The Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“Know Allah in times of ease and He will know you in times of hardship.”
The meaning is that the servant, when he has taqwa of Allah, preserves His limits, and carefully tends to His rights in times of ease and well-being has come to know Allah. This gives rise to a gnosis between himself and Allah and, as a result, his Lord will know him in times of hardship. He will know the deeds he worked during times of ease and by virtue of that knowledge will relieve him of hardship.
This too is a specific gnosis which leads to a closeness of Allah, Mighty and Magnificent, His loving His servant and His responding to his supplication. What is not meant is a general gnosis for nothing of His creation is hidden from Allah. Allah, Most High, says,
“He has most knowledge of you when He first produced you from the earth and when you were embryos in your mothers’ wombs.” (al-Najm 53:32)
“We created man and We know what his own self whispers to him.” (Qaf 50:16)
The specific knowing is alluded to in the hadith qudsi,
“… my servant continues to draw closer to Me until I love him. When I love him, I become his hearing by which he hears, his seeing by which he sees, his hand by which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask of Me, I would grant him, and were he to take refuge with Me, I would grant him refuge.” (Bukhari)
Fudayl met Shawanah, the worshipper, and asked her to supplicate for him. She said, ‘What bars you from Him? If you invoke Him, He will answer you,’ upon which he swooned and fell unconscious. (Abu Nuaym)
Abu Jafar al-Saih said that al-Hasan came to Habib, Abu Muhammad, on the run from Hajjaj. He said, ‘Abu Muhammad! Hide me from the police; they are hot on my tracks!’ He replied, ‘Abu Said, I am ashamed of you! Is there not a (relationship) of trust between you and your Lord so that you could invoke Him and have Him conceal you from these? Enter the house.’ The police entered after him but they did not see him. This was mentioned to Hajjaj and he commented, ‘Rather, he was in the house but Allah obscured their sight so they could not see him.’
When this specific knowledge comes about, a special gnosis is engendered between the servant and his Lord that effectuates a sense of comfort and intimacy with Him coupled with a sense of shyness to Him. This special gnosis is not the same as the general gnosis that exists for all believers, and it is to this gnosis that the Gnostics aspire and their works allude to.
Abu Sulayman heard a man saying, ‘I spent last night talking about women.’ He said, ‘Woe to you! Have you no shame before Him? He sees you spending the night mentioning something besides Him! But how can you be bashful before the One that you do not even know!’
Ahmad ibn Asim al-Antaki said, ‘My wish is to die after knowing my Master. Knowing Him does not mean affirming (His existence), rather it is that knowledge which, if you know, leads you to being shy of Him.’
This special gnosis and specific knowledge leads the servant to be content with his Lord, to rely on Him to deliver him from every hardship and distress, just as it leads to the Lord responding to his supplication.
When al-Hasan al-Basri hid from Hajjaj it was suggested to him to flee to Basra for fear of being discovered. He wept and said, ‘I should leave my town, family and brothers?! My knowledge of my Lord and His blessings which He graced me with less me to believe that He will save me and deliver me from him, of Allah, Most High, so wills.’ Hajjaj never harmed him at all, instead, after this, he would greatly honour him and speak well of him.
It was asked of Ma’ruf, ‘What is it that has roused in you the desire for seclusion and worship?’ The questioner mentioned death, the barzakh, and Paradise and Hell as possible causes to which he replied, ‘What is this! All of this is in His Hand, when there exists a gnosis between you and Him, He suffices you during all of this.’
The hadith recorded by Tirmidhi on the authority of Abu Hurayrah further clarifies this: the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,
“Whoever wants Allah to answer him at times of hardship should frequently invoke him in times of ease.” (Tirmidhi)
Dahhak ibn Qays said, ‘Remember Allah in times of ease and He will remember you in times of adversity. Yunus, peace be upon him, would remember Allah, then when he was swallowed by the whale, Allah, Most High, said,
“Had it not been that he was a man who glorified Allah, he would have remained inside its belly until Day they were raised again.” (al-Saffat 37:143-144)
Pharaoh was an oppressor, heedless of the remembrance of Allah. When he was drowning, he said, ‘I believe!’ and Allah, Most High, said,
“What, now! When previously you rebelled and were one of the corrupters?” (Yunus 10:91)
Rishdin ibn Sa’d said, ‘A man asked Abul-Darda to advise him. He replied, “Remember Allah in times of ease and He will remember you in times of hardship.” (Abu Nuaym)
Salman al-Farsi said, ‘If a man is given to supplicating in times of ease and is then faced with hardship, and supplicates to Allah, Might and Magnificent, the Angels say, “This is a familiar voice..” and intercede for him. If he is not given to supplicating in times of ease and is then faced with hardship and supplicates to Allah, Mighty and Magnificent, the Angels say, “This is an unfamiliar voice,” and they will not intercede for him.’
The hadith about the three people who entered a cave only to be blocked in by a falling boulder also lends weight to this; they were saved because they invoked Allah adding righteous deeds they had previously preformed while in a state of ease: being dutiful to their parents, leaving a lewd act, and fulfilling a trust that would not have been known to people at large. (Bukhari)
It is now known that knowing Allah in times of ease leads to Allah knowing His servant in times of hardship. It is also known that there is no hardship that the believer will face in this world worse than death, this hardship is actually lighter than what follows if the destination of the servant is not good, or it is the worst he will face if his destination is good. As such, it becomes obligatory for the servant to prepare for death before it sets on him by preforming righteous deeds and hastening to do so. A person does not know in which day or night he will be beset by this hardship.
