The Best Nation

 (Keywords: Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil, Approving and Supporting Public Good, Disapproving and Discouraging Public Evil, Spread of Evil, Widespread Sins)

قال الله سبحانه وتعالى: {كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ} سورة آل عمران 110. ـ

  قال ابن كثير في تفسيره: ( {كنتم خير أمة أخرجت للناس تأمرون بالمعروف وتنهون عن المنكر وتؤمنون بالله} فمن اتصف من هذه الأمة بهذه الصفات دخل معهم في هذا الثناء عليهم والمدح لهم ، كما قال قتادة: بلغنا أن عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه في حجَّة حجَّها رأى من الناس سرعة، فقرأ هذه الآية: {كنتم خير أمة أخرجت للناس} ثم قال: من سره أن يكون من تلك الأمة فليؤد شرط الله فيها. رواه ابن جرير . ـ
ومن لم يتصف بذلك أشبه أهل الكتاب الذين ذمهم الله بقوله: {كانوا لا يتناهون عن منكر فعلوه لبئس ما كانوا يفعلون} [المائدة، 79]). انتهى. ـ

English Translation:

God the Almighty says in Qur’an: {You are the best nation ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Good and forbid Evil, and you believe in God} (Surah 3, verse 110).

Ibn Katheer said in his Exegesis: “{You are the best nation ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Good and forbid Evil, and you believe in God}. Therefore, whoever among this nation acquires these qualities, will be included in this praise.

The scholar Qatadah said: ‘We were told that Omar Ibn Al-Khattab while performing Hajj once, saw some people rushing, so he recited this verse and then said: `Whoever likes to be among the mentioned nation, then let him fulfill the condition that God has set in it.`’  Related by Ibn Jarir.

But those from this nation who do not acquire these qualities will be just like the People of the Scriptures whom God criticized in His verse: {They used not to forbid one another from the evil which they committed} (Surah 5, verse 79).”

 

The Almighty God has described this nation as the best nation among all nations, and then stated three reasons for that favor.  The nation of Prophet Muhammad is the last nation, but most favored one.  The three reasons for that favor mentioned in the verse are: First, they are firm believers in God as One and the Only God worthy of worship alone with no partners or equal, and they are firm believers in His Divine Message which He sent to His messengers and Prophets, including the last Prophet, Muhammad.  Second, they do righteous and enjoin good.  And third, they refrain from evil and sins and prohibit them.

It was God’s great mercy upon this nation that He made it the last but the greatest in reward.  Not only that, but this nation has been favored with many attributes that previous nations haven’t been favored with.  The message of Prophet Muhammad is general to all mankind, while other prophets were sent to specific people; the reward of a good deed is multiplied ten times while the sin is considered one misdeed for this nation; the knowledge granted to this nation encompasses all previous Scriptures, such that Islam explains everything so clearly and logically that no confusion or doubt remain; the gate of Repentance has been left open for this nation till the soul reaches the throat; this nation constitutes two thirds of the people of Paradise; and last but not least Prophet Muhammad -prayer and peace be upon him- would intercede for this great nation on the Day of Judgment.  Prophet Muhammad alluded to this favor in the following hadith:

 

       عن ‏حَكِيمِ بْنِ مُعَاوِيَةَ عن ‏أَبِيهِ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ‏صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم قَالَ: « أَنْتُمْ تُوَفُّون سَبْعِينَ أُمَّةً، أَنْتُمْ خَيْرُهَا، وَأَنْتُمْ أَكْرَمُ عَلَى اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَل».  رواه الترمذي وابن ماجه والحاكم وأحمد وإسناده حسن. ـ

Narrated Hakeem Ibn Mu’awiyah, narrated his father that the Messenger of God (Muhammad) -prayer and peace be upon him- said: “You are the final of seventy nations, you are the best and most honored among them to God.”  Related by At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and Al-Hakim, and Ahmad.  (Hasan).

