Those who tasted evil may love good all the more: Ibn Taymiyah

In part of his long discussion of the du’a of Dhu’l-Noon (Prophet Yunus), Sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah wrote the following points concerning the relative merits of those born into Islam and those who enter into it later in life:

وما يظنه بعض الناس أنه من ولد على الإسلام فلم يكفر قط أفضل ممن كان كافرا فأسلم ليس بصواب ; بل الاعتبار بالعاقبة وأيهما كان أتقى لله في عاقبته كان أفضل . فإنه من المعلوم أن السابقين الأولين من المهاجرين والأنصار الذين آمنوا بالله ورسوله بعد كفرهم هم أفضل ممن ولد على الإسلام من أولادهم وغير أولادهم ; بل من عرف الشر وذاقه ثم عرف الخير وذاقه [ ص: 301 ] فقد تكون معرفته بالخير ومحبته له ومعرفته بالشر وبغضه له أكمل ممن لم يعرف الخير والشر ويذقهما كما ذاقهما ; بل من لم يعرف إلا الخير فقد يأتيه الشر فلا يعرف أنه شر فإما أن يقع فيه وإما أن لا ينكره كما أنكره الذي عرفه . ـ

What some people think that the one born upon Islam and does not commit kufr ever is better than the one who was a kaafir and then becomes a Muslim – this is not correct. Rather, the criteria is in the outcome, and the one who has more taqwa of Allah in his final end – he is better. That is because it is known that the forerunners from the Muhaajireen and the Ansaar who believed in Allah and His messenger after they had disbelieved are better than those who were born upon Islam and their children and other than their children. Rather, the one who knew evil and tasted it and then knew the good and tasted it, then his recognition of the good and his love for it and his recognition of evil and his hatred of it is more complete than the one who does not know good and evil and has not tasted it as he has tasted it. Rather, the one who does not know anything other than good, perhaps evil will come to him and he will not recognize that it is evil, and he may either fall into it or he may not reject it as the one who knew it would reject it.

ولهذا قال عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه إنما تنقض عرى الإسلام عروة عروة إذا نشأ في الإسلام من لم يعرف الجاهلية . وهو كما قال عمر ; فإن كمال الإسلام هو بالأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر وتمام ذلك بالجهاد في سبيل الله ومن نشأ في المعروف لم يعرف غيره فقد لا يكون عنده من العلم بالمنكر وضرره ما عند من علمه ولا يكون عنده من الجهاد لأهله ما عند الخبير بهم ; ولهذا يوجد الخبير بالشر وأسبابه إذا كان حسن القصد عنده من الاحتراز عنه ومنع أهله والجهاد لهم ما ليس عند غيره . ولهذا كان الصحابة رضي الله عنهم أعظم إيمانا وجهادا ممن بعدهم لكمال معرفتهم بالخير والشر وكمال محبتهم للخير وبغضهم للشر لما علموه من حسن حال الإسلام والإيمان والعمل الصالح وقبح حال الكفر والمعاصي ولهذا يوجد من ذاق الفقر والمرض والخوف أحرص على الغنى والصحة والأمن ممن لم يذق ذلك . ـ

And concerning this ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab said, “The bonds of Islam will break down handhold by handhold when people are born on Islam without knowing al-Jahiliyyah.” And it is just as ‘Umar said, for verily the perfection of Islam is by commanding the good and forbidding the evil, and the completeness of that is by jihaad in the path of Allah. And whoever is born in the good does not know other than that, so perhaps he does not have knowledge of evil and its harms like one who knows them, and he does not he is not so intimately acquainted with jihaad against its people [i.e. the people of evil] as those who know [evil]. And because of this, one finds that the one who is well-acquainted with evil and its causes – and he has a good goal – then he has a great caution against them and he opposes its people and [performs]  jihaad against them the likes of which others do not. And because of this, the sahaabah were greater in terms of eemaan and jihaad than those after them according to the completeness of their knowledge of good and evil and the completeness of their love of good and hatred of evil since they know that that [i.e. eemaan and jihaad] is from the beautiful state of Islam, eemaan, righteous good deeds and from the detestable state of disbelief and disobedience. And because of that, one finds that whoever has tasted poverty, sickness and fear is more strident towards contentment, well-being and safety than the one who did not taste that.

