On the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who said, “Whoever relieves a believer’s distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allah will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the Hereafter. Whoever alleviates [the situation of] one in dire straits who cannot repay his debt, Allah will alleviate his lot in both this world and in the Hereafter. Whoever conceals [the faults of] a Muslims, Allah will conceal [his faults] in this life and the Hereafter. Allah is helping the servant as long as the servant is helping his brother. Whoever follows a path in order to seek knowledge thereby, Allah will make easy doe him, due to it, a path to Paradise. No people gather together in a house of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves, except that tranquility descended upon them, mercy covers them, the angels surround them and Allah makes mention of them to those in His presence. Whoever is slowed by his deeds will not be hastened forward by his lineage.” (Recorded in Muslim)
Abu Huaira, may Allah be pleased with him, embraced Islam in the seventh year after hijrah, and was well known for his piety. Abu Huraira was his kunya or nickname and it means the father of cats, after the pets that he so loved. His given name was Abdul Rahmaan ibn Sakhr ibn al-Dausi. He may Allah be pleased with him, was a constant companion of the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and lived in the Prophet’s mosque as one of the people known as ahl al-Suffa, or the people of the verandah, due to his living there. His close proximity to the Prophet meant that he was able to relate more hadith than any other companion, 5374 in total. The Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, guided Abu Huraira to an act that would ensure that he never forgot any of the hadith that he learnt. At night, along with praying the late night prayer, he would study and memorise hadith. He was very cautious when narrating them, may Allah be pleased with him.
“Whoever relieves a believer’s distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allah will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the Hereafter.”
In his commentary on this hadith Jamal al-Din Zarabozo states that a kurbah or distress, is that which distresses the soul and preoccupies the mind. In this life, there are many things that could be described as a kurbah, and a person may face difficulties, problems and challenges everyday of their life.
As Muslims, we should strive to help each other when we are in need, and remove any difficulties that others may be facing. We may do this by giving them advice, sharing our wealth, making dua, or using other things that are within our means or authority. If we do so, Allah promises to reward us with something much better – the removal of a difficulty from the difficulties of the Hereafter. Let’s reflect for a moment on just one of difficulties of the Day of Judgement:
“On the Day of Resurrection, the sun would draw so close to the people that there would be left only the distance of one mile… The people would be submerged in perspiration according to their deeds. Some will be up to their knees, some up to the waist and some would have the bridle of perspiration,” and he pointed his hand toward his mouth.”(Recorded in Muslim)
SubhanAllah, who is there who would not want Allah to remove one of their difficulties on this Day? This is really one of the most valuable things we could be promised. What better incentive could there be to strive to relieve the burden of our fellow Muslims?
“Whoever alleviates [the situation of] one in dire straits who cannot repay his debt, Allah will alleviate his lot in both this world and in the Hereafter.”
The Day of Judgement will be a very difficult day with many hardships. The only way to be rescued from difficulties on that Day is by obtaining the grace and mercy of Allah, all praises and glory be to Him. In this part of the hadith, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has informed us about one of the ways in which we can attain the mercy of Allah. Relieving our fellow Muslim of their debt is an act beloved to Allah that may earn us His mercy, and an alleviation from trials in this world and the Hereafter.
There are basically two ways in which we can relieve another’s debt. If we have leant money, and we know that someone is not able to repay the loan, we can wait until they have the means to repay it. This is in fact an obligation commanded by Allah, when He says:
“And if the debtor is on straitened circumstances, then grant him time until it is easy for him to repay” (Surah al-Baqarah:280)
A second option would be to reduce the debt or forgive it completely, and that is better for us, as Allah says:
“But of you remit it [the debt] by way of charity, that is better for you if you did but know. And be afraid of the Day when you shall be brought back to Allah. Then every person shall be paid what he earned, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly” (Surah al-Baqarah:281)
Also included is the concept is giving the one in debt charity or a gift to help them pay off their debts. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said regarding this:
“Whoever would be pleased to have Allah save him from distress on the Day of Resurrection should then relieve one in straitened circumstances or completely remove his debt.” (Recorded by Muslim)
Ibn Uthaimeen points out that if a Muslim does the opposite of this, and demands the debt, making life difficult for that person, then Allah may make life difficult him both in this life and the next.
We can see that caring for our fellow Muslims, and seeking to alleviate their stresses and strains, be they financial or otherwise, not only serves to strengthen the ties of the brotherhood and sisterhood, and alleviate distress, it also benefits us though the removal of trials and tribulations either in this world, or on the Day of Judgement. On that Day, we will long for our suffering to end, what deeds have we sent forward to alleviate our own distress?
“Whoever conceals [the faults of] a Muslim, Allah will conceal [his faults] in this life and the Hereafter.”
The matter of concealing the faults of others is mentioned in numerous hadith of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. In particular, we find the following:
“O gathering who believe with their tongues but faith has yet to enter into their hearts, do not backbite the Muslims. And do not search into their private matters. Whoever searches for their private matters will have Allah follow up his private matters. And whose private matters Allah follows, He will expose him even [if his act were done] in his house.” (Recorded in Ahmad and Abu Dawood)
In general, a believer in Allah and the Last Day, would not like their mistakes and faults to be broadcast to others. If we make a mistake or commit a sin, it is better that we keep the matter to ourselves and ask Allah for forgiveness than to tell others about we have done, perhaps inadvertently encouraging them to do the same. If, may Allah forgive us, we are happy at having committed the sin, then it is a sign of a shortcoming in our faith, and we should repent to Allah and ask Him to guide us to what is better. Allah, all praises and glory be to Him has told us in the Qur’an:
“Verily, those who like that lewd sinful acts should propagated among those who believe, they will have a painful torment in this world and in the Hereafter” (Surah al-Noor:19)
Those Whose Sins Should be Concealed
There are essentially two types of people. One is religious and performs the obligatory and recommended acts and remains away from what is forbidden. The other openly admits commits sins and acts that are forbidden by the shareeah. In the light of the teachings of this hadith, the actions with respect to each type of person is different.
The first type of person, who is not known to commit sins, should have shortcomings concealed by others. However, conditions must be met for this approach to be followed:
1) The sin that the person committed must be one related to the ‘rights of Allah’ and not the rights of mankind. That is, if you see them do something that will not harm anyone else, you should conceal that. But if what they are doing concerns others, such as stealing, then you cannot remain silent because another person’s rights have been violated.
2) The sin must have already been finished. In other words, if see someone in the act of committing a sin, you should try to stop them, even if it means telling others about it, but if the acts is done, then it should be concealed.
3) The person whose fault is being concealed must be a religious person who is not known to perform evil deeds, thus the act could be considered a slip.
4) The concealment must not be in a situation where one has been called to be a witness to what has occurred, or to the character of the accused.
5) The benefit of concealing the person’s sin must outweigh the benefit of letting the sin be known. If the benefit and the harm seem of an equal level, the sin should be concealed.
According to ibn Rajab, the one who comes privately to the authorities, full of repentance and sorrow, asking for punishment without explicitly stating which type of sin has been committed, should also have their sin concealed and be told to repent privately to Allah. This was the practice of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
Those Who are Not Deserving of Intercession
The second category of people, who openly and repeatedly commit sins, are not deserving of having their sins concealed. Instead, others should be told about them so that they take precautions against them. They should also be reported to the proper authorities in order to try and curb their evil, and one should not intercede on their behalf.
When all this is considered, we can see that this teaching serves to protect the honour of the pious Muslim who may have slipped and committed a sin against the rights of Allah. But if the act committed was against the rights of a person, or committed openly with no shame, then there is no concealment and the action should be dealt with appropriately. Allah is all-Forgiving and He loves to Forgive, and we should never despair of His Mercy, but neither should we openly commit sins or harm the rights of another person, otherwise we cannot hope for Allah to conceal our own faults, in this life, or more importantly, in the Hereafter.
“Allah is helping the servant as long as the servant is helping his brother.”
We can see from this statement of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, that Allah rewards His servants in a manner similar to the deeds that they perform. If we are helping our brother or sister, Allah will help us in return. Some of the virtues of helping one another were discussed in detail in the commentary of Hadith Number 26, but this particular hadith gives us further cause for reflection. Allah promises to be our helper if we help one another, and who could be a better helper than Allah? If Allah is helping us, would we need for anything?
This also shows us what the ideal Islamic society should look like. It is a society in which its members help each other and support each other and encourage each other to do what is best. Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, commands us:
“Help one another in acts of piety and righteousness. And do not assist each other in acts of sinfulness and transgression. And be aware of Allah. Verily, Allah is severe in punishment” (al-Maaidah:2)
Hence we should help each other to do good and avoid helping others in acts that would displease Allah.
