‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them) said,
“One day, I was behind the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), who said, ‘O boy, I shall teach you some words. Preserve Allah and Allah will preserve you. Preserve Allah and you will find Him with you. If you ask, ask Allah. If you seek help, seek the help of Allah. Be aware that if the nation gathered in order to benefit you, they will never benefit you, except by that which Allah ordained. If they gathered in order to harm you, they will never harm you, except by that which Allah ordained. Pens are lifted and papers are dried.’ ”
[Tirmidhi – Kitab Sifat Al-Qiyamah (Book on Description of the Resurrection), hadith 2516; Musnad Ahmad – vol. 1, p. 293]
In a narration by others than Tirmidhi, it was related that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said,
“Preserve Allah and you will find Him with you. Be near to Allah at times of prosperity and He will be with you in times of distress. Be acknowledged that whatever you missed, would never have been realized and whatever you realized, you would never have missed. Be acknowledged that victory comes with patience, happiness comes after distresses and that after hardships, there will be relief.”
[Musnad Ahmad – vol. 1, pp. 303 and 307; Tabarani – Al-Kabir, hadith 11/23 (11243). It was authenticated by Al-Hakim, no. 3/542. Adh-Dhahabi said,-“It is not authentic.”]
The Importance of this Hadith
This hadith contains great advice and all-comprehensive pillars of religion.
A scholar said, “I contemplated on this hadith and it swept me away. I was about to lose my mind. What a great loss that many people do not know this hadith and do not understand its meaning.”
Explanation of the Hadith
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)’s saying, ‘Preserve Allah’, means that one should preserve his covenant with Allah and pay attention to His rights, commands and prohibitions. One should adhere to the commands of Allah, avoid prohibited acts and never transgress the duties ordained by Him, or perform a deed which He prohibited. Whoever follows this is among those who preserve their covenant with Allah Who praised them saying,
“(It will be said), ‘This is what you were promised, – (it is) for those oft-returning (to Allah) in sincere repentance, and those who preserve their covenant with Allah (by obeying Him in all that He has ordered, and worship none but Allah Alone, i.e., follow Allah’s Religion, Islamic Monotheism).’Who feared the Most Beneficent (Allah) in the Ghaib (unseen): (i.e., in this worldly life before seeing and meeting Him), and brought a heart turned in repentance (to Him – and absolutely free from each and every kind of polytheism.” (Surah Qaf, 50 : 32-33)
It has been interpreted that those who preserve their covenant with Allah are those who adhere to His commands and those who remember their sins in order to repent them.
The most important commands ordained by Allah which a Muslim should preserve is prayer. Allah ordered us to observe prayer as He says,
“Guard strictly (five obligatory) As-Salawat (the prayers) especially the middle Salat (i.e. the best prayer – ’Asr)” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2 : 238)
Allah praised those who observe it, saying,
“And those who guard their Salat (prayers) well.” (Surah Al-Ma’arij, 70 : 34)
One is also commanded to preserve his oaths, as Allah says,
“And protect your oaths (i.e., do not swear often).” (Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5 : 89)
Many people swear oaths, but they do not keep them. One should also pay attention to his mind and ideas, and keep himself against eating legally prohibited food.
“Verily! The hearing and the sight and the heart, of each of those you will be questioned (by Allah)” (Surah Al-Isra, 17 : 36)
The most important prohibition which one should avoid committing a sin through one’s tongue or sexual organs. Allah says,
“The men and the women who guard their chastity (from illegal sexual acts) and the men and the women who remember Allah often with their hearts and tongues (while sitting, standing, tying, etc., more than 300 extra times over the remembrance of Allah during the five compulsory congregational prayers or praying additional Nawafil prayers for night in the last part of night, etc.) Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e., Paradise).” (Surah Al-Ahzab, 33 : 35)
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) ’s saying, “Allah will preserve you,’’ means that if one adheres to the commands of Allah, Allah will preserve him. Reward is commensurate with deeds as Allah says,
“And fulfill (your obligations to) My Covenant (with you) so that I fulfill (My Obligations to) your covenant (with Me).” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2 : 40)
Allah’s preservation of His worshipper is divided into two kinds:
The first: Allah preserves him in his worldly affairs, such as his body, children, family and money. Whoever adheres to the commands of Allah when he is young and strong, Allah will preserve him when he is old and fragile, and will let him enjoy his hearing, sight, strength and mind.
Allah may preserve a person’s offspring, because he is a good worshipper, as the following Quranic verse was interpreted,
“And their father was a righteous man.” (Surah Al-Kahf, 18 : 82)
It has been said that the children were preserved because their father was a righteous man.
Sa’id bin Al-Musayyib said to his son: I will increase my prayer for your sake, hoping that Allah will preserve you because of me. Then he recited the following verse,
“And their father was a righteous man.” (Surah Al-Kahf, 18 : 82)
The second one is more honorable as Allah will preserve the religion and faith of the worshipper. Allah preserves him from falling into misleading dubious ideas and prohibited lusts, Allah will preserve his religion when he dies and He will take away his soul if the worshipper was a truly faithful person.
The Prophet’s (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) saying, “Preserve Allah and you will find Him with you,” means that when a person adheres to the commands of Allah, Allah will support and guide him and even give him victory. Allah says,
“Truly, Allah is with those who fear Him (keep their duty unto Him), and those who are Muhsinun (good-doers).” (Surah An-Nahl, 16 : 128)
Qatadah said, “If a person adheres to piety, Allah will be with him. Once Allah is with him, he will never be defeated, as he has the never-sleeping Guard and the never-errant Guide. Allah will be with such people, especially as was the case with Moses and Aaron. Allah says,
“He (Allah) said: “Fear not, verily! I am with you both, hearing and seeing.” (Surah Ta-Ha, 20 : 46)
Prophet Moses also said,
“Nay, verily! With me is my Lord; He will guide me.” (Surah Ash-Shu’ara, 26 : 62)
This special accompaniment means that Allah will support, preserve, help and grant victory to the person. There is also general accompaniment, as mentioned in Allah’s saying,
“There is no Najwa (secret counsel) of three, but He is their fourth (with His Knowledge, while He Himself is over the Throne, over the seventh heaven), nor of five but He is their sixth (with His Knowledge), not of less than that or more, but He is with them (with His Knowledge) wheresoever they may be.” (Surah Al-Mujadilah, 58 : 7)
This accompaniment means that Allah knows each and every thing about His worshippers and that He watches their deeds. Thus they should fear Him.
Then the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Be near to Allah at times of prosperity and He will be with you in times of distress.”
If a worshipper feared Allah, adhered to His Commands, and performed the rights due to Him in times of prosperity, he will be near Allah. There will be a special relation between the worshipper and his Lord. Allah will be with him in times of distress and will save him from any calamities, because of such relation. Because of this special relation, Allah will be near him, love him and answer his supplications.
A worshipper’s knowledge of his Iord is divided into two types:
(1) Generalized knowledge, which is embedded in belief in Allah and having faith in Him.
(2) Special knowledge, which means that one’s heart is completely devoted to Allah, finding rest and tranquility when remembering Him, being afraid of Him, and being shy before Him. This special knowledge is adopted by the pious and righteous people.
Allah’s knowledge of His worshipper is also divided into two types:
(1) Generalized knowledge, which means that Allah knows all about His worshippers whether they declared it or not, as Allah says,
“And indeed We have created man, and We know what his ownself whispers to him.” (Surah Qaf, 50: 16)
(2) Special knowledge, which means that Allah loves His worshipper, answers his supplications and saves him from distress and calamities.
This sort of knowledge is referred to in the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)’s saying, “Allah says, ‘I will declare war against him who shows hostility to a pious worshipper of Mine. And the most beloved things with which My slave comes nearer to Me is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (praying or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him; so I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me, I will give him, and if he asks My protection (refuge), I will protect him; (i.e., give him My Refuge) and I do not hesitate to do anything as I hesitate to take the soul of the believer, for he hates death, and I hate to disappoint him.’ ” [Bukhari – Kitab Ar-Riqaq (Book on Heart Softness), hadith 6502]
All in all, when a worshipper fears Allah and obeys Him in times of prosperity, Allah will be with him and support him in times of distress.
The greatest distress
The greatest distress that afflicts the worshipper in this world is death. If his abode is not good, what is after death may be even worse. A believer, when young and strong, should prepare himself for death by adhering to piety and performing good deeds as Allah says,
“O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do. And be not like those who forgot Allah (i.e., became disobedient to Allah) and He caused them to forget their ownselves, (let them forget to do righteous deeds). Those are the Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah.” (Surah Al-Hashr, 59 : 18-19)
When a worshipper remembers Allah in times of prosperity and youth and prepares himself to encounter Him after death, Allah will support him in times of distress, care for him, embed in his heart to die adhering to monotheism and take his soul while He is content with His worshipper.
If a person forgets Allah in times of prosperity and youth, and does not prepare himself for death, Allah will abandon him in times of distress and leave him alone.
Abu Bakr bin Abi ‘Ayyash said to his son when he was dying, “Do you think that Allah will not accept from me the recitation of the entire Holy Qur’an each night for forty consecutive years?