           However, the distinction of being the best nation comes with certain conditions and terms, chief among them are the three conditions mentioned in the verse.  Muslims would be favored if: 1) they truly believe in God and His Messengers, and act righteous by 2) enjoining good and doing it and 3) forbidding evil and sins and staying away from them.  Only if they fulfill these conditions, would they be considered the best nation.  But if they do not, then they are just like other creatures of God.  God -the Exalted- said in another verse:

قال الله عز وجل: وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ وَالنَّصَارَىٰ نَحْنُ أَبْنَاءُ اللَّهِ وَأَحِبَّاؤُهُ قُلْ فَلِمَ يُعَذِّبُكُم بِذُنُوبِكُم بَلْ أَنتُم بَشَرٌ مِّمَّنْ خَلَقَ يَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَاءُ وَلِلَّهِ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا وَإِلَيْهِ الْمَصِيرُ} سورة المائدة، 18. ـ

   God the Almighty says in Qur’an: { The Jews and the Christians say: ‘We are the children of God and His loved ones.’ Say: ‘Why then does He punish you for your sins then! Nay, you are but human beings of those He has created; He forgives whom He wills and He punishes whom He wills. And to God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them; and to Him is the final return (of all)} (Surah 5, verse 18).

   Ibn Katheer said: “Meaning, if you were truly God’s children and loved ones as you claim, then why did He prepare the Fire because of your disbelief, lies and false claims.

{Nay, you are but human beings, of those He has created}, God states: You are just like the rest of the children of Adam, and God is the Lord of all His creation.

{He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills}:  God does what He wills, there is none who can escape His judgment, and He is swift in reckoning.

{And to God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them}: Therefore, everything is God’s property and under His power and control.

{And to Him is the return}: In the end, the return will be to God and He will judge between His servants as He will, and He is the Most Just Who is never wrong in His judgment). End Quote.

The same rule applies to this nation, if they believe in God and act righteous then they are favored and would be considered the best nation; but if they stray away from religion, stop acting righteous by accepting public sins then that favor is no longer in place, and they may be punished.

          Islam emphasizes enjoining good and forbidding evil as an important check and curb for the practice of sins individually and the spread of evil and sins in society.  The concept of Public Shame is an important concept that helps keep society in check and saves it from straying from morality.  Furthermore, the concept of Public Shame saves society from accepting degradation and loss of principles and ideals that continually erode with time.  As every generation passes on, some of its principles and ideals are lost as the new generation adopts new and oftentimes more bold and immoral practices and traditions.

          Therefore, Islam has prescribed the concept of enjoining good and forbidding evil in order to develop a sense of self-righteousness in the individual himself, and develop abhorrence and intolerance of public evil.  This in turn would create a society of moral and righteous people who not only care about their own family’s well-being, but also about the well-being of their neighbors and the whole society.  The end result is a peaceful and loving society that adheres to religious values and is characterized by morality and a high code of ethics.

           On the other hand, when people see evil and think nothing of it; when evil spreads among a community and people say nothing about it; and when most people get engaged in that evil with no objection or censure, then that community is at risk of some of punishment in one form or another.

Indeed, God the Almighty gives us many examples of some past communities that engaged in public sins and were therefore destroyed.  God the Almighty says in Qur’an:

  قال الله عز وجل: { الْحَاقَّةُ (1) مَا الْحَاقَّةُ (2) وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْحَاقَّةُ (3) كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ وَعَادٌ بِالْقَارِعَةِ (4) فَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَأُهْلِكُوا بِالطَّاغِيَةِ (5) وَأَمَّا عَادٌ فَأُهْلِكُوا بِرِيحٍ صَرْصَرٍ عَاتِيَةٍ (6) سَخَّرَهَا عَلَيْهِمْ سَبْعَ لَيَالٍ وَثَمَانِيَةَ أَيَّامٍ حُسُومًا فَتَرَى الْقَوْمَ فِيهَا صَرْعَى كَأَنَّهُمْ أَعْجَازُ نَخْلٍ خَاوِيَةٍ (7) فَهَلْ تَرَى لَهُمْ مِنْ بَاقِيَةٍ (8) وَجَاءَ فِرْعَوْنُ وَمَنْ قَبْلَهُ وَالْمُؤْتَفِكَاتُ بِالْخَاطِئَةِ (9) فَعَصَوْا رَسُولَ رَبِّهِمْ فَأَخَذَهُمْ أَخْذَةً رَابِيَةً (10) إِنَّا لَمَّا طَغَى الْمَاءُ حَمَلْنَاكُمْ فِي الْجَارِيَةِ (11) لِنَجْعَلَهَا لَكُمْ تَذْكِرَةً وَتَعِيَهَا أُذُنٌ وَاعِيَةٌ } سورة الحاقة 1-12. ـ

 God the Almighty says in Qur’an: { 1. The Inevitable Reality (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)!  2. What is the Inevitable Reality? 3. And what will make you know what the Inevitable Reality is?

