O you who believe, do not put [yourselves] forward before God and His Messenger, and fear God. Verily, God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. O you who believe, raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor speak aloud to him in talk as you speak aloud to one another, lest your deeds may be rendered fruitless while you perceive not. Verily, those who lower their voices in the presence of God’s Messenger, they are the ones whose hearts God has tested for piety. For them is forgiveness and a great reward. (Qur’an, 49:1-3)
I have always wondered at these verses of the Qur’an as a child wonders at a shining jewel. There is a certain depth of meaning emanating from these verses that may be missed by the casual onlooker. I will summarize here some of the main lessons to be learnt from these sacred verses.
- The mere act of raising one’s voice above that of the Holy Prophet’s (peace be upon him) or speaking in a casual tone to him is equivalent to giving oneself more importance than God and His Messenger.
- Note how intensely God is protective of His Messenger when He says, “Do not put [yourselves] forward before God and His Messenger”. To realize the full intensity of what this means, consider as an example the case of a man warning his children not to talk aloud to their mother. He could make one of the following four statements:
1. “Don’t talk aloud to your mother, for if you do so, you will be disrespectful to your mother”.
2. “Don’t talk aloud to your mother, for if you do so, you will be disrespectful to your mother and me”.
3. “Don’t talk aloud to your mother, for if you do so, you will be disrespectful to me and your mother”.
4. “Don’t be disrespectful to me and your mother, so don’t talk aloud to your mother”.
The first statement indicates the sentiments of a man who evidently loves his wife and does not want her to be wronged. The second statement is similar, but it indicates that the father is taking the issue personally and feels personally affronted if the children talk aloud to their mother. Obviously, the second statement indicates a greater degree of love. The third statement is indicative of an even greater degree of love, for the father is placing his name before his wife’s name, so he is taking the disrespect as a personal affront to an even greater degree. The fourth statement, however, shows the height of love. Here, the father starts with the warning, “Don’t be disrespectful to me and your mother”, and then goes on to explain exactly what he means by the warning. This is exactly the method of God when He seeks protection of His Messenger (peace be upon him).
- These three verses make it abundantly clear that the hypothesis that the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, is a “man like us” can very rightly be tossed into the dustbin.
- The extreme importance of adab (i.e. respect, reverence, etc) of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) is illuminated by these verses.
- These verses have set the minimum standard of adab of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Anyone whose adab is below this minimum standard will find himself or herself bereft of forgiveness and reward.
- Incidentally, these verses have also set the standard for forgiveness and reward. That is to say, only those persons will be considered for forgiveness and reward who meet the criterion of adab set in these verses.
- Lack of adab of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) results in one’s deeds being “rendered fruitless while [one] perceives not”. This is a horrible punishment indeed! And may God protect us against such a calamity! We know that some sins (like jealousy) eat away one’s good deeds, but for good deeds to be eaten up in such a way that one is not even aware of one’s loss is sure enough indication of personal avengement from God.
- The prerequisite for being tested for piety is not to say “La ilaha illa Allah Muhammad arrasool ullah”; rather, the prerequisite is to lower one’s voice in the presence of the Messenger (peace be upon him). Those people who fail to qualify for this minimum standard of adab are by definition entirely devoid of all piety since they are not tested for piety.
- One very interesting aspect of these verses is that these verses apparently do not seem to have a direct relevance for believers in the present era, since how many of us get the chance of speaking to the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him)? There are very few verses of this sort in the Qur’an which have commands that seem to apply only to the Prophetic era. For example:
O you who believe, enter not the Prophet's houses, except when leave is given to you for a meal, [and then] not [so early as] to wait for its preparation. But when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken your meal, disperse, without sitting for a talk. Verily, such [behavior] annoys the Prophet, and he is shy of [asking] you [to go], but God is not shy of [telling you] the truth. And when you ask [his wives] for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen, that is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. And it is not [right] for you that you should annoy God’s Messenger, nor that you should ever marry his wives after him [his death]. Verily, with God that shall be an enormity. (Qur’an, 33:53)
O you who believe, when you [want to] consult the Messenger [Muhammad] in private, spend something in charity before your private consultation. That will be better and purer for you. But if you find not [the means for it], then verily, God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Are you afraid of spending in charity before your private consultation [with him]? If then you do it not, and God has forgiven you, then [at least] perform the prayer and give Zakat and obey God [i.e. do all what God and His Prophet order you to do]. And God is All-Aware of what you do. (Qur’an, 58, 12-13)
The fact that these verses were not abrogated despite their apparent inapplicability to the post-Prophetic era shows very well the extreme love that God has for the Prophet (peace be upon him), since these verses are all about the (minimum required level of) adab of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).