Asking and seeking help
Then the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “If you ask, ask Allah. If you seek help, seek the help of Allah.” This saying is derived from Allah’s saying,
“You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).” (Surah Al-Fatihah, 1 : 5)
Asking Allah is to invoke Him and invocation is the essence of worship.
An-Nu’man bin Bashir reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Invocation is (the essence of) worship.” Then, he recited Allah’s saying,
“And your Lord said: ‘Invoke Me, [i.e believe in My Oneness (Islamic Monotheism)] (and ask Me for anything) I will respond to your (invocation).’ ” (Surah Ghafir : 60) [Abu Dawud – Kitab As-Salah (Book on Prayer), hadith 1479; Ibn Majah – hadith 3828; Musnad Ahmad – hadith 4/267]
Allah also enjoins us to ask Him as He says,
“And ask Allah of His Bounty.” (Surah An-Nisa, 4 : 32)
There are many authentic hadiths that prohibit asking other people. “The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) made a pledge of allegiance with some of his companions that they should not ask for anything from the people. If their whip or the rope of their camel fell, they would not ask a person to hand it over.” [Muslim – Kitab Az-Zakah (Book on Zakah), hadith 108/1043]
It is obligatory that one should ask Allah Alone and abandon asking His worshippers. Asking for a thing means that a person is humiliated and that he needs the person who is asked. It means the needy know that the person asked has the ability to remove such and such harm, achieve the aim needed and attain one’s interests. Humility and need should be directed to Allah Alone, because this is the essence of worship.
Allah likes to be asked by His worshippers and that they even ask him earnestly and eagerly. Allah is Angry when He is not asked by His worshippers who may ask other creatures just like them. Allah is
Omnipotent and He can answer all His worshipper’s needs without affecting His Realm. On the contrary, creatures hate to be asked for something because of their poverty, inability and need.
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Our Lord, the Blessed, the Superior, comes down every night to the Heaven nearest us when the last third of the night remains, saying, ‘Is there anyone to invoke Me, so that I may respond to invocation? Is there anyone to ask Me, so that I may grant him his request? Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him ?’ ” [Bukari – Kitab At-Tahajjud (Book on Tahajjud), hadith 1145; Muslim – Kitab Salat Al-Musafirin (Book on Traveler’s Prayer), hadith 168/758]
As for seeking the help of Allah Alone, it is required because a worshipper is unable to attain his interests, protect himself from harm and evil, and there is none but Allah Who can support him in achieving his worldly and religious interests.
If Allah supports a worshipper, such worshipper is saved but if Allah abandons him, he is ruined.
This is the very meaning of saying, “La Hawla wala Quwwata Ilia Billah (There is no might or refuge save in Allah.)”
This great sentence is one of the treasures of Paradise. It means that a worshipper can do nothing except with the help and support of Allah.
A worshipper needs the help and support of Allah in performing prescribed deeds, avoiding evil and adhering to patience in case of calamities whether in this world, upon death or what may follow in the grave and the Day of Judgement. Allah Alone can help and support the worshipper in all these cases. When a worshipper seeks the help and support of Allah, Allah will help him.
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Be careful in what benefits you, seek the help of Allah and abandon inability.” [Muslim – Kitab Al- Qadar (Book on Predestination), hadith 34/2664]
If a worshipper abandoned seeking the help and support of Allah, and seeks the help of other creatures, Allah will abandon him to this creature and leave him ruined.
Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us.
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Acknowledge that if the nation gathered in order to benefit you, they will never benefit you except by that which Allah ordained. If they gathered in order to harm you, they will never harm except by that which Allah ordained.”
This means that whatever afflicts or benefits a worshipper in this world is ordained by Allah. Nothing will he realize unless it had been recorded in the Book on Decrees, even if all creatures had another opinion.
The Holy Qur’an set out this matter in Allah’s saying,
“Say, ‘Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us.’ ” (Surah At-Tawbah, 9 : 51)
“No calamity befalls the earth or to yourselves, but that which is inscribed in the Book on Decrees (Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz), before We bring it into existence.” (Surah Al-Hadid, 57 : 22)
This part of the hadith is the root of all goodness and other parts may be attributed to it.
When a worshipper knows that he will face nothing except that which Allah ordained, be it good, evil or harm, and that all people’s efforts to change Allah’s decree are of no avail, he will know that Allah Alone is the One Who causes harm and benefit and it is He Who gives and abstains from giving. Thus, the worshipper will direct all his acts of worship to Allah Alone and adhere to His commands.
One worships Allah in order to attain his interests and protect him from evil. For this reason, Allah condemned those who worship idols that neither benefit nor harm the idolaters.
In case of calamities, belief in Allah’s decrees has two degrees.
