Lessons form Abu Dharr’s (RA) Questions
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
When Prophet (SAW) started inviting people to Islam, his message caused uproar and spread like a wild-fire in a corrupt society of idolaters. Though most turned hostile to him and his message, yet there were many from far and wide, who were anxious to find out the truth themselves. One from among them was Abu Dharr al-Ghifaari, a bold upright noble man and seeker of truth. He cautiously walked to Makkah to see Prophet (SAW) in person. Hazrat Ali (RA) saw this stranger at night lying restless in the Haram and invited him to be his guest. Abu Dharr could not sleep the whole night because of an intense longing to meet the Prophet (SAW). He was escorted next morning by his host Ali (RA) to the audience of the Prophet (SAW). Seeing him, Abu Dharr was over whelmed by Prophet (SAW)’s grace and personality. He greeted him with “Assalaam u Alaika ya Rasul Allah.” It was love with Prophet (SAW) at the first sight and instantaneous acceptance of his (SAW) message. No dialogues were exchanged. Prophet (SAW) replied: “Wa alayka salaamullahi wa rahmatuhu wa barakatuhu.” Though he was advised to be careful about the animosity of Quraysh against the Muslims, yet Abu Dharr (RA) aflame with the newly found truth of Tawheed and Risalat went to Haram and loudly proclaimed: “O people of Quraysh, I testify that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” Enraged people of Quraysh immediately pounced upon and beat him up mercilessly. He would have been killed, but Abbas (RA), Prophet (SAW)’s uncle, who happily was close by, saved him and told Quraysh that their trade caravans would not be safe if a person from the strong tribe of Ghifaar was harmed.
It was due to Abu Dharr’s (RA) efforts that the tribe of Ghifaar entered the fold of Islam. Abu Dharr (RA) was an unassuming, self denying exemplary puritan, about whom Prophet (SAW) said: “The earth does not carry, nor the heavens cover a man more true and faithful than Abu Dharr.”
Once Abu Dharr went to see Prophet (SAW) and submitted to him some simple questions, and Prophet (SAW) answered them with equal simplicity and brevity to Abu Dharr’s satisfaction. These questions and answers have a treasure of information for our guidance. Let me share them with you with brief explanation:
Q. 1. Ya Rasul Allah, which is the best deed? asked Abu Dharr (RA)
A. Iman (Faith) in Allah (SWT), replied Prophet (SAW).
Without doubt, this is the most fundamental deed. When the heart tastes Iman, it revolutionizes the entire life, and everything in the universe becomes secondary to Iman. Abu Dharr (RA) had undergone many hardships, and there were so many other early Muslims like Suhayb, Bilal and Khabbab (RAAjmaeen] who were subjected to torture, but they were fearless in their proclamation of Iman.
Q. 2. Ya Rasul Allah, which is the best deed after Iman? Asked Abu Dharr.
A. 2. Making Ji-haad (struggle) in the path of Allah, replied Prophet (SAW).
Muslims are required to struggle in the path of Allah with their time, labor and wealth. Their character should reflect their faith. I will explain the concept of Ji-haad at another time as it has been grossly misinterpreted and misused. It should be remembered that the next best thing after Iman is the struggle for Allah’s Deen, and there are many verses of the Holy Qur’an and traditions of Prophet (SAW) attesting to its virtue. According to another tradition, Salat [prayer] ranks second after Iman.Scholars have explained it in details. One explanation is that Ji-haad [struggle] is important after Iman because of the sincere pursuit for promoting and propagating the good that a Muslim believes in. Salat [prayer] is mentioned because it is a submission with heart, body and mind in unison with all humility to Allah (SWT). From making the intention to taking ablution, wearing a clean dress, selecting a neat place for prayer, proclaiming Allah (SWT)’s greatness by reciting “Allah-u-Akbar”, then bowing down praising Him again by saying “Subhana Rabbi’al Azeem” and further prostrating and glorifying Him by pronouncing “Subhana Rabbi’al Aala”, is a unique gesture which is not found in any other worship, but only in Salat.
Q. 3. Ya Raul Allah, freeing which particular slave is of highest virtue? Asked Abu Dharr.
A. The one which is most dear and precious in the sight of the master, replied Prophet (SAW).
That should be the criterion. Give your best to Allah and His world.
