The fate of the greats

The fate of the greats

“The aura of greatness that surrounds humans in this world has no real substance. It is a facade put on for the test of men.” – Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
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Umar Ibn Khattab, in his capacity as Caliph, was delivering a speech in Medina. One person from the congregation rose and administered him this warning:

“By God, Umar, if we detect any crookedness in you then we will put you straight with our swords.” (Al-Tārīkh al-Kabīr by Al Bukhari, Hadith No. 1825)

Audacious and insolent though these words appear, Umar did not object to them; neither did anyone in the congregation challenged the man’s right to address Umar in this way. The companions were used to criticism of this nature among themselves. An atmosphere of healthy criticism, in which people had every right to speak their minds, endured for about two generations after the Prophet. There was no restriction on what people said, as long as they looked into a matter carefully before pronouncing judgment on it: only criticism without prior investigation was disapproved of.

There can only be one reason for the atmosphere of tolerance that prevailed during the time of the companions and the generations that immediately succeeded them: for those people, only God was great. They were conscious of only God’s greatness, and criticism of one human being by another did not diminish anything from the greatness of God.

It is those who can see through this facade and realise that no one besides God has any real greatness, will be successful in the next world, where only His greatness will remain.

In modern times, however, things have changed. Try criticising any leading personality, anyone who is great in the eyes of men; it does not matter how intellectually sound and well-researched one’s criticism is, that person’s followers will rise in anger. Clearly, the reason for this is that people attribute greatness to humans, and to see the objects of their veneration brought low is more than they can bear.

The aura of greatness that surrounds humans in this world has no real substance. It is a facade put on for the test of men. It is those who can see through this facade and realise that no one besides God has any real greatness, will be successful in the next world, where only His greatness will remain.

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