Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
“The likeness of wealth, family and the actions of the son of Adam is of a man who has three companions. One of the man’s companions says:
I am with you as long as you live; when you die, you have taken your share of yourself and you have taken your share of me – this is his wealth. The second companion says: I am with you until you reach that tree; you have had your share of yourself and your share of me – this is his family. The third companion says: I am with you in life and in death.” [Sahih: Related by Al-Bazzar and Al-Albani authenticated it]
The above authentic hadith is in fact like the following hadith in meaning and in subject matter. Anas said that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
“The dead person is followed (to his grave) by three: His family, his wealth and his actions. Two of them return and only one remains. His family and wealth return, but his actions remain.” [Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
These two ahadith show that actions alone endure and enter the grave with their doers. Both these ahadith also affirm the fact that anything other than actions – such as wealth, servants or relatives – are of no benefit at all. Rather, they all return (to this world). His wealth becomes the property of his inheritor, whilst his relatives and family do not grant him anything from Allah.
These ahadith intend to direct Muslims to be concerned with actions which will stay with them forever; and not to strive for wealth and position for the sake of relatives, family and servants. Apparently, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wanted to show us the value of good actions when he related these ahadith to us, (which can be found) in the books of Zuhd (renouncement of the world). He pointed out to us that because actions will last rather than wealth, you have to make your actions righteous. Part of making ones actions righteous is through good wealth that is earned lawfully and spent in a good manner. Then one gains the rewards of ‘amalus-salih (a righteous action).
The Acceptable Action
Therefore, in these ahadith, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam encouraged us to make our actions righteous, whether gaining wealth or other things. However, we must remember a certain fact about this action, a fact that many people neglect. The explanation of this fact should actually be a complete lesson in itself; and it is that only a righteous action is beneficial, not just any action.
So what are the conditions that a Muslim must fulfill in order for the action to be righteous? This is shown in the statement of Allah – the Exalted and Sublime:
“Say (O Muhammad): Verily I am only a man like yourselves, but revelation has been revealed to me that the One whom you should worship is only One Deity. And whoever hopes to meet his Lord, let him do righteous actions; and in the worship of your Lord, do not associate anyone along with Him.” [Al-Qur’an 18:110]
Two Important Conditions
The Scholars of Tafsir have said that the end of this verse is an indication that there are two conditions for an action to be righteous and acceptable:1
Firstly: That the action must be in accordance with the Sunnah. Therefore, if the action is done as an act of worship, but is not in accordance with the Sunnah, it is not a righteous action. The reason is that compliance with the Sunnah is one of the conditions for the action’s righteousness. The proofs of this are many, but it is enough to state one: The hadith of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in which he said:
“Whoever innovates in this matter of ours what is not upon it, it shall be rejected.” [Related by Al-Bukhari (5/301) and Muslim (no. 1718) – from’A’ishah radhiallahu ‘anha]
Therefore, any action that was not part of Islam when Allah revealed it upon the heart of the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is not a righteous action. About this, Allah – the Most High – says: “This day I have perfected your Din for you and completed My favour upon you and I have chosen Islam as your Din.” [Al-Qur’an 5:3]2 It must be remembered that Bid’ah (innovation)3 is not divided into five categories, as some Scholars say. A proof for this is that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.” 4
Secondly: That after being in accordance with the Sunnah, the action has to be sincere, purely seeking the Face of Allah – the Most High – because Allah says at the end of the aforementioned verse: “And in the worship of your Lord, do not associate anyone along with Him.” This means that the person seeks, by his righteous action, only the Face of Allah – the Exalted and Sublime. However, if he seeks other than Allah, then he has setup partners with Allah (made shirk with Allah), therefore his action is rejected.
This is confirmed by Allah in an authentic hadith Qudsi: “I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having any partners. Thus, whosoever does an action for the sake of someone else as well as Me, will have that action rejected by Me, to him whom he associated with Me.” 5
Consequently, if the action is righteous but not sincere for the sake of Allah’s Face, it is rejected. Moreover, if the action is purely for the sake of Allah’s Face, but not in accordance with the Sunnah, it is likewise not accepted.
The Worthless and Sinful Action
So these arc the two conditions for every action to be a righteous action. if one of these conditions is not present, the action does not become a righteous action, rather, it becomes an evil one. Had the person not done this action, it would have been better for him.
If a man prays two rak’at of prayer at night, while others sleep, then even if he prays them according to the Sunnah – without addition or deletion – but he does this so that people may talk about him and say: “This Person is a righteous man. He prays at night when the people are asleep,” then his action becomes batil (null and void), since he did not sincerely seek the Face of Allah alone, but rather he sought the praises of people, thus becoming sinful by associating partners with Allah in his action.
However, if his action only became null and void, then the following hadith would apply to him; and he would not be punished for this action: “How many fasting people obtain nothing from their fasting except hunger and thirst. And how many people who stay up at night (praying), obtain nothing from their being awake except sleeplessness and tiredness.” 6
But this is not the case, for this person’s action has changed into a sin. The two rak’at that this person performed without intending to seek only the Face of Allah – the Exalted and Sublime – are the same as if he had disobeyed Him, that is to say: He will be punished for these two rak’at because he associated others along with Allah – the Exalted and Sublime – in his action.
If a man prays eleven rak’at at night with the intention, in this worship, that his brothers would say about him: “This man is correctly following the Prophet; he does not add to the Sunnah,” his action becomes null and void; and his action changes to a sin against him. Rather, he must pray according to the Sunnah but sincerely seeking only the Face of Allah – the Most High. He must be absolutely free of seeking the pleasure of others along with Him in this worship.
This has been but a summary about the action that does not leave the person but enters the grave with him – whether the action was good or bad – and that what is of benefit is the person’s righteous action. What is a righteous action and what are its conditions? The two conditions are: Muwwafaqah (compliance) with the Sunnah; and ikhlas (sincerity and purity of intention) to Allah. Therefore, one must remember these two conditions and act upon them so that one may become righteous and pious.
Safeguarding against Insincerity
Many people unfortunately neglect the first condition (complying with the Sunnah) because they are astray and believe that bid’ah (innovation) is good in the religion.7 But there are those upon whom Allah has granted His favour, by guiding them to the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. They are those who know the reality of this condition and adhere to it the best they can. Yet they must pay attention to the second condition, which either group may fail to fulfill, and that is riya’ (insincerity and showing-off). No one is exempt from riya’ and all people are susceptible to it in their actions.
This matter is a very serious one and must be stressed here, so that we may know that we are in need of making our actions correct and purely for the Face of Allah – the Exalted and Sublime. Part of this is that we are tested even while making Da’wah to the Qur’an and the Sunnah, for trials are not only in evil matters, but also in the good matters: “And We test you with evil and good, by way of fitnah (trial).” [Al-Qur’an 21:35]
This da’wah has been neglected by Muslims throughout the world so that the du’at (the callers) have become strangers. Not only are they strangers in foreign countries, but they are strangers even in their own countries; amongst their relatives and brothers. This makes them praiseworthy, but they must not stand up to be praised for this da’wah. This is the reality, for the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Verily Islam started as something strange and it will return as something strange, so Tuba is for the Strangers.” 8
Tuba and the Strangers
The meaning of Tuba in the Arabic language is: “Praise and thanks.” The meaning according to the Shari’ah refers to a tree in Paradise, which would take a rider a hundred years to traverse its shade.9 This hadith gives glad tidings to the newcomers of Paradise in which there is: “What no eye has never seen, no ear has ever heard, and no heart has ever imagined.” 10 This tree is mentioned in the Qur’an in the statement of Allah: “Tuba is for them, and the best abode.” [Al-Qur’an 13:29] Therefore, Tuba is for the Ghuraba (the Strangers), but who are they? The answer to this is in the reply of the Prophet: “Those who correct [themselves and others], when the people have become corrupt.” 11
The Need for Care
These Strangers call the people to the revival of the Sunnah and eradication of all that differs from it. However, they must still pay attention to the second condition of the righteous action: To be sincere in their da’wah. They must neither seek fame, pride, nor arguments from their da’wah.
They must not seek anything that an-nafs ul-amarata bis-su’ (the soul that calls them to evil) orders them to do. Whatever they call to is as a result of Allah – the Most High – having ordered them to make da’wah to the Qur’an and the Sunnah and to make da’wah to what the Muslims have neglected. They must take care of this da’wah. However, they stand in danger. It can happen that one may say a word seeking only to have fingers of praise pointed at him, not sincerely advising the people and desiring to guide them. Rather, to do that for fame.
Here we mention a saying of some Sufis, who have some wise sayings that can not be denied: “The love of fame breaks backs.” Therefore, I insist, that we who make Da’wah to the Sunnah be sincere in our actions so that when our actions enter the grave with us, it will help us to answer correctly when we are asked: “Who is your Lord? Who is your Prophet? What is your religion?” If the deed is evil, when the person enters the grave, he will deny it. His deed will come to him in the worst of forms. He will ask it: “Who are you?” It will say: “I am your deed.”
Wealth – its Reality and Purpose
The next Hadith is also authentic. Abu Hurayrah said that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
“The servant says: My wealth! My wealth! However, he gets from his wealth three things: What he eats and finishes. What he wears and makes shabby; and what he gives away and pleases others with. Whatever else is besides this, goes and is left for the people.” [Related by Ahmad and Muslim – from Abu Hurayah radhiallahu ‘anhu]
This Hadith also emphasises the subject of the previous ahadith. It shows us the care taken by people in amassing wealth. Allah pointed this out in the Qur’an by His statement: “And for the love of good he is strong.” [Al-Qur’an 100:8]
The Prophet depicted the nature of mankind for us in his saying: “The servant says: My wealth! My wealth!” Nevertheless, what is the amount that remains left over for him from his wealth? is all his wealth for him? No! He gains from his wealth only the examples that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam specified. The first is defined by the Prophet’s statement: “What he eats and finishes.” From his wealth is that which is necessary for him to survive and that which enables him to accomplish the rights of Allah. These rights are the rights of His Tawhid (singling out Allah alone for worship), as Allah said: “And I have not created the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Al-Qur’an 51:56]
The second is what a person wears until it becomes shabby. Add to this that which he volunteers and does good with, which is mentioned in the statement of the Prophet: “Or what he gives away and pleases others with.” He got rid of his wealth by giving it away to another in charity. Therefore, the wealth that is for the servant is the amount that he eats and the amount that he wears in order to survive. However this is not an end in itself. Rather, one exists solely to accomplish the obligation of worship, as we pointed out previously.
The third kind of wealth that returns with a benefit is not only the obligatory charity, but it also includes non-obligatory charities. Then the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam explained what is left after these categories. He said: “And other than that is gone, and is left, for the people.”
The relation of this Hadith with the previous one is: Why do people exhaust themselves in amassing wealth, when this is the reality of wealth? They do not benefit from there wealth except the amount that they eat, drink and with which they help other people. All else will be left and it will remain for the people who inherit it.
The following Hadith is also Sahih (authentic). Abdullah ibn Ash-Shikhkhir said: I came to the Prophet whilst he was reciting: “Seeking increase diverted you.” [Al-Qur’an 102:1] The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “The son of Adam say My wealth! My wealth! What do you obtain, O son of Adam, from your wealth except that which you eat and consume, or wear until it becomes shabby, or what you give as charity and accomplish.”
This hadith is also similar in meaning to the previous one, though some of its words are different; and was recorded by Muslim, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i. This hadith is clear in its wording, however, the statement of the Prophet at the end of the hadith: “or what you give as charity and accomplish” may not be clear to some people.
Generosity and Miserliness
This statement aims at drawing one’s attention to the fact that what is intended for charity is that which he actually gives away. It is not sufficient that a person should just make out a will, that he should give such and such to the poor, or such and such for a specific masjid. However, the Prophet calls our attention to the fact that benefit is in that wealth which a person actually gave away during his lifetime, since he did not really know what would happen with his wealth after he died, if he had made a will.
With this word, the Prophet points to a hadith in the Sahih of Al-Bukhari – the meaning of which is that the miser is one who when death comes to him makes a will and says: “Give so and so such amount and for so and so such and such amount.” The Prophet said: “This was already for so and so and so and so.”
What the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam meant was that the deceased did not own anything anymore. He had left this dunya (life of this world ) and had entered into the Akhirah (the Hereafter) and his inheritance will remain for those people who are still alive. Then should not the person have made his will earlier? Should he not have given charity whilst he was strong, hoping to be rich and fearing poverty?
This is the nature of the people today, they say: “Hoard your white Dirham for your black day.” They hoard this money for themselves for when they become old. They are covetous of this wealth. The generous person is the one who gives away his own wealth when his own soul is attached to it.
As for the one who is on the brink of death and who says: “Give so and so such and such amount,” he is a miser and is not generous. Rather, a truly generous person is one who gives charity whilst he holds onto his life and also whilst he loves this wealth very much.
The Insignificance of this World
The next hadith is narrated by Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah: The Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed by the market place coming from the direction of ‘Aliyah and people were around him. He passed by a dead kid goat (i.e. a baby goat) which had very short ears. He held it by its ears and said: “Who amongst you would like to have this for a dirham?” They (the Companions) said: We would not want it even for less than that! What can we do with it? He said: “Do you wish to have it (for any price)?” They said: By Allah, even if it were alive it (we would not want it), as it has very short ears, let alone now when it is also dead! The Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “By Allah, this world is more insignificant to Allah than this (goat) is to you all.” 12
Let us return to the hadith. He passed by the market place “and the people were around him.” Here I would like to pause a little in order to remind people about some of the guidance of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that most of the Shaykhs of today have neglected.
The Shaykhs of today walk with their students behind them. This was not the way of the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The ahadith describing this are many and the following is from them: “He used to walk side by side with Abu Bakr and side by side with Abu Hurayrah; and they all walked with each other.”
Moreover, it is authentically proven that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to say to his Companions radhiallahu ‘anhum, when he used to walk with them: “Walk in front of me and leave my back for the angels.” 13
Here he highlights two matters from one saying. People do not see angels, they see only people. Therefore, if anyone saw the Messenger sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam walking, they would only see people walking in front of him. The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said in the authentic hadith: “He who humbles himself for the sake of Allah, Allah will raise him.” 14 His humbleness raised him to a degree whereby the angels walked behind him. Therefore, is a noble person one behind whom people – good or bad – walk; or is he the one who is followed by those described by Allah in the following verse: “They do not disobey what Allah ordered them to do and do precisely what they are commanded.” The nobility of the Prophet manifested itself in a visible and an invisible side. The visible side is that the Companions used to walk in front of the Prophet and not behind him. The invisible side is that the angels walked behind him.
Of course, the first phenomenon is the one in which we are ordered not to act proudly with our companions and our brothers in faith, even those who may be less than us in knowledge, morals, worship and righteousness. This is enough for us, because Allah says: “Do not sanctify yourself. He knows best the ones who are pious.” [Al-Qur’an 53:32] it is sufficient for us at least, to walk with people side by side. Whosoever intentionally goes against this Sunnah, without doubt, does not truly love the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. This is because one’s degree of love from him, is based upon following him. This is established in the Qur’an by the statement of Allah: “Say (O Muhammad): if you do love Allah then follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.” [Al-Qur’an 3:31]
So, if this was the case with the Prophet who was infallible and protected from the whispering of the Shaytan and this was an indication of the level with his Companions, then what can we say about ourselves? We are not infallible and are not protected from the Shaytan. We must adhere to this Sunnah as if it were obligatory. it is better for us to walk with people around us than to walk looking with our eyes at the backs of their shoulders. The statement of the Prophet, at the end of the hadith: “By Allah, this world is more insignificant to Allah than this (goat) is to you all,” is to be reflected upon by people of intellect!
The next authentic hadith is similar to the previous hadith. Ibn ‘Abbas said: The Prophet passed by a dead goat that had been thrown away by its owners. He said: “By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, this world is more insignificant to Allah than this is to its owner.”
Sahl ibn Sa’d said that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “If this world was worth as much to Allah as the wing of a mosquito, He would not have given a disbeliever even a sip of water.” 15
Salman said: Some people came to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and he asked them: “Do you have food?” They said: Yes. He asked: “Do you have drink?” They said: Yes. He said: “Verily their outcome is like the outcome of this world, one of you stands behind his house holding his nose from their bad smell.” This is the similitude of this world. What is the eventual outcome of food and drink? They change to stool and urine. Therefore, a person hates the smell for himself. This is the similitude of the outcome of this World.
The following hadith has the same meaning. Ubayy ibn Ka’b said that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Indeed the food of the son of Adam is like the example of the world. Even if he puts spices and season into it, see what becomes of it.” 16
What is the eventual outcome of spices and seasoning in his food? Look at what it becomes! Likewise, this world becomes a similar thing except that which is for Allah. The next hadith explains this.
Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “The world and all that it contains is cursed, except for the remembrance of Allah and what supports it; or a Scholar and a student.” 17
This is the reality of this world in the Shari’ah, it has no value. The similitude of this world is like good food and drink: its outcome is decay. The exceptions are those things which are done for Allah whether remembrance of Allah, knowledge or even food because it helps to support the worship of Allah. These things are among the deeds of man that endure in this fleeting life. The goal behind these ahadith is that a person should not be overly concerned about this world, except with which is sufficient to keep him alive and strong; and sufficient enough to be able to accomplish the worship of his Lord. For if his wealth is greater than this, it will only benefit him by the amount of good that he does by helping others; otherwise, he is going to leave this wealth behind and it will not benefit him at all. However, what will benefit him are the righteous actions that he has done.
We ask Allah not to put love of this world in our hearts, but to guide us to earn in this life what helps us to worship and obey Him. And all praise is for Allah, Lord of the Worlds.