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Chapter 25, Verses 63 – 76: The Characteristics of a Believer (part 1 of 2)

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Description: A brief look and discussion of the traits that define a true believer.  In these verses God describes these characteristics and sets them out clearly, allowing us to emulate the behaviour He describes.

  • By Aisha Stacey (© 2015 IslamReligion.com)
  • Published on 11 May 2015
  • Last modified on 01 Aug 2016
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"And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace.  And those who spend [part of] the night to their Lord prostrating and standing [in prayer].  And those who say, "Our Lord, avert from us the punishment of Hell, for it is a dreadful torment to suffer! Indeed, it is evil as an abode and as a place to dwell." And [they are] those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor miserly, but keep a just balance.  And those who do not invoke with God another deity, nor kill such life as God has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse.  And whoever does this shall receive the punishment.  Multiplied for him is the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein humiliated – except for those who repent, believe and do righteous deeds.  For them God will change their sins into good deeds.  And God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.  And he who repents and does righteousness does indeed turn to God with [accepted] repentance.  And [they are] those who do not testify to falsehood, and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity.  And those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind.  And those who say, "Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us a leader (an example) for the righteous." Those will be rewarded with the highest place (in Paradise) because of what they patiently endured, and they will be received therein with greetings and [words of] peace.  Abiding eternally therein; excellent it is as an abode, and as a place to dwell." (Quran 25:63-76)

Chapter-25,-Verses-63-–-76,-Part-1.jpgThese thirteen essential verses from the Quran can be found towards the end of Chapter 25.  This chapter is called, in Arabic, Al-Furqan and has most commonly been translated as the Criterion.  It is named for the first verse which reads, "Blessed is the One who has revealed Al-Furqan (the criterion to distinguish right from wrong)..."  In more modern translations it has become The Standard, or the Differentiator, all however with the same basic meaning of how to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong.  The Quran is this standard or criterion, and it is in the pages of the Quran that God reveals the right way to achieve a good ending and compares it to the wrong way that leads only to the abode in Hell.  In the verses under discussion God reveals the qualities of a true believer.

This chapter was revealed in Mecca and in its entirety denounces polytheism and deals with and answers all the doubts and objections held by the disbelievers.  Their queries about the Quran, the prophethood of Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, and the Day of Judgment are answered with a stern warning.  The disbelievers are warned to choose carefully because right has been clearly differentiated from wrong.  Finally, God paints a clear picture of the quality of the believer.  These are the verses that we are concerned with in this article.

These are the people who have struggled with their desires and have developed the qualities beloved by God.  He in turn has raised their status and purified their hearts.  A righteous servant of God, a believer, walks this earth with humility.  They walk upon the earth easily.  To use a modern metaphor, their footprints do little or no damage to this world.  Humility is one of the characteristics of a believer.  If a person walks and behaves with humility and dignity it is a striking contrast to one who is proud and haughty.  And when the humble believer is addressed by the ignorant and haughty ones we are told to walk away and say nothing but words of peace.

When our righteous ancestor Luqman, known as the wise was advising his son he counselled him to be humble and steer clear of arrogance and conceit.   He said, "Do not turn your nose up at people, nor walk about the place arrogantly, for God does not love arrogant or boastful people." (Quran 31:18)  In addition to this the believers do not engage in argumentative behaviour, especially with the ignorant[1]  or foolish.  Prophet Muhammad said that the most despicable person in the eyes of God is one who is harshly argumentative.[2]  Thus if a believer comes across a person determined to start an argument he should extricate himself from the situation and walk away.  Arguing with someone who is loud and opinionated is a futile exercise. 

The believer spends part of the night prostrating, praying, and remembering God.  This characteristic is referred to in several places throughout the Quran and is even linked once again with lack of pride.  "… (those) who, when they are reminded of them, prostrate themselves in adoration and celebrate the praises of their Lord and are not puffed up with pride.  Who forsake their beds and invoke their Lord with fear and hope…" (Quran 32:15-16) Their worship has not made them proud and they do not presume that they are God’s beloved ones because of their devotion but out of hope and fear they spend part of the night worshipping God.  This humble devotion is one of the characteristics of a true believer.

These people are also the ones who ask God to save them from the punishment of the Hellfire.  They are aware that it is a place of suffering and despair, therefore they work hard to acquire good deeds with which to tip the balance of their scales on the Day of Judgment.   However they do not rely solely on this because they are aware that it is God’s mercy that will ultimately admit them to eternal Paradise.   Thus the believers arm themselves with supplications to God specifically asking for any punishment in the Hellfire to be averted from them. 

When it comes to spending money or using their wealth the believer walks a moderate path between the two extremes of being stingy or on the other hand, being excessive.  They do not live wretchedly but neither do they live extravagantly.  Wasting wealth is one of the things Prophet Muhammad told us that God disliked.[3]  He also advised us to keep pride and arrogance out of our daily lives and extravagant spending when he said, "When you eat, drink, give charity and wear clothes, let no extravagance or pride be mixed up with what you do".[4]  Thus the quality of humility is stressed, in our way of dealing with people, in our worship and in the way we spend our money.

God combines three of the most heinous sins and stresses that a believer does not commit any of them.  The true believer worships only God; one God, with no partners.  He does not kill, except for a just cause and he does not have unlawful sexual intercourse.  If he does the penalty will be severe.  However there is a way back, a way to be forgiven and that is to repent sincerely to God.  Repentance of course may not save people from earthly punishments for the crimes they have committed but it will save a believer from the eternal fires of Hell. 



