Mistakes of the Messengers
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Afterwards, David wondered if he made the right judgment. He thought that we were testing him. He then implored his Lord for forgiveness, bowed down, and repented. We forgave him in this matter…. (38:25)
Interestingly the messenger who has the most mistakes mentioned in the Quran is the prophet Muhammad. Why should this be? Was God scandalizing him? Of course that does not make any sense, especially when God tells us in 68:4 that he had a great moral character. I can think of some very good reasons. First of all, unlike some of the other messengers his mistakes are of the kind that we are apt to make.
God willing none of us will ever kill anyone like Moses did and we are unlikely to be in a situation where we could issue a judgment like David, but we could easily make the kinds of errors in our personal relationships that Muhammad made and like most of us he was an idol worshiper before he was guided (40:66 and 93:7). So his errors are ones for us to learn from.
He almost leaned towards the disbelievers:
They almost diverted you from the revelations we have given you. They wanted you to fabricate something else, in order to consider you a friend. If it were not that we strengthened you, you almost leaned towards them just a little bit. Had you done that, we would have doubled the retribution for you in this life, and after death, and you would have found no one to help you against us. (17:73-75)
He feared the people rather than God:
Recall that you said to the one who was blessed by GOD, and blessed by you, “Keep your wife and reverence GOD,” and you hid inside yourself
what GOD wished to proclaim. Thus, you feared the people, when you were supposed to fear only GOD…. (33:37)
He prohibited something that God made lawful to him in order to please others:
O you prophet, why do you prohibit what GOD has made lawful for you, just to please your wives? GOD is Forgiver, Merciful. (66:1)
He misjudged people, using human standards rather than God’s:
He (Muhammad) frowned and turned away. When the blind man came to him. How do you know? He may purify himself. Or he may take heed, and benefit from the message. As for the rich man. You gave him your attention. Even though you could not guarantee his salvation. The one who came to you eagerly. And is really reverent. You ignored him. Indeed, this is a reminder. Whoever wills shall take heed. (80:1-12)
He judged too quickly, before letting God expose the true character of some people:
GOD has pardoned you: why did you give them permission (to stay behind), before you could distinguish those who are truthful from the liars? (9:43)
All of these errors show the same kinds of human weaknesses that we are all subject to, so these verses give us valuable lessons for our own lives. And indeed in verse 18:110 Muhammad is told to say “I am no more than a human like you.”
I believe these verses do more, they provide good examples of why we cannot blindly follow the example of another human being, no matter who that person is. We must follow the scripture, the words of God, not the sunnah of any human being! (The sunnah are practices attributed to a messenger, and usually refer to practices attributed to Prophet Muhammad.)
And finally all of the mistakes of the messengers demonstrate to us how human they were. They make it clear that we can be totally human and still be absolutely devoted to God. We can all strive to be as good in our submission as the messengers:
Those who obey GOD and the messenger belong with those blessed by GOD―the prophets, the saints, the martyrs, and the righteous. These are the best company. (4:69)
During my childhood in India, attending Friday sermons was quite an experience. The lmam (priest) would generally shout rhetoric at the top of his voice, to the point that I would sometimes be scared. As I grew up and began understanding and paying more attention, I figured he wasn’t mad at me after all.
Even nowadays these sermons can sometimes be a waste of time or worse, they can be nonsense or even incendiary. Most of the people sleep through the sermon and are eager for it to be over. On the average in a mosque if there are a hundred people attending, it is a waste of a 100 man hours. What a criminal waste of time. That time should be used to provide spiritual guidance from the Quran or talk about contemporary issues as they relate to spiritual matters. It would be so nice if at every sermon, they took a few verses from the Quran and talked about that in detail.
Once I was attending a sermon with my daughters and the priest was saying that it is a bad thing to eat or even touch food with your left hand. He went on to say that people who do that are bad; they are shaitan (Satan)! Now both my daughters are left handed and they were shocked, hurt and angry at such a statement. I am sure they lost most of their enthusiasm to attend Friday sermons after that. They were shocked because they didn’t expect the Quran to say any such nonsense – which it doesn’t. So I had to explain to them it is may be ‘weak or fake hadith’ or something like that and not from the Quran.
Cont’d on page 3