The 9 Characteristics of ‘Ibad-ur Rahman (2/10) – Humility and Gentleness

A Project in collaboration with The Ideal Muslimah.
Articles authored for The Ideal Muslimah are available here.

To read the series in chronological order, please click the links below:
Pg 1 | Pg 2 | Pg 3Pg 4 | Pg 5 | Pg 6 | Pg 7 | Pg 8 | Pg 9Pg 10

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

And the ‘Ibad-ur Rahman are those
who walk on the earth in humility and sedateness [hawna],
and when the foolish address them (with bad words)
they reply back with mild words of gentleness.
[Surah Al-Furqan 25:63]

This is the first ayah that describes 2 beautiful characteristics of ‘Ibad-ur Rahman:

🌸 First Characteristic: They have humility (tawadhu’)

We live in a time where it is encouraged to announce, gloat, and boast oneself. We think it’s “cool” when we walk a certain way – some men try to imitate the ‘swag’ of music rappers, while some women try to imitate models on the runway. Let’s be honest, who do we aim to please when we walk like that?

On the contrary, the ‘Ibad-ur Rahman are those who walk on earth with [hawna]. [Hawna] means dignity, serenity, calm, tranquility. They do not have arrogance or pride in their steps. Allah s.w.t. Himself has forbid us to walk proudly:

And walk not on the earth with conceit and arrogance.
Verily, you can neither rend nor penetrate the earth,
nor can you attain a stature like the mountains in height.
[Surah Al-Isra 17:37]

This does not mean that we should walk like sickly people, or show off fake humility. If we study the seerah of Rasulallah ﷺ, we learn that he walked quickly yet calmly, and he did not walk with his chest pushed out in pride.

This first characteristic of ‘Ibad-ur Rahman also covers aspects on how we carry ourselves in the society – like the way we drive, or the way we interact with others. Let’s do a personal litmus test:

  • How do we behave towards other drivers on the road?
  • How do we behave towards the waiter or waitress serving our meal?
  • How do we behave towards men who work as garbage collector?

Do we look down upon them? Do we behave like we are above them? Allah s.w.t. says:

And indeed We have honoured the Children of Adam.
[Surah Al-Isra 17:70]

None of us has the right to look down on another human being. So we need to be aware of arrogance that can be manifested in our facial and body expressions. We need to be sensitive how we behave towards people, in all situations.

Remember that, as Muslims, everything we do is supposed to be an act of ‘ibadah. Just like how we pray lillahi ta’ala, we should also walk on this earth and behave towards others lillahi ta’ala. May Allah s.w.t. grant us tawadhu’ and remove any ounce of arrogance in our hearts – Allahumma ameen.

🌸 Second Characteristic: They are courteous, even when treated harshly

Allah s.w.t. says in the second part of the ayah:

“…when the foolish [Al-Jahilun] address them (with bad words)
they reply back with mild words of gentleness [salaam].”
[Surah Al-Furqan 25:63]

The word [Jaahil] in Arabic is the opposite of [‘Aaqil] (a person of aql/intellect). One of the meanings of [Jaahil] is someone who has no control over their emotions – they tend to be rude, insulting, disrespectful, etc. If a bad word comes to their mind, it comes out immediately from their mouth – there is no thought process.

Notice also that Allah s.w.t. didn’t say “If Al-Jahilun address them…” but He said “WHEN Al-Jahilun address them…” indicating that we cannot run away from the fact that we will face a lot of temperament from a lot of people.

But when the ‘Ibad-ur Rahman are confronted with such people, people who insult them with bad words, they do not respond in the same manner; they forgive and overlook, and say nothing but good words. They do not respond with sinful words. They speak calmly. They are courteous. All of these are included in the word [salaam]. This is the sunnah of Rasulallah ﷺ – the more ignorant the people, the more patient he ﷺ would become. This is as Allah s.w.t. says:

And when they hear Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk), they withdraw from it and say: “To us our deeds, and to you your deeds. Peace be to you [salaam].
We seek not (the way of) the ignorant.”
[Surah Al-Qasas 28:55]

And in another Surah, Allah s.w.t. says:

The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal.
Repel (the evil) with one which is better, then verily he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.

But none is granted it (the above quality) except those who are patient,
and none is granted it except the owner of the great portion
(of happiness in this world and in the Hereafter).

[Surah Al-Fussilat 41:34-35]

Ibn ‘Abbas r.a. explained this ayah:

“Allah commands the believers to be patient when they feel angry, to be forbearing when confronted with ignorance, and to forgive when they are mistreated. If they do this, Allah will save them from the Shaytan and subdue their enemies to them until they become like close friends.”

The key of having such beautiful characteristic is already mentioned in the aforementioned ayah of Surah Al-Fussilat: We must have patience. Without patience, this will be a very difficult thing to do!

Sometimes even our own spouse, parents, and siblings get really angry towards us, and we just don’t understand why they speak badly to us.

But don’t retaliate. Don’t get angry back at them. Our anger drives people away from us, and even worse, away from the Deen. Remember the story of Musa ‘alayhi salam with Fir’aun? When Musa ‘alayhi salam confronted him, Fir’aun addressed Musa in a very condescending manner – which is probably enough to make us really angry! Not only that, Fir’aun tried to kill Musa, killed thousands of babies, called himself God… there are so many reasons to hate Fir’aun. Yet Musa was commanded by Allah s.w.t. to speak to him in a good manner:

(Allah says to Musa and Harun):
“Go, both of you, to Fir’aun verily, he has transgressed.
And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear (Allah).”
[Surah Ta-Ha 20: 43-44]

If that was how a prophet of Allah spoke to his enemy, then what about us towards our spouse, children, parents and siblings? Our family deserves the softest responses from us.

So when someone who cannot control their emotion, who is angry, obnoxious, arrogant, ignorant, insulting, or rude talk to you – choose to reply in calm and kind words. We need to learn to calm down and deal with people peacefully. Speak to disarm their anger. Speak to defuse the situation. Let’s learn to be merciful and courteous to people, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

It is also important to note that out of all the characteristics of ‘Ibad-ur Rahman, the first mentioned by Allah s.w.t. are these two traits. It emphasizes how adab and akhlaq are super important in this Deen. This reminds me of the following two ahadith:

Rasulallah (ﷺ) said:
By his good character a believer will attain the degree
of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day.
[Sunan Abi Dawud | Grade: Sahih]

Abu Hurairah narrated that Rasulallah (ﷺ) was asked about
that for which people are admitted into Paradise the most, so he said:
“Taqwa of Allah, and good character.”
[Jami’ At-Tirmidhi | Grade: Sahih]

Please be advised that this article is in no way advocating that one should be patient over any type of physical or emotional abuse. If you are a victim, please seek professional help immediately!

Alhamdulillah we have covered the first two characteristics of ‘Ibad-ur Rahman. We will continue with the subsequent characters of ‘Ibad-ur Rahman in the next posts, insya Allah.

🌸 ‘Ibad-ur Rahman Characteristics Recap 🌸 

1st Characteristic
They have dignity, serenity, calm, tranquility in their steps and behavior towards others. They do not have arrogance or pride. They are humble.

2nd Characteristic
When they are confronted with insulting and rude people, they do not respond in the same manner, they do not respond with sinful words. They say nothing but good words. They speak calmly. They are courteous.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Tafsir Surah Al-Furqan by Dr Abdullah Yasin
Who Gets Allah’s Mercy by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan