When browsing content online or perusing magazines and newspapers, it is apparent how popular list-based articles are in all fields including entertainment, education and business.
Whether it’s a Top 10 list of programs or people, a trivia quiz to gauge personality type, a step-by-step interior makeover procedure, a set of quick-fix recipes, or an analysis of qualities possessed by financially successful people, such articles attract reader attention.
Perhaps it is human nature to glean information in a list form, which is why Allah has used a better – in fact the best – form of content presentation in the Qur’an to motivate believers to strive for higher levels of faith, character and behavior.
There are several places in the Qur’an where Allah lists out praiseworthy qualities, which He loves in His slaves. One of my favorite among such lists is the one that describes the traits of “Ibad Al-Rahman” – the Slaves of Al-Rahman – in the end of Surah Al-Furqan (verses 63-77).
We can use it as a checklist to see if we qualify to be the sincere servants of Allah:
1. “...those who walk on the earth in humility and sedateness, and when the ignorant address them (harshly) they reply back with mild words of gentleness.”
Contrary to this verse, walking with heads high up and chests puffed out with pride is regarded highly in today’s times. At times even those who are knowledgeable of Islam and practicing to certain extent fall into this error. However, the slaves of Al-Rahman do just the opposite – their gait is humble and they return harsh words with words of peace.
2. “...those who spend the night before their Lord, prostrating and standing.”
They do not sleep through the early, pre-dawn hours. Just like some people wake up in those eerie hours to meet project deadlines, study for exams, or watch a soccer match, the servants of Al-Rahman wake up to stand and prostrate humbly before Allah in the Tahajjud prayer.
3. “...those who say: ‘Our Lord! Avert from us the torment of Hell. Verily! Its torment is ever an inseparable, permanent punishment.’”
Their firm belief in the Hell-Fire’s torment and its absolute reality makes them regularly ask Allah for protection from it. It is their consciousness of Allah and a constant vigil of their sins that make them fear punishment. No one except the one who truly fears Allah can feel terrified of the Fire at its mere mention.
4. “...those, who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes).”
They are moderate in spending – charity and giving on one hand, and wise saving on the other. They spend on themselves and on others, but retain enough to avoid neediness. Also, splurging on over-priced food and elitist designer wear is not their thing, especially when moderately-priced commodities of good quality are available.
5. “...those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse.”
These sins have been considered forbidden in all divinely revealed religions in the history of humankind. For those who repent after even committing these major sins, Allah promises in the following verse that He will convert their bad deeds into good ones! Could there be a more merciful system of retribution?
6. “...those who do not witness falsehood, and if they pass by some evil play or evil talk, they pass by it with dignity.”
Some fabrications are considered “trivial” today. Forging signatures for a late classmate or colleague in the attendance register, not fulfilling contracts, cheating in business, lying to marry into good families, and forging visas to travel are some types of forgery that have become very common. The servants of Al-Rahman stay away from all lies and deception, even the supposedly harmless “white lies”.
They also do not indulge in Haraam pastimes like gossiping or watching immoral soaps that are not only not beneficial for one’s dunya and akhirah, but also detrimental sins that earn Allah’s anger. When the slaves of Al-Rahman come across such things, they pass by with dignity.
7. “...those who, when they are reminded of the verses of their Lord, fall not deaf and blind thereat.”
When they come across verses from the Qur’an, narrations of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or lectures of Islamic scholars, they listen with their hearts tuned in, not ignoring it like a passing noise that is heard by the ears but not absorbed by the heart.
8. “...those who say: ‘Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders for the Muttaqun (pious).’”
Since family is so important in Islam, the servants of Al-Rahman strongly desire that the people around them be pious and upon the straight path. They ask Allah for righteous spouses, children, and supporters.
The people who fulfill the above criteria of lofty behavior are given the good news of Paradise at the end of the Surah. They will be lodged in “Al-Ghurfah” – a high location in Paradise. They will be received with greetings of peace by the most prestigious delegations (angels) in the best abode – with the most breathtaking of views and the most beautiful of territories. The whole world combined together cannot come close to what Allah has in store for the most inferior of those who enter Paradise! May Allah make us among His special slaves. – SG