[Surah Al-Qalam 68:4]
The character of the Prophet ﷺ was constantly being improved, after being honored with the status of Prophethood. He was excellent in Akhlaq (conduct) even before his Prophethood and continued to grow in excellence after becoming the Prophet of Allah, as commanded by Him.
Surah Al-Mudathir had six commands in its first few verses which hold great value even today. These commands are related to inviting people to Islam, Creed, Tawheed, laws and good Akhlaq (character).
1. Arise and warn!
The first command is to get up and warn the people. This verse shows the responsibility of the people of knowledge or scholars. Gaining knowledge is not limited to just collecting or memorising data and information. It has to be implemented (in your life), shared and taught to others, so that they can also benefit from it. Forewarning people is called ‘Inzar’. The word Inzar reflects the high standard of Akhlaq (character) of our Prophet ﷺ. Every prophet has been sent as Basheer and Nazeer. Both terms are related to the high standard of character. Nazeer is derived from the word inzar. Inzar is not merely to frighten or caution someone but to warn others with sincere concern and affection; It does not mean to warn harshly or rudely, rather to warn politely, with kindness and care. The actual aim of Inzar is to be caring in correction.
An example of being Nazeer - Sahih Bukhari: The Prophet ﷺ said, “Our example is like a person burning a candle. It attracts a lot of insects rushing towards it; where they die. The way a person saves those insects from being burnt in the fire of the candle, I ,too , struggle to save you from going into the hellfire but alas! humankind does not respond to my concerned warnings. When I see you rushing towards the fire, I try to hold you by waist and try to stop you but yet you people (don’t pay heed and) move towards fire.
This quality of genuine concern for saving the people from hell fire, qualifies the Prophet ﷺ to be ‘Rahamtulil Alameen: The mercy to the entire universe’.
Being Basheer – Being Basheer means encouraging people to do good deeds, and informing them of the goodness these deeds would bring to them, in this life and the Hereafter. Being Basheer means instilling hope and goodwill in humankind, without expecting any gains in return. The Prophet ﷺ was Basheer for his people, in its very true sense.
2. Glorify your Lord
It meant to explain and describe the greatness of Allah amidst a society where idols and humans were worshipped reverently. The Qur’an refers to it:
“When Allah is mentioned before them, they react violently and their face turn red. But when their idols are mentioned they turn very happy”
It was a huge responsibility to openly reject the false gods and invite people to worship only one true God. If we pay close attention, every act of worship in salah and even in adhan, glorifies Allah; AllahuAkbar, Subhana Rabbiyal Alaa etc. The greatness of Allah is expected to be announced everywhere and all the time.
The need to glorify Allah exsists even today. We need to explain the greatness and oneness of Allah to a society that is teemed with beliefs like polytheism, atheism and all forms of shirk.
3. Purify your dress:
This verse also speaks about a great trait. A group of ulema believed that this verse referred to the normal dresses that we wear. Even today people cannot stand untidiness. In those days, amongst the pagan Arabs, cleanliness was not emphasised and here amongst the earliest verses of Qur’an, the Prophet (SAW) in particular, and ummah in general, is being taught the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene. Neatness and tidiness is considered to be an essential part of good Akhlaq (character).
Scholars have deduced a very important ruling from this verse - A person should always be neat,tidy and clean; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, not just for prayers alone. The command of neatness and cleanliness came even before the command of prayers and fasting. This shows how much importance Islam gives to personal hygiene.
The Prophet ﷺ said, “When you urinate, save yourselves from its sprinkles, too. (Cleanse your urine organ with water or stone. If nothing is available, use paper) because being careless from the sprinkles of urine will result in punishment in grave”.
An important issue before us is about the careless attitude of some people towards the drops of urine. They may take a bath earlyin the morning and leave for job but for the rest of the day they do not do istinja (washing of private parts with water, after attending the call of nature). Many of them even cite it as an excuse for not offering prayers. This should be avoided at all costs.
The second meaning of purification (mentioned here) is to keep the heart clean. In the language of Arabs, even the heart is called as a dress to cover. There are many instances in the Arab literature regarding it. For a beautiful character, a pure heart is essential. Well dressed cheaters, thieves or murderers could never be counted amongst those having good Akhlaq (character). A well dressed person serving you drugged food with a smile, so that he could put you to sleep and steal from you, would never ever be considered as having good Akhlaq (character). Although, he was well dressed (part of good akhlaq), he served you food (part of good akhlaq) with a smile (part of good akhlaq), it all was a façade. These qualities would not be accounted as good Akhlaq (character). Any good deed done without pure intention would not be considered as good Akhlaq.
That is why this verse also means ‘cleanse your heart’. Purifying of heart includes refraining from shirk and biddah, too. Objections can be raised; How can prophet fall into the clutches of shirk? No. The Prophet ﷺ would never commit shirk. Although this order or instruction is addressed to the Prophet ﷺ, it actually is meant for the Ummah and his followers.
The other meaning of ‘Fasiyyabaka fatta’hir’can be ‘family’; As the Qur’an says ‘hunna libasa lakum, wa antum libasu lahunna’
‘They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them’
In this verse of Surah al-Baqarah, husbands and wives are addressed as garments for each other. Thus, a good number of scholars have said that this verse refers to the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ).
Ibn Kathir and some other scholars believe that all the (above mentioned) types of purification are included in this verse.
4. Pollution shun!
Rujz means dirty things and it includes: uncleanliness (physical), moral filth and bad habits. Rejecting them or refraining from them is a part of good character building. Such Rujz is counted as sin and includes both major and minor sins. The verse can be explained as:
‘O Prophet, shun filthy things’
This is a superb example of how Allah ﷻ guides His Prophet ﷺ to shape up his honourable character (Akhlaq) to the level of excellence. These were the earliest teachings and were amongst the first verses revealed upon the Prophet ﷺ.
5. And show not favour, seeking worldly gain!
The duty of Prophets is a selfless duty and no worldly gains are to be expected, even after bestowing such a huge favor to the entire mankind.
It is an important component of good Akhlaq (conduct) that one shows genuine amicable behaviour towards all creatures of Allah ﷻ without expecting anything in return. This kind and gentle behaviour should be for all, without any discrimination, and at all times; it should not be limited to selected people or at specific times only. The Arabic term is Ihsan and Allah says: ‘If you do ihsan towards others, then you will be returned with more Ihsan (from Allah)’.
6. For the sake of your Lord, be patient!
The main purpose of Sabr is to seek pleasure of Allah ﷻ. Sabr is not a one time job, or any part time deed; It needs to be instilled in your character and should be practised at all times. Thus, the Prophet ﷺ is being instructed to bear with patience, all the hardships that he is, or will be facing (in future), from the people, when he would invite them to worship Allah ﷻ alone.
Jabir ibn Abdullah (May Allah be pleased with him) says about these verses that these verses were the earliest to be revealed and along with Creed, good Akhlaq (character) is also emphasised in them. He says: ‘The six commands, mentioned in these verses, were revealed before the command of praying five times (a day) was revealed’. This is the status of good Akhlaq (conduct) in Islam.