Think about this; are you brave or cowardly?
Do you take initiative?
Are you strong-willed and persistent, or do you always end up thinking “I can’t do this, it is too difficult.”
Are you disciplined and neat, or are you careless and chaotic?
Is your house and room tidy?
Do you keep your promises?
Are you polite with your parents?
Do you arrive at work or college on time?
Finally, are you loyal, or are you selfish?
Would you still work hard even if you did not get credit for your good deeds?
Compare your personality with these four traits, knowing that people with strong personalities are those who develop their societies.
It is not about quantity, it is about quality, Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as “…’How often a little community has overcome a much (larger) community by the permission of Allah’…” (TMQ, 2:249).
Please keep this saying in mind, learn it and try to apply it in your everyday life: “Be a man like a thousand men, but if you can’t then be a man, not half a man”. There are people who have very weak personalities that they would count as halves or quarters, or even zeros. Amr Ibnul-‘Aas (RA) asked Umar Ibnul-Khattab (RA) to send him back up so he could conquer Egypt, so Umar Ibnul-Khattab (RA) sent him four soldiers. Amr Ibnul-‘Aas (RA) found that strange; he asked for backup and only got four men. Umar Ibnul-Khattab (RA) explained to him that he sent him a man equivalent to a thousand, that man was Qa’qa’a (RA). It is quality that matters, not quantity.
Today’s story is about a nation that was in pretty much the same state as ours – it was collapsing. But a new generation emerged that claimed to be keen on developing their nation and restoring its lost glory. There were hundreds of thousands of people who made that claim, but the four traits we mentioned did not dominate their personalities. So Allah (AWJ) tested them several times, to “filter out” the people who were strong enough to achieve success. In the first test, weak-willed individuals were excluded. In the second test, the selfish people were excluded. The chaotic, unorganized individuals were excluded in the third test, and so on, until only three hundred and ten people remained. They were not many, but they had what it takes to achieve success; they were brave, they were determined, they were disciplined and they were loyal. They were able to develop their collapsing nation in a way no one else in their time could. 246-251
Let’s read from Surat Al Baqarah, where Allah (TWT) says what can be translated as
“Have you not regarded the chiefs of the Seeds (Or: sons) of Israel) even after Mûsa, (Moses) as they said to a Prophet of theirs, ‘Send forth for us a king, (so that) we would fight in the way of Allah.’He said, ‘Might it be that in case fighting is prescribed for you, you would not fight?’ They said, ‘How is it that we would not fight in the way of Allah, and we have already been driven out of our residences and sons?’ Yet, when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned away, except a few of them; and Allah is Ever-Knowing of the unjust” (TMQ, 2:246).
“And their Prophet said to them, ‘Surely Allah has already sent forth Talût (Saul) for you as a king.’ They said, ‘However could he have kingship over us, and we have truer (right) than he of kingship, and he has not been brought affluence of wealth?” He said, ‘Surely Allah has elected him above you and has increased him sizably in knowledge (Literally: an outspreading of knowledge) and figure.’ And Allah brings (forth) His kingship to whomever He decides, and Allah is Ever- Embracing, Ever-Knowing” (TMQ, 2:247).
“And their Prophet said to them, ‘Surely the sign of his kingship is that the coffer (In earlier Scriptures it is said to be the “Ark”, and Serenity is said to be “Shechina”) will come up to you; in it (are) a Serenity from your Lord, and a remnant of what the house of Mûsa (Moses) and the house of Harûn (Aaron) left (behind), the Angels carrying it. Surely in that is indeed a sign for you, in case you are believers’” (TMQ,2:248).
“Then as soon as Talût (Saul) departed with the hosts, he said, ‘Surely Allah will be trying you with a river; so whoever drinks of it, then he is not of me, and whoever does not taste (Literally: does not feed on it) it, then surely he is of me, excepting him who scoops up (a scoop) with his hand.’ Then they drank of it except a few of them. Then, as soon as he passed over it, he and the ones who believed with him, they said, ‘We have no capability today against Jalût (Goliath) and his hosts.’ (But) the ones who expect that they will be meeting Allah said, ‘How often a little community has overcome a much (larger) community by the permission of Allah; and Allah is with the patient’” (TMQ, 2: 249).
“And as soon as they went forth against Jalût (Goliath) and his hosts, they said, ‘Our Lord, pour out upon us patience, and make firm our feet, and give us victory over the disbelieving people!’” (TMQ, 2:250). “So they routed them, by the permission of Allah, and Dawûd (David) killed Jaûlt; (Goliath) and Allah brought him the kingship, and (the) Wisdom, and He taught him (part of) whatever (knowledge) He decides. And had it not been for the repelling by Allah of mankind, some by means of others, (Literally: by means of some) the earth would indeed have corrupted; but Allah is The Owner of Grace over the worlds” (TMQ, 2:251).
Before we discuss the ayahs we have just read, lets complete a quick survey. Please answer the following questions by giving yourself a score from one to ten:
1- Are you brave, do you take initiative, or are you cowardly?
2- Are you loyal or are you selfish?
3- Are you disciplined in life, or careless and chaotic?
4- Do you have a strong well, are you determined, or are you weak-willed?
Now, let us go back to the ayahs we have just read. These ayahs tell the story of the sons of Israel, after Allah (AWJ) saved them from the Pharaoh by drowning him and his soldiers in the sea. After that, Allah (SWT) ordered them to
“O my people, enter the Holy Land (Literally: the hallowed land) which Allah has prescribed for you…” (TMQ, 5:21).
The sons of Israel refused to obey Allah’s (SWT) order, they were too scared of the people who lived in that land
“They said, ‘O Mûsa, surely there are people in it (who are) giants, and surely we will never enter it until they go out of it. So, in case they go out of it, then surely we will be entering.’” (TMQ, 5:22).
This clearly illustrates the first unfavorable trait; cowardice.
“Said two men of the ones that feared Allah) (and) whom Allah had favored, ‘Enter in upon them (by) the gate. So, when you enter it, then surely you will be overcoming them. And so put all your trust in Allah in case you are believers.’” (TMQ, 5:23).
So only two men were brave enough to obey Allah’s (SWT) order and enter the holy land. These two men were also disciplined, which is what we understand from them saying “…So, when you enter it, then surely you will be overcoming them…” (TMQ, 5:23).
But their reply illustrates the highest levels of weakness, selfishness and cowardice, “They said, ‘O Mûsa (Moses), surely we will never enter it at all so long as they are in it. So go forth, you and your Lord, and then you (two) fight (them). Surely we will be sitting here now!’” (TMQ, 5:24).
Their prophet, Musa (Moses) (AS)
“He said, ‘Lord! Surely I possess (no authority) on anyone except myself and my brother. So distinguish between us (Literally: part between us and “between”) and the immoral people.’” (TMQ, 5:25).
Since only two of the Sons of Israel had the four traits, they could not develop and build their societies. Allah (SWT) decreed that this generation will not achieve development, they have to change to be able to develop their society. This change took forty years, Allah (AWJ) says what can be translated as “
Said He, ‘Then surely it will be prohibited for them for forty years (while) they go astray in the earth. So do not feel sad about the immoral people.’” (TMQ, 5:26).
Time passed, Musa (AS) passed away, and a new generation grew up. This new generation was influenced by a student of Musa (AS), Yosha’a Ibn-Noon, and they had the four personality traits. They succeeded in entering Palestine and defeating their enemies. More time passed, and Yosha’a Ibn-Noon died. The four personality traits were weakened, so Allah (AWJ) sent them another powerful enemy; the Amaleeq or Amaleqa (the Giants).
Note that the presence and intensity of these four personality traits is directly proportional to the likelihood of achieving success, both on a personal and community/ national level. All four traits are very important, but discipline is the most crucial. Do you agree with me that we are not disciplined, that we, in Muslim countries, are reckless and careless? Furthermore, discipline encompasses the other three traits. A chaotic undisciplined person is simply selfish because he or she does not care about anyone else except him or herself. On the other hand, a disciplined person takes life seriously, which means he or she is also brave. So, as long as the lack of discipline dominates our countries, chaos will continue to rule, and we will not be able to develop our communities.
Our story takes place at a time when the Amaleeq were controlling the Sons of Israel, whose community was collapsing because of their cowardice. Allah (TWT) says what can be translated as “Have you not regarded the ones who went out of their residences and they were in thousands, wary of death…” (TMQ, 2:243). The Ever-Glorious Qur’an tells us that they left their houses; they were not forced to leave. This means that they simply abandoned their houses and left their town for their enemies. This is selfishness and lack of discipline. Go through the ayahs again and you will notice that thousands of people left their houses, this means they could have been millions since the Arabic Language does not have a number called “one million”. But what these thousands of people do? “…and they were in thousands, wary of death…” (TMQ, 2:243).
They were fairly certain they are going to die. When Allah (SWT) found them content with this state of humiliation, which is the exact opposite of the four personal traits,
“…So, Allah said to them, ‘Die.’” (TMQ, 2:243).
He (AWJ) decreed that they shall die without the honor of facing an enemy and dying like brave martyrs. Then He (TWT) brought them back to life to see if they learned their lesson. This was what the Sons of Israel did, on the other hand, the Amaleeq evicted them out of their land, robbed their money, property and valuables, and took their women and children as slaves. Not only that, they also stole their holy objects, including the coffer. But the Sons of Israel did not do anything.
Their cowardice also resulted in the spread of rumors about the strength of the Amaleeq and their king, Jalut (Goliath). This is a direct result of the weakness of the Sons of Israel, because the weak person, when he or she refuses to accept that s/he is weak, tries to justify this weakness by his or her rival’s strength.
Despite their weakness, there were still some good people amongst them, including Talut (Saul).Talut was one of the peasants, not the Chiefs or nobles, who were actually a group of selfish people in constant rivalry among themselves, forgetting their common enemy, Jalut. They were so afraid of Jalut that none of them tried to be king, as the king will have to face Jalut.
Another good person among the few good people was a sixteen year old young shepherd. During this time, a lot of people wanted to end the humiliation and fight Jalut, just like we call on each other to develop our nations these days. But do we have the four personality traits?
The Ever-Glorious Qur’an tells us what the Chiefs did when they were supposed to face Jalut. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as “Have you not regarded the chiefs of the Seeds (Or: sons) of Israel) even after Mûsa, (Moses) as they said to a Prophet of theirs, ‘Send forth for us a king, (so that) we would fight in the way of Allah.’He said, ‘Might it be that in case fighting is prescribed for you, you would not fight?’ They said, ‘How is it that we would not fight in the way of Allah, and we have already been driven out of our residences and sons?’ Yet, when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned away, except a few of them; and Allah is Ever-Knowing of the unjust” (TMQ, 2:246). Their attitude is clear from their response; they said “’ ‘Send forth for us a king, (so that) we would fight…’” (TMQ, 2:246). They asked their prophet to find them a king who can unite the Sons of Israel, like the whole issue does not really concern them. We have to admit that we are doing the same thing today, ages later, by waiting for Salahu-Din or Al Mahdy to solve our problems, without doing anything. Actually, our personalities are as undisciplined as the personalities of the Sons of Israel at that time.
Their prophet (AS), who understood their attitude, “…He said, ‘Might it be that in case fighting is prescribed for you, you would not fight?’” (TMQ, 2:246). When he asked them that, they got upset and over-excited; how could he tell them that, when they were humiliated and homeless, and their money was stolen. “They said, ‘How is it that we would not fight in the way of Allah, and we have already been driven out of our residences and sons?’…” (TMQ, 2:246). This is exactly what we’re doing now; we are upset about our current position in the world, and we call on each other to do something about it, but the question is whether we have what it takes to develop ourselves and our societies. So thousands of the Sons of Israel claimed to be willing to fight for their lost glory, possibly upto 800,000, however, following after the many tests Allah (SWT) put them through only three hundred and ten were left. Bukhari reports that Al-Bara’a Ibn-Azeb (RA), one of Prophet Muhammad’s (SAWS) companions, says that the number of people fighting Jalut with Talut was equal to the number of Muslims fighting in the Battle of Badr, which are known to be three hundred and ten people. This means that about 799,687 people failed the four tests.
Now, we’ll talk about the four tests, try to guess what would you have done if you were there.
The First Test
This test aimed to get rid of the cowards who do not take initiative. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as “Yet, when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned away, except a few of them…” (TMQ, 2:246). So when Allah (SWT) ordered them to fight, only a few of them were brave enough to obey Allah (AWJ). In the Arabic language, a “few” means not more than ten percent. So if they were 800,000, then only 80,000 passed the first test, while the rest of them did not deserve to achieve victory because they were not brave enough. So how do we recognize a brave person? I am not asking you to fight, but to apply the stories of the Holy Qur’an to your daily lives. A brave person is one who takes initiative, one who can do whatever it takes to achieve a goal. For instance, someone who takes the initiative to end a long-term disagreement between relatives, or someone who is brave enough to admit his or her mistake and face the consequences.
How to become brave?
