Quranic Reflection No. 492. Āyat 15:97 – Reacting to lack of civility

وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ يَضِيقُ صَدْرُكَ بِمَا يَقُولُونَ
Walaqad na‘lamu annaka yadhīqu sadraka bimā yaqūlūn
Surely, We know that your chest tightens because of what they say.
(Sūrat al-Hijr, No 15, Āyat 97)

This verse was sent as a consolation to Holy Prophet Muhammad sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam who was distressed by the mockery and jibes of the enemies. The rejection of his mission disturbed the Prophet (s). The angry vitriol that the enemies displayed was hurtful. It revealed a stubborn resistance to the acceptance of One God and submission to Him.  Allah ‘azza wajall comforts His Messenger in this verse, telling him that He is aware of his pain and gives him a cure for it in the following verse – so glorify your Lord and be among those who prostrate (Q 15:98). Tasbīh and sajdah soothe the heart and ease the pain it is experiencing. Thus according to a Hadith of Ibn ‘Abbās quoted in Tafsīr-e Namūneh., whenever the Prophet (s) would be distressed by the enemies he would recite a two rakaats prayer and would remove the effects of that distress through his prayer.

When people are against something, or someone, they lose control over what they say. Harsh words are emitted, causing a lot of negative impact. The words can be threatening, abusive, and insulting. We saw clear evidence of this in the recent debate held between the leaders of a seemingly powerful country this week and other leadership debates. The lack of self-control displayed, showed a leadership devoid of any standards. On the other hand, those who are God conscious face such verbal attacks with inner pain but outer civility and reason.

In the journey from Karbala to Kūfa, Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) encountered many people who said insulting things to him. He responded with courage and resilience. The following are some examples:

1. In the court of Ibn Ziyād Marjānah in Kūfa, the governor asked the Imam, ‘Who are you?’ ‘I am Ali son of al-Husayn’ answered the Imam. ‘Did not Allah kill Ali son of al-Husayn?” Ibn Ziyād asked the Imam. The Imam carefully replied: ‘I used to have an older brother also named Ali whom you killed. He will face you on the Day of Judgment.’ Ibn Ziyād burst out with anger and shouted at the Imam, ‘Allah killed him!’ The Imam answered him with bravery and steadfastness quoting Quranic verse: Allah takes the souls away at the time of their death (Q 39:42)

2. In Syria, an elderly man came to the Imam and said to him, ‘Praise belongs to Allah Who annihilated you and who granted the governor the upper hand over you’. The Imam looked at him. He knew that the man was unaware of the reality and had been deceived by Umayyad propaganda, so he asked him, ‘Shaykh, have you read the Qur’an?’ ‘Yes’ answered the man. The Imam then asked him, ‘Have you read the verse saying: Say: I do not ask you for a reward for it except that you treat my kinsfolk with kindness, and the verse saying: and give the (Prophet’s) kinsfolk their due rights, and the verse saying: and be informed that whatever you earn by way of booty, for Allah belongs the fifth thereof and for the Messenger (of Allah) and for the (Prophet’s) kinsfolk?’ The man said softly: ‘Yes, I have read them’.  The Imam then told him: ‘We, by Allah, are the kinsfolk referred to in all these verses.’ The man was amazed. ‘I ask you in the Name of Allah, are you really them? he asked. ‘By our grandfather, Allah’s Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, we are, without any doubt, replied the distraught Imam.

3. In the court of Yazid, Imam rebuked the orator who spoke against Imam Ali (a) and praised Mu’āwiya and Yazid. He said: O speaker! You have bought the pleasure of a creature by displeasing the Creator, and so you have reserved a seat for yourself in the Hellfire.

Not reacting harshly to those who oppose us requires a strength and wisdom that is difficult to attain. It needs a refinement that stems from within. When a person has a higher purpose in life, that goal and vision help restrain the response. Without such inner restraints it is easy to lash out and bully the other side. Derogatory words, hurtful insults and false accusations come naturally to such people.

For a believer, faith helps in reining in anger and responding with reason. This is true of everyday situations in life, more so for any leader.  The pain on hearing harsh language will be present but is countered with faith and wisdom. That is the hallmark of one whose focus in life is God and the Hereafter.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Āghā Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūrhttps://www.al-islam.org/life-imam-zayn-al-abidin-baqir-sharif-al-qurashi