By: Ustādh Ali Hammuda
“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy for the ʿAlamīn (mankind, jinns and all that exists).”
Alḥamdulillah, ours is an ummah blessed with the immeasurable and infinite Mercy of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). The ultimate Mercy we desire from Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) is salvation, and we have been provided with the means of attaining such with tools, advice, examples and the ultimate guide to success in this life and the Hereafter. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) imparted upon us the advice we require, if only we would pay heed. What follows are five aḥadīth which, at first, seem unrelated in their nature. But, upon reflection, the core themes binding them together become apparent and their example for us as a guide to success paramount.
The first ḥadīth
“Whilst a man was journeying, he was afflicted with great thirst. He then came across a well which he climbed into and drank. Then he came out and saw a dog panting and licking the ground due to its thirst. The man said, ‘This dog has suffered thirst just as I had suffered!’ So he climbed back down into the well, filled his shoe with water, and having caught it in his mouth, he climbed up back up. Then he gave the dog a drink. Allāh appreciated this deed, so He forgave his sins.”
In another narration it is mentioned,
“So Allāh appreciated this act. Thus Allāh forgave all his sins and entered him into Jannah.”
The second ḥadīth
“A prostitute once saw a dog going around a well on a hot day and hanging its tongue out from thirst. She drew some water for it in her shoe, so Allāh forgave her sins.”
The third ḥadīth
“I saw a man enjoying himself in Paradise due to a tree which was harming the Muslims. It was located in the middle of the street and so he cut it down.”
The fourth ḥadīth
“A man once walked passed a branch from a tree that was in the middle of the street. He said, ‘By Allāh, I will move this to one side so that it doesn’t harm the Muslims.’ Thus Allāh entered him into Jannah.”
The fifth ḥadīth
Ibnu Hishām narrates in his ‘Sīrah’ an incident that took place after the Battle of Uḥud, which happened to be one of the most difficult days in the life of our Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and the companions. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was bruised, cut all over his body and had come very close to being killed. He found himself trying to ascend a rock on a nearby mountain shortly before the pagans left the battlefield, but he was unable to due to sheer fatigue and exhaustion. Ṭalḥa b. ʿUbaidillāh saw this and so he fell to the ground so that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) could use him as a platform to climb the rock. The moment he did this, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Paradise is now for Talha.”
These are five different narrations which pertain to five different people, which occurred in five different times and in five different locations. And yet, there is an unmistakable underlying theme which every one of these narrations shares viz., the paths to Paradise are not always the obvious ones.
Never for one moment did that man who swept aside the thorns from the people’s path ever imagine that that moment would mark the happiest day of his life. But the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said it was, as all of his sins were forgiven.
Never in the life of that prostitute who provided a sip of water for a thirsty dog did she imagine that that moment would mark the happiest day of her life. But the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said it was, as every sin of hers was consequently erased.
Never would Ṭalḥa have imagined that it would be that moment when he simply lowered himself for the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) to step on his back that marked the happiest day of his life. But it was, because the (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) immediately said, ‘Paradise is now for Ṭalḥa.’
Many, many times in the life of a Muslim, a place in Paradise is finally reserved for them due to thesmallest of all actions in our eyes. This is when Allāh sees within a person true sincerity and a genuine craving for the Hereafter, thus He allows an opportunity to present itself to them, one which they pounce upon with remarkable wholeheartedness and truthfulness. Now, life continues, and this individual may have forgotten about that good deed altogether; however that brief moment had in fact marked the turning point in their life when their sins were erased and Paradise was written for them.
What these examples have made very clear to us is that the outward size of a deed is inconsequential. Rather, the key ingredient which raises a person above all others or debases him below all others is the presence or absence of Sidq – truthfulness when engaging in a good deed.
We all know of the narration of a man who will be presented before Allāh on the Day of Judgement with 99 massive scrolls of sins extending beyond the limits of sight. They are placed on one side of the scale. After having lost all hope in entering Paradise, he is told that he does in fact have one good deed which will be placed on the other side of the scale; A small card which says, ‘Lā ilāha ilaAllāh’. He asks, “What good can this small deed do next to all these sins?!” But he is told that he will not be wronged. The small card is placed and, amazingly, that side of the scale comes crashing down whilst the other side of sins is catapulted into the air. And, thus, he enters Paradise.
But is this really the whole picture? Many other Muslims who have also said this statement will enter the fire. Why will he and others like him be treated differently? Imām Ibnu Taymiyyah commented on this ḥadīth:
“This is the situation of a person who says Lā ilāha ilaAllāh with sincerity and Sidq (truthfulness) like this person did. This is because many Muslims who had committed major sins will be made to enter the Hellfire despite them having said Lā ilāha ilaAllāh but it did not outweigh their sins like it did for this person.”
Imām Ibnu Taymiyya has similar words concerning the prostitute who provided water for the thirsty dog. He said,
“This was a woman who provided water to the dog whilst possessing pure īmān, thus her sins were forgiven, for not every woman like her who provides water to a dog is immediately forgiven.”
It is not necessarily the deed itself which saved them from their monstrous sins, but rather, it was the state that they were in whilst engaging in that deed, the state of Sidq. Therefore, with every opportunity of doing good which presents itself, pounce on it with enthusiasm and Sidq. The paths to Jannah are not always the obvious ones and that opportunity which others belittle could in fact be your moment.
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