The Virtue of this Ummah over the Previous Nations: Imam al-Shinqitee

The following discussion is an excerpt from a class of the famous mufassir, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee. The class was delivered in his home to a group of his students. It was recorded, and subsequently transcribed and published in a collection of similar lessons and recorded events. This particular excerpt occurred during a lesson in which sheikh al-Shinqitee was explaining part of surah al-Baqarah, during his discussion of the ayah:

يَا بَنِي إِسْرَ‌ائِيلَ اذْكُرُ‌وا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

O Banu Israa’eel, remember My favor that I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over all creation [2:47]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee explained:

وقوله هنا {فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ} ؛ أي : على عالمي زمانكم الذي أنتم فيه ، فلا ينافي أن هذه الأمة التي هي أمة محمد ﷺ أفضل منهم ، كما نصّ الله على ذلك بقوله : {كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ} الآية [آل عمران 110] ، وفي حديث معاوية بن حيدة القشيري عن النبي ﷺ : أَنْتُمْ تُوفُونَ سَبْعِينَ أُمَّةً أَنْتُمْ خَيْرُهَا وَأَكْرَمُهَا عَلَى اللَّهِ . ـ

Allah’s statement here:

 فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

 I preferred you over all creation [2:47]

meaning: over all creation of the time in which they were living, so this does not conflict with the fact that this ummah – which is the ummah of Muhammad (ﷺ) – is the best of nations, as Allah informed us in His statement:

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ‌ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِ‌جَتْ لِلنَّاسِ

You are the best nation brought forth for mankind … [3:110]

…until the end of the ayah. And in the hadeeth of Mu’aawiyah ibn Haidah al-Qushairi that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “You succeeded seventy nations and you are the best of them and the most noble of them in the sight of Allah”.

ومن الآيات المبينة لفضل أمة محمد ﷺ على أمة موسى أنه قال في أمة موسى : {مِنْهُمْ أُمَّةٌ مُقْتَصِدَةٌ وَكَثِيرٌ مِنْهُمْ سَاءَ مَا يَعْمَلُونَ} [المائدة 66] ، فجعل أعلى مراتبهم الأمة المقتصدة ، بخلاف أمة محمد ﷺ فقسّمهم إلى ثلاث طوائف ، وجعل فيهم طائفة أكمل من الطائفة المقتصدة وذلك في قوله في فاطر : {فَمِنْهُمْ ظَالِمٌ لِّنَفْسِهِ وَمِنْهُم مُّقْتَصِدٌ وَمِنْهُمْ سَابِقٌ بِالْخَيْرَ‌اتِ بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَضْلُ الْكَبِيرُ‌ } الآية [فاطر 32] ، فجعل سابقاً بالخيرات وهو أعلى من المقتصد ، وواعد الجميع بظالمهم ومقتصدهم وسابقهم بجنات عدن بقوله : {جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ يَدْخُلُونَهَا يُحَلَّوْنَ فِيهَا مِنْ أَسَاوِرَ‌ مِن ذَهَبٍ وَلُؤْلُؤًا ۖ وَلِبَاسُهُمْ فِيهَا حَرِ‌يرٌ‌} الآية [فاطر 33] وقال بعض العلماء : حق لهذه الواو أن تكتب بماء العينين ؛ يعني واو يدخلونها لأنه وعدٌ من الله ، صادقٌ شامل للظالم والمقتصد والسابق . ـ

And among the ayaat which clearly show the virtue of the ummah of Muhammad (ﷺ) over the ummah of Moosaa is that Allah said about the ummah of Moosaa:

مِنْهُمْ أُمَّةٌ مُقْتَصِدَةٌ وَكَثِيرٌ مِنْهُمْ سَاءَ مَا يَعْمَلُونَ

Among them are a moderate community, but many of them – evil is that which they do. [5:66]

So he made the highest level of their ummah to be the moderate ones, which is in contrast to the ummah of Muhammad (ﷺ), for Allah divided them into three groups and made them to contain a party with is more complete than that of the moderate ones. This comes in His statement in surah al-Faatir:

فَمِنْهُمْ ظَالِمٌ لِّنَفْسِهِ وَمِنْهُم مُّقْتَصِدٌ وَمِنْهُمْ سَابِقٌ بِالْخَيْرَ‌اتِ بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَضْلُ الْكَبِيرُ‌

and among them is he who wrongs himself, and among them is he who is moderate, and among them is he who is foremost in good deeds by permission of Allah. That is what is the great bounty. [35:32]