  1. The People of Thamood and Aad denied the striking Hour (i.e., Resurrection).
  2. As for Thamood, they were destroyed by the awful blast!
  3. And as for Aad, they were destroyed by a furious violent wind;
  4. Which God imposed on them for seven nights and eight days in succession, so you could see men lying overthrown (destroyed), as if they were hollow trunks of date-palms.
  5. Do you see any remnants of them?
  6. And there came Pharaoh, those before him, and the overturned Cities (i.e., the towns of the people of Lout (Lot), all committed sin.
  1. They disobeyed the messenger of their Lord, so He punished them with a strong punishment.
  2. Verily, when the water rose beyond its limits (Noah Flood), We carried you (mankind) in the floating (ship that was constructed by Noah).
  3. That We might make it for you a reminder and [that] a heedful ear would take heed} (Surah 69, verses 1-12).

    Then, Muslims are commanded to enjoin good and act upon it; and forbid evil and sins and refrain from it to avoid a similar fate like of those before us.  Not only that, but we have been warned time and again that when sins become widespread and Public Shame is lost, then punishment descends in one form or another.  Prophet Muhammad warned us of the consequences of five sins if they become widespread:

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ، قَالَ: أَقْبَلَ عَلَيْنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ: «‏ يَا مَعْشَرَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ خَمْسٌ إِذَا ابْتُلِيتُمْ بِهِنَّ وَأَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ أَنْ تُدْرِكُوهُنَّ: لَمْ تَظْهَرِ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي قَوْمٍ قَطُّ حَتَّى يُعْلِنُوا بِهَا إِلاَّ فَشَا فِيهِمُ الطَّاعُونُ وَالأَوْجَاعُ الَّتِي لَمْ تَكُنْ مَضَتْ فِي أَسْلاَفِهِمُ الَّذِينَ مَضَوْا،‏ وَلَمْ يَنْقُصُوا الْمِكْيَالَ وَالْمِيزَانَ إِلاَّ أُخِذُوا بِالسِّنِينَ وَشِدَّةِ الْمَؤُنَةِ وَجَوْرِ السُّلْطَانِ عَلَيْهِمْ،‏ وَلَمْ يَمْنَعُوا زَكَاةَ أَمْوَالِهِمْ إِلاَّ مُنِعُوا الْقَطْرَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَلَوْلاَ الْبَهَائِمُ لَمْ يُمْطَرُوا، وَلَمْ يَنْقُضُوا عَهْدَ اللَّهِ وَعَهْدَ رَسُولِهِ إِلاَّ سَلَّطَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ عَدُوًّا مِنْ غَيْرِهِمْ فَأَخَذُوا بَعْضَ مَا فِي أَيْدِيهِمْ،‏ وَمَا لَمْ تَحْكُمْ أَئِمَّتُهُمْ بِكِتَابِ اللَّهِ وَيَتَخَيَّرُوا مِمَّا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ إِلاَّ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ بَأْسَهُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ».  رواه ابن ماجه. ـ

     Narrated Abdul-Allah Ibn Omar said: “Prophet Muhammad -prayer and peace be upon him- once turned to us and said: ‘O Group of the Migrants (Muhajireen), there are five things with which you will be tested, and I seek refuge with God lest you live to see them:

Immorality never appears among a people to such an extent that they commit it openly, but plagues and diseases that were never known among their predecessors will spread among them.

They do not cheat in weights and measures but they will be stricken with famine, severe calamity and the oppression of their rulers.

They do not withhold the obligatory charity (Zakah) of their wealth, but rain will be withheld from the sky, and were it not for the animals, no rain would fall on them.

They do not break their covenant with God and His Messenger, but God will enable their enemies to overpower them and take some of what is in their hands. 

And unless their leaders rule according to the Book of God and seek all good from that which God has revealed, God will cause them to fight one another.’ ”  Related by Ibn Majah.