Q. 4. Ya Rasul Allah, if I am not able to do this, what else than should I do, and which deed ranks next in virtue? Submitted Abu Dharr (RA).
A. 4. Help a craftsman, or do something to assist the one who lacks in skill to do a job, replied Prophet (SAW).
To assist, or train an unskilled person enabling him to earn a livelihood is an act of virtue. Helping an aged or physically handicapped person, or supporting a needy person in his work through re-training for gainful employment or supporting him financially so that he may establish his business is also an act of virtue. A Muslim is required to serve the humanity. He has to take care of both the worlds, the Here and the Hereafter. Business, trade, commerce, labor, craftsmanship, raising a family and educating children all 24-hour activities fall within worship if done according to what Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW) have commanded. This reply highlights the fact that one should work to earn a livelihood.
Abu Dharr submitted his last question and asked:
Ya Rasul Allah, if I am not able to do all these acts of virtue, or am able to do only a few, then what should I do?
Prophet (SAW) replied: “Keep others safe from your mischief.”
All answers of Prophet (SAW) have a universal application and their broadcast is meant for the entire humanity because Abu Dharr was all virtue, love and compassion and had no iota of mischief in his personality make up. What Prophet (SAW) meant was that a Muslim should not hurt anyone in any way, whatsoever! He (SAW) also said that not to harm or hurt anyone is your Sadaqah (an act of charity) for your own self. He (SAW) added that the person is not a Muslim if he hurts others with his hand [implying any act] or tongue. This advice is a foundation of a pure and healthy social order, and the best prescription for local, regional and global peace.
Look at the local, state and federal laws. They all have components of Islamic code of ethics. Take traffic laws for example. They are to save you and others from injury and damage of property. To park in “No Parking” or “Handicapped” designated space is violation of Law, because you infringe on some one else’s right and forget your own duty towards fellow citizens.
To talk loudly in the Masjid and distract worshippers in total disregard to the command of Prophet (SAW) is a sin. Try to reach the very soul of prayers and don’t make it a repetitious physical exercise. Control the volume of your voice if you are quickly done with your prayers. Pay attention to Islamic manners and etiquettes and let others pray undisturbed. Come to the Masjid to earn reward and not to displease Allah.
Imam Ghizali (RehmA) advises thus: “O man! If you are a human being; then you should be over and above the level of animals. If you had to come down to the level of animals, you should then become a cow, a buffalo or a goat so that you could be a source of some benefit to humanity and not of harm. If you cannot be of any service to humanity, then be an animal which lives in the woods far away from human habitation leaving it safe. But do not be from the worst kind of stinging animals like poisonous scorpions or snakes.
I am in a shock to tell you that someone broke the door of the kitchen cabinet and did not ever report to the management. The right conduct should have been to report and pay the damages. There is a waste paper basket on both floors. Please educate and help children to use them for candy wrappers and napkins, etc. It is Allah’s house; please do not leave your toe-nails on the floor. I have mentioned the etiquettes of the Masjid time and again. I am sure I was not talking to the toddlers of kindergarten but to grown up people. These may seem minor to some, but they are a major reflections on our upbringing. Sisters, you are the first and most important school in a child’s life. Psychologists unanimously declare that 80% future personality of man is made when he is 5-10 years old. Mothers play a significant role in making or unmaking the personality. Please use the opportunity to raise a good Muslim before it is too late.
Prophet (SAW)’s last advice to Abu Dharr Ghifaari was that if you experience hardship in practicing a good deed to earn a reward, then at least save people from your mischief. Lead a peaceful pleasant life and let others live a peaceful and pleasant life. These are just a few simple questions and few brief answers by Prophet (SAW). Any one who can spare time to deliberate on these simple questions and loaded answers has a lot of meaning, depth and lessons to learn from for the individual and collective good. May Allah give us wisdom to think, learn and behave! Aamin!
The Friday Khutbahs are published to enhance your knowledge of Islam. The references of Quran and Hadith are the approximate translation of the Arabic text. The editors have not verified the accuracy of the the English translation. The scholarly reader is encouraged to refer to the original Arabic script if there is any doubt. Kindly notify us if the translation can be enhanced.