The Happiest People: The Prophets
The prophets were blessed people sent by Allah to transmit the good news of His religion and invite others to follow His true path. Allah sent the prophets to tell people about the faith, set them the finest example of good character and warn them by pointing out to them the existence of the Hereafter. For a human being, representing Allah on earth is a great and important responsibility. That the prophets were entrusted by Allah with special duties differentiates them from other people. The prophets were people who lived out the faith they carried in their hearts in a very intense manner. This can be clearly seen from the fact that for the cause of Allah they demonstrated superior and exemplary behavior. The prophets were sent to a number of peoples and rulers whose backwardness, immorality and social degeneration knew no bounds. While explaining Allah's religion they warned the peoples they lived amongst to abandon their ugly behavior and immorality and invited them to have faith in Allah. In order to perform this duty, they remained patient and were not defeated by any force directed at them or by any difficulty, trouble, threats or slanders. In this way the behavior, moral standards and reasoning they exhibited provided the finest possible example to believers who believed and supported them. In the Qur'an, Allah says that there are fine examples for believers in the lives of the prophets:
You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much. (Surat al-Ahzab, 21)
The prophets were exemplary people for all humanity. Allah tells us that the sending of our Prophet (saws) was a great mercy and favor to believers:
Allah showed great kindness to the believers when He sent a Messenger to them from among themselves to recite His Signs to them and purify them and teach them the Book and Wisdom, even though before that they were clearly misguided. (Surah Al 'Imran, 164)
Throughout their lives, pious believers take the prophets, as described by Allah in these verses of the Qur'an, as examples and in this way try to achieve excellence of character.
Although, throughout their own lives, the prophets were struggling against disbelievers, they were very contented and calm. Because they were leaders guiding people to the path of Islam, they were the people who experienced faith in its most intense and profound form. The happiness, tranquility and security which Allah made them feel in their hearts were as strong as their faith.
In the following paragraphs we will refer to some of the prophets mentioned by Allah in the Qur'an and to their steadfastness.
Prophet Ibrahim (as)
In a number of verses of the Qur'an, Allah gives examples from the life of Prophet Ibrahim (as) and the events which happened to him and speaks of him with praise.
Through his behavior, Prophet Ibrahim (as) showed in the clearest way that a believer needs to be intelligent and cautious, to act continually according to his conscience and to be very courageous in following the path of Allah. Prophet Ibrahim (as) was a wise example to believers with his devotion, submission and closeness to Allah. In Surat an-Nisa': 125, Allah tells believers what a valuable and superior position Prophet Ibrahim (as) holds in His sight by announcing that he has been adopted as an "intimate friend." Without doubt the adoption by Allah of one of His servants as an intimate friend is amongst the highest distinctions a person can achieve. Of course, for a believer, knowing that Allah is so close to him as a friend and hence, that Allah's assistance, mercy and protection are with him at all times and in all places brings contentment, tranquility and security.
In Surah Maryam, Allah gives us Prophet Ibrahim's (as) warning to his idolater father to believe in Him. Allah tells us of the conversation between the prophet and his father:
Remember when he said to his father, "Father, why do you worship what can neither hear nor see and is not of any use to you at all? Father, knowledge which never reached you has come to me, so follow me and I will guide you to the right path. Father, do not worship Satan. Satan was disobedient to the All-Merciful. Father, I am afraid that a punishment from the All-Merciful will afflict you, and turn you into a comrade of Satan." He said, "Do you forsake my gods, Ibrahim? If you do not stop, I will stone you. Keep away from me for a good long time." (Surah Maryam, 42-46)
While Prophet Ibrahim (as) was advising his father to abandon those things he had made into false gods, he employed a very calm and respectful manner of speaking. However, the discomfort felt by his father in the face of his son's fine upstanding behavior was so great that he became unwilling to see him any more and capable even of killing him. His father's heedlessness prevented him from seeing the truth and closed off his mind and conscience. The aggressive, unpleasant behavior he displayed arose from his lack of faith in Allah and his failure to live according to His guidance.
Despite his father's unpleasant behavior, Prophet Ibrahim (as) left him in a friendly way, saying this:
"I will separate myself from you and all you call upon besides Allah and I will call upon my Lord. It may well be that, in calling on my Lord, I will not be disappointed." (Surah Maryam, 48)
Of course leaving those one loves, especially one's mother and father, or damaging relations with them is not very pleasant for us. Leaving one's family, the people who are closest to us, is extremely difficult and upsetting. For this reason nobody wants to go against his mother or father or a close relative. However, if that person is somebody who does not recognize Allah or is a disbeliever and an enemy of Allah, then feeding one's love of him and accepting him as a friend and ally is completely contrary to the way of Allah. Thus, in the face of the aggressive behavior of his father, Prophet Ibrahim (as) realized that he could not be his friend and followed his father's wish for him to leave. Since what was most important for Prophet Ibrahim (as) in this incident was behaving in accordance with Allah's guidance, he left his father without hesitation. After acting in this way he knew that, "in calling on His Lord, he had never been disappointed." Naturally, this is the tranquility and happiness brought about by action intended to gain Allah's approval. Allah bestowed on Prophet Ibrahim (as) Prophets Ishaq (as) and Ya'qub (as) and rewarded him out of His mercy:
When he had separated himself from them, and what they worshipped besides Allah, We gave him Ishaq and Ya'qub, making each of them a prophet. We endowed them with Our mercy and made them highly honored. (Surah Maryam, 49-50)
As Allah points out in this story, if a person behaves in accordance with His instructions, Allah will shelter him from all troubles no matter what the circumstances and will always fill his heart with contentment and peace.