So He made those who are foremost in good deeds to be higher than the moderate ones, however he promised all of them – those who wrong themselves, the moderate ones, and the forerunners – everlasting gardens in His statement:

جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ يَدْخُلُونَهَا يُحَلَّوْنَ فِيهَا مِنْ أَسَاوِرَ‌ مِن ذَهَبٍ وَلُؤْلُؤًا ۖ وَلِبَاسُهُمْ فِيهَا حَرِ‌يرٌ‌

[For them are] gardens of perpetual residence which they will enter. They will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and pearls, and their garments therein will be silk. [35:33]

And some of the scholars have said: the reality of the words “and” between each of the three groups is that there are two different water sources in al-Jannah designated for them [i.e. Salsabeel and Tasneem], i.e. that the words “and” mean that all of them are entered into al-Jannah, for this is a promise from Allah which is true and encompasses the one who wrongs himself and the moderate one and the forerunner.

وفي الآية سؤال معروف وهو أن يقال : ما الحكمة من تقديم الظالم لنفسه بالوعد بجنات عدن وتأخير السابق ؟ ـ

And this ayah brings up a well-known question, which is: What is the wisdom in mentioning those who wrong themselves first and mentioning the forerunners last while making this promise of everlasting gardens?

وللعلماء عن هذ أجوبة معروفة ؛ منها : أنه قدّم الظالم لئلا يقنط ، وأخّر السابق بالخيرات لئلا يعجب بأعماله فيحبط . ـ

The scholars have a well-known response, which is: That Allah mentioned those who wrong themselves first so that they do not lose hope, and He delayed mentioning of the forerunners to good deeds lest they become amazed with their own actions and thus invalidate them.

وقال بعض العلماء : أكثر أهل الجنة الظالمون لأنفسهم فبدأ بهم نظراً لأكثريتهم ؛ ومما يدل على أفضلية أمة محمد ﷺ على بني إسرائيل أن الإبتلاء الذي يظهر به الفضل وعدمه إنما يكون بخوف أو طمع ، وقد ابتلى أصحاب محمد ﷺ بخوف وابتلاهم بطمع ، وابتلى بني إسرائيل بخوف وابتلاهم بطمع . ـ

And some of the scholars have said: Most of the inhabitants of al-Jannah will be those who wronged themselves, so Allah began with them due to their abundance.

Another thing which demonstrates the virtue of the ummah of Muhammad (ﷺ) over the Banu Israa’eel is the the trials through which virtue or the lack thereof is plainly manifested come in one of two forms: fear or desires. And Allah tried the companions of Muhammad (ﷺ) with fear and He tried them with desires, and He tried the Banu Israa’eel with fear and He tried them with desires.

أم الخوف الذي ايتلى به الله أصحاب محمد ﷺ فهو أنهم لمّا غزوا غزاة بدر ، وساحل أبو سفيان بالعير واستنفر لهم النفير ، وجاءهم الخبر بأن العير سلمت ـ وأن الجيش أقبل إليهم ، وأخبرهم النبي ﷺ  بذلك قال له المقداد بن عمرو : والله لو سرت بنا إلى برك الغماد لجالدنا من دونه معك ، ولو خضت بنا هذا البحر لخضناه معك ، ولا نقول لك كما قال قوم موسى لموسى : {فَاذْهَبْ أَنتَ وَرَ‌بُّكَ فَقَاتِلَا إِنَّا هَاهُنَا قَاعِدُونَ} [المائدة 24] ، بل أنا معك مقاتلون ، ولمَا أعاد الكلام قال له سعد بن معاذ : كأنك تعنينا معاشر الأنصار ؟ لأنهم اشرطوا عليه ليلة العقبة أن يمنعوه مما يمنعون منه نساءهم وأبناءهم بشرط أن يكون بداخل المدينة ولم يشترط عليهم خارج المدينة ، وأخبره ﷺ   أنه يعنيهم ، فقال كلامه المعروف المأثور ، قال : والله أنا لقوم صبر في الحرب ، صدق عند اللقاء ، الله مانكره أن تلقى بنا عدوك حتى ترى منا ما يقّر عينك ، والله لقد تخلف عندك أقوام لو علموا أنك تلقى كيداً ما تخلف عنك منهم رجل . ـ

