On the authority of Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junada and Abu Abdul Rahmaan Muaadh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with both of them) from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who said, “Fear Allah wherever you are. And follow up a bad deed with a good deed and it will wipe it out. And behave towards the people with a good behaviour.” (Recorded in al-Tirmidhi)
This hadith was related on the authority of two of the companions, Abu Dharr and Muaadh ibn Jabal (r). Abu Dharr (r) was one of the earliest Muslims, being perhaps the fifth person to embrace Islam. He (r) moved to Madinah after the Hijrah, and was present at many of the battles of the Prophet (s). He narrated approximately 281 hadith.
Muaadh ibn Jabal (r) was an Ansari of the Khazraj tribe. He (r) was known for his gentleness, generosity and modesty. The Prophet (s) stated that he (r) was the most knowledgeable of the Nation concerning what is permissible and what is forbidden. He (r) memorised the entire Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet (s) and was sent as a teacher and guide to the people of Yemen. He narrated 157 hadith.
“Fear Allah wherever you are”
Taqwa (translated here as ‘fear’) comes from the root word waqaaya, which means “he protected” or “to protect”. When the word taqwa is used with respect to Allah (swt), as in this hadith, it means that one must fear and protect oneself from the anger and punishment of Allah (swt). These things are what we have to fear above all else, both in this world and in the Hereafter.
Taqwa or fear of Allah, is one of the most important concepts found in the Qur’an andsunnah. It could be described as the foundation of the religion. It has been the command of Allah for all of the Messengers:
“To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth. We have advised the people of the Scripture before you and you also [O Muslims] to have taqwa of Allah [fear Allah and keep your duty to Him].” (Surah al-Nisaa:131)
Taqwa is such an important characteristic, that whenever the Prophet (s) sent an army out to battle, he would advise them to have tawqa of Allah, as this would be the cause of their success or defeat.
When we realise that Allah (swt) sees us at all times and knows what we do, think and say, then the obvious implication is that we should fear Allah’s anger and punishment at all times. That includes when we are accompanied and when we are alone, and when we are receiving blessings and trials. The Prophet (s) used to supplicate:
“I ask of You to give me fear of You in matters that are not seen as well as those that are witnessed.” (Recorded in al-Nisaai)
The minimum aspect of taqwa is to obey Allah and not disobey Him (swt). To achieve a higher level, one must put some distance between oneself and anything that could anger Allah. The people of taqwa, will leave even permissible deeds out of fear that there might be something harmful in them. Leaving these doubtful or permissible deeds then acts as a barrier between the believer and any acts of disobedience.
When a believer performs all the obligatory deeds that they are capable of and stays away from all the forbidden and doubtful matters, and when they further perform the recommended acts and stay away from the disapproved ones, they are truly deserving of the title muttaqeen “the people possessing taqwa“. The reward for these type of people the highest of rewards. Allah (swt) says:
“And the good end [Paradise] is for the [people of] taqwa” (Surah Taha:132)
May Allah make us of those people who fear Allah (swt) wherever we are and earn His (swt) highest reward. Ameen.
“And follow up a bad deed with a good deed and it will wipe it out.”
This part of the hadith illustrates that even those with taqwa, or fear of Allah (swt) may still slip and make mistakes. No one is perfect, but those who are from the mutaqeen or people of taqwa, do not persist in their sins. When they remember Allah (swt) they immediately perform a good deed to outweigh the negative effects of a bad one. Allah (swt) speaks of these people in the Qur’an:
“And be quick in the race for forgiveness from Your Lord and for Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the mutaqeen, Those who spend [for Allah’s cause] in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon men. Verily, Allah loves the doers of good. And for those who, when they have committed some evil or wronged themselves, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah – and who do not persist in what they have done, while they know. For such, the reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens with rivers flowing amidst them, wherein they shall abide forever. How excellent is this reward for the doers [of taqwa].” (ali-Imran:133-136)
SubhanAllah, may Allah (swt) make us of the mutaqeen, Ameen.
It is important to note that a bad deed that violates the rights of others, cannot simply be wiped away by a good deed. Instead, the sinner must return the right to the person or ask for their forgiveness. An example of this would be if you said something bad about a person in a gathering, you should seek Allah’s forgiveness and say something good about them in a gathering of at least the same size, to outweigh the negative effects of what you have said.
We should also remember that in the same way that good deeds wipe away evil deeds, evil deeds can also wipe away good deeds. That is, the reward for the deed may be removed by the bad deed that is performed after it. This is especially true with regards to major sins such as dealing in riba (interest) or committing adultery.
Ten Ways in Which Allah (swt) Removes Sins
This hadith tells us one of the ways in which the punishment for a bad deed may be removed by Allah’s (swt) permission. Allah (swt) in His mercy has provided us with numerous opportunities to earn His (swt) forgiveness. Here are ten ways in which Allah (swt) removes sins from the believer:
1. Sincere repentance when one feels remorse and resolves not to do it again.
2. Recognising that one has committed a sin and that Allah forgives sins and then asking Him to forgive you.
3. Performance of good deeds.
4. Supplication for another Muslim.
5. What is done by a living person for the sake of the dead: fasting, charity etc
6. The intercession of the Prophet (s).
7. Afflictions in this life.
8. The hardship of the test and the life in the grave.
9. The events of the Day of Judgement.
10. The Mercy and Forgiveness of Allah (swt).
There are many ways that Allah (swt) promises to remove sins from us, and reading down the list, we can see that repenting and performing good deeds are amongst the easiest to achieve.
Let’s remember Allah’s (swt) promise of the Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth, and strive to follow a bad deed with a good one, so that our scale of good deeds outweigh the bad on the Day of Judgement.
“And behave towards the people with a good behaviour.”
The final piece of advice that the Messenger of Allah (s) gave in this hadith is that the believer should have good behaviour towards other people. Good behaviour and good character are an essential part of having taqwa. Many people think that taqwa, or fear of Allah (swt), is only about fulfilling the rights of Allah (swt), but this hadith illustrates to us that to have complete taqwa, one must also fulfill the rights of other human beings, by treating them in the best manner. This includes interacting with others in a friendly manner, smiling at them and greeting them, being calm and gentle and not having bad thoughts or saying bad things about other people, be they young or old.
The fact the Prophet (s) advised us to cultivate this type of good behaviour shows this is not necessarily something innate in everyone, but that a person can change their behaviour. They can perform acts of kindness and gentleness until they become accustomed to them. It is a sad fact that many people who stress the importance of the rights of Allah (swt) neglect to meet the rights of those people closest to them. This hadith shows us the error of that path.
Islam places a great emphasis on good behaviour. The Prophet (s) said:
“I have been sent for the purpose of perfecting good morals.” (Recorded in al-Haakim)
Therefore we can see that one of the essential things that the conduct of the Prophet (s) Muhammad shows us is how to behave. He (s) defined, illustrated and taught us the best of manners. We cannot use our own desires to decide what type of behaviour is best, we must look to the example of the Prophet (s) to show us what is best.
In another hadith, the Prophet (s) stated:
“I am a guarantor of a house in the highest part of Paradise for the one who makes his behaviour good.” (Recorded in Abu Dawood)
Let’s ask ourselves, do we always hold our tongue and refrain from saying harsh words or negative things about others? Do we always keep our word? Do we greet those that we know and those that we don’t with salam? Are we calm and gentle, even with our children? Do we treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves? Is our conduct worthy of the highest part of Paradise?
Extracted from Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi (Vol 2) by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo Pages 693-728