Remembering righteous deeds at the time of death vivifies one’s good opinion of his Lord, helps alleviate the throes of death and strengthen one’s hope.
One of them said, ‘They would consider it recommended for a person to have a cache of righteous deeds that would serve to alleviate the onset of death,’ or words to that effect.
They would also consider it praiseworthy for a person to die after having completed an action of worship such as pilgrimage, or jihad or fasting.
Nakha’i said,’They would consider it praiseworthy to remind a servant on his deathbed of his good works so that he could make good his opinion of his Lord.’
While sick, Abu Abdu’l-Rahman al-Sulami said, ‘How can I not have hope in my Lord seeing that I have fasted for his sake for eighty Ramadans?’ (Abu Nu’aym)
When death came to Abu Bakr ibn Ayyash and those around him wept, he said, ‘Do not cry, for I have finished the Qur’an in this place of prayer thirteen thousand times!’
It is reported that he said to his son, ‘Do you think that Allah would waste forty years of your father’s life every night of which he completed the Qur’an?’ (Khatib Tarikh)
While on his deathbed, one of the Salaf saw his son crying and said, ‘Do not cry, for your father has never committed an indecent act.’
Adam ibn Abu Iyas finished the Qur’an while he was already shrouded, waiting for his death. He exclaimed, ‘By my love of you! Be gentle with me at this terrible time. My hopes and expectation were in You all this time in preparation for this day. There is none worthy of worship save Allah!’ and upon saying this he passed away, may Allah have mercy on him. (Khatib Tarikh)
On his deathbed, Abdu’l-Samad, the ascetic, said, ‘My Master, it is for this time that I have kept You as my hidden store, it is for this day that I have secured you, give reality to my good opinion of You!’ (Ibn al-Jawzi Sifatul-Safwah)
At the time of his death, the women around him weeping, ibn Aqil said, ‘I have been sealing verdicts for Him for fifty years, leave me alone to prepare for meeting Him.’
When the Qaramitah attacked the pilgrims, slaughtering them while they were preforming tawaf, Ali ibn Bakwayh was also perfroming it, yet he did not stop his tawaf despite being struck repeatedly by swords, until at last he fell. He was reciting the following couplets,
You see the lovers lying in their homes prostrate,
Like the people of the cave, unaware of how long they tarried.
By Allah! Were the lovers to swear, that on the day of conflict
They are like those already dead, they would not be untruthful.
Whoever, during their life, obeys Allah and safeguards His limits, Allah will take care of him on his deathbed and allow him to die on faith. He will make him firm with the firm word in his grave when questioned by the two angels and repress the punishment of the grave from him, and He will give solace to his loneliness at that time of isolation and in that darkness.
One of the Salaf said, ‘If Allah is with you when you enter the grave, you will not be harmed nor will you be lonely.’
After his death, one of the righteous scholars was seen in a dream and was asked after his condition. He replied, ‘My Lord, Might and Magnificent, keeps me company.’
Whoever, in this world, has Allah as his companion in times of retreat and being alone, he can truly hope that Allah will be his companion in the darkness of the grave’s niche when he leaves this world. It is in this sense that one of them said,
When I feel isolated, lonely, My Lord! Be my companion.
For I have believed completely in Your revelation.
That to Allah I do journey, leaves me with no trepidation.
More than my family, He shows kindness, compassion!
The same applies to the terror of the Day of Rising, its horrors and hardships; when Allah takes care of his obedient servant, He will deliver him from all of this.
Qatadah said, in explanation of His, Most High’s, saying,
“Whoever has taqwa of Allah – He will give him a way out.” (al-Talaq 65:2)
“He will give him a way out,” from the hardship of death and the terror of the Day of Rising. (Suyuti al-Durr al-Manthur)
Ali ibn Abu Talhah narrated that ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said in commentary of this verse, ‘We will deliver him from every hardship in this world and the Hereafter.’ (Tabari)
Concerning the saying of Allah, Most High,
“Those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah’, and then go straight, the angels descend on them: ‘Do not fear and do not grieve but rejoice in the Garden you have been promised.” (Fussilat 41:30)
Zayd ibn Aslam said, ‘He will be given glad-tidings at the point of his death, in his grave and the Day he is resurrected. He will find himself in Paradise before the joy of the good news has a chance to leave his heart!’ (Suyuti al-Durr al-Manthur)
Thabit al-Bunani said in commentary of this verse, ‘It has reached us that the two angels who accompanied him in this world will meet the believer when Allah resurrects him from his grave. They will say, ‘Do not fear, do not grieve,’ and Allah will alleviate his fear and give comfort to his eye. There is not a single terror that will overcome man on the Day of Rising except that it will be a source of comfort for the believer because Allah has guided him and because of what he worked in this life.’ (Suyuti al-Durr al-Manthur) All of these were recorded by ibn Abi Hatim and others.
As regards one who does not know Allah in times of ease, he will have no one to know him in times of adversity, not in this life or in the Hereafter! Seeing the condition of such a person in this world testifies to this fact and their condition in the Hereafter will be even worse for they will have no protector or helper.
The Legacy of the Prophet Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali p 60-71