Prophet Zakariyya (as)
Zakariyya (as) is amongst the prophets referred to in various chapters of the Qur'an. Like all the other prophets, during his life he never deviated in any way from trying to please Allah and striving to maintain the good conduct required for this. He was steadfast in his worship of Allah and always maintained his devotion and submission to Him. In the Qur'an, Allah tells us that when Prophet Zakariyya (as) became old, he wanted Allah to give him a pious child and prayed for this:
And [Zakariyya] said, "My Lord, my bones have lost their strength and my head is crowned with white, but in calling on You, My Lord, I have never been disappointed. I fear my relatives when I am gone and my wife is barren, so give me an heir from You to be my inheritor and the inheritor of the family of Ya'qub, and make him, my Lord, pleasing to You." (Surah Maryam, 4-6)
Allah answered the prayer of Prophet Zakariyya (as) and rewarded him with a son named Yahya. Allah made a woman who was unable to give birth fertile and relieved Prophet Zakariyya (as) of the concern he was feeling in this miraculous way. Through this example Allah shows us that He will rescue His true servants from any hardship no matter how difficult or even impossible their circumstances may seem and will always bring them contentment.
Prophet Yusuf (as) and His Father Prophet Ya'qub (as)
In Surah Yusuf, Allah tells us about the life of Prophet Yusuf (as). Through all the difficulties he faced, the slanders which were directed at him and the traps set for him, Prophet Yusuf (as) always battled on by praying sincerely to Allah and sacrificed nothing of his faith in our Lord. He resigned himself to being imprisoned in order to gain Allah's approval and avoid committing wrong actions. With his truthfulness, sincerity and honorable behavior he inspired affection and respect for himself in those around him. With the advice he gave those people, he summoned them to the true path. In Surah Yusuf, there is another person who is referred to and praised for his faith in Allah and his submission to Him at least as much as Prophet Yusuf (as); this was Prophet Ya'qub (as), who was Prophet Yusuf's (as) father.
Prophet Ya'qub (as) knew from a dream that his son, Prophet Yusuf (as), would become an important person in the future and he tried to protect him and support him to the best of his ability. However, Prophet Yusuf's (as) brothers were jealous of their father's love for him and the interest he took in him and they prepared a trap for him. They decided to rid themselves of Yusuf (as) by casting him into a well. After throwing him into the well, they claimed that a wolf had eaten him and as evidence produced his shirt, covered in fake blood. Faced with this distressing situation, Prophet Ya'qub (as) demonstrated superior conduct. He conformed to the guidance of Allah and was able to give his sons the best advice while being patient in the knowledge that through perseverance and the help of Allah he would be rescued. In the Qur'an, Allah describes Prophet Ya'qub's (as) behavior as follows:
They then produced his shirt with false blood on it. He said, "It is merely that your lower selves have suggested something to you which you did; but beauty lies in showing steadfastness. It is Allah alone Who is my Help in face of the event that you describe." (Surah Yusuf, 18)
The trap set for Prophet Yusuf (as) by his brothers was, for Prophet Ya'qub (as), a test sent by Allah. Prophet Ya'qub (as) remained loyal to Allah in the hope that if he demonstrated the best conduct, Allah would turn his sorrow into joy and happiness.
Prophet Yusuf (as) was rescued from the well into which he had been thrown by a caravan of travelers and sold to an Egyptian governor. In this way Allah placed Prophet Yusuf (as) in Egypt and He gave him power, wisdom and taught him the interpretation of dreams. As a result of a slander against him by the governor's wife, Prophet Yusuf (as) was later imprisoned in a dungeon and after remaining there for years he explained a dream of the ruler's which nobody else could understand through the knowledge which had been given him and thus attracted the ruler's attention. Allah supported him with His mercy and assistance, rescued him from the dungeon and set him at the head of the nation's treasury.
Then Prophet Yusuf's (as) brothers, without knowing who he was, came to him several times to buy food from him. Prophet Yusuf (as) prepared a plan to rescue his younger brother from the evil intentions of his other brothers and succeeded in taking him from them. Allah describes in the Qur'an the submissive behavior of Prophet Ya'qub (as) when Prophet Yusuf's (as) brothers told him about this:
He said, "It's merely that your lower selves suggested something to you which you did. But beauty lies in having steadfastness. Perhaps Allah will bring them all together. He is indeed All-Knowing and All-Wise." (Surah Yusuf, 83)
Believing that he had lost his other son increased Prophet Ya'qub's (as) sorrow still further but he again acted in accordance with Allah's guidance. He did not deviate from his steadfast conduct and waited patiently in the hope of a reunion. In return for his high standard of behavior and submission, Allah rewarded Prophet Ya'qub (as) by reuniting him with both his sons. In return for his sincere faith and refusal to deviate from His teaching, Allah transformed the sorrow of the Prophet Ya'qub (as) into joy and happiness.
As in the example of Prophet Ya'qub (as), everybody who avoids deviating under any circumstances from his submission to Allah and the desire to earn His approval will definitely find contentment. This is our Lord's promise to us.