Al-Rifq’ Gentleness in the Life of the Prophet (saww)
“It is by Allah’s mercy that you are gentle to them, had you been harsh and hardhearted, surely they would have dispersed from around you. Therefore, excuse them; Plead for forgiveness for them and consult them in the affairs”. (3:159)
In the above verse, Allah (SWT) has pointed out and praised one of the most important characteristics of His messenger (saww), which played a significant role in attracting the people towards Islam; and that is of what has been termed as AL-RIFQ.
AL-RIFQ in Arabic means: Kindness, Gentleness, Mildness & Friendliness.
[History tells us that the battle of ‘Uhud was the toughest battle, which the Muslims fought against the pagans of Quraysh.
In this battle, the Holy Prophet (saww) had instructed the Muslims not to leave their positions until they were told to do so. They did not follow the instruction; They left their positions in greed of getting their hands on the booty, and as a result, they were attacked and surrounded by their enemies; In order to save their lives, some Muslims escaped to the nearby mountains leaving the Holy Prophet (saww) and some of his companions behind to deal with the situation; Many so-called prominent companions were among those who fled.
After the battle of ‘Uhud, these Muslims deserved to be punished. But, the Holy Prophet (saww) did NOT punish them. Instead, he (saww) dealt with them gently and with mildness.] (Tafseer-e-Namoona)
It was in regard to this behaviour that Allah (SWT) praised His Prophet (saww).
GENTLENESS IN ISLAM
One of the many important lessons that Islam teaches us is to shun harshness and exhibit Gentleness and Mildness in our behaviour with others.
The Holy Prophet (saww) has said, “If gentleness could have been a creature perceived by eyes then it would have been the most beautiful of all creations of Allah (SWT)”. (Bihar al-Anwaar)
He (saww) also said, “Wherever gentleness is exhibited, it adorns the place”. (Kanzul-‘Ummaal)
BENEFITS OF GENTLENESS:
There are many advantages of being gentle and mild in our behaviour towards others in this life. Since we are commemorating the martyrdom of the Holy Prophet (saww), let us see what he (saww) has said in this regard and look for practical examples from his noble life.
GENTLENESS RESOLVES DIFFERENCES:
One of the benefits of being gentle with others is that ‘gentleness leads to peaceful solution of problems’. Whenever two people, or two groups of people quarrel with each other, and neither of them shows gentleness, their problem will never be solved. As soon as one of them shows gentleness, the other mellows down and an agreement is reached between them.
“Gentleness leads to peace” (Meezan al-Hikmah)
In olden days, it would just take a small thing to trigger a big war between two tribes. The war would last for years killing many people and destroying families. Islam put a stop to this by introducing the concept of being ‘gentle’ and ‘forgiving’ to each other.
[Once a Bedouin Arab came to Madina and visited the Holy Prophet (saww) to seek his guidance and advice. The Holy Prophet (saww) said to him: “Do not lose your temper” and said nothing more than this.
The man returned to his tribe. When he arrived among his people, he noticed a serious problem had occurred. Few young men of his tribe had stolen some things from the other tribe and they had retaliated. As a result, they had gradually reached a stage of waging war against each other and had come out face to face with their weapons for the confrontation.
He immediately sought for his armour and taking up his weapon joined his tribe to fight against the other tribe. Suddenly, he recollected the words of the Holy Prophet (saww), “Do not lose your temper”. He was soon in deep thoughts asking himself: Why have I become so excited? Why have I taken up my weapon to shed blood? What made me so furious? Thereupon, he left his weapon and came forward to address the other tribe. He said, “What is this war for? If few ignorant men from our tribe have committed transgression against you, I am ready to recompense from my personal wealth. So there is no reason to jeopardize our life and shed blood for nothing”. When the opposite side heard this magnanimous proposition from this man, their generosity and zeal was aroused and they said in reply: “We are in no way inferior to you. Now that it is so, we will forgo our demands”. Consequently, both the parties retreated to their tribes.] (Usool al-Kaafi)
GENTLENESS IS KEY TO ALL SUCCESS:
The other benefit of being gentle is that it is a key to every success.
“Gentleness is key to success”. (Meezan al-Hikmah)
The battle of ‘Uhud was fought in the early days of Islam. People were still adjusting to Islam. If the Holy Prophet (saww) was harsh on those who fled from the battlefield, they would have left Islam and reverted to whatever they were before; and this would be a very big blow for Islam. But because the Holy Prophet (saww) was lenient and gentle, people stuck to him and Islam spread thereafter.
[Once, a nomadic, rough Arab arrived in Madina and made his way towards the Mosque in hope of getting some gold and silver from the Holy Prophet (saww). When he entered the Mosque, the Holy Prophet (saww) was among multitude of his friends and companions. This Arab made his request and demanded the charity. The Holy Prophet (saww) gave him something but the Arab was not satisfied and thought that whatever he got was less. So he yelled at the Prophet (saww) and uttered some very harsh words to him. The companions were very disappointed with the Arab and not tolerating his insults, they got up to beat him but the Holy Prophet (saww) prohibited them to harm him.
Later on, the Holy Prophet (saww) took the Bedouin Arab to his home and favoured him some more. In fact, when the Bedouin saw the simplicity of the Holy Prophet (saww) own life, he felt remorseful at his own behaviour and expressed his thanks to the Holy Prophet (saww) for his additional favour. The Holy Prophet (saww) told him: “You uttered harsh words yesterday, which provoked the anger of my companions and you have made them bitter against you. Now that you have thanked and spoken kind words to me, could you repeat the same in presence of my companions so as to ease their anger against you?” The man readily agreed so the Holy Prophet (saww) brought him to the Mosque and said to his companions: “This man claims that he has been pleased with me, am I right?” The man said, “Yes! You are right”, and then repeated the words he had mentioned to the Holy Prophet (saww) privately. At this, the companions began laughing and were happy. Thereafter, addressing his companions, the Holy Prophet (saww) said, “My example with such a person is like a man whose camel startled and ran away. The people began shouting and running after the camel thinking that they would help the owner. The more they shouted, the more the camel sped. The owner kept calling the people back assuring them that he knew how to keep the camel calm. When the people left the camel alone, the owner picked up some herbs and gently showed it to the camel without shouting and running. The camel came back and the owner easily grasped the bridle of his camel and set off on his way”.
Then the Holy Prophet (saww) added: “Yesterday, if I would have allowed you to handle this man as you please, you would have killed the poor man. But I stood between you and him, and treated him gently and kindly”.] (Dastaane-Raastaan)
Mulla Mujahidali Sheriff