“On the authority of Abu Huraira who said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Verily Allah, the Exalted, is pure and accepts only that which is pure. Allah has commanded the believers to do that which He has commanded the Messengers. The Exalted has said, ‘O Messengers! Eat of the good things and do right.’ And the Exalted also said, ‘O believers! Eat of the good things that we have provided for you.’” Then he [the Prophet peace be upon him] mentioned a man who after a long journey is disheveled and dust coloured. “[The man] stretches his hands out toward the sky and says, ‘O Lord, O Lord,’ while his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothing unlawful and his nourishment is unlawful. How is he to be answered [in such a state]?” (Recorded in Sahih Muslim)
This was hadith was narrated Abu Huraira, who narrated more hadith than any other companion. His brief biography was provided at the beginning of the last hadith, you can find it here.
“Verily Allah, the Exalted, is pure”
The beauty of this hadith is that describes the quality of acts which are pleasing and acceptable to Allah.
It begins by stating that Allah (swt) is tayyib in Arabic. Tayyib literally means something good, but in reference to Allah (swt) in this hadith it means ‘the pure’. Allah, is pure and perfect and far above any imperfection or need. He (swt) possesses all of the attributes of perfection and completeness. He (swt) is not in need of any partner or child. He (swt) does not need to sleep or rest. All of these attributes are implied in this one statement of the Prophet (s) in which every form of shortcoming or weakness is removed from Allah (swt).
“and accepts only that which is pure.”
The scholars have said that this portion of the hadith refers not only to wealth that is pure, meaning earnt for lawful means, but to all deeds. That is, Allah (swt) does not accept any deed unless it is free from anything which would make it impure. Our actions should be lawful according to the Shariah. Our deeds must be free from ostentation or showing off, or seeking to please other than Allah, in other words it must be performed for His sake only. Our wealth should have been acquired using halal means (not from interest, or sale of liquor etc ) and our sustenance should also be pure and good (halal). As we will see later in this hadith the entire way in which a person lives life can be taken into account when considering whether or not a deed will be ‘acceptable’ to Allah (swt). And any acceptance is through His (swt) Mercy, and He is the Most Merciful.
The are a number of ways in which a deed can by ‘accepted’ by Allah (swt). Firstly, Allah may pleased with the deed, praise the one who performed it, tell the angels about the deed performed and so forth. Secondly, the deed may be rewarded in the Hereafter. Thirdly, the person may be considered to have performed their legal obligation of enacting the deed (ie they prayed). A verse in the Qur’an further states:
“Allah accepts only from those who are God-Fearing” (Surah al-Maaidah:27)
It is reported that the companions used to fear that their deeds would not be accepted by Allah because of this reason. If that was the fear of the companions, how much more should be the case for us?? It is clearly not enough simply to perform a deed for it to be accepted by Allah (swt) and for Him to be pleased with it. We should strive to purify our intentions, our conduct and our sources of livelihood, as well as asking ourselves whether we really fear Allah (swt) if we hope to have our deeds accepted by Him (swt) and be source of reward for us in the Hereafter.
“Allah has commanded the believers to do that which He has commanded the Messengers. The Exalted has said, ‘O Messengers! Eat of the good things and do right.’ And the Exalted also said, ‘O believers! Eat of the good things that we have provided for you.’”
In this next part of the hadith, the Prophet (s) quoted a verse from the Qur’an:
“O Messengers! Eat of good things and do right” (Surah al-Muminoon:51)
This shows us that the Messengers are ordered by Allah (swt) to purify themselves with respect to both their body and spirit – eating good things and performing good deeds. This noble command was also addressed to the believers, and forms the basis of the principle that all true servants of Allah should lives by. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“O believers! Eat of good things that We have provided for you” (Surah al-Baqarah:172)
The food that one consumes to sustain themselves should be pure and good, or halal, and the money they use to purchase this sustenance should also be pure and good, and earned through halal means (not from interest, or sale of liquor etc ).