Footnotes:

[1] Here the word ignorant refers to those who are rude and insolent, not those who are uneducated or illiterate.

[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim

[3] Saheeh Muslim

[4] Ibn Majah, An Nasai

 

 

Chapter 25, Verses 63 – 76: The Characteristics of a Believer (part 2 of 2)

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Description: A continuation of the list of traits belonging to a believerGod describes these characteristics in order that we may know them and develop them.

  • By Aisha Stacey (© 2015 IslamReligion.com)
  • Published on 18 May 2015
  • Last modified on 01 Aug 2016
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Chapter-25,-Verses-63-–-76,-Part-2.jpgWhen the news of salvation via repentance was revealed it was considered a great blessing by the new Muslims.  Very few had been free from sin and vice during their time before the revelation of Islam and this general amnesty filled them with hope.  God is merciful and compassionate and does not rebuke a person for past errors.  Many instances of people who reformed their lives by repenting to God are reported in the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him. 

An old man came to Prophet Muhammad and said, "All my life has passed in sin, there is no sin which I have not committed; so much so that if my sins were to be distributed over the people of the whole world, they would all be doomed.  Is there any way out?" The Prophet asked him, "Have you embraced Islam?" He said, "I bear witness that there is no true deity except God, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God".  The Prophet then said, "Go back, God is All-Forgiving and has the power to change your evil deeds into good deeds."[1]  The one who embraces Islam has the slate wiped clean and believers who repent have the chance to begin afresh. 

Good deeds can obliterate bad deeds and repentance gives the sinner another chance.  To emphasize this God said, "except for those who repent, believe and do righteous deeds.  For them God will change their sins into good deeds." (Quran 25:70) and Prophet Muhammad reinforced the meaning behind those words when he said, "God extends His hand at night to forgive those who sinned during that day, and He extends His hand during the day to forgive those who sinned during the night.  This will continue to be the case until the Sun rises from the west." Seeking repentance therefore, is another characteristic of the true believer.   God is All-forgiving and thus the one who sincerely repents will find that he is forgiven. 

Believers do not testify to falsehood.  They do not lie, they do not give false evidence and they do not conceal the truth.  Islam calls all these things sinful.  Prophet Muhammad likened false testimony to ascribing partners with God[2]  and the Quran further tells us to, "…shun the abomination of idols and shun all false statements." (Quran 22:30) In addition to this, in the Book of Zechariah, included in both the Torah and the Christian Bible, we find the words, "These are the things you are to do, speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts…"[3]

The same people who do not give false testimony avoid ill speech and stay away from frivolity.  If they happen to come across sinful, useless vain behaviour they pass by with dignity.   They do not stay to engage in the behaviour, or argue about it; they walk away.  God expects believers to distract themselves from the evils associated with vain frivolous behaviour and one way to do this is to remember the greatness of God and to contemplate Hhis signs in the world around us.  When believers are reminded of God that reminder does not fall upon deaf ears, they are grateful and turn towards God eagerly.  They do not deliberately close their eyes to the signs of God instead they are deeply moved by them. 

Believers ask God to grant them righteous offspring who will worship God alone and not associate any partners with Him.  They supplicate for wives and children that will be a comfort to them.  They ask God to assure that their families follow a path of righteousness.  In addition to this the believer aspires to reach a level of righteousness that others will wish to emulate.  It is worth remembering that at the time of revelation many of the families of the first Muslims had not yet embraced Islam.  Prayers and supplications concerned with the afterlife of their families were upmost in the minds of the companions of Prophet Muhammad. 

Life, in many ways is much the same today.  Often a person embraces Islam and begins to fret about the eternal outcome of their loved ones.  Here we can see that a sign of a true believer is their deep concern that their loved ones too worship God alone.  A believer hopes to be the one who inspires others to follow the right path, especially their families and loved ones.

The believers, the ones that have been described in these articles and the ones who strive to be like those described, will be rewarded.  They will be granted their place in Paradise because of their patience and steadfastness.   Many translations of the Quran, especially the more archaic ones call the reward a "lofty palace", a description that calls to mind grandeur.   Some scholars say that it the highest place in Paradise, the one reserved for the most pious and righteous believers.  Certainly the believers are rewarded magnificently with a safe, happy and eternal dwelling place and are greeted with words of peace.

Paradise is a place of eternal security and satisfaction.  All sense of injury and pain are removed and God tells us in more than one place in the Quran that the dwellers of Paradise, the true believers, will be greeted by angels.  They will say, "…Peace be upon you.  You have done well, so enter here to abide therein." (Quran 39:73) They will also say, "…This is Paradise, which you have inherited because of your good deeds."(Quran 7:43)

The characteristics of a true believer have been listed here in these essential verses from the Quran.  It is thought-provoking to note that the characteristics of the non-believers have been left for us to detect for ourselves.  They might be the opposite characteristics, the one who is proud, who does not pray at night, the one who argues or lies or a combination of any or all those things mentioned, however as God states, truth stands out clearly from falsehood[4] especially to the one who is determined to please God. 



Footnotes:

[1] From the works of Ibn Kathir

[2] Saheeh Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi

[3] Zechariah 8:16 New International version

[4] (Quran 2:256)

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