The intent of the below piece is to convey a reminder to all of our Muslim brethren, regarding the bounty of Islam that Allah has blessed us with, through His limitless kindness. It is a known fact that as Muslims, our level of practice is at different levels, and sometimes may vary within the same individual at different stages of life.
Nevertheless, no matter how little or how great our practice is, it is important for all of us to realize deep in our hearts that we are all recipients of the greatest bounty that Allah can choose to grant His creation.
Those of us who are weak in our practice should realize that their weak practice does not take them out of the ranks of the chosen slaves of Allah among his numerous creation; and those of us who are blessed with a steadfast practice, should strive to develop the consciousness that it is the mere mercy of Allah upon them, and not the result of their efforts.
Last but not least, as Muslims we are all called to interact with each other and with non-Muslims; being aware of how great this bounty of Islam is, will allow us to develop a humble attitude in dealing with everyone and to look at everyone with eyes of care and concern, concern for their betterment…
Then We gave the Book as an inheritance to those whom We chose from among Our servants; among them is the one who wrongs himself, and among them is also the one who takes a middle course, and of them is the one who is foremost in virtuous deeds by Allah’s permission; this is the great excellence. (Fatir 35:32)
Allah says: “Then We gave the Book” meaning, We revealed the Qur’an to you, and we decided that it would be inherited by those after you.
“To those whom We chose from among Our servants”: they are the Ummah of Muhammad, comprised of the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet), the Tabi`in (first generation after Prophet Muhammad), the generation after the Tabi`in and those after them until the day of judgment. Allah has chosen this Ummah over all nations, and has made them a nation treading on the middle course, so they may stand as witnesses among mankind. Allah has also made them special by linking them to the most honored of His prophets, Muhammad.
Ibn `Atiyah explains: what is meant by the Book here are the meanings of the Qur’an, its commands and its elements of `aqeedah (creed). It is as though Allah has given the Ummah of Muhammad the Qur’an, and this Qur’an is the gist of the meanings of the books revealed prior to it. It is as though Allah has passed on to the Ummah of Muhammad the Book that was present in the previous nations.
He then ranked this nation (the followers of Muhammad), and says:
“Among them is the one who wrongs himself,” by coming short in their practice upon the Qur’an, as the Qur’an is the accepted reference for the commands of Allah.
“And among them is also the one who takes a middle course”: that is the one whose actions are a mixture of virtuous deeds and of sins.
“And of them is the one who is foremost in virtuous deeds”: this is the one who combines his knowledge with practice; and advises or guides others towards following the same path.
This classification is most concordant with the hadiths narrated along the same lines.
For instance, it has been narrated about `Umar ibn Al-Khattab that he once said on the minbar (pulpit), after reading this verse the Prophet said: “our foremost ones have gone ahead, our middle coursed ones are saved, and our wrongful ones are forgiven”. (As-Suyuti)
It has also been narrated through Abu Darda’, that the Prophet said:
“The foremost one will enter Paradise without going through any reckoning, the middle coursed one will go through an easy reckoning and then enter Paradise, and the wrongful one will be held, until he thinks he is doomed…and at that point, he will be overtaken by the mercy of Allah and will enter Paradise”. (Ahmad)
`Abdullah ibn `Abbas explained: the foremost is mukhlis (the sincere); the middle coursed one is the one who does actions with show ( known in Arabic as riya’); and the wrongful one is the one who is ungrateful towards the bounties of Allah (by engaging in wrongful actions), without however denying those bounties.
Ar-Rabi` ibn Anas explained: the wrongful one is the one guilty of major sins, the middle coursed one is the one guilty of minor sins, and the foremost one is the one who avoids both major and minor sins.
Al-Hasan Al-Basri explained: the wrongful one is the one whose ill-deeds have overtaken his good deeds, the foremost one is the one whose good-deeds have overtaken his ill-deeds, and the middle-coursed one is the one whose good-deeds and ill-deeds are equivalent.
Abu Yusuf (the companion of Imam Abu Hanifah) was asked about this verse and he explained: all three categories mentioned are believers. The disbelievers are described after this verse in verse 36:
As for those who disbelieve, will be the fire of Jahannam (Hellfire)… (Fatir 35:36)
As far as the three categories cited before, they all are among those whom Allah has selected/chosen among His servants, because Allah has said “among them….among them…among them…” and “them” refers to the statement “Those whom We have selected among Our servants”; they are the people of iman (faith); the believers, and this is the position of the majority of the `ulama’ (Muslim scholars).
The ones who wronged themselves were mentioned first in the verse to indicate that they are in large numbers. The middle-coursed ones are little in comparison to them and the foremost are less than the middle-coursed.
Ibn `Ata’ explains: Allah (Exalted is He) has mentioned the wrongful ones in first position, so they do not despair from His favour. It is also explained that He has mentioned them first so they may know that their sins do not distance them from their Lord. It is also explained that this order was set because in general, one’s initial spiritual state is that of disobedience, followed by a state of tawbah (repentance) , and then followed by a state of istiqamah (steadfastness).
Sahl explains: the foremost is the scholar, the middle-coursed one is the student, and the wrongful one is the ignorant one. He also said: the foremost one is the one who busies himself with his hereafter, the middle-coursed one is the one who busies himself with his livelihood and his hereafter, and the wrongful one is the one whose involvement in his livelihood has taken him away from involvement in his hereafter.
It is also said that the wrongful one is the one who worships Allah with neglectfulness and through attachment to cultural norms. The middle-coursed one worships Him through hope and fear. The foremost one worships Him through awe and with a consciousness that He is inherently fully entitled to be worshipped.
It is also said that the wrongful one is the one who acquires worldly wealth through lawful as well as unlawful means. The middle-coursed ones strive to acquire wealth only through lawful means. The foremost one completely turns away from it.
Source: muslimmatters.orgSource Link