As for the fear with which Allah tried the companions of Muhammad (ﷺ), that would be when they participated in the Battle of Badr. Abu Sufyan had diverted the caravan to the coast and called a party to come to their aid in battle. News reached the Muslims that the caravan had escaped them, and also that an army was heading towards them. So the Prophet (ﷺ) told this to the Companions and Miqdad ibn ‘Amr said to him, “By Allah, if you were to take us to Birk al-Ghimad, we would still fight with you against its defenders, and if you were to take us to wade into the ocean we would go with you. And we do not say to you what the people of Moosaa said to him:

فَاذْهَبْ أَنتَ وَرَ‌بُّكَ فَقَاتِلَا إِنَّا هَاهُنَا قَاعِدُونَ

“So go, you and your Lord, and the two of you fight; we are sitting right here.” [5:24]

Rather, we will be fighting alongside you.” So then after he had finished his speech, Sa’d ibn Mu’adh said to the Prophet (ﷺ), “it is as if you have the people of the Ansar on your mind?” He said this because on the night of the Pledge of al-‘Aqabah they had made an agreement that they would protect the Prophet just as they would protect their women and children as long as he was within the city of al-Madinah however their agreement did not include anything outside of the city. So the Prophet (ﷺ) told him that he was in fact thinking of them, so Sa’d ibn Mu’adh gave a speech which has been preserved and is well-known. He said, “By Allah, we are people who are patient in war and trustworthy in combat. By Allah, we are not averse to meeting these enemies of yours and hope that you will witness deeds of ours which will please your eyes. By Allah, some people of ours have stayed behind who, if they had only know that you were going to encounter this plot against you, not a single one of them would have remained behind.”

بخلاف بني إسرائيل لمل امتحنوا بخوف كهذا صدر منهم ما ذكره الله في سورة المائدة في قوله : {إِنَّ فِيهَا قَوْمًا جَبَّارِ‌ينَ وَإِنَّا لَن نَّدْخُلَهَا حَتَّىٰ يَخْرُ‌جُوا مِنْهَا فَإِن يَخْرُ‌جُوا مِنْهَا فَإِنَّا دَاخِلُونَ} [المائدة 22] ، وقالوا له : {قَالُوا يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنَّا لَن نَّدْخُلَهَا أَبَدًا مَّا دَامُوا فِيهَا ۖ فَاذْهَبْ أَنتَ وَرَ‌بُّكَ فَقَاتِلَا إِنَّا هَاهُنَا قَاعِدُونَ} [المائدة 24] . ـ

This is in contrast to the behavior of Banu Israa’eel when they were tested with fear. Take, for instance, what Allah mentioned that they did in surah al-Maa’idah when He said:

إِنَّ فِيهَا قَوْمًا جَبَّارِ‌ينَ وَإِنَّا لَن نَّدْخُلَهَا حَتَّىٰ يَخْرُ‌جُوا مِنْهَا فَإِن يَخْرُ‌جُوا مِنْهَا فَإِنَّا دَاخِلُونَ

“In this land there are people of great strength, and we shall never enter it, till they leave it; when they leave, then we will enter.” [5:22]

and they also said to Moosaa:

قَالُوا يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنَّا لَن نَّدْخُلَهَا أَبَدًا مَّا دَامُوا فِيهَا ۖ فَاذْهَبْ أَنتَ وَرَ‌بُّكَ فَقَاتِلَا إِنَّا هَاهُنَا قَاعِدُونَ

They said: “O Moosaa! We shall never enter it as long as they are there. So go, you and your Lord, and the two of you fight; we are sitting right here.” [5:24]

كذلك ابتلى بني إسرائيل بصيد وهو صيد السمك المذكور في الأعراف المشار له في البقرة : {وَاسْأَلْهُمْ عَنِ الْقَرْ‌يَةِ الَّتِي كَانَتْ حَاضِرَ‌ةَ الْبَحْرِ‌ إِذْ يَعْدُونَ فِي السَّبْتِ} [الأعراف 163] ، فحداهم القرم والطمع في أكل الحوت إلى أن اعتدوا في السبت فمسخهم الله قردة . ـ

And similarly, Allah also tested Banu Israa’eel with the matter game animals, that is the well-known story of their gathering fish which is mentioned in surah al-‘Aaraaf and alluded to in surah al-Baqarah:

وَاسْأَلْهُمْ عَنِ الْقَرْ‌يَةِ الَّتِي كَانَتْ حَاضِرَ‌ةَ الْبَحْرِ‌ إِذْ يَعْدُونَ فِي السَّبْتِ

And ask them about the town that was by the sea, when they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath [7:163]

So their leaders and their desires were spurring them on to eat the fish until they transgressed the Sabbath, and as a result Allah transformed them into monkeys.