A hadith of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, illustrates the reward of helping one another. Anas narrated that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and his Companions were on a journey, and some of the Companions were fasting whilst others were not. Those who were fasting were struggling to perform the chores of feeding the animals and preparing the food and so forth, so those who were not fasting performed these tasks for them. Although fasting is an act that is extremely pleasing to Allah, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said of their situation:
“Those who were not fasting took all of the reward today.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Those who were not fasting received such a great reward because they were helping their brothers who were in need.
Helping one another is not limited to doing a deed on another’s behalf, it also includes the other deeds previously referred to in this hadith, including relieving someone in a distressful situation, relieving debt or interceding on their behalf. We should therefore use our physical and material means as well as other means such as our reputation and authority to help those in need. When we do this, we will find the most blessed of things, Allah as our helper.
“Whoever follows a path in order to seek knowledge thereby, Allah will make easy for him, due to it, a path to Paradise.”
The majority of commentators on this hadith, state that what is meant by ‘knowledge’ here is knowledge of the religion, although some do assert that is incorporates other types of knowledge as well. Certainly knowledge of the religion is one of the most important types of knowledge that we can attain, and it would seem that it is this type of knowledge is the most likely to facilitate us on the path to Paradise.
The meaning of the phrase ‘follows a path’ used by the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is understood by Ibn Rajab to incorporate both the actual physical following of a path, as well as the non-physical means by which one attains knowledge. This statement would therefore include all acts such as travelling, walking or driving to attend lectures or meet scholars to learn from them, as well as reading, studying, memorizing, contemplating and so forth. All of these are ‘paths’ by which one seeks knowledge.
The words, ‘Allah will make easy for him, due to it, a path to Paradise’, could mean that Allah will make the seeking and attaining of knowledge easy, and that it is this knowledge that will lead us to Paradise, or that Allah will facilitate the seeker of knowledge in acting on what they have learnt, and is this way it will be a cause of their guidance which will lead them to Paradise. Allah knows best. If a person acts on the basis of knowledge, Allah will bestow upon them new knowledge that they did not possess. We can see this concept articulated in the statement of Allah:
“And Allah increases in guidance those who walk right” (Surah Maryam:76)
Another interpretation is that this part of the hadith refers to the physical path to Paradise in the Hereafter, and that Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, may make this particular journey easier for the seeker of knowledge.
In fact, the path of knowledge, when truly applied, is the only path that leads directly to Allah and His Paradise. It guides us out of ignorance and confusion towards the light. As Allah says:
“Indeed there has come to you from Allah a light and a plain Book wherewith Allah guides all those who seek His Good Pleasure to ways of peace, and He brings then out of darkness by His Will unto light and guides them to the straight way.” (Surah al-Maaidah:15-16)
It also deepens us in our knowledge of and love for Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, and increases our love for Him, as well as our fear and hope in Him. Allah has said:
“It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves who fear Allah” (Surah Faatir:28)
We know from other hadith that seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim, but it does not come without effort. We must sacrifice and struggle to gain knowledge and when we do this, Allah will make easy for us to attain that knowledge and follow it to Paradise.
We can see many beautiful examples amongst the most knowledgeable of Muslims, the Companions of the Prophet, may Allah have mercy on them all. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, made a special dua for ibn Abbaas, that Allah should grant him knowledge and understanding of the Qur’an. But how did he attain this knowledge? Did it just come to him? No, he made sacrifices. He would sit outside the doors of the older companions, in the heat and the wind, waiting patiently to ask them about hadith. When they would come to him, they would say ‘Why didn’t you send someone for us?’ and he would say ‘No, it is more proper that I come to you’. Or the example of Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, who would divide the night into three portions, one for sleep, one for prayer and one for studying hadith. Later scholars would travel for one month to hear a single hadith.
Unfortunately, these days, many of us want knowledge to fall into our laps, or to gain it when it easy and convenient for us. We are no longer willing to sacrifice in order to gain knowledge. We would rather shop than attend lectures, we complain of having no time, and we want Islamic literature to come for free. Is it any wonder then that there are very few people with deep knowledge of the Islamic sciences left today? This knowledge is something very precious and we must preserve it. Allah willing, it will lead us no where other than Paradise. Surely that is worth sacrificing for?
“No people gather together in a house of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves, except that tranquility descended upon them, mercy covers them, the angels surround them and Allah makes mention of them to those in His presence.”
SubhanAllah, this part of the hadith is so beautiful. Who would not like to have tranquility, and the mercy of Allah, and be surrounded by angels, whilst Allah mentions us specifically to those is His presence? The Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, is telling us how we can achieve this.