Finally, Prophet Muhammad taught us to enjoin good and forbid evil, he taught us to encourage good and support it, and he taught us to abhor evil and try to prevent it.  He described enjoining good and liking it in public, and forbidding evil and disliking it in public as a sign of inner faith:

    عن أبي سعيد الخدري رضي الله عنه قال: سمعتُ رسولَ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم يقول: « مَنْ رَأَى مِنْكُم مُنْكراً فَلْيغيِّرْهُ بِيَدهِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبقَلبهِ وَذَلَكَ أَضْعَفُ الإِيمَانِ» .  رواه مسلم والترمذي وابن ماجه والنسائي. ـ

        Narrated Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri -may God be pleased with him- said: “I heard Prophet Muhammad -prayer and peace be upon him- say: ‘Whoever amongst you witnesses an evil, then let him change it with his hand. If he is unable, then let him change it with his tongue. And if he is unable then let him change it with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith.’”

And in another narration: “There is no faith beyond that, not even the weight of a mustard seed.”  Related by Muslim, Al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and An-Nasa’i.

Furthermore, we have been warned of the severe consequences of accepting sins and thinking nothing of it, or seeing sins and doing nothing about it:

        وعن عائشة رضي الله عنها قالت: ( دخلَ عَلَيَّ النَّبِيُّ صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم، فعرفتُ في وجهه أن قد حضره شيءٌ، فتوضأ وما كلم أحداً، فلصقتُ بالحجرة أستمعُ ما يقول، فقعدَ على المنبرِ فحَمِدَ اللهَ وأَثْنَى عليهِ، وقال: « يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَقُولُ لكم: مُرُوا بِالمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَوْا عَنِ المُنْكَرِ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ تَدْعُوا فَلَا أُجِيبُ لَكُمْ، وَتَسْأَلُونِي فَلَا أُعْطِيكُم،ْ وَتَسْتَنْصِرُونِي فَلَا أَنْصُرُكُمْ» ، فما زاد عليهن حتى نزل) .  رواه ابن ماجه وابن حبان. ـ

   Narrated Aishah -may God be pleased with her- said: “The Prophet -prayer and peace be upon him- once came inside the house, and it was evident from his face that he was concerned about something.  He performed ablution (wudu’) without talking to anybody and then went to the mosque. I stood close to the wall to carefully listen to what he was going to say.  The Prophet -prayer and peace be upon him- sat at the pulpit, praised and extolled God, and then said:

‘O People, God says to you: Enjoin others to do good and forbid others from evil; otherwise a time will come when you pray but I will not answer you, ask Me for your needs but I will not grant them to you; and seek My assistance against your enemies, but I will not assist you.’   The Prophet prayer and peace be upon him- did not add anything further but came down from the pulpit.’ ”  Related by Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban.

 

   Once the Muslim adheres to these three conditions; namely the firm belief in God and His Messengers, enjoining good and acting on it, and forbidding evil and staying away from it, then s/he would be included in the highly praised, favored last nation, and his reward would be multiplied many-folds.  Furthermore, he would be among the first to enter Paradise as Prophet Muhammad mentioned:

‏   وعن ‏أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رضي الله عنه‏ ‏قال: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ‏صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم: « نَحْنُ الْآخِرُونَ الأَوَّلُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ، وَنَحْنُ أَوَّلُ مَنْ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ».  متفق عليه. ـ

    Narrated Abu Hurairah -may God be pleased with him- that the Messenger of God -prayer and peace be upon him-said: “We (Muslims) are the last (to come), but (will be) the foremost on the Day of Judgment, and will be the first people to enter Paradise.”  Related by Al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim.

 

Then, the sensible should know that this nation is the best nation and most favored one among all nations, but there are certain conditions that must be met.  Chief among these conditions are: 1) the firm belief in God as the Only God worthy of worship and the firm belief in his prophets and messengers, and acting righteous by 2) enjoining good and doing it and 3) forbidding evil and sins and refraining from them.  Only if the Muslim fulfills these conditions, he would be considered among the best nation.  But if the Muslim community does not adhere to these conditions, then it is just like other creatures of God, whom He either punishes or forgives.  We ask God for His Guidance, Forgiveness and Mercy.

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