First: Contentment with Allah’s decrees which is a very elevated rank, as Allah says,
“No calamity befalls, but with the Leave [i.e. decision and Qadar (Divine Preordainment)] of Allah, and whosoever believes in Allah, He guides his heart [to the true Faith with certainty, i.e., what has befallen him was already written for him by Allah from Qadar (Divine Preordainment)].” (Surah At-Taghabun, 64 : 11)
‘Alqamah said, “This is the calamity that afflicts a person who knows that it is from Allah, and hence, he submits to Allah’s ordinance and becomes content.”
Anas reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “If Allah loves a people, He afflicts them. Allah will be Pleased with the content and Angry with the discontent. [Tirmidhi – Kitab Az-Zuhd (Book on Asceticism), hadith 2396; Ibn Majah – Kitab Al-Fitan (Book on Seditions), hadith 4031]
When a person reaches such a rank, his life will be happy as Allah says,
“Whoever works in righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer (of Islamic Monotheism) verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision.” (Surah An-Nahl, 16 : 97)
A scholar said, “A good life is contentment.”
Second: Adhering to patience once a calamity befalls a person.
This rank is suitable for the person who cannot be content with the ordinance of Allah.
Contentment is a desirable virtue, but adhering to patience is obligatory on each Muslim. Patience entails extra goodness to the Muslim as Allah enjoined him to adhere to it; and He even promised a great reward for it as He says,
“Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in fill, without reckoning.” (Surah Az-Zumar, 39 : 10)
Difference between Patience and Contentment
The difference between patience and contentment is that patience is restraining oneself from complaining, in spite of pain, while hoping to eliminate it. It also entails restraining one’s body from acting in response to anguish.
As for contentment, it is a feeling of comfort with the ordinance of Allah and the abandonment of hoping to eliminate pains. If there is pain, the sense of contentment alleviates it, because the heart is overwhelmed with faith and assurance. If the sense of contentment increases, it may eliminate the sense of pain entirely.
Victory comes with Patience
Then, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Acknowledge that victory comes with patience.” It refers to victory in both types of Jihad: Jihad against the disbelievers and Jihad against one’s whims and caprices, which is greater than the first.
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “The Mujahid is the one who practices Jihad on himself for the sake of Allah.” [Tirmidhi – Kitab Fada’il Al-Jihad (Book on the Excellence of Jihad), hadith 1621; He said that it is an authentic good hadith. Musnad Ahmad – hadith 6/20, 21, 22; Sahih Ibn Hibban – hadith 4862]
When a person adheres to patience, he will be victorious over his enemies. If he does not, he will be defeated, taken prisoner or murdered.
Happiness comes after distresses
Then, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Happiness comes after distress.” This is derived from Allah’s saying,
“(They were reprieved) until, when the Messengers gave up hope and thought that they were denied (by their people), then came to them Our Help.” (Surah Yusuf, 12 : 110)
Allah related many stories about His Prophets who suffered from distress and calamity, but Allah saved them. He saved Noah and the believers in the ship, saved Abraham from fire, ransomed his son after he enjoined him to sacrifice him, saved Moses and his people from the sea and drowned their enemies, saved Job and Jonah from distress, and saved Muhammad (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) from his enemies as in the events of the cave, and the battles of Badr, Uhud, Al-Ahzab, and Hunain, etc.
One hardship cannot overcome two reliefs
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “and that after hardships there will be relief.” It is derived from Allah’s saying,
“Allah will grant after hardship, ease.” (Surah At-Talaq, 65 : 7)
“So verily, with hardship, there is relief, Verily, with hardship, there is relief (i.e., there is one hardship with two reliefs; so one hardship cannot overcome two reliefs).” (Surah Ash-Sharh, 94 : 5,6)
When hardships afflict a Muslim to a great extent and he is disappointed because no creature on earth can help him, he reverts to Allah. This is the very essence of putting trust in Allah. Putting trust in Allah leads to sufficing one’s needs as Allah says,
“And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him.” (Surah At-Talaq : 3)
When a believer feels that his hardships are not relieved and he is disappointed even after many invocations which have not been answered, he reverts to himself saying, “I am in a hardship because of my sins. If I am a good person, my supplications will be answered”. Such taunting is more beloved to Allah than many acts of worship, because it indicates that a worshipper confesses that hardships were afflicted on him because of his sins and that he is not worthy of answering his invocations.
Once he has such a feeling, his invocations are answered and his hardships relieved. In this context, some ancient poets said, “What you see may not last and you will see a relief from the catastrophes of this time. Allah may relieve such hardships, for Allah ordains the affairs of His creatures. If there is hardship, hope for relief. Allah ordained that after each hardship, there would be a relief.”
By: Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali , From the book: Jami’ al Ulum wal Hikam.