Friday Sermon: Divine forbearance and Divine chastisement

March 14th, 2008

Huzur gave a discourse on Divine forbearance and Divine chastisement in his Friday Sermon today. Huzur said among Allah’s attribute one is Al Haleem (The Forbearing). When the word Haleem is used for Allah it connotes One Who forgives, Who does not promptly chastise the disobedient, One Who is not frustarted due to disobedience as well as One Who covers the faults of others. Huzur said thus the Divine attribute of Al Haleem encompasses many other qualities of Allah. Huzur said when man continually and persistently exceeds limits then Divine attributes other than Al Haleem come into force. Indeed Allah states in the Holy Qur’an and Huzur cited verse 62 of Surah Al Nahl (16:62) the translation reads:

‘And if Allah were to punish men for their wrongdoing, He would not leave thereon a living creature, but He gives them respite till an appointed term; and when their term is come, they cannot remain behind a single hour, nor can they go ahead of it.‘

Huzur said this verse carries a reply to those who do not believe, who deride Prophets of God and perhaps imagine that there will be no reckoning or that (God forbid) God does not exist or that the Prophets of God were wrong.

Huzur said those who make caricatures of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) or who deride him and the Holy Qur’an may know that they do not have a free rein. Allah has His own laws and it is His attribute of Al Haleem by virtue of which these people are saved. Allah’s wrath is not incurred until argument, proof and reasoning has been thoroughly accomplished. The fact that they continue to have leeway is no proof that they are right and it is acceptable to continually disparage Islam. Huzur said if absence of prompt chastisement was to be a proof that God did not exist then how is it that there are many worldly ills for which there is no instant retribution? The authorities are well aware of what crime is being committed and they certainly have individuals under surveillance etc. without bringing them to justice promptly. This does not indicate that crimes are not recognised or are any less significant.

As for Allah, He is the Most High Judge Who has an attribute of Al Haleem, how is it to expected of Him that His chastisement would be prompt and that an absence of this could mean that the religion (of Islam) is not true or that He does not exist.

With worldly punishment it is the individual perpetrator who is affected or his/her immediate family, but the lineage, the family line continues. However, Allah states that if He were to promptly chastise humans on the crimes they commit the human race would terminate. The human race could not survive but for the freehand Allah has given to it.

Huzur said there are many pious people in this world but there are very few who have never committed a sin. Allah can punish for any sin. Moreover, what proof do we have that the ancestry of the pious people was also pious? If they had been chastised for their sins then the pious people who inhabit the world today would not have existed. In addition, there are many who are punished in this world; however when Satan declared that he would attack God’s good people from all approaches God replied that He would fill Hell with people who followed him (Satan). While there will be a definite retribution on the Day of Judgement some people are shown a glimpse of Hell in this world as well. Therefore those who do not believe in the Hereafter should not surmise that there will be no reckoning. If only they did not infer the wrong meaning of the free rein Allah has given.

The verse recited in the beginning also mentions that if God was to punish mankind for each sin then no living creature would be left alive on the face of the earth. This signifies that by virtue of His Divine attribute of Al Rahman (The Gracious) Allah created and arranged for all manner of arrangement for mankind’s survival well before He created mankind. If He was to punish and obliterate mankind He would have wiped out the creation which is vital for human survival – this would have put humanity in turmoil and brought about its end.

Huzur said there is much wisdom and insight in not bringing about prompt chastisement to those who exceeds all limits for just as pious people have wicked born in their family, wicked people can have pious off spring. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be on him) understood the Divine attribute of Al Haleem most excellently. This is why during his visit to the town of Ta’if in the early days of his Prophethood, he was an embodiment of the attribute of Al Haleem when he prayed to God to forgive the wicked people of the town who persecuted him in the hope that righteous people would be born from their lineage. Indeed, this is what came to pass and those whose very objective of life was to take the life of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) became his most committed devotees.

Citing first verse 46 and then verse 42 of Surah Fatir (35:42 & 46) of which the translation reads:

And if Allah were to punish people for what they do, He would not leave a living creature on the surface of the earth; but He grants them respite until an appointed term; and when their appointed time comes, beware that Allah is fully aware of His servants – the mankind.’ (35:46)

Surely, Allah holds the heavens and the earth lest they deviate from their places. And if they did deviate, none can hold them after Him. Verily, He is Forbearing, Most Forgiving. (35:42)

Huzur said those who do not believe are certainly deserving of punishment, however, it is the attribute of Al Haleem that saves them and Allah gives them leeway so that they may change their conditions, may alter their attitude, may turn to the God Who does not chastise promptly and may remain within the limits set by Him. Indeed verse 46 clearly states that if Allah was to bring about swift reckoning no living creature would survive and mankind’s life would be torturous and it would perished due to it.

Huzur said pandemics like the Bird Flu that spread in parts of Europe recently or BSE, the bovine neurodegenerative disease that plagued Britain a few years ago were just mild ‘tremors’ which brought crisis. If Allah was to cause one species of animal infected with a disease there would be a calamity in the world. If man will not desist from meddling in God’s work then Divine attributes other than Al Haleem would come into force. Huzur said in verse 46 the word ‘daa’ba’ is used. It also signifies a ‘worm of the earth’. Those who contend with God and His Prophets are indeed worms of this earth and if they do not desist then He would crush them, but He is granting them respite in accordance with His laws. These are the examples of those who exceed all limits and say that if there is a God of Islam why does He not retaliate. Huzur said these verses also have a lesson for those who do not desist from deriding the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace).

Addressing the Ahmadis Huzur said some are restless and get unduly concerned. As Allah says (in verse 46) there is an ‘appointed time’ and once that time arrives it will be with precision. Allah has promised the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) that his Community will triumph and InshaAllah that will come to pass. However, some Ahmadis keep ascertaining the ‘time’ of the fulfilment of these promises in light of the revelations (of the Promised Messiah). Huzur said, ‘when Allah did not inform the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) of a specific time or term, then who are you or I to know of the time?’ He said it was our task to pray and that a few years here and a few years there are not a significant time span in the history of nations/communities. The opponents of the Community cannot bring any harm to it and it continues to advance and prosper. Our task is to draw our attention to our deeds. May Allah keep our hearts pure and lead us to the works which seek His pleasure. Huzur said if we kept our hearts and our deeds pure it is possible that we will see the fulfilment of the promises. However, we need to continually self-examine, lest we are brought to account rather than be under the protection of the Divine attributes of ‘Most Forgiving, Forbearing’.

Huzur read an extract from the noble writings of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) and explained that in order to derive beneficence from the promises Allah made to the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) we need to self-examine and reflect over how we lead our lives and observe some practises which would lead us to good and keep our hearts pure. Huzur said we should ensure that we do not say anything that curtails honesty and justice. Allah is Forbearing and we should also adopt forbearance. None of our acts should signify disobedience. We should avoid quarrels and conflicts. We may be punished if we simply intend to carry out an act of disobedience. However, if a thought comes to mind but one dismisses it then one is pardoned but if there is a resolve to carry something off then it is a sin. Indeed a Hadith relates that if a bad thought comes to mind but one does not carry it out then one is given a reward of a good act.

Huzur said mentioning the Divine attribute of Haleem in conjunction with that of Ghafoor (Most Forgiving) Allah has declared that He overlooks (pardons), it is therefore man’s task to avail of this attribute rather than exceed limits.