In the battle of Uhud, the Prophet sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had given direct orders to a group of sahabah to stand at a certain post and not to leave until he specifically told them. During the battle, most of this group ended up abandoning this post. It resulted in a huge loss of lives because it gave a strategic opening to the other side. Although we could go into more detail about this, I just want to focus on one topic.
This verse was revealed after the battle and has many, many lessons in it: ‘It was only due to the mercy from Allah , [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in different matters. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].’ [3:159]
Despite the severity of the situation, the Prophet was extremely kind and benevolent. The softness and kindness, however, were not a sign of weakness. He wasn’t forgiving them because he had no other choice. He forgave them despite the fact he could have held them accountable. It was due to the mercy of Allah.
Think about this for a minute. People *died* as a result of the crucial mistake of these individuals. How did the Prophet react? Most of us rage against others for a simple mistake, let alone the death of a friend or family member. Just like silk is soft, that’s how gentle, kind, and easygoing the Prophet was. He was not harsh in his speech, words, tones, or language. He was not hard-hearted, rough, or abrasive in any way. He was the polar opposite of how most people would react.
If you are rough with someone, you end up severing the relationship in a way cannot be repaired. It is said in Arabic poetry: ‘The wounds that are inflicted by the teeth heal. The wounds that is inflicted by the tongue never heal.’ Words do hurt (despite our insistence otherwise) and are extremely difficult to take back and heal from. This is a lesson to watch what we say and how we say it before we do something we will regret.
When you are in a position in which you realize you have done a mistake, you are extremely vulnerable and worried about your fate, your relationship with that person. If that person was harsh, you would lose any love and affection you may have had in your relationship to begin with. It would create many awkward moments in the future if you still go about the same circles. You need softness in this scenario. This incident shows us how critical compassion is as a tool to rehabilitate someone. Be kind. Despite what is done, what has been done, what may have been done, be kind and be kind again. It takes more strength to be kind and gracious in a moment when your emotions and anger may get the best of you.
Another interesting point in this verse is the fact that both harsh in tone AND harsh in heart are mentioned. Why both? Because both are reprehensible. Saying there is ‘nothing in my heart’ but acting harshly is not a valid excuse in any way. Not (supposedly) harbouring animosity does not excuse you from speaking harshly to people. People don’t know what is in your heart. They judge you by your actions, your mannerisms, your words. And what is in your heart will manage to manifest itself through your actions.
This verse gives us a step by step process to deal with difficult scenarios in a group of people. We tend to be surrounded by people in many different settings. Mistakes will be made. People will be offended. We need to learn how to deal with it in the best of manners. This verse gives us a concise process: A) Let it go. Don’t hold them accountable. B) Forgive them and ask Allah swt to forgive them. This helps remove ill feeling in heart, especially when you do it on your own in private without this person every knowing. C) Consult with them in future affairs. Include them in your life. The person may still be nervous that you’re mad at them. Show them otherwise. Run ideas by them. Get their opinion. Continue to foster that relationship.
The main lesson this verse teaches us how to behave in any position of authority. We go through major and minor positions of authority every day in our lives. This shows us how to take our responsibility seriously. The scenario in this verse led to the DEATH of dozens of Muslims, and dozens more were INJURED. How would you or I deal with it? How did the Rasool deal with it? He was soft, gentle. He didn’t punish them. He asked for forgiveness. He continues to include them in consultation later on. This is how a community, a solid unit is built and maintained.
We will always have to deal with people – in Ramadan and afterwards. Because we are human, mistakes will be made. Some will be minor and others may be severe. The test, again, lies in how it is dealt with. Acting harshly may get the point across that a mistake was made. But the repercussions of such words and actions may in fact be more detrimental than the initial mistake itself. Think of the bigger picture, of the greater good, of the community as a whole. Think of the example of the Rasool, who despite having every reason to be angry and the ability to punish, chose to forgive. In this month of forgiveness, in a time and age when we feel we are being wronged left, right, and centre, I pray that we are able to truly learn from and apply the beautiful, soft-hearted example of our Nabi. There is more khayr in forgiveness than we will ever know.