ولهذا يقال : والضد يظهر حسنه الضد . [ ص: 302 ] ويقال : وبضدها تتبين الأشياء . وكان عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه يقول : لست بخب ولا يخدعني الخب . فالقلب السليم المحمود هو الذي يريد الخير لا الشر وكمال ذلك بأن يعرف الخير والشر فأما من لا يعرف الشر فذاك نقص فيه لا يمدح به . ـ

And because of this it is said, “The opposite demonstrates the goodness of its opposite.” And it is said, “Things are made clear by their opposites.” And ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab said, “I am not a swindler nor does a swindler deceive me.” For a sound and praiseworthy heart is that which desires good and not evil, and the completeness of that is that it recognizes good and evil. As for the one who does not know evil, then that is a deficiency in him which is not praiseworthy.

وليس المراد أن كل من ذاق طعم الكفر والمعاصي يكون أعلم بذلك وأكره له ممن لم يذقه مطلقا ; فإن هذا ليس بمطرد بل قد يكون الطبيب أعلم بالأمراض من المرضى والأنبياء عليهم الصلاة والسلام أطباء الأديان فهم أعلم الناس بما يصلح القلوب ويفسدها وإن كان أحدهم لم يذق من الشر ما ذاقه الناس . ـ

And the intended meaning is not that everyone who has tasted disbelief and disobedience is therefore more knowledgeable of it or more disapproving of it than the one who never tasted it in an absolute sense. Certainly that is not a guarantee – on the contrary the doctor is more knowledgeable of diseases than the patients, and the prophets are the doctors of religion for they are the most knowledgeable of people as to what rectifies the heart and what corrupts it – even if one of them did not taste of evil what the general people tasted of it.

ولكن المراد أن من الناس من يحصل له بذوقه الشر من المعرفة به والنفور عنه والمحبة للخير إذا ذاقه ما لا يحصل لبعض الناس مثل من كان مشركا أو يهوديا أو نصرانيا وقد عرف ما في الكفر من الشبهات والأقوال الفاسدة والظلمة والشر ثم شرح الله صدره للإسلام وعرفه محاسن الإسلام ; فإنه قد يكون أرغب فيه وأكره للكفر من بعض من لم يعرف حقيقة الكفر والإسلام ; بل هو معرض عن بعض حقيقة هذا وحقيقة هذا أو مقلد في مدح هذا وذم هذا . [ ص: 303 ] ومثال ذلك من ذاق طعم الجوع ثم ذاق طعم الشبع بعده أو ذاق المرض ثم ذاق طعم العافية بعده أو ذاق الخوف ثم ذاق الأمن بعده فإن محبة هذا ورغبته في العافية والأمن والشبع ونفوره عن الجوع والخوف والمرض أعظم ممن لم يبتل بذلك ولم يعرف حقيقته . ـ

But the intended meanings is that among mankind there are those who, through their tasting of evil,  attained knowledge of evil and aversion from it and love for good the likes of which other people did not attain – such as those who used to be a mushrik or a Jew or a Christian and who knew what was in kufr of doubts, corrupt speech, injustice and evil, and then Allah opened their chests to Islam and they recognized the virtues of Islam. Indeed, they became more enthusiastic towards it and the more hateful towards kufr than others who did not [fully] recognize the reality of kufr and Islam – rather they are a display to others of the reality of this and the reality of that or a model of the praiseworthiness of this and the humiliation of that. And the comparison of that is the one who tasted hunger and then tasted satisfaction after that, or who tasted sickness and them tasted well-being after that, or who tasted fear and then tasted safety after that – so the love of that and his eagerness for well-being, safety and satiety and his aversion from hunger, fear and sickness is greater than one who was not tested with that and does not know their realities.

وكذلك من دخل مع أهل البدع والفجور ثم بين الله له الحق وتاب عليه توبة نصوحا ورزقه الجهاد في سبيل الله فقد يكون بيانه لحالهم وهجره لمساويهم ; وجهاده لهم أعظم من غيره قال نعيم بن حماد الخزاعي – وكان شديدا على الجهمية – أنا شديد عليهم ; لأني كنت منهم . ـ

And similarly, whoever was among ahl al-bid’ah and the sinful people, and then Allah clarified the truth to him and he repented to Him with a sincere repentance, and He provided him with [performing] jihaad in the path of Allah, then this clarification of their condition and his abandonment of them for others – then his jihaad against them is greater than others. Nu’aym ibn Hammaad al-Khuzaa’ee said – and he was stern against the Jahmiyyah – “I am stern against them because I used to be one of them.”