The key to these blessings is the study of the word of Allah, the Qur’an. Indeed, in another hadith the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him stated,
“The best of you is the one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.” (Recorded by al-Bukhari)
But the purpose of the Qur’an is not simply recitation. We note that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, referred in particular to those who gather to read and study the Qur’an. The Qur’an is a source of guidance for how best to live our lives and as such, it must read with the purpose of pondering over its meaning in order to understand and apply what it teaches us. As Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, has said:
“[This is] a Book that We have revealed to you, full of blessings, that they may ponder over its verses and that men of understanding may remember.” (Surah Saad:29)
We note that Allah refers to men of ‘understanding’, those who have sought to understand the verses and be reminded by them, but we do not have to be scholars to gain the blessings mentioned in this hadith. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said “No people…”, and the way he said was in the indefinite, implying that any type of people who come together to study the Qur’an will receive this blessing, as long as their intention is sincere for the sake of Allah, all praises and glory be to Him.
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, also mentioned people gathering “together in a house of the houses of Allah”. Some of the scholars have suggested that the use of this phrase, rather that ‘masjid‘ or mosque in particular, is so that places that are used for the purpose of pleasing Allah through study rather than prayer, could also be included. This would therefore incorporate buildings that house madrassahs and so forth. Others say that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, did not mean anything specific by the use of this term, and that people gathering in any type of place to perform this act would receive this blessing. According to the majority of scholars, gathering in a group in the mosque to study the Qur’an is the preferred method for learning. However, Imam Malik disapproved of gatherings in which all people are reciting at the same time, because the teacher is unable to tell who is reciting correctly. The practice of the early scholars is that they would read one at a time, clearly and in a comprehensible fashion.
The most important point that we can gain from this part of the hadith is that there are blessings for those who gather to recite the Qur’an and study its meanings. One act is not complete without the other. We cannot expect to gain the blessings of tranquility and an eased path to Paradise if we do not understand what Allah is telling us, and what His guidance is for how we should live our lives. We may be a hafidh of Qur’an, but if we do not understand a word of what we recite, how can the meaning affect our hearts? We learnt in a previous hadith, that the Qur’an is either an evidence for us or against us. It is frightening to consider that the Qur’an could be an evidence against us if we do not apply what it teaches. How can we apply what it teaches if we do understand its message?
How many of us have read the Qur’an from beginning to end in a language that we understand? How many of us know intimately what guidance Allah has sent? How can we be guided if we do not seek to understand?
“Whoever is slowed by his deeds will not be hastened forward by his lineage.”
All of mankind originated from the same source. Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, tells us:
“O mankind, fear your Lord who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and from them spread forth many men and women” (Surah al-Nisaa:1)
We all share this common lineage from the soul of Adam, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. Although we may appear different on the surface, we are from the same source, with the same constitution, and have been created for the same purpose, the worship of Allah, all praises and glory be to Him.
The only thing that distinguishes us is taqwa,or fear of Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, which is manifested in our deeds. Allah says:
“O mankind, We have created you from a male and female and We have made you into nations and tribes, so that you may recognise one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is he who has the most taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”(Surah al-Hujuraat:13)
On the Day of Judgement, we will each stand before Allah alone. All the relations of this world will be forgotten and there will be no-one to help us. Allah says:
“Then, when the Trumpet is blown, there will be no kinship among them that Day, nor will they ask [about one another].” (Surah al-Muminoon:101)
The only thing that will matter to us will be the good deeds that we performed in this world, for the sake of Allah, all praises and glory be to Him. Allah tells us:
“For all there will be ranks according to what they did. And you Lord is not unaware of what they do” (Surah al-Anaam:132)
If we have not put forth any good deeds for this day – deeds that were done for the sake of Allah alone and in accordance with the sunnah of His Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him – what rank do we think we will find ourselves in? How do we think our scales will look? Being from a high ranking family from a particular race or region will be of no assistance to us whatsoever. Actions that we did for the sake of the people and what they thought of us, will have no value.
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has detailed in this hadith some of the actions that we can perform, with the right intention, that will be of benefit to us on that Day. When should help our brothers and sisters when they are in need, assisting them in distressful situations. We should forgive debt when someone is in dire circumstances, and conceal our brothers and sisters’ sins. Further, we should strive to seek knowledge, and gather to recite and study the glorious Qur’an. These are just some of the important acts that we can perform, after the obligatory and recommended ones. These acts must be performed for the sake of Allah alone, whether we are from the noblest or lowest of families, so that Allah may be pleased with us, and enter us into His Paradise.