And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and do not leave in our hearts rancour against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of kindness, most merciful.” [Sūrah al-Hashr: 10]

30 November 2012

This verse enshrines not only an attitude about the people of the past, but also the basis for coexistence in the present.

On the basis of this verse, scholars of Islam from the earliest times, including the four imams, took great pains to emphasise the values of tolerance and withholding judgement of others. They saw themselves as inheriting a rich legacy from their predecessors in faith – predecessors who had often disagreed with one another on a great many things. The four imams venerated the believers of earlier generations. They extolled the virtues of the Prophet’s Companions and the members of his household, especially his wives, the Mothers of the Believers.

Mālik b. Anas said, commenting on Sūrah al-Hashr 8-10:
Whoever curses the Companions has no right to share in the wealth received from the lands which are brought under the Muslims’ authority.

Allah says: “(This wealth) is for the poor who fled their homes and their possessions, seeking Allah’s grace and His pleasure, and who help Allah and His Messenger. These it is that are the truthful.” This verse refers to the Prophet’s Companions who emigrated with him.

Then He says: “And (it is for) those who live in the city and have adopted the faith, who show love to those who have fled to them, and do not find in their hearts any need of what (the emigrants) are given, preferring them to themselves though poverty may afflict them, and whoever is preserved from the niggardliness of their souls, they are the successful ones.” This verse refers to the Prophet’s Companions from the inhabitants of Madinah who took the emigrants in and supported them.

Then He says: “And those who came after them...”

With regard to these later generations, Allah makes the qualifying statement: “(who) say: ‘Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and do not leave in our hearts rancour against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of kindness, most merciful’.”

Consequently, the wealth received from the lands which are brought under the Muslims’ authority is the entitlement of these three classes of people, and since those who curse the Prophet’s Companions are not from among them, they have no right to access any of that wealth.
We also have the following commentary by Imam Mālik on Sūrah al-Fath: 29, which describes the Companions:
Allah says: “You will see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Allah’s grace and good pleasure. On their faces are thee marks of their prostration. Their description in the Torah and the Gospel is like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, (filling) the sowers with wonder and delight. As a result, it fills the unbelievers with rage at them. Allah has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds forgiveness, and a great reward.”

As for those who have rancour in their hearts towards even one of the Prophet’s Companions, they come under what the verse describes (as unbelief).
The four imams and the scholars who followed their example never allowed the differences and disagreements of their predecessors to become an excuse for deriding them or for calling their integrity into question. They upheld the honour of all the believers. This is because they realized that those who do not have a past, likewise have no present or future.

They also appreciated the fact that those who cannot properly engage with their history will be even more incapable of coping with the present. People who have a strictly binary understanding of history, dividing the people of the past into “angels” and “devils”, will do exactly the same with their contemporaries. It then becomes all too easy for them to show intolerance and hostility to others by identifying them as an opposing camp.

This is why they were careful to avoid passing judgement on their predecessors in their historic disputes. They did not intervene in such matters except to shed a positive light on what happened. As a result of this outlook, they were able to coexist easily with their contemporaries in the legal disagreements that they had. They maintained a spirit of acceptance and moderation, and made certain that the spread of their teachings did not result in dissention and conflict among their followers.

Indeed, through the example that these influential thinkers set, they may be credited with inculcating the principle of coexistence in society at large during what was a time of tremendous political and social upheaval.