9:100 And the preceders, the first among the emigrants and the helpers and those who followed them in beautiful doing—God approves of them, and they approve of Him.
9:102 And others who acknowledged their sins; they mixed a wholesome deed with another that is ugly. Perhaps God will turn toward them. Surely God is forgiving, ever-merciful.
9:106 And others who are made to hope for God’s command; either He will chastise them or He will turn toward them. And God is knowing, wise.
In these verses, the Generous Lord, the lovingly kind, the able, the pure-knowing knower, the one and unique in name and mark, divide Muḥammad’s community into three groups according to the degrees of their faith, the disparity of their acts, and the difference of their character traits. This is the same classification that He provided in detail elsewhere: “Among them are wrongdoers to themselves, among them are moderate, and among them are preceders in good deeds” [35:32].
There He mentioned them together and here apart, but the classification and the ranking in terms of virtue are the same. First are the preceders, the first, and they are the preceders. Second, are others who have acknowledged their sins, and they are moderate. Third, are others made to hope for God’s command, and they are the wrongdoers.
He begins with the preceders. In the beginningless, they have the precedence of solicitude and the bounty of guidance from God. They are the first chieftains and the forebears of this community, the best of creation, the lamps of guidance, the signposts of the religion, the treasurers of the Real, the pillars of the submission, the masters of this world, the interceders of the next world, the chosen of mortal man, the boast of Adam’s children. They are the Companions of Muṣṭafā and the chosen of God, the leaders of the submission, and the Sunnah, the first in the religion and recognition. They were the first to hear the Real’s message and they were the first to accept the message bringer and to welcome the Real. One group is the Emigrants. They left behind their homes and families and lost their means and homeland for God’s sake. Another group is the Helpers, who accepted Muṣṭafā with heart and spirit and gave his companions refuge. As a bird nurtures its chick, it nurtured the submission. They made their bodies and spirits shields for the religion of submission. They took this world as lowly and they placed their love in the religion. Another group are the Followers who came later: and those who followed them in beautiful doing. They learned the religion from them, took their character traits like their own, and then they conveyed their good qualities, their fatwas, and their conduct to the community. God approves of them, and they approve of Him. God is happy with them, and He will make them happy with themselves. This one group is the preceders.
The second sort is moderate. Moderation is to go by the middle road, with neither the excellence of the preceders nor the excessiveness of the wrongdoers. Rather, they go by the middle road and mix obedience and disobedience together. They are like the companions of the Ramparts, whose good deeds and bad deeds are equal, and who stay far from hell but do not reach paradise. The moderate are the ones about whom the Exalted Lord says, “And others who acknowledged their sins”: those who attest to their own sins and acknowledge their own bad disposition. They see their own faults and are ashamed of their own acts. Acknowledgment is two: One is the acknowledgment of the estranged tomorrow at the resurrection. When they see the first parts of the chastisement and the traces of the Real’s anger and vengeance, and the harshness and moaning of hell, they acknowledge their own sins. But what profit does acknowledgment have on that day? Of what use is attestation at that time? God says, “So they acknowledge their sins. Away with the companions of the Blaze!” [67:11]. “We acknowledge our sins. Is there a way to go out?” [40:11]. The other is the acknowledgment of the faithful in this world. They acknowledge their sins and attest to their faults, with regret in the heart, an apology on the tongue, and burning and remorse in the midst of the spirit. This is acknowledgment in its own place and acknowledgment in its own time. God says, “And others who acknowledged their sins.” Then He says, “They mixed a wholesome deed with another that is ugly”: They mixed together with their acts, one good and one bad, some pure and some defiled, some permitted and some forbidden, some straight and some crooked, some faulty and some excellent.
It has also been said that this is to combine asking forgiveness with sin. They sin, and along with the sin, they ask forgiveness. In the report has come, “He who asks forgiveness is not persisting [in his sin].” The Exalted Lord says, “Whoever does something ugly or wrongs himself and then asks forgiveness of God, he will find God forgiving, ever-merciful” [4:110]. It has also been said that when the servant combines slips with wholesome deeds, this is evidence that his sins do not nullify the reward of the obedience for, if they nullified it, He would not have said wholesome deed. Then He says, “Perhaps God will turn toward them.” God makes it necessary to accept them with all their faults and to take them with all their offenses. Surely God is forgiving, ever-merciful, for God is fault-hiding, forgiving, and lovingly kind. ʿUthmān used to say that there is no verse in the Qur’an offering more hope than this verse. And it is a sound report from Muṣṭafā, narrated by Samra ibn Jundab, that he said, “Two comers came to me last night and took me. We reached a city built of gold and silver bricks and were met by men, half of whose creation was like the most beautiful you have ever seen and half like the ugliest you have ever seen. The two said to them, ‘Go and fall into that river.’ They fell into it, then they returned to us, the ugliness has gone from them, and they had become the most beautiful form. Then the two said to me, ‘This is the Garden of Eden, and it is your dwelling place. As for those who were half beautiful and half ugly, they mixed a wholesome deed with another that is ugly. God has shown forbearance.’”
The third sort is others who are made to hope for God’s command. He is saying, “There are others, a group with great faults and dreadful offenses, bad deeds, crooked words, and numerous plaintiffs—unfit children, impudent youths, weak old men, ungrateful poor, impure rich, cruel in the day of good fortune, insolent in the days of strength, no foundation except in the heart, strangers to familiarity and attestation.” Of them He says, “made to hope for God’s command: Leave them to My will and put them down with hope and do not throw them into despair. Either He will chastise them, or He will turn toward them. Either He will chastise them with justice or accept their excuses through bounty. If He is just, that is permissible for Him, and if He shows bounty, that is fitting.” Not everything that is permissible for justice is fitting for bounty, but everything fitting for bounty is permissible for justice. Bounty is ruler over justice, and justice is captive in bounty’s hand. Justice is silent before bounty, and bounty has the ring of a union in its ear. Do you not see that justice is hidden and bounty apparent such that the enemy is deluded and the friend distracted? Then He says, “And God is knowing, wise.” God knows through right knowledge, without error, and He is wise without negligence or fault. Nothing is missing from His knowledge, nothing is outside of His power, and nothing overcomes His decree. He keeps the creatures in His decree, between His bounty and justice, in His knowledge. He is alone in His creation without any other, knowing through beginningless knowledge before all known things, His Essence always before all creatures, right in knowledge, pure in knowing, always working, bestowing as fits Him; He is true in speech, pure in knowledge, fine in artisanry, complete in bounty, eternal in love—majestic is His majesty, exalted His magnificence, tremendous His rank! Majestic is His unity and holy His self-sufficiency!