These actions are essential keys to having ones deeds will be accepted by Allah. It was a command which Allah gave to all the Messengers and which He (swt) has given to this nation also. Consuming what Allah (swt) has prohibited will cut us off from His Mercy.
“… a man who after a long journey is disheveled and dust coloured. [The man] stretches his hands out toward the sky and says, ‘O Lord, O Lord,’…”
In this very moving example, the Prophet (s) describes a man who is need. He is at the end of a long journey, his clothes are disheveled and he is covered in dust. Usually, this state of need would put a person in a good position to have his dua answered. As the Prophet (s) said:
“Three supplications are responded to: the supplication of the oppressed, the supplication of the traveller, and the supplication of the father for his child.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari)
When we are travelling and we are in a strange land, far away from home and friends and family, perhaps facing hardships, our heart becomes softened and we are more inclined to realise our dependence on Allah (swt). This feeling in the heart is one of the greatest causes for one’s supplication to be answered by Allah (swt).
The fact that this traveller was disheveled and dusty implies a simplicity and modesty of the part of the person which is also noted as being one of the causes for a supplication to be answered. The Prophet (s) stated:
“Many a person with disheveled hair is turned away from the doors [whereas Allah holds him in such high esteem] that if he were to swear by Allah, Allah would fulfill that for him.” (Recorded in Muslim)
This man then ‘stretches his hands out toward the sky’ which is another important characteristic in having your supplication answered. The Prophet (s) said:
“Your Lord is munificent and generous, and is ashamed to turn away empty the hands of His servant when he raises them to Him.” (Recorded in Ahmad)
The Prophet Muhammad (s) was known to raise his hands in dua. It is recorded in a hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari that when he (s) prayed for rain he (s) raised his arms so high you could see the whites of his armpits. Similarly when he (s) beseeched Allah (swt) during the Battle of Badr, he (s) extended his arms so much that his cloak fell off his (s) shoulders.
Finally, the traveller says, ‘O Lord, O Lord’. We can feel here that the man is making an urgent request to Allah (swt), pleading with Him. By calling Him his Lord he is admitting his dependence on Him. Indeed many of the supplications that are found in the Qur’an begin ‘O Lord’ or ‘O our Lord’.
In this simple description then, the Prophet (s) described a man who, by all external appearnances, appeared to be in a prime position to have his dua answered by Allah (swt). But as we will see in the next post, there is a fundamental criteria that must be met before a dua can be answered, and this man, despite his need, had not met it.
“…while his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothing unlawful and his nourishment is unlawful. How is he to be answered [in such a state]?”
Allah (swt), in His infinite His Grace and Mercy, has revealed to His Prophet (s) factors which facilitate His (swt) answering of dua, as well as factors which can inhibit His (swt)answering of dua. This part of the hadith shows us some of the things we need to be careful about if we want Allah to answer our dua.
The Prophet (s) clearly states in this hadith that the man’s food, drink, clothing and nourishment were unlawful, and for these reasons Allah (swt) may not respond to his supplication, even though he was a traveller in need calling out to his Lord. This shows us that how we live, what we eat and drink and how we clothe ourselves are of fundamental importance to our relationship with our Allah (swt).
If our lives are filled with forbidden things, how can we expect Allah to respond when we ask of Him (swt)? If we do not respond to Allah’s call, how can we expect Him (swt) to respond to our call when we need Him (swt)? Allah says in the Qur’an:
“And when My servants ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me, then that I am indeed near. I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. Therefore, let them respond to Me [My commands] and believe in Me that they may be rightly guided.” (Surah al-Baqarah:186)
It is recorded by Ibn Rajab in his work Jaami, that one of the companions of the Prophet (s) said of dua, “Do not be surprised that the response is slow in coming as you have blocked its road due to your sins.”
Ask yourself if you can think of anything that you may be doing that is blocking your duafrom being answered, for we are more in need of the answer to our prayers than we are of anything else in this dunya.
Extracted from Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi (Vol 1) by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo Pages 547-577