THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COURAGE ACCORDING TO THE QUR'AN
AND COURAGE ACCORDING TO SOCIETY
Like many false notions, courage is one of those concepts which is perceived
and experienced differently from that in the Qur'an in a society that
does not adhere to religious morality. Of course, people may be able to
propound many different things on the subject of courage, but as in all
matters, the best definition we are given is the one in the Qur'an.
Everybody has moments of courage but the matters concerning which people
are brave, the purposes for which they achieve courage and the limits
of the courage they demonstrate may be very different from those described
in the Qur'an.
If a definition of courage is required, the definition of one who does
not know the morality of the Qur'an, and the kind of courage Allah recommends,
will certainly be different from the definition of a Muslim. While a Muslim
determines what is courage according to the Qur'an, a great many will
describe some hero-figure constructed from their imagination through the
influence of the action films. For instance, they would describe driving
in the wrong direction on an expressway heavy with traffic, something
often seen in films, as an example of great courage.
The concept of courage for high school students is very different. A
student who argues with the teacher may be regarded by his friends as
very brave. Likewise, one who behaves rebelliously and breaks the rules
is thought of as brave. For example, in a school that requires navy blue
pants, a person who shows up with green pants has great courage, according
to the other students. Cheating on exams is also an example of courage
in a society ignorant of the morality of the Qur'an.
For a businessman, in a society plagued with ignorance, courage means
being able to take certain financial risks. For example, putting a large
sum of money into the stock market is an example of courage for such people.
Or, we can say that investing in a brand-new start up is for only the
In short, in societies not adhering to religious morality, each will
interpret courage according to his own experience or the environment he
comes from. Because the criteria for them is not the Qur'an, but their
own principles and habits, what each individual understands as courage
differs. For example, for those living in slums, courage is understood
in a way specific to their circumstances, while the definition of courage
offered by the upper-classes will differ accordingly. What a housewife
understands by courage is different from a politician's idea of it.
It is possible to multiply examples of this type relative to the number
of different classes of society. But, the common point among them all
is their perception that courage resides in a variety of extreme acts
outside the norm, that is, is perceived as going beyond the limits otherwise
set by society.
In a society whose culture does not hold the Qur'an supreme, this deviated
notion knows no limits. A thief may regard himself as courageous, and
claim that his business is one which requires a great deal of audacity.
Each evaluates situations differently. Because everybody is sure that
his opinion is correct, conflicts inevitably arise between those who admire
their own opinions and their own value judgments.
On the other hand, when people act according to the Qur'an, they are
adhering to the noblest and most correct model of morality. True courage,
according to the Qur'an, bears no relationship whatsoever to the notions
listed above. According to the Qur'an, courage is a soundness of character,
which springs from trusting in and relying on Allah, and devoting one's
life to Him at all times. As we will explain in later chapters, the best
examples of this soundness of character can be seen in the lives of our
prophets (saas) sent by Allah.
What we learn from their examples mentioned in the Qur'an is that courage
must be rational. Allah calls on us to use our intelligence, and in a
verse refers to those who do not as such:
No self can believe except with Allah's permission. He
places a blight on those who do not use their intellect. (Surah Yunus,
Rational courage will be successful. According to what society recognizes,
courage is a "blind spirit of adventure". Those motivated by such spirit
of adventure, and who are reckless, are greatly admired by the rest of
society. For example, one who goes into a burning home and tries to remove
his valuables may be regarded as very brave. However, this person is doing
something extremely dangerous and unintelligent. Instead of being encouraged,
he should be prevented. A person's life is more important than material
goods of any type.
Wisdom is the most important element of courage according to the Qur'an.
Being wise is a result of living in fear of Allah. Allah confers on those
who fear Him as He ought to be feared a sense of understanding to be able
to distinguish right from wrong. This sense of understanding, which issues
from fear of Allah, enables one to find the correct option in every situation.
The Qur'an informs us of this truth:
You who believe! If you fear Allah, He will give you
discrimination and erase your bad actions from you and forgive you. Allah's
favor is indeed immense. (Surat al-Anfal, 29)
Wisdom is emphasized in the Qur'an as an important quality. This wisdom,
which can be discerned at all times in the behavior of the faithful, will
make itself known in their acts of bravery. The courage shown by the faithful
is not blind or emotional. They may at times place themselves at risk,
but never on an impulse. As in all behavior of the faithful, wisdom is
its source. The faithful do not engage in acts of courage blindly or recklessly.
