The subject of this chapter deals with the virtues of such Muslims who are financially and socially weak.
These People are Weak
The intention of touching this topic is to invite attention to a sad state of affairs, that people whom Almighty Allah has granted some status in worldly life, e.g. wealth, rank and fame, etc. generally look down upon the people in the lower class of the society and treat them with contempt.
They are being told, as a warning, that they should not despise those who appear to be weak financially or bodily or in status. May be that such less privileged people are more respectable in the sight of Allah than those in the upper grade of the society.
Imam Nawawi RA has, therefore, opened this chapter with a relevant verse of the Holy Qur'an.
This verse has been addressed to the Holy Prophet SAW saying:
"Restrain yourself along with those who call their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance and let