Hadith 25: Compete for the Hereafter

Also on the authority of Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him): Some of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “O Messenger of Allah, the affluent have made off with the rewards. They pray like we pray, fast like we fast and they also give in charity from their extra wealth.” He said, “Has not Allah made things for you to do in charity? Verily, ever tasbeehah is a charitable act, every takbeerah is a charitable act, every tahmeedah is a charitable act, every tahleelah is a charitable act, ordering good is a charitable act, forbidding evil is a charitable act, and you having sexual intercourse [with your wife] is a charitable act.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, when one of us fulfills his desire, he will be rewarded for that?” He said, “Tell me, if he were to do it unlawfully, would he bear that sin? Similarly, if he fulfills it lawfully, he will have a reward.” (Recorded in Muslim)

The Narrator

Abu Dharr al-Ghifaari (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.

“Some of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said..”

This hadith is one of the many examples that demonstrate how eager the Companions were to perform acts that were pleasing to Allah (swt). They were not jealous of the wealthier Companions because of their nice clothes or houses, rather, they were worried that the wealthy would get more rewards from Allah (swt) due to their giving of wealth in charity. They had heard the verses of Qur’an that emphasised the importance of giving charity and they were keen to please Allah in this way, but they were limited by their means.

This should be the way in which all believers compete, for the goal of the Hereafter. They should race one another to good deeds in order to please Allah (swt), and not compete in the life of this world. As Allah (swt) says:

“Nay, you prefer the life of this world although the Hereafter is better and more lasting.” (Surah al-Ala:16-17)

Unfortunately, many Muslims today compete for the life of this world and this can cause jealousy, pride and enmity in the hearts. We should remember that the pleasures of this world are fleeting and can lead to loss and destruction, but the pleasures of the Hereafter are for eternity. As the Prophet (s) said:

“By Allah, it is not poverty that I fear for you. But I fear that the world will be spread out before you as it was for the people before you. Then you shall compete in it as the people before you competed in it and it shall destroy you as it destroyed them.”(Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)

“O Messenger of Allah, the affluent have made off with the rewards. They pray like we pray, fast like we fast and they also give in charity from their extra wealth.”

We can see from the statement above that the poorer Companions specifically noted that the richer Companions gave charity out of their ‘extra’ wealth, meaning the wealth left over after they had met their own needs. This is an important principle when giving charity in Islam. Many people are responsible for their own well-being as well as for the well-being of others. Islam does not allow them to squander their wealth or hurt the people they responsible for, even if they want to use that wealth for good purposes. The needs of those under your care must be met first.

The believer should only give in charity that which is beyond their needs. As the Prophet (s) said:

“It is enough of a sin for a man to allow to be destroyed one who he is [financially] responsible for.” (Recorded in Ahmad)

When giving wealth to others we should begin with those whom we are financially responsible for, then those who are in need who are close to us and within our community. The Prophet (s) said:

“The upper hand [that gives] is better than the lower hand [that receives]. One should start giving first to his dependents. The best object of charity is that which is given by a wealthy person. And whoever abstains from asking others for some financial help, Allah will give him and save him from asking others. And whoever is satisfied with what Allah has given him, Allah will make him self-sufficient.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari)

We can see from this last hadith that it is not liked to beg in Islam, or even to ask others for financial assistance. We should trust in Allah and strive to meet our own needs. If we put our trust in Allah (swt) He will suffice us. He is Ar-Razzaq, the Provider, and He is the only One who provides. When we are in need (and even when we think we are not!) we should turn to Allah (swt) to ask Him (swt) to provide for us. He (swt) will provide for us from means we could not have imagined.

“Has not Allah made things for you to do in charity?”

It is interesting to note that at the time of event recorded in this hadith, the Companions of the Prophet (s) thought that there was only one type of charity – giving of one’s wealth. However, as we now know, the Islamic concept of charity is vast. It incorporates such things as doing good, giving food and even a smile. In fact the Prophet (s) said,

“Every act of goodness is an act of charity.” (Recorded in Muslim)

Even the acts of goodness done by Allah (swt) towards His servants, are considered ‘charity’ from Him (swt).  When discussing the shortening of the prayer during prayer, the Prophet (s) said,

“This is a charitable act [sadaqah] that Allah has bestowed upon you, so accept His charity.” (Recorded in Muslim)

Other than the act of giving one’s wealth, the concept of charity in Islam can be divided into two broad categories. The first category consists of acts of goodness and kindness that are done towards other human beings. This category includes acts like ordering the good and forbidding the evil, calling others to the path of Allah (swt), keeping oneself from harming others, teaching others about the religion, removing something harmful from the road and so forth. We can see that this type of charity may actually be more beneficial in the long run than giving up some of one’s wealth. As the Prophet (s) said:

“Your smiling at your brother is a charitable act for you. Your ordering the good and eradicating evil is a charitable act. Your guiding a man in a land wherein he is lost is a charitable act. Your removing a stone, thorn or bone from the road is a charitable act. Your emptying your cup into the cup of your brother is a charitable act.” (Recorded in al-Tirmidhi)

We can see that any of these acts of charity are available to all people, whether rich or poor.