وقد قال الله تعالى : { ثم إن ربك للذين هاجروا من بعد ما فتنوا ثم جاهدوا وصبروا إن ربك من بعدها لغفور رحيم } نزلت هذه الآية في طائفة من الصحابة كان المشركون فتنوهم عن دينهم ثم تاب الله عليهم فهاجروا إلى الله ورسوله ; وجاهدوا وصبروا . وكان عمر بن الخطاب وخالد بن الوليد رضي الله عنهما من أشد الناس على الإسلام فلما أسلما تقدما على من سبقهما إلى الإسلام ; وكان [ بعض من سبقهما ] دونهما في الإيمان والعمل الصالح بما كان عندهما من كمال الجهاد للكفار والنصر لله ورسوله ; وكان عمر لكونه أكمل إيمانا وإخلاصا وصدقا ومعرفة وفراسة ونورا أبعد عن هوى النفس وأعلى همة [ ص: 304 ] في إقامة دين الله مقدما على سائر المسلمين غير أبي بكر رضي الله عنهم أجمعين . ـ

And Allah has said, “Then, indeed your Lord, to those who emigrated after they had been tried and thereafter fought [for the cause of Allah] and were patient – indeed, your Lord, after that, is Forgiving and Merciful ” [16:110]. This ayah was revealed concerning a group of the sahaabah who had been mushrikoon and they left their religion and then Allah forgave them, so they migrated to Allah and His messenger and they performed jihaad and exercised sabr. And ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab and Khaalid ibn al-Waleed were among the more adamant of people against Islam, but then when they became Muslims, they took exceeded those who had preceded them to Islam. And some of those who preceded them were lower than them in terms of eemaan and righteous good deeds because of what the two of them had of complete jihaad against the kuffaar and aiding Allah and His messenger. And because of his complete eemaan, sincerity, truthfulness, knowledge, foresight and noor, ‘Umar was far removed from the personal, lowly desires and gave the highest concern to the establishment of the deen of Allah, having precedence over all over Muslims except Abu Bakr – may Allah be pleased with all of them.

وهذا وغيره مما يبين أن الاعتبار بكمال النهاية لا بنقص البداية

So this and other than it is from that which clarifies that the account is according to the perfection of the end, not according to the flaws of the beginning.

[Majmoo’ al-Fataawa 10/300-305]

See also: The Children of Zina

See also: A sin may be beneficial for a person: Ibn al-Qayyim

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7 thoughts on “Those who tasted evil may love good all the more: Ibn Taymiyah

  1. Pingback: The Children of Zina | Tulayhah

  2. as salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh;
    The words of Ibn Taymiyyah as you have translated are, perhaps, very powerful to those converts who have lived through the immorality of our pre-Islamic socieities including, for some, their own families and relatives. Indeed, many would almost rather be literally thrown into a fire than to go back to those behaviors and those who lived them.
    May Allah reward you well for a very insightful and provocative post.

    • wa ‘alaikum as salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

      Alhamdulillaah, as a convert myself I also felt moved by these insightful and beneficial words – may Allah reward their author – and thus wanted to translate and share them in hopes that they could benefit others. Your comment specifically reminded me of the hadeeth of the Prophet wherein he said:

      [ثَلاَثٌ مَنْ كُنَّ فِيهِ وَجَدَ بِهِنَّ حَلاَوَةَ الإِيمَانِ مَنْ كَانَ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَحَبَّ إِلَيْهِ مِمَّا سِوَاهُمَا وَأَنْ يُحِبَّ الْمَرْءَ لاَ يُحِبُّهُ إِلاَّ لِلَّهِ وَأَنْ يَكْرَهَ أَنْ يَعُودَ فِي الْكُفْرِ بَعْدَ أَنْ أَنْقَذَهُ اللَّهُ مِنْهُ كَمَا يَكْرَهُ أَنْ يُقْذَفَ فِي النَّارِ]

      “There are three qualities for which anyone who has them in him will find the sweetness of al-eemaan: 1) he to whom Allah and His Messenger are dearer than all else; 2) he who loves a man for Allah’s sake alone; and 3) he who has as great an abhorrence of returning to unbelief after Allah has rescued him from it as he has of being cast into fire.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

      May Allah grant us the sweetness of al-eemaan.JazaakAllaahu khairan brother.

  3. Pingback: A sin may be beneficial for a person: Ibn al-Qayyim | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: Do any sins remain after entering Islam?: Ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

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