who testifies to his religion. He will forgive you.’ So I went to Madina and surprised him and testified to the truth of Islam before him. Then he asked me, ‘Are you Wahshi?’ I said, ‘Yes Ya Rasoolullah(SAW).’ He said, ‘Sit down and tell me how you killed my uncle Hamza.’ So I related this story as I related to you. When I finished he said, ‘Wahshi please remove your face from me. Now go and fight in the path of Allah(SWT) as you fought against Allah(SWT).’ ‘So I used to avoid Rasoolullah(SAW) wherever he may be so that he would not see me and then Allah(SWT) took him to Himself.’
Wahshi(RA) then joined the army that went to fight Musailima Al Kazzab (Musailima the Liar), the imposter who had declared Prophethood during the life of Rasoolullah(SAW). Rasoolullah(SAW) met Musailima and advised him against this but he refused to accept the advice and raised an army to attack Madina. Rasoolullah(SAW) sent an army against him which was victorious and Musailima Al Kazzab was killed. Wahshi(RA) described his role in this battle and said, ‘I took my spear with which I had killed Hamza(RA) and I saw Musailima standing with his sword. I aimed my spear at him and when I was sure of my aim, I threw it. At the same time another Muslim attacked him from the other side with his sword. My spear struck him first then the other Muslim struck him.’ That man was Abu Dujaana(RA) who had been given the sword of Rasoolullah(SAW). Wahshi(RA) said, ‘If it was I who killed him, then with this spear I killed the best of men and the worst of men.’
Another story which illustrates this amazing ability of Rasoolullah(SAW) to put aside his personal preferences, likes and dislikes in the interest of his cause is the story of how Khalid bin Waleed(RA) came to Islam.
Khalid bin Waleed(RA) said, ‘I attended so many battles against Muhammad(SAW) and at the end of every battle I felt that I had wasted my time and that in the end Muhammad(SAW) would prevail.’ ‘One day before Hudaybiya, I was leading 200 men (kuffar) and saw Muhammad(SAW) face to face and he was leading his people in Salah (praying Dhuhr) and it was a great opportunity for me to attack them in Salah and finish them. But something held me back and I did not attack them. I decided to attack them in the next Salah but by then they were praying differently and I knew that he was being protected.’ The Ayaat for Salat-ul-Khawf had been revealed and the Sahaba were now praying in a way that they could not be attacked. Khalid bin Waleed(RA) was an intelligent man and read the signs.
When Rasoolullah(SAW) came to Makkah to do Umrah-tul- Qadha’a in the year after the Treaty of Hudaybiyya to make up for the Umrah which he couldn’t do in the year of Hydaibiyya, Waleed bin Waleed(RA) the younger brother of Khalid who was a Muslim and accompanied Rasoolullah(SAW) went to visit his brother. Khalid was not there as he had vacated Makkah along with the other Kuffar and so Waleed(RA) left a letter for him. It said,
‘Bismillah hir Rahman nir Raheem. I know of nothing more strange than your antipathy towards Islam. Being as intelligent as you are, can anyone disregard something like Islam? Rasoolullah(SAW) asked me about you and asked me ‘Where is Khalid?’ I told him, ‘Allah(SWT) will bring him to Islam.’ Then he said, ‘Could someone like him disregard Islam? If he were to put his bravery and energy to work for Islam it would be better for him. We would certainly give him precedence over others.’ Take note brother of what good things you are missing.’
Khalid(RA) said, ‘When Rasoolullah(SAW) asked about me, it moved me a lot and made me go to him.’ To be able to completelyconcern for others is to worry about their A’akhira. This is the essence of Dawah.
Khalid(RA) had a dream where he saw himself in a constricted place and he was walking out of there into a vast and very beautiful place. Later after Islam he asked Abu Bakr(RA) for its interpretation and he told him that it meant that he was going to leave shirk and enter Islam.
Khalid bin Waleed(RA) went to meet some of his friends to ask for their advice about becoming Muslim. He went to Safwan bin Umayya and told him what was on his mind. Safwan told him, ‘If no one but me remains I will not accept Islam.’ Then he went to Ikrimah bin Abi Jahal and said, ‘Our situation with Muhammad(SAW) is like a fox in a hole. If you throw a bucket of water in the hole it will come out running.’ Ikrimah refused to accept Islam so Khalid told him not to tell anyone else about him. Then he went to Othman bin Talha(RA) who had lost 7 family members in Uhud. At first he was hesitant to speak to him as he felt that Othman would certainly be opposed to Islam but then he decided to talk to him anyway as his own mind was made up. Othman, to his great surprise agreed to go with him immediately. Shows how we must not have preconceived notions about people with respect to Da’awa. Allah(SWT) guides who He wills. When Khalid(RA), Amr(RA) and Othman(RA) reached the outskirts of Madina and put on their best clothes to meet Rasoolullah(SAW). After they accepted Islam Rasoolullah(SAW) said, ‘Alhamdulillah who guided you to Islam. I saw that you were intelligent and I hoped that your intelligence would only guide you to the good.’
Rasoolullah(SAW) recognized the abilities of people and gave them positions in relation to those abilities. That is why he gave Khalid bin Waleed(RA) and Amr ibn Al A’as(RA) positions of authority over others. Rasoolullah(SAW) made Khalid bin Waleed(RA) Commander in Chief of the army over the heads of Sahaba who were his seniors and gave him the title of Saifullah (Sword of Allah(SWT)). Khalid(RA) proved his mettle and justified the decision of Rasoolullah(SAW). Many years later when Khalid bin Waleed(RA) was dying a friend came to visit him. Khalid(RA) appeared very distressed and said to his friend, ‘There is not a place on my body from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet which doesn’t bear the mark of a wound from an arrow, spear or sword, taken in the path of Allah(SWT). Yet I am dying here like a camel in my bed instead of falling in the field of battle as a martyr.’
His friend comforted him and said, ‘Don’t distress yourself. Allah(SWT) will reward you for your effort. But your fate was sealed when Rasoolullah(SAW) gave you the title of Saifullah. How can the Sword of Allah(SWT) fall in battle?’
It is clear from this that the cause must supercede the personal likes and dislikes of the leader. Despite his own personal emotions and immense grief at the death of his beloved uncle and anger at his killer, Rasoolullah(SAW) wanted Wahshi(RA) to be on the right path and forgave him and accepted his Islam. Therefore it is essential for the leader not to allow his own likes/dislike to harm the Deen or the common benefit of humanity. Even when we have strong feelings about someone or something, these should not bind us to the past to the extent that we forget to see the greater good. It is almost as if these tests come to open doors. When we pass the test, then the doors to the hearts of people open and people admire the leader for his ability to put his own interest aside for the benefit of the cause. The test comes to ask, ‘How much do you truly want your cause to triumph?’ Our actions have to answer.
This is easier said than done and is perhaps one of the strongest and clearest indicators of the commitment of the leader to his cause. To be able to be completely committed to the cause, yet keep the boundary between personal and the cause is the balance that the leader must create. It is the emotional commitment of the leader which overshadows every other difficulty and enables him to continue to work for the cause in the face of every discouragement and setback. However these very emotions must sometimes be sacrificed so that the interest of the cause can be furthered. That is a very great sacrifice and perhaps it is for this reason that Rasoolullah(SAW) is reported to have said once, ‘Every prophet is tortured and troubled by his people and I have been tortured the most.’ However he proved true to his covenant and worthy of the Divine message that he was charged with and his patience eventually won even his worst enemies over to his cause.