1. First, worship Allah (TWT). Worshipping Allah (TWT) makes you braver because it makes you feel that you are with Allah (AWJ), The Almighty, The Ever-Magnificent, The Ever-Powerful. You feel powerful because Allah (TWT), The Ever-Powerful will give you the power to achieve your goals. Worship teaches you to put your trust in Allah (AWJ), The Ultimate Trustee, and once you do, there’s nothing that can scare you. Allah (AWJ) says what can be translated as “The ones to whom the multitude (Literally: mankind) said, “Surely the multitude have already gathered against you, so be apprehensive of them.” Yet, it increased them in belief, and they said, ‘Allah is The Reckoner enough for us, and how excellent is The Ever-Trusted Trustee!’”(TMQ, 3: 173). “So they turned over (Or: turned around) with favor from Allah and (His) Grace; no odious (disadvantage) did touch them; and they followed closely the all-blessed Satisfaction of Allah; and Allah is The of Owner of magnificent Grace” (TMQ, 3: 174). Choose four forms of worship and start performing them regularly and Ramadan, the month of the Holy Qur’an, is the perfect time to start. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as “And thus We have revealed to you a Spirit of Our Command. In no way did you realize what the Book was, nor the belief; but We have made it a Light, whereby We guide whomever We decide of Our bondmen. And surely you indeed guide to a straight Path,” (TMQ, 42:52).
2. Practice taking initiative. Pick four things you can do and take the initiative of doing them. Most importantly, make sure you remain disciplined throughout the process, and avoid getting excited at the beginning and then slacking off later on. Now, how to discipline ourselves: create a table consisting of 30 rows and a number of columns depending on the worship or other daily or weekly activities you want to keep on doing throughout Ramadan. Start with the daily prayers, and I know some people can not get themselves to pray on time, although Allah (TWT) says what can be translated as “Preserve (constantly) (i.e., observe strictly) the prayers, and the middle prayer, and rise up devoutly to Allah” (TMQ,2:238). Also add some other activities you would like to do, like exercising for an hour everyday or reading a book. Look for other aspects of yourself you would like to improve, like keeping your room clean or making sure your phone bill does not exceed a certain amount. Hang up the table in your room and tick the activities you completed every day, and grade yourself every four days.
The Second Test
“And their Prophet said to them, ‘Surely Allah has already sent forth Talût (Saul) for you as a king.’ They said, ‘However could he have kingship over us, and we have truer (right) than he of kingship, and he has not been brought affluence of wealth?’ He said, ‘Surely Allah has elected him above you and has increased him sizably in knowledge (Literally: an outspreading of knowledge) and figure.’ And Allah brings (forth) His kingship to whomever He decides, and Allah is Ever- Embracing, Ever-Knowing” (TMQ, 2:247).
Next the Sons of Israel’s loyalty and faithfulness to Allah (AWJ) was tested, He (AWJ) chose Talut to be the king, but “They said, ‘However could he have kingship over us, and we have truer (right) than he of kingship, and he has not been brought affluence of wealth?’” (TMQ,2:247). When their prophet (AS) reminded them that it is Allah (SWT) who chose Talut, most of them refused to fight. So, now we are left with 80,000 people.
How to know if you are loyal and faithful to Allah (AWJ)? Answer the following questions: Would you participate in charity work where your name would not be mentioned? If someone bothers you while you’re working on a charity project, would you leave the whole project and quit? Why don’t you participate in charity work? Is it because you don’t get credit for it?
So, how to become more loyal?
1- Supplication. This is the most important and most effective way to increase your loyalty. Supplicate to Allah (AWJ) to help you approach any action with the pure intention of pleasing Him (TWT).
2- Participate in charity work or community service activities
3- Before beginning any community service or charity projects, remind yourself that you are doing this to please Allah (SWT) only.
An important point in the story of Talut is that miracles are not effective with people whose personalities are weak. The Chiefs did not accept Talut as their king, even after their prophet (AS) told them that the angels will place the coffer in front of Talut’s house, as proof that he was chosen by Allah (AWJ) to be king. Most of them still did not obey Allah’s (AWJ) order, even after they saw this miracle.
The Third Test
“Then as soon as Talût (Saul) departed with the hosts, he said, ‘Surely Allah will be trying you with a river; so whoever drinks of it, then he is not of me, and whoever does not taste (Literally: does not feed on it) it, then surely he is of me, excepting him who scoops up (a scoop) with his hand.’ Then they drank of it except a few of them…” (TMQ, 2:249).
Once Talut arranged the army, Allah (AWJ) tested their determination. Talut ordered them not to drink from the river they were about to pass by in an area between Palestine and Jordan. He only allowed them one scoop of water to quench their thirst, after which they were to face Jalut and his army. Only a few of them drank only one scoop, so that only 800 people passed the third t
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