By Syed Akbar Hassan
The Qur’ān (25:63-66) says: “The true servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk gently on earth, and who, whenever the ignorant address them, say: ‘Peace.’ Who stay up far into the night in adoration of their Lord, prostrating themselves and standing; and those who pray: ‘Our Lord, avert from us the suffering of hell, for the suffering it causes is indeed a dire torment; It is indeed an evil abode and a terrible station.”
This final passage of Surah Al-Furqaan portrays the distinctive features of the true servants of Allah, the Most Merciful. They appear to be the highest model of humanity that remains after the end of the long battle between true guidance and error, between those who impertinently deny the truth and Allah’s messengers who bring His guidance for humanity. They provide a living example of the Muslim community which Islam aims to build, and the type of person it moulds through the implementation of its perfect system. These are the ones who deserve Allah’s care.
The Qur’ān has awarded the title of Ibad-ur-Rahman to such special servants of Allah. It is indeed the highest honour. Although all creatures are governed by His will compulsorily, but here the voluntary worship by free will is alluded. That is to surrender completely before Allah, and to make all deeds and desires conforming to His pleasure with one’s own choice. In these last ayaat of the surah the special servants of Allah are described whom He has Himself called His servants to grant them unique honour. Their traits and characteristics are mentioned until the end of the surah. In between this description, repentance from infidelity and sins and its effects are also referred to.
By calling these pious persons His own slaves, Allah has given to them a great title of honour. But by selecting the name Rahman (the All-Merciful) for Himself, out of all His Beautiful Names and Attributes, the hint is perhaps given to the fact that these pious people, being the slaves of the All-Merciful, should reflect and demonstrate the quality of mercifulness through their general behaviour.
The true servants’ first feature is that they walk gently, with no affectation, pretension, or display of arrogance. Like every movement man makes, walking delivers an expression of one’s personality and feelings. A serious, reassured and sound personality demonstrates itself through its gait. A person of this type walks with an air of seriousness and reassurance, reflecting clarity of purpose and strength. ‘To walk gently on earth’ does not mean that believers hang their heads down, affecting weakness and lack of support, as understood by some of those who think that by so doing, they show themselves to be God-fearing! Allah’s Messenger ﷺ used to bend forward when he walked. He was the fastest and best walker, with an air of serenity. Abu Hurayrah reports: “I have never seen anyone more handsome than Allah’s Messenger ﷺ: he looked as if the sun was reflected in his face. And I have never seen anyone who walked faster than Allah’s Messenger. It was as though the earth would shrink for him. (As we walked with him) we would put in our best effort, but he was most relaxed.”
In their serious and dignified approach, and in their attention to serious concerns, Allah’s true servants do not bother themselves with other people’s absurdities and stupidities. They do not waste their time or energy in futile arguments with such people. They recognise that engaging in an argument with people who argue for argument’s sake is fruitless. Hence, “Whenever the ignorant address them, (they) say: Peace.” But this is by no means a sign of weakness or lack of ability. It is simply a dignified approach which does not permit them to waste time and energy over what is unbecoming of the honourable.
Such is their conduct in daytime when they are with other people. At night they reflect their God-fearing nature, as they stand in awe of Allah and fear His punishment. “Who stay up far into the night in adoration of their Lord, prostrating themselves and standing; who pray: ‘Our Lord, avert from us the suffering of hell, for the suffering it causes is indeed a dire torment; it is indeed an evil abode and a terrible station.” Special mention of night worship is made here first, because this time being a time of rest, requires extra effort, and secondly because it rules out the possibility of showing one’s worship to others.
The surah highlights here the two main movements we perform in prayer, namely prostration and standing up. Thus, it reflects their action in the depth of the night, when others are fast asleep. Such true servants of Allah stay up prostrating themselves and standing before their Lord, addressing themselves completely to Him. They are not concerned about not being in bed, because they have something that they enjoy, giving them far more comfort, energy and happiness than sleep can ever give. They are preoccupied with being close to their Lord, addressing Him with all their being. Hence, people go to sleep while they pray standing and prostrating themselves. Other people are concerned with their position on earth while these true servants of Allah look up to the throne of the Most Merciful.
In their prayers, with all their movements and inner feelings, they are fully conscious of their Lord, fearing to incur His displeasure and so His punishment. Thus, they appeal to Him: “Our Lord, avert from us the suffering of hell, for the suffering it causes is indeed a dire torment; it is indeed an evil abode and a terrible station.” They have not seen the hell or its suffering, but they believe in it. They also visualise it according to its descriptions in the Qur’ān and in the Prophet’s statements. Thus, their genuine fear of it is the fruit of true faith.
They do not feel safe simply because they spend part of the night in worship, prostrating themselves and standing in prayer. Their God-fearingness makes them think little of what they do, feeling always that they fall short of what is needed. Hence, they pray for Allah’s grace and forgiveness so that He spares them the punishment of hell.
This description implies that the hell tries to engulf every human being, with its gates open and hands outstretched trying to grab them. Allah’s true servants who stay up far into the night in their devotion – fear it and appeal most sincerely to their Lord to spare them from such punishment. As they address their prayer, they shiver with fear: “for the suffering it causes is indeed a dire torment.” It engulfs its victim, not allowing them any room for escape. This is what makes it dire indeed. Moreover, “it is indeed an evil abode and a terrible station.” Could there be a worse station than the hell as a place of abode and settlement?
Allah! Guide us and make us strive to do all that pleases You so that we are also among Ibad-ur-Rahman, aamin.