Examples of The Rightly-Guided in The Qur'an
If asked, most people would define themselves as highly conscientious people. However, on the issue of conscience, just as in all other issues, the only criterion is the Qur'an. In the Qur'an, Allah relates many events and conversations from past communities. In each of these are warnings and examples for people. The best example for people who use their conscience fully is from the Messenger of Allah (SAW). In His verses, Allah states:
You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much. (Surat al-Ahzab: 21)
In other verses, Allah gives Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Isa as an example:
He (Isa) is only a slave on whom We bestowed Our blessing and whom We made an example for the tribe of Israel. (Surat az-Zukhruf: 59)
You have an excellent example in Ibrahim and those with him… (Surat al-Mumtahana: 4)
Allah states in Surah Yusuf that the stories of the messengers are a warning to people:
There is instruction in their stories for people of intelligence. This is not a narration which has been invented but confirmation of all that came before, a clarification of everything, and a guidance and a mercy for people who believe. (Surah Yusuf: 111)
For this reason, everyone reading the Qur'an must compare their attitudes and actions with those of the messengers and make a serious effort to emulate them.
It must be made clear that the sayings and actions of the messengers were due to Divine revelation, not conscience as such. However, one can make an analogy between the Divine revelation of the messengers and the conscience in ourselves. Both are divinely inspired and cannot be disobeyed or ignored. However, it is essential to understand that our conscience can never go against revelation.
In the Qur'an, people other than messengers are also given as examples of conscientious people who have taqwa. Maryam, the mother of Prophet 'Isa, Asiya the wife of the pharaoh of Egypt and the magicians who obeyed Prophet Musa despite Pharaoh's oppression, are some examples of righteous people whom we should imitate.
Prophet Nuh's summons to Islam
The prophets spent their lives explaining the true religion with great patience and perseverance, without compromising under any circumstances. In the Qur'an, it is stated that Prophet Nuh (AS) called his people day and night to Allah's way, warning them of His penalty. He did not falter in the face of their ridicule and oppression.
He said, 'My Lord, I have called my people night and day but my calling has only made them more evasive. Indeed, every time I called them to Your forgiveness, they put their fingers in their ears, wrapped themselves up in their clothes and were overbearingly arrogant. Then I called them openly. Then I addressed them publicly and addressed them privately. I said, "Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Truly He is Endlessly Forgiving."' (Surah Nuh: 5-10)
Prophet Nuh did everything Allah and his conscience ordered him to do. His inviting his people to Islam day and night, secretly and publicly shows his serious and sincere commitment. The answer his people gave is stated in the Qur'an:
Before them the people of Nuh denied the truth. They denied Our slave, saying, 'He is a madman,' and he was driven away with jeers. (Surat al-Qamar: 9)
In reply to his people's transgression, Allah revealed to Prophet Nuh:
None of your people are going to believe except for those who already believe, so do not be distressed at what they do. Build the Ark under Our supervision and as We reveal and do not address Me concerning the wrongdoers. They shall be drowned. (Surah Hud: 36-37)
Prophet Nuh communicated the message to his people until Allah's help arrived. He never gave up explaining the deen in spite of all the difficulties he met. This surely required great patience. All the prophets mentioned in the Qur'an summoned their people to Islam with the same determination and patience. Allah gave these righteous slaves of His wisdom and decisive speech and knowledge. While the communication of the message by each of them has been the means for the guidance of believers, it has also served to reveal the lies of the disbelievers. Through His messengers, Allah has hurled the truth against falsehood and made it cut right through it. In a verse, this Divine rule is explained:
Rather We hurl the truth against falsehood and it cuts right through it and it vanishes clean away! Woe without end for you for what you portray! (Surat al-Anbiya': 18)
Prophet Ibrahim was a 'community in himself'
Ibrahim was a community in himself, exemplary, obedient to Allah, a man of pure natural belief. He was not of the idolaters. He was grateful for His blessings. Allah chose him and guided him to a straight path. We gave him good in the world and in the hereafter he will be among the righteous. (Surat an-Nahl: 120-123)
While struggling with the disbelievers, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was alone. There was no one around him to help and support him physically or spiritually. However, he persisted to such a degree that the wicked transgressors wanted to burn him alive, just for preaching the truth to them. Allah in his infinite power saved Prophet Ibrahim from such an agonising death, and protected him against his enemies.