وقد امتحن الله جل وعلا أصحاب النبي ﷺ في عمرة الحديبية بالصيد وهم محرمون فهيّاً لهم جميع أنواع الصيد من الوحوش والطير من كبارها وصغارها ، ولم يعتد رجل منهم ولم يصد في الإحرام كما بيته جل وعلا بقوله : {لَيَبْلُوَنَّكُمُ اللَّـهُ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الصَّيْدِ تَنَالُهُ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَرِ‌مَاحُكُمْ لِيَعْلَمَ اللَّـهُ مَن يَخَافُهُ بِالْغَيْبِ} [المائدة 94] ، فما مدّ منهم رجل يده إلى الصيد . ـ

And Allah also tested the companions of Muhammad (ﷺ) with hunting during the ‘Umrah of al-Hudaybiyyah when they were in a state of ihram and all sorts of game animals – birds and beasts of the earth, both large and small – which they could normally hunt came up to them. However not a single one of them transgressed the limits nor did they try to hunt them while they were in a state of ihram. And this was just as Allah had let them know:

  لَيَبْلُوَنَّكُمُ اللَّـهُ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الصَّيْدِ تَنَالُهُ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَرِمَاحُكُمْ لِيَعْلَمَ اللَّـهُ مَن يَخَافُهُ بِالْغَيْبِ

Allah will surely test you through something of the game that your hands and spears [can] reach, that Allah may make evident those who fear Him unseen. [5:94]

so not a single one of them reached out his hand towards those game animals.

فظهر بهذا أن كلتا الأمتين امتحنت بصيد وأن هؤلاء اعتدوا على ذلك الصيد فمسخوا قردة وأن أولئك اتقوا الله ، كذلك امتحنوا بخوف من عدو فصبر هؤلاء وتبتوا ، وخاف هؤلاء وجبنوا فدل هذا على أنهم أفضل منهم ، وهذا مما لا خلاف فيه ، وهذا مما يبين أن قوله : {وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ} أن المراد عالمو زمانهم . ـ

So it is clear that both of these nations were tested with these game animals and that one of them trespassed the limits in regards to the game animals and so they were transformed into monkeys while the other had taqwa of Allah. Similarly, both were tested with fear of their enemies, and one group exercised steadfast patience and perseverance while the other was fearful and cowardly. So these things show that the nation of Muhammad was the more virtuous of the two, and there is no scholarly disagreement on this. And all of this is one of the things that makes it clear that the intended meaning of Allah’s statement:

    وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

 I preferred you over all creation [2:47]

is that it is referring to the created beings of their particular time and era.

وقال بعض العلماء : هو نوع من التفضيل آخر لا يعارض أشرفية هذه الأمة وأفضليتها عليهم ، وهو كثرة الرسل فيهم ، وأن الأنبياء أكثر فيهم منهم في غيرهم ، وكثرة الأنبياء فيهم لا تجعلهم أفضل من هذه الأمة ، بل هذه الأمة أفضل منهم وإن كانت الأنبياء فيها إنما جاءها نبي واحد ﷺ ، وهذا معنى قوله : {وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ} . ـ

However, some of the scholars have said that this ayah is referring to another form of preference which does not conflict with the honor and general virtue that this nation holds over them, that being the abundance of messengers among their nation and that the number of prophets that they had among them is greater than those of any other nation. However an abundance of prophets in their nation does not make them more preferred than this nation; rather this nation is more preferred than them despite the number of prophets that they have and despite the fact that only one prophet came to us (ﷺ). This is the meaning of His statement:

وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

 I preferred you over all creation [2:47]

[Majaalis ma’aa Fadheelah al-Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Jankee al-Shinqitee pg. 149-153]

See also: The Story of the Town by the Sea: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: The Preservation of the Qur’an and the Preservation of the Tawrah: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: The Sharee’ah of Moosaa and the Sharee’ah of Muhammad

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One thought on “The Virtue of this Ummah over the Previous Nations: Imam al-Shinqitee

  1. Pingback: The Sharee’ah of Moosaa and the Sharee’ah of Muhammad | Tulayhah

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