As in all matters, fear of Allah is essential. One who has no fear of
Allah may easily engage in behavior which will harm others, tramping on
their rights for his own advantage. Such a person's conception of courage
is diametrically opposed to the true courage of which the Qur'an informs
They regard obtaining money by doing what is forbidden,obtaining advantages
by disregarding the rights of others, and ignoring the risk of being caught
by the authorities while doing so, as courage. They believe that being
able to commit several crimes simultaneously and becoming rich without
being caught is courage. They perceive involving themselves fearlessly
in such immorality, not hesitating to trample on others for the sake of
their own gain, and recognizing no authority whatsoever as a mark of their
superiority over others. In fact, fomenting conflict, oppressing others,
trampling on other people's rights, and other acts of a similar nature,
all represent wicked behavior which is forbidden by Allah in the verses
of the Qur'an, and for which they will be unable to answer for in the
Hereafter. Courage only has real meaning when it is combined with superior
morality. Courage demonstrated against society's rules is an ugly form
of courage, and cannot be reconciled with the superior morality and the
Muslim model of which Allah informs us in the Qur'an.
Courage is behavior which is adopted in order to earn Allah's good pleasure.
The faithful sacrifice their lives and their goods for the purpose of
obtaining Allah's goodwill. At bottom, this is not a decision taken at
some late stage by people of faith. Believers take this decision the moment
they say, "I believe":
Allah has bought from the believers their selves and
their wealth in return for the Garden. They fight in the Way of Allah
and they kill and are killed. It is a promise binding on Him in the Torah,
the Gospel and the Qur'an and who is truer to his contract than Allah?
Rejoice then in the bargain you have made. That is the great victory.
(Surat at-Tawba, 111)
For those who make this decision from the outset, all that remains afterwards
is for an opportunity to come to carry out what it requires. In truth,
this courage shown by the faithful is merely that which Allah has ordered.
For that reason, the faithful perform their greatest feats of bravery
with composure. Because, when it is a matter of earning the goodwill of
Allah, there is nothing that he is not willing to give up.
It is Allah Who gives life and property. Just as He confers these on
whom He wishes, so, too, it is in Allah's power to take them back, whenever
and however He likes. It should also not be forgotten that nothing happens
by coincidence. When living according to the morality of the Qur'an, one
who acts with courage and determination for the sake of Allah, will experience
nothing that is not written for him according to his fate. Nevertheless,
these circumstances are but of the greatest good for him in this world
and the Afterlife. That is, when a person behaves courageously through
difficulty, when he tries to overcome that problem, no matter what he
may come up against, the outcome will be beneficial for him. Because,
in the Qur'an, Allah informs us that He will surely conclude the affairs
of His faithful believers to their advantage.
From the Qur'an, which provides us with the best definition of true courage,
we may recognize from the examples provided of the lives of the prophets,
and the faithful who followed them, that courage exhibited for the approval
of Allah is an exalted virtue.
As discussed to this point, the most important element which distinguishes
the type of courage outlined in the Qur'an from the mistaken notions of
society is purpose. When we examine the Qur'an, we can see that, according
to it, true courage comprises of very different purposes from those commonly
recognized. The aim of courage, according to the Qur'an, is neither to
gain the praise and admiration of others, nor to satisfy one's own ego.
The aim is solely to earn Allah's good pleasure.
Of course, this is the reason for the substantial differences between
the courage of the Qur'an and society's conception of it. As explained
earlier, according to the notion of courage prevalent in society, there
are worldly aims; that is, when demonstrating courage in any matter, the
person does not have in mind a purpose of achieving the Hereafter, but
striving for worldly goals. Maybe he is doing something noble and good,
like, for example, rescuing a child who has run onto the road from being
run over, but the aim here is to ease his own conscience. Or, perhaps,
he is defending the rights of someone who has suffered injustice. His
behavior is good, but his aim is to win the praise of those around him.
Really, he should perform these actions to earn Allah's good pleasure,
because in the sight of Allah that is what matters.
Muslims, never losing sight of this truth, do not show courage for the
sake of worldly advantages or benefits. They never harbor desires such
as wanting to be praised for their courage, or to be called brave, or
to attract other people's attention. It is enough for them that Allah
knows about the courage they have demonstrated for His sake.