By Abu Amina Elias
Calling people to Islam is by repelling evil with good and winning the hearts of enemies. So, how to fulfill this responsibility; be a true Muslim and carry out your mission on earth? What does the Qur’an say about that? Ibn Kathir writes in his commentary of the Qur’an: Allah Almighty says:
Who is better in speech than he who invites to Allah. (Fussilat 41:33)
This means, he calls the servants of Allah to Him. And He says:
And does righteous deeds, and says: ’I am one of the Muslims’. (Fussilat 41:33)
This means he himself follows that which he says, so it benefits him as well as others. He is not one of those who enjoin good but do not do it themselves, or who forbid evil yet they do it themselves. He does good and avoids doing evil, and he calls people to their Creator (Blessed and Exalted is He).
This is general in meaning and applies to everyone who calls people to what is good and is himself guided in what he says. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) is the foremost among people in this regard, as Muhammad ibn Sirin (one of the prominent early jurists), As-Suddi (d. AH 127) and `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd ibn Aslam (servant of `Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him) said.
It was also said that what was meant here is the righteous callers to prayer, as it was mentioned in Sahih Muslim: “The callers to prayer will be the ones with the longest necks on the Day of Resurrection”. (Muslim)
In As-Sunan it is reported that the Prophet said: “The leader is a guarantor and the caller to prayer is in a position of trust. May Allah guide the leaders and forgive the callers to prayer”. (At-Tirmidhi)
The correct view is that the verse is general in meaning, and includes the callers to prayer and others. When this verse was revealed, the call to prayer had not been prescribed at all.
The verse was revealed in Makkah, and the call to prayer was prescribed in Madinah after the emigration, when it was shown to `Abdullah ibn Abd Rabbihi Al-Ansari in a dream. He told the Messenger of Allah about it, and he told him to teach it to Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) who had a more beautiful voice.
So the correct view is that the verse is general in meaning, as Abdur-Razzaq said narrating from Ma`mar from Al-Hassan Al-Basri, who recited the verse: “Who is better in speech than he who invites to Allah and does righteous deeds, and says, “I am one of the Muslims”. (Fussilat 41:33)
And he said: ‘This is the beloved of Allah, this is the close friend of Allah, this is the chosen one of Allah, this is the most beloved of the all the people of earth to Allah. He responded to the call of Allah and called mankind to that to which he had responded. He did righteous deeds in response and said: ’I am one of the Muslims’. This is Allah’s deputy (khalifah).’
Then Allah Almighty says:
The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. (Fussilat 41:34)
This means there is a huge difference between them. And He says:
Repel (the evil) with one which is better. (Fussilat 41:34)
This means: ’when someone does you wrong, repel him by treating him well’. As `Umar said: ‘There is no better punishment for one who has disobeyed Allah with regard to you, than your obeying Allah with regard to him.’ Then Allah says:
Then verily he between whom and you there was hostility will become as though he was a close friend. (Fussilat 41:34)
This means: ’if you treat well those who treat you badly, this good deed will lead to reconciliation, love and empathy, and it will be as if he is a close friend to you and he will feel pity for you and be kind to you’. Then Allah says:
But none is granted it except those who are patient. (Fussilat 41:35)
This means no one accepts this advice and works according to it, except for those who can be patient in doing so, for it is difficult for people to do. And Allah says:
And none is granted it except the owner of the great portion. (Fussilat 41:35)
This means one who has a great portion of happiness in this world and in the Hereafter. `Ali ibn Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas explained this verse: ‘Allah commands the believers to be patient when they feel angry, to be forbearing when confronted with ignorance, and to forgive when they are mistreated. If they do this, Allah will save them from the Satan and subdue their enemies to them until they become like close friends’. Then Allah Almighty says:
If an evil whisper from Satan tries to turn you away, then seek refuge in Allah. (Fussilat 41:36)
This means the devils among men may be deceived by your kind treatment of him, but the devils among the Jinn, when they insinuate their evil whispers they cannot be dealt with except by seeking refuge with the Creator Who gave them power over you. If you seek refuge with Allah and turn to Him, He will stop him from harming you and bring their efforts to futility. When the Messenger of Allah stood up to pray, he would say: “I seek refuge in Allah the All-Hearing, All-Knowing, from the accursed Satan and his evil insinuations, breath and impurity”. We have already stated that there is nothing like this in the Qur’an, apart from the passage in Surat Al-A`raf, where Allah says:
Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish. And if an evil whisper comes to you from Satan, then seek refuge with Allah. Verily, He is All-Hearer, All-Knower. (Al-A`raf 7:199, 200)
And the passage in Surat Al-Mu’minun where Allah says:
Repel evil with that which is better. We are Best-Acquainted with the things they utter. And say: ’My Lord! I seek refuge with You from the whisperings of Satan. And I seek refuge with You, My Lord, lest they should come near me’. (Al-Mu’minun 23:96-98)