They said, 'Burn him and support your gods if you are resolved to do something.' We said, 'Fire, be coolness and peace for Ibrahim!' They desired to trap him but We made them the losers. (Surat al-Anbiya': 68-70)
Prophet Ibrahim is an example of the prophets' devotion to Allah and their resolution in the way of Allah. Allah describes him by the verse 'Ibrahim was tender hearted and forbearing' (Surat at-Tawba: 114). He was an extremely considerate, conscientious person, and Allah will definitely help his slaves who display such qualities. All of Allah's messengers have displayed the most excellent and sublime qualities. About Prophet Yahya (AS), Allah says in the Qur'an:
[We gave him] …tenderness and purity from Us; he had taqwa and devotion to his parents; he was not insolent or disobedient. (Surah Maryam: 13-14)
These attributes are implications of Prophet Yahya's high conscience that does not tend to any rebellion against Allah.
Maryam (RA), who gave birth to Prophet Isa without a father with the 'Be' command of Allah, is a righteous believer given as an example in the Qur'an to all women in the world. Maryam was raised with great care and attention, and 'grew in health and beauty' (Surat Al 'Imran: 37). She had a superiority of manner and character rarely seen in our day. In the Qur'an, it is stated that Allah chose Maryam over all other women:
And when the angels said, 'Maryam, Allah has chosen you and purified you. He has chosen you over all other women. Maryam, obey your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow.' (Surat Al 'Imran: 42-43)
One of the most remarkable aspects of Maryam in the Qur'an is her concern for her chastity. This was not due to the tradition, customs or rules of society, but because of her devotion to Allah and her meticulousness about His commands.
Maryam's becoming pregnant with Prophet Isa (AS) and her giving birth to him is told in detail in the Qur'an. Angel Jibril came to Maryam with the glad tidings of a son in whom Allah had blown from His spirit. This was a great gift for her from Allah, because this boy was to be a prophet.
Giving birth on her own by Allah's help and protection, Maryam set an example to the world when she returned to her community, by displaying a strong character. She and her family were known as devout, chaste and faithful people in the city they lived in. When Maryam, after a long time, returned to her community with a baby, she found all her countrymen against her. There were some who did not believe that Prophet Isa was a glad tiding for her from Allah, and they slandered her and tried to harm her.
Since Maryam acted according to the good pleasure of Allah, and not for the approval of people, she was not affected by popular opinion. In societies of ignorance, however, there are many people who, just because of the possible reaction they may trigger from other people, become removed from their conscience, do not perform regular prayers and other acts of worship, and disregard what is forbidden and allowed.
Allah commanded Maryam not to speak with anyone so that she would not be exposed to the accusations of her community, and to state that she had made a vow of abstinence. Right after that, He created a miracle that would cause all slander to cease. Prophet Isa, who was but a baby in the cradle, started to speak and explain on behalf of his mother.
She pointed towards him. They said, 'How can a baby in the cradle speak?' He said, 'I am the slave of Allah, He has given me the Book and made me a Prophet. He has made me blessed wherever I am and directed me to do regular prayers and give regular charity as long as I live, and to show devotion to my mother. He has not made me insolent or arrogant. Peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die and the day I am raised up again alive.' (Surah Maryam: 29-33)
Thus, Maryam was supported in the best manner against her community with a miracle by Allah. Her story shows the strong and courageous character of someone wholeheartedly devoted to Allah.
Asiya (RA) was the wife of the pharaoh who reigned over the children of Israel in Egypt during Prophet Musa's time. This righteous woman who was married to a man who has gone down in history as one of the most oppressive people in the world, has the honour of being remembered among the most superior Muslims in history. Her character is given as an example to the believers in the Qur'an:
Allah has made an example for those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh… (Surat at-Tahrim:11)
As wife of the pharaoh she would have enjoyed the highest status and had access to unlimited wealth and prosperity, while those who opposed him lived in wretchedness and fear of severe punishment or death. Yet Asiya was neither lured by the comfort of riches nor afraid of her husband's wrath. The Qur'an tells us:
None believed in Musa except for a few of his people out of fear that Pharaoh, and the elders, would persecute them. Pharaoh was high and mighty in the land. He was one of the profligate. (Surah Yunus: 83)
Asiya shared the same house with this cruel person and his close circle. She also knew how he oppressed those who said they believed in Allah. In such an atmosphere, when believers were so exposed to oppression, she submitted to the righteous religion communicated by Prophet Musa. Her conscience confirmed Allah's existence and that all the beliefs prevailing across Egypt were false. It must not be forgotten that she possessed limitless wealth and possessions. However, she turned away from such distractions and submitted to Allah's religion. Too frequently we see those who own only a fraction of her wealth and possessions exceeding in arrogance and transgression. Their behaviour provides a good comparison to help us understand the worth of this righteous woman.
The prayer of Pharaoh's wife in the Qur'an as communicated by Allah is an expression of her sincerity. She asked Allah of His paradise by completely dismissing the prosperity she owned:
Allah has made an example for those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh when she said, 'My Lord, build a house in the Garden for me in Your presence and rescue me from Pharaoh and his deeds and rescue me from this wrongdoing people…' (Surat at-Tahrim: 11)