Quranic Reflection No 641. Āyat 9:112 – Qualities of true believers

ٱلتَّـٰئِبُونَ ٱلْعَـٰبِدُونَ ٱلْحَـٰمِدُونَ ٱلسَّـٰئِحُونَ ٱلرَّٰكِعُونَ ٱلسَّـٰجِدُونَ ٱلْـَامِرُونَ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَٱلنَّاهُونَ عَنِ ٱلْمُنكَرِ وَٱلْحَـٰفِظُونَ لِحُدُودِ ٱللَّهِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ

[The faithful are] penitent, devout, celebrators of Allah’s praise, wayfarers, who bow and prostrate [in prayer], bid what is right and forbid what is wrong, and keep Allah’s bounds —and give good news to the faithful.

(Sūrat al-Tawbah, no. 9, verse 112)

Many verses of Surah al-Tawbah talk about striving with our lives and belongings to establish God’s religion. Verse 112 mentions nine of the most beautiful traits of a believer who sincerely strives in the way of Allah. In Tafsir al-Mīzān, ‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī divides these nine characteristics into three categories:

1) Individual traits (relating to self-purification)

i) The penitent – Those who turn towards Allah in tawbah, thereby turning away from all else other than Him. Real tawbah necessitates the abandonment of sin and a sincere determination to purify one’s thoughts and actions.

ii) The devout – The worshippers, the ones who have a strong connection with their Lord and use worship as a means of purifying themselves and becoming closer to His Divine Essence.

iii)  Celebrators of Allah’s praise – Those who praise Allah with the most beautiful praises in their hearts and with their tongues, thanking Him for His abundant blessings with sincerity and humbleness.

iv) Wayfarers – The ones who travel from one place of worship to another – or, more fundamentally, by constantly acting upon the commandments of Allah, transform every space in which they exist into a place of worship. Their program of self-building is not stagnant, nor is it limited to the masjid or Islamic center.

v)  Those who bow – The ones who do rukū’, bowing to Allah within their daily salāh and outside of it.

vi) Those who prostrate – Those who do sajdah, placing their foreheads onto the ground in the ultimate manifestation of submission to the Almighty.

In a broader sense, these last two characteristics define one who is continuously in a state of humility towards Allah. Their hearts and minds are in a constant state of deference even when they are not physically bowing or prostrating.

 2)    Social traits (relating to the purification of society)

 i)  Those who enjoin what is right – Like a sentinel, the true believer remains vigilant towards what ails society, pushing his brethren towards betterment by enjoining what is good.

 ii) Those who forbid wrong – The believer’s concern isn’t solely for himself and his family. He is concerned about the rest of society too and helps them stay away from evil.

3) Traits that are both individual and social in nature

 i) Those who protect and preserve the bounds set by Allah ‘azza wajall. Every aspect of religion, whether beliefs, ethics, or ahkām, has its own definition and limit. Going beyond these boundaries is to become astray. True believers are those who do not transgress beyond these limits, and they do not allow others to do so either.

In the end, the verse commands the Holy Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam to give glad tidings to the believers who hold these characteristics. Note that Allah does not detail what exactly the believers are being promised here; rather, it is an unconditional promise, implying an all-encompassing goodness and felicity.

 Note also that all the characteristics mentioned within the verse are in the lexical form of agent noun as opposed to a verb or a different noun-based structure. In Arabic, the agent noun implies that the action contained within the noun is constantly performed by the agent such that his being becomes infused with it, as opposed to a verbal structure which usually suggests a singular or limited instance of that action. “The worshippers”, then, are not simply those who worship once or twice; rather, they are the ones who are constantly in a state of worship. “The ones who bow and prostrate” are not those who mechanically carry out these actions within their salāh; rather, their entire being is composed of humility, of humbling themselves before their Lord.

Let us resolve to inculcate these qualities within ourselves and live a life that is infused with these beautiful traits, so that we may be counted amongst the true believers upon meeting our Lord.

Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr