Imam Malik collected a beautiful statement by Ibn Masood (RA) in his famous collection of hadith Muwatta and in it he mentioned that Ibn Masood while talking to one of his friends said:
Innaka fi zamanin qalilin qurra’uhu katheerin fuqaha’uhu Qalilin maneey yas’al katheerin maneey yu’tee Tuhfazu fihi hudoodul Quran wa tubaeeyu fihi huroofahu. Fihi inaasun yubdoona a’maalahum wa yukhfoona ahwa’ahum. Iza sallu ataalus salah wa iza takallamu qasrul khutbah.
We live in a time where the recitors of the Quran are few in numbers but the people who have an understanding of the message of the Quran, they are in large numbers. Questions are rarely asked though if asked there are many to answer them. People care more about observing the commandments of the Quran than to preserve the letters of the Quran. In this time are people who pay more attention to their deeds and they put aside their ego and desires. Whenever they pray their prayers are long and whenever they talk their speeches are short.
Wa saya’tee alan nasi zamanun katheerin qurra’uhu qalilin fuqaha’uhu Tuhfazu fihi hurooful Quran wa tudaeey’u fihi hudoodahu
And there will come a time where the number of people who know how to recite Quran beautifully are going to be in abundance but people who have the understanding of its meaning are going to be very few. People are going to pay attention to preserve the letters of Quran but they are going to be heedless about the commandments of the Quran. These would be people who pay more attention to their ego and desires and put aside their deeds. Whenever they speak their speeches are very long, whenever they stand up for prayers their prayers are very short.
So what Ibn Masood (RA) is telling us is that there would be a disease that would creep into the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) which will transform us in a manner that for us style would become more important than substance, appearance would become more important than essence and we would become so trivial that the whole concept of priorities would be lost.
Imagine a catastrophic traffic accident. Among the injured people, people notice one who is badly injured with blood gushing out of his wounds. Once taken to the hospital, the emergency doctor notices that this patient also has many broken bones and he decides to work on attending to his broken bones before trying to stop the bleeding; taking x-rays, plastering and casting the patient and in the process the patient dies. How would you feel about such a doctor treating you? We know for a fact it is more important to take care of the bleeding of a person in such a case. This is not to say that the broken bones should not be attended to. But it essentially comes down to the priority of matters. And as ironic as it may sound, this is something we tend to do all the time by setting incorrect priorities.
Reconstruction of Ka’ba
An example related to this can be found in the hadith of the Prophet in which he expressed his desire to rebuild the Ka’ba after the opening of Makkah. What had happened was that several hundred years after Ibrahim (AS) had built the Ka’ba, a flood occurred in Makkah which badly damaged the walls of the Ka’ba. So the people of Quraysh decided to rebuild it. In the process of rebuilding Ka’ba they fell short of funds so they made the Ka’ba a square instead of a rectangle as it was originally built by Ibrahim (AS). The area that they left out was called Al-Hijr which is what we see within the enclosed area in the semi circle. Rasulullah (SAW) said to Aisha:
“If it were not for the fact that your people were only recently unbelievers, I would have torn down the Ka’ba and made for it one door on the East and another on the West and I would have included the Hijr area within it.”
So Rasulullah (SAW) had wanted to rebuild the Ka’ba on the same foundation as Ibrahim (AS) had built it thousands of years earlier but he didn’t do that because he realized that it could cause a fitnah for those who had recently accepted Islam.
One time during the time of Hajj, Uthman ibn Affan and Ibn Masood were together while performing Hajj. When they got to Mina, in Mina you are supposed to shorten your prayers. So Uthman decided that he was going to pray either Zuhr or Asr four rak’as. So Ibn Masood came to him and he said “I performed Hajj with the Prophet (SAW) and when he got to this place, he prayed two ruk’as only. So do as the Prophet (SAW) did.” Uthman ibn Affan (RA) was of a different opinion and he decided that he would lead the believers to pray four rak’as instead of two. So Uthman leads the prayers and Ibn Masood prayed behind him. When the prayers were over, a group of people came to Ibn Masood and said to him, “we thought you said that you prayed behind the Prophet (SAW) two rak’as and not four. You probably should have waited for the prayer to be over and then you should have prayed two rak’as only. Hearing this Ibn Masood said:
Ya ayuhannas isma’u. Qasrus salati Sunnah wajtima’ul muslimeena fareeda fala tutrakus Sunnah min ajlil ithyanil bil fareeda.
“O people listen. Shortening your prayers is a Sunnah; the unity of the muslims is an obligation. You do not perform the Sunnah at the expense of an obligation.”
Now imagine this yourself. You have seen the Prophet (SAW). You prayed behind him and you for sure know that this is what he did. This is the beautiful understanding of those who graduated from the teachings and the majalis of the Prophet (SAW) that they gave the right due to the things that were important.
Best of Deeds
Tabarakkal lazi biyadihil mulku wahowa a’la kulli shay in Qadeer. Allazee khalaqal mawta wal hayata liyablu’akum ayyukum ahsanu ’amala
Blessed is the one who has in his hands the dominion and He possesses power over all things. The One Who has created death and life to test you and try you to see which of you is best in deed.
Now Allah did not say aktharu a’mala which would have meant ‘the most of deeds’, instead he said the best of deeds. And we see this in the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW), that different people would come to him and ask him, ya Rasulullah, maa ahabbul a’mali ilallah. O Prophet of Allah, what are the deeds that are most loved by Allah. To a young man, the Prophet would say Al-imanu billahi wal jihadu fi sabillilah. To believe in Allah and to strive in the path of Allah. Someone else comes and he asks the same question and the Prophet would say Al-imanu billahi wa birrul walidaeyn. He said to believe in Allah and to be good to your parents. To someone else, the Prophet would say it is to believe in Allah wassalatu fi waqtiha to pray on time. Here the Prophet (SAW) is not contradicting himself. He is telling us that the best of deeds depends on who is asking them. You may be doing something that is good but is this the best that you can do? These are questions that we are to ask ourselves.
Ahabbul a’mali ilallahi adwamuha wa in qalla
The most beloved of all deeds to Allah are the ones that are done with permanence even if there are few.
This hadith highlights for anybody who wants to achieve anything the importance of being consistent and regular in our actions.
Consistency in Action
If for example you go to a financial advisor and tell him I want to save enough money to purchase a house by the time I’m 40. They’ll tell you that you need to come up with a plan in which you’ll save x amount per week and when you do that consistently and on a regular basis, over time you’ll be able to amass a certain amount of wealth so that you can go and purchase a car or a house, etc.
Similarly, we should realize that anytime we want to progress in the deen we have to take it one step at a time. So let’s say the first step would be that I don’t have to work at 6 in the morning, I don’t have class at six in the morning, I don’t have any responsibilities at 6 in the morning so my goal would be that I’m going to come to the masjid for fajr every single day. Once you’ve made that goal, you should work on achieving it so you come the first day then try to make it the following day and the day following that and so on and so forth. And once you establish it you should keep it with permanence. That’s the way that you proceed and progress in the eyes of Allah. You build on your deen. You’re constantly expanding your horizon and trying to get closer to Allah.
Random Actions – Proof Against Us
Now being regular is really important because when we are random, then you sometimes achieve things which you’re able to do but you’re not able to keep up. And this actually comes in to a very important concept about how judgment would be done on the final day. So let’s say you come to the masjid for fajr for three days in a row so in a way you have proved that you have the ability to do that but then the fourth day you leave it and the fifth day you leave it and the sixth day you leave it, you never come again. Well on the Day of Judgment, those three times that you came to the masjid would be a proof against you that you had the ability to come. That you were physically and psychologically able to get there yet after that you didn’t make the effort you needed to get there. That effort could be anything. It could be telling 10 people to call you in the morning, it could be setting 5 alarms, whatever it is, you need to have that minimal effort that could be used to support you on the Day of Judgment. So any act we establish we should try to do with permanence so it doesn’t turn against you on the final day.
When the Prophet (SAW) went to Mi’raj, he was shown many groups of people who were being punished. Among them were a group of people whom Jibril (AS) mentioned were the people that memorized the Quran and then forgot it. Now just imagine there are these people who have memorized portions from Quran, one of the greatest things that you can do, every harf has ten rewards yet they were being punished on the Day of Judgment for having forgotten the Quran that they memorized. And this again ties into the same theme that once you establish something in your life, you had the ability to memorize that Quran, you showed the ability, you showed the devotion, you showed the energy to memorize it yet you didn’t keep up with it; you weren’t consistent with it, you weren’t regular with it and therefore you made it a proof against you.
And this is very much in line with the Sunnah of the Prophet that once the Prophet established an action in his life, he never left it. And where he thought that he could establish an act which people might do for a short period of time but then leave it, he stopped them. For example, when the Prophet was praying the taraweeh prayer, the next day a group of people joined him and the next day more people joined him and the third day even more people joined him, what did the Prophet do? He stopped them from coming and praying behind him. Why? Because he said that I’m afraid that if you continue to do this and you show that you have ability to do this, then Allah will make it fard on you and so he sent everybody away. And it wasn’t until after the death of the Prophet that Umar (RA) instituted the taraweeh prayer based on the fact that it could no longer become fard because the Prophet was no longer in this world.
The basic principle here is that if you want to succeed and you are serious about it, the only way is through consistency. You have to have a set plan and you have to consistently approach those deeds and use them in order to attain nearness to Allah. May Allah give us the tawfeeq to be regular in whatever deeds we establish and to insha Allah use those deeds to progress towards him rather than having them used against us on the Day of Judgment.