The second category consists of acts of goodness done directly towards oneself. In fact one of the best charitable acts is to refrain from harming others. Abu Dharr (r) once asked the Prophet (s) what he should do if he does not have the ability to perform some of the good deeds. The Prophet (s) replied:

“Keep your evil away from the people and that will be a charitable act from yourself upon yourself.” (Recorded in Muslim)

SubhaanAllah, the mercy of Allah, even acts of charity towards oneself are rewardable. In fact, even saying ‘SubhaanAllah‘ is considered an act of charity. One of the best things that we can do is perform dhikr of Allah (swt) and in so doing, perform an act of charity towards our own souls. Allah (swt) in His infinite Mercy, has given us a multitude of ways to earn rewards, even down to how we use the tips of our tongues.

Let’s ask ourselves how we utilise the things He (swt) has blessed us with, and if we are using them to maximise our rewards?

“Verily, ever tasbeehah is a charitable act, every takbeerah is a charitable act, every tahmeedah is a charitable act, every tahleelah is a charitable act”

The Prophet (s) mentioned the following four phrases as counting as charitable acts:

Tasbeehah – saying SubhaanAllah ‘Glory be to Allah’

Takbeerah – saying Allahu Akbar ‘Allah is the Greatest’

Tahmeedah – saying al-Hamdulillah ‘All praises be to Allah’

Tahleelah – saying La ilaaha illa-llah ‘There is none worthy of worship except Allah’ 

These are four phrases that a Muslim should say throughout their lives. According to many commentators on the Qur’an, these are the four phrases that are referred to as ‘lasting good righteous deeds’ in the verse:

“Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world. But the righteous good deeds that last are better with your Lord for rewards and better in respect of hope.”(Surah al-Kahf:46)

The meaning of subhaanAllah and alhamdullilah were given in detail in the commentary on Hadith 23. The statement allahu akbar implies that Allah is greater than anything else in existence. There is nothing as important or as great as Allah (swt). The statement La ilaaha illa-llah forms the foundation of the Muslim’s faith. It means that there is none worthy of worship except Allah (swt). We can see that the whole of a Muslim’s life revolves around the meaning of these four phases, and when these become the driving force, their heart will become pure. They will translate into action the implication of these four phrases and will begin to emulate the Prophet (s) in being the most giving of all people and sacrificing for the sake of Allah. These are truly acts of charity for the person’s own benefit and for the benefit of others. May Allah make us of those who put the implication of these statements into action. Ameen.

“ordering good is a charitable act, forbidding evil is a charitable act”

An important deed that is available to everyone, with or without wealth, is the ordering of good and the forbidding of evil. With the right intention, the reward for this may even be bigger than the giving of one’s wealth. It is this characteristic of ordering the good and forbidding the evil that has set this nation apart from all other peoples.

Allah (swt) says:

You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin the good and forbid what is evil, and you believe in Allah” (Surah ali-Imraan:110)

Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil can have a direct positive impact on our wider societies, whereas prayer and fasting are primarily beneficial to the individual. For this reason it is a communal obligation (fardh kifaayah) and some scholars have said that these are perhaps more important than individual obligations (fardh ain). Imam al-Nawawi points out in his commentary that because enjoining the good and forbidding the evil comes under the category of an obligation, it is in fact more important than dhikr of Allah, which is a voluntray deed. More about this will be discussed in later hadith inshaaAllah.

Because of the degree of individual freedoms that we see in these times, people do not seem to realise how important this communal obligation is. And yet, one of the greatest ways of bringing about communal harmony and well-being, is the true protection of real individual freedom and rights – which is enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. When this attitude of encouraging the good and discouraging what is wrong prevails, the amount of evils will be kept to a minimum, as can be seen in the example of the Prophet’s (s) society in Madinah. As a result, ordering the good and forbidding the evil is one of the greatest charities that an individual can perform on behalf of society as a whole.

Let’s remember that we should always advise one another with wisdom and good preaching, and the right intention. For verily, some small deeds are made large in reward due to their intention, and some large deeds are made small in reward due to their intention.

“…having sexual intercourse [with your wife] is a charitable act.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, when one of us fulfills his desire, he will be rewarded for that?” He said, “Tell me, if he were to do it unlawfully, would he bear that sin? Similarly, if he fulfills it lawfully, he will have a reward.”

SubhanAllah, the mercy of Allah (swt), even fulfilling our desires can be rewardable for us as a charitable act, if we do it with the right intention. If our intention was to do what is permissible instead of what is forbidden, and we fulfill our desires within the limits set by Allah (swt), then Allah (swt) will reward us for it.

However, if the act was performed with no such thoughts in mind, there may be no greater reward for it. We can see this concept clearly illustrated in the following ayah:

“There is no good in most of their secret talks save (in) him who orders charity or righteousness or conciliation between mankind; and he does this seeking the good pleasure of Allah. We shall give him a great reward.” (Surah al-Nisaa:114)

Here Allah (swt) refers to the act as good, but restricts the reward by the condition that Allah’s (swt) pleasure must be sought. This implies that the act would not be rewarded if there was no good intention or if the intention had been bad.

Al-Nawawi notes in his commentary on this hadith, that this illustrates that permissible acts can become acts of obedience due to sound intentions. For example, marital relations between husband and wife can become an act of worship if the person intends to fulfill the rights of the spouse as commanded by Allah (swt) and to avoid what is forbidden. The same is true for eating, drinking, sleeping or any of the other necessary acts of life.

Such is the infinite mercy of Allah (swt) that He may reward the believers for doing what they need to do, simply because they make sure they do it in a proper and permissible manner and with the right intention.

Let’s make sure we purify our intentions in all our daily actions so that we may find our reward with Allah (swt) and not seek it in this dunyah.

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