Hadith 19: Words of Advice

“On the authority of Abu al-Abbaas Abdullah ibn Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with both of them) who said: One day I was riding behind the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and he said to me, “O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]. Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask Allah. If you seek help, seek help in Allah. Know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with something, they would not benefit you except with that which Allah has already recorded for you. If they gather to harm you by something, they would not be able to harm you by anything except what Allah has already recorded against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” (Recorded in al-Tirmindhi)

The Narrator

Abdullah ibn Abbaas ibn Abdul Muttalib was a cousin of the Prophet (s). He (r) was born three years before the Hijrah and grew up alongside the Prophet (s). He (r) did not hear many hadith directly from the Prophet (s) due to his young age, but he used to go the houses of the companions and wait for them to come out in order to hear hadith from them. He related hadith from Ali, Umar, Ubayy ibn Kaab, Muaadh ibn Jabal, Abu Dharr and others. The Prophet (s) made dua for ibn Abbaas that he (r) would become knowledgeable in the religion. As a result he became an expert in tafseer (Quranic commentary) and 1,660 ahadith have been narrated on his authority.

“One day I was riding behind the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and he said to me ‘O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice].”

In other narrations of this hadith, it is stated that the young ibn Abbaas was seated behind the Prophet (s) on his riding camel. This illustrates that this is one of the few hadith that ibn Abbaas narrated directly from the Prophet (s).

The Prophet (s) called out to ibn Abbaas to get his attention specifically, addressing him as ‘young man’. At the time when this occurred the young ibn Abbaas (r) was just about to enter puberty. This shows us this advice encapsulates the most fundamental aspects of how to practice and implement the religion of Islam in adult life. The Prophet (s) is teaching ibn Abbaas (r) about reliance on Allah amongst other things, which is essential for him to remember as he enters adult life as a Muslim.

This is how every Muslim child should be raised in Islam, being taught the essential aspects before they reach puberty. We truly need to revive this amongst our children today. Many Muslim youth seem to believe they are not responsible for their actions or that they are not adults until the age of 18 or 20. Islam teaches us that from the moment the child reaches puberty, they are considered an adult and are therefore responsible for all their actions. Parent need to realise this and teach their children to take responsibility for their actions.

The beauty of the advice that the Prophet (s) gave ibn Abbaas is that it was concise, and therefore easy to remember, yet it was far-reaching in its scope. It contains infinite wisdom for us all, both young and old, and shows us the important points to remember as we live our lives, moving closer to our return to Allah (swt).

“Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you.”

The Prophet (s) has advised the believer to be ‘mindful of Allah’. This implies being mindful of the limits set by Allah (swt), minding His (swt) rights and minding what He has ordered and what He (swt) has prohibited. In other words, we should implement what Allah (swt) has ordered and refrain from what He (swt) has forbidden.

One of the most important things that we can be mindful of is the prayer. As Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

“Guard strictly the [daily] prayers and especially the middle [best] prayer. And stand before Allah with obedience.” (Surah al-Baqarah:238)

Other verses in the Qur’an talk about the importance of guarding the private parts and being mindful of one’s oaths. They also mention the importance guarding one’s abolution, as protecting one’s state of purity is a sign of true faith. This is because one’s stae of purity is something that  only Allah is aware of. These are all part of the general characteristic of being mindful, guarding and preserving in relation to Allah (swt), that are refered to in this hadith.

The Prophet (s) went on to say that if we are mindful of Allah, Allah (swt) will ‘protect’ us. Allah (swt) protects the servant in more than one way. He (swt) guards and protects a person’s worldly interests and needs, through protection of their body, wealth and families, and protecting them from evil coming from jinn or mankind.  Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

“And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty)” (Surah al-Talaaq:2)

More importantly, Allah protects a person by protecting their religion. He (swt) protects their religion by keeping them steadfast and away from misconceptions and heresies. He (swt) also keeps them in the religion of Islam until their death. This is by far the important type of protection that Allah provides to the believer. The Prophet (s) taught the companions to beseech Allah for this type of protection.

Let’s remember again that beautiful dua of the Prophet (s):

Ya muqallib al Quloob, thabbit qalbee alaa deenik

O changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon You religion.

“Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you.”

This part of the hadith further explains the benefits of being mindful of Allah (swt) that were detailed in the previous post. Here we find that when we are mindful of Allah (swt), by meeting our obligations to Him (swt), we will find Him ‘in front’ of us.

What does it mean to find Allah (swt) in front of us? It means that Allah (swt) will be with us in all of our affairs. That is, He (swt) will support us, protect us, guide us and strengthen us in our actions. He (swt) is in front of us, guiding us. This is the type of closeness that Allah (swt) refers to in the Qur’an, describing when the Prophet (s) and Abu Bakr (r) were pursued by the disbelievers and had to hide in a cave. Allah (swt) says:

“… when they were in the cave and he [the Prophet] said, ‘Do not be afraid for, certainly, Allah is with us.’ Then Allah sent down His tranquility upon him and strengthened him with forces which you did not see…” (Surah al-Taubah:40)

SubhanAllah isn’t this the type of relationship that we all desire to have with Allah (swt)? This type of closeness is reserved for those who have taqwa or fear of Allah (swt), in other words, those who are mindful of Him (swt).

When the believer is able to reach this state of mindfulness, they become relaxed and at ease. Tranquility descends and they realise that Allah (swt) will protect them. With Allah’s protection, no one can possibly harm them. This is the point at which the believer truly realises that they are not in need of anyone other than Allah (swt).

Let’s ask ourselves firstly, if we are meeting our obligations to Allah (swt)? Are we remembering Allah (swt), thanking Him (swt), praising Him (swt) and worshipping Him as He should be worshipped?  Are we fearing Allah (swt) and His anger and punishment and seeking to avoid them? If we are able to be mindful of Allah (swt) in these ways, then He promises to bless us with tranquility, security, guidance and protection. What more could we ask for?

“If you ask, ask Allah.”

The next piece of advice that the Prophet (s) gave was that if we are in need of anything, we should ask Allah (swt), because it is only Allah (swt) who can truly provide for our needs. Allah (swt) has ordered His servants to ask from Him. He (swt) says:

“And ask of Allah of His Bounty” (Surah al-Nisaa:32)

Beyond this, it is said that the Muslim should strive to work for himself, by the help of Allah (swt), without relying on others. Begging or soliciting financial assistance from others is disapproved of in the Shariah, and should only be reverted to in cases of necessity. It is recorded in Sahih Muslim that the Prophet (s) took an oath from a number of companions including Abu Bakr, Abu Dharr and Thaubaan that they would never ask anything from anyone. If any one of these companions dropped the reins of their camel, they would never ask anyone to pick it up, but would get down and do it themselves.

Whilst few of us may reach this level of reliance on Allah (swt), it is important to note here that if we are seeking assistance from the creation, there are two types of asking, one permissible and one forbidden. It is permissible to ask of others what is normally within the ability of the human being, such as the mutual assistance and help that takes place amongst people all the time. It is however, forbidden to ask of another human being something which is not normally within the capability of a human being – such as to put faith in one’s heart, or knowledge of the unseen on influence in future events – this type of request is strictly forbidden. It is in fact equivalent to shirk, associating partners with Allah (swt), because it assumes that a human has the power to do what only Allah (swt) can do. Sadly, in many Muslim countries you will see people going to others – pirrs, sheikhs, maulvi’s etc – asking for assistance in matters that are beyond the control of human beings. This is in effect the equivalent of asking an idol to assist you in bringing the rain.

We are not in need of any intercessors when calling on Allah (swt). The doors of Allah (swt) the Merciful are wide open to all of us to ask Him (swt) for our needs directly. It is recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari that Allah (swt) descends during the last part of every night, asking:

“Is there anyone asking of Me so that I can give to him? Is there anyone supplicating to Me so that I may respond to him?”

In the Qur’an Allah (swt) says:

“And when my slaves ask you [O Muhammad] concerning Me, then : I am indeed near. I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me.” (Surah al-Baqarah:186)

Allah (swt) grants us this extraordinary opportunity to ask of Him (swt) but do we take it? Let’s resolve to put our trust in Allah (swt) and make dua to Him (swt) for ALL our needs big and small, and let’s strive to ask Him (swt) at the time when He (swt) tells us that He (swt) is in the closest heaven, waiting for our call.

“If you seek help, seek help in Allah.”

The Prophet (s) guided his (s) Companions to seek help in Allah (swt). We should seek His (swt) help in all things, including what we think we can achieve on our own. Who is it that give us the capacity to speak, or see, or read, or eat? It is Allah (swt). At any moment these abilities could be taken away from us, by Allah’s permission, so we should always seek help in Allah for even our daily tasks.

We should also remember to seek Allah’s (swt) help in achieving the best of this life and the best of the Hereafter, as well as what occurs after death, both in the grave and on the Day of Judgement.

Many people wait until they are suffering a hardship before they turn to Allah (swt) sincerely. This is a grave mistake. It can lead one to thinking that they are ‘self-sufficient’ and in charge of all their affairs. Asking Allah to help us reminds of us Who is control of our affairs. It helps us to put our trust in Him (swt) and turn to Him (s), and with Allah lies the highest and greatest reward.

Seeking help in Allah (swt) does not mean that we do not have to put in any effort on our part. We must use all of the faculties that Allah (swt) has blessed us with, in order to strive to do what is right, to the best of our abilities. We should seek Allah’s help in facilitating us to do this. Indeed the Messenger (s) said:

“A strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than a weak believer – however there is goodness in every [believer]. Be eager for [and strive after] what benefits you and seek help in Allah. And do not be too weak or lazy to do so.” (Recorded in Muslim)

This does not imply that we are not allowed to seek help from others. In fact Allah (swt) has commanded us to:

“Help you one another in piety and righteousness” (Surah al-Maidah:2)

What it implies is that we should only do so in cases of necessity, and with the understanding that all help actually comes from Allah (swt). We should put our trust and reliance in Allah (swt) and not in the creation (or what it created!).

The realisation of this command to seek help in Allah (swt) is the implementation of what we recite in our daily prayers from Surah al-Fatihah:

“You (alone) we worship and in You (alone) do we seek help”

May Allah help us to realise this essential quality. Ameen.

“Know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with something, they would not benefit you except with that which Allah has already recorded for you. If they gather to harm you by something, they would not be able to harm you by anything except what Allah has already recorded against you.”

After telling ibn Abbas (r) to ask of Allah and seek help in Him (swt), the Prophet (s) then gave him this piece of advice – know that no one can benefit you or hurt you except by the will of Allah, and whatever happens has already been recorded. This is directly related to to the previous advice about asking and seeking help from Allah (swt) alone. If no one can benefit or harm another person, except by what Allah (swt) has already decreed, then why would you seek help from other than Allah (swt)?

The understanding of this concept is part of the realisation of the reality of faith. The Prophet (s) stated:

“Everything has a reality to it. The servant does not reach the reality of faith until he knows that what reached him was not going to miss him and what missed him was not going to reach him.” (Recorded in Ahmad)

This also means that there is no reason to fear anyone other than Allah (swt). One’s provisions in life are not determined by any employer or government, they are determined only by Allah (swt). When we understand this essential fact, it should lead to peace and tranquility in the heart. If we put our trust in Allah (swt) we know that everything is according to His decree.

“The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”

This final statement is a clear reference to belief in al-Qadha wa al-Qadar , Divine Decree or ‘preordainment’. Allah (swt) has recorded everything that is going to occur in this existence, and He (swt) knew everything about the creation, before it came into existence. Allah (swt) says in one of the most beautiful verses in the Qur’an:

“And with Him are the keys of the Unseen. None knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is on the earth and in the sea; Not a leaf falls, but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, [green or withered], but is written in a Clear Record.” (Surah al-Anaam:59)

We can see here the reference to a ‘Clear Record’. We should understand that not only did Allah (swt) have foreknowledge of the creation, He (swt) also recorded this information in the Preserved Tablet (al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh). Allah (swt) says:

“No calamity occurs on the earth or among yourselves but it is inscribed in the Book [of Decrees] before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah. In order that you may not be sad over matters that you fail to achieve, nor rejoice because of that which has been given to you.” (Surah al-Hadeed:22)

It is here that we see the beauty of belief in al-Qadar and how it liberates the believer. If we experience a calamity, or trial, we should know that it was already written that it would happen and there was nothing we could have done to avoid it. There should be no bitterness or regret because everything that comes to us from Allah (swt) is for the best. The test is how we deal with what comes. With patience, trials and tribulations can be a source of us drawing nearer to Allah (swt). If we are grateful when we receive a blessing, we are rewarded for that also.

Let’s remember this beautiful saying of the Prophet (s):

“Strange are the ways of a believer for there is good in every affair of his. This is not the case of anyone except a believer. If he has an occasion to feel delight, he thanks (Allah), and there is a good for him in it. If he gets into trouble and shown resignation (and endures it patiently), there is a good for him in it.” (Recorded in Muslim)

Extracted from Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi (Vol 2) by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo Pages 729-798

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