Belief In The Prophets: Obeying The Prophets
An obvious outcome of professing faith in a prophet is that he should be obeyed at the behest of God. The Almighty has made it very clear in His Book that a prophet is not merely to be revered, he is to be obeyed also. He is not sent that people merely regard him to be a prophet and then leave him aside; he is not merely one who counsels and preaches; he is a guide who must be obeyed. The very objective of his coming is that whatever guidance he provides in all affairs of life must be followed without any hesitation. The Almighty says:
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلاَّ لِيُطَاعَ بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ (٦٤:٤)
And whichever Messenger We sent forth, was sent so that he be obeyed by God’s authority. (4:64)
The reason for this is that God does not directly interact with His servants. He gives guidance through prophets and messengers. No doubt, the real objective is to obey God. However, the means through which He can be obeyed is by obeying his prophets. In verses such as مَنْ يُطِعِ الرَّسُوْل فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللهَ (٤: ٨٠) (He who obeys the Prophet, in fact obeyed God, (4:80)) and others of similar meaning, the Almighty has alluded to this reality. He has also stated the ultimate limit to which a prophet needs to be obeyed: people must wholeheartedly and without any hesitation accept his decision in disputes which arise among them:
فَلاَ وَرَبِّكَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىَ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لاَ يَجِدُواْ فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِّمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيمًا (٦٥:٤)
I swear by your Lord that they cannot be believers until they accept your decision in their disputes and whatever you decide they submit to without any unwillingness of their hearts. (4:65)
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
… the Almighty has sworn by Himself and said that these people cannot be regarded as believers until they accept Prophet Muhammad (sws) as their arbitrator in all disputes which arise among them and at the same time there comes a mental change in them that they accept his verdict without any hesitation whatsoever and with full willingness of the heart and without any reservation, consign themselves to him. Obeying the prophet is tantamount to obeying God; hence the obligation imposed on them is not merely to follow him outwardly but from the depths of their hearts too.
Thus obeying the Prophet (sws) is not merely a ritual. The Quran requires from a believer to obey him with the spirit of following him and with full sincerity and full reverence and devotion. If a person wants to achieve God’s love, he has to obey and follow the Prophet (sws):
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَاللّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ (٣١:٣)
Tell them: “If you love God, follow me; God will love you and forgive your sins and [you know this well that] God is Most-Forgiving and Ever-Merciful.” (3:31)
The Prophet (sws) has explained this reality in various ways. In one narrative, he is reported to have said: “The faith in a person does not stand validated unless he prefers me to his father, sons and all others.”
The etiquette taught to the Bedouin tribes that had come from the nearby areas of Madinah regarding their interaction with the Prophet Muhammad (sws) also clearly highlights this status of a prophet:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُقَدِّمُوا بَيْنَ يَدَيِ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَرْفَعُوا أَصْوَاتَكُمْ فَوْقَ صَوْتِ النَّبِيِّ وَلَا تَجْهَرُوا لَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ كَجَهْرِ بَعْضِكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ أَن تَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالُكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَشْعُرُونَ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَغُضُّونَ أَصْوَاتَهُمْ عِندَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ امْتَحَنَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ لِلتَّقْوَى لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ (٤٩: ١-٣)
Believers! Do not give preference to your opinion before God and His Prophet. Have fear of God. Indeed, God hears and knows all. Believers! Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet nor address him in a loud voice as you do to one another, lest your deeds should come to nothing and you are not even aware of this. [Remember] those who speak gently in the presence of God’s prophet are the very people whose hearts God has chosen for nurturing piety. For them are forgiveness and a great reward. (49:1-3)
Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
These verses instruct the Muslims about the etiquette which must necessarily be observed by them before the Prophet (sws). They say that those who keep their voices subdued in the presence of the Prophet (sws) are the ones whom the Almighty has chosen for nurturing piety in their hearts. The word امْتَحَنَ (to test) here actually encompasses the meaning of the word اصْطَفَى (to select) or of some similar word. It is evident from this that not every heart is appropriate before God for cultivating and fostering the seed of piety; He, in fact, selects hearts for this purpose by putting them through a trial and the real basis of His selection in this trial is whether a person has sincere emotions of obedience and true humility towards the Prophet (sws). The more a person has these things, the more is he blessed with piety and the more a person is devoid of them the farther away is he from piety. The mention of raising one’s voice, as we have referred to before, is as an indicator of one’s inner-self. A person who tries to raise his voice over that of some other person actually counts himself superior to him. This attitude closes the doors to access the knowledge and wisdom of others. If a student adopts this attitude before his teacher, then he will deprive himself from what he can learn from him. Similarly, if someone adopts this attitude with the Messenger of God, He will not only deprive himself from the prophetic guidance but also from the God-granted urge to do so because a Messenger is a representative of God.
(Javed Ahmed Ghamidi)
(Translated by Dr. Shehzad Saleem)
.Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Quran, 2nd ed., (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986) vol. 2, 329.
.Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 6, (no.15); Muslim, Al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 41, (nos.168, 169).
.Amin Ahsan Islahi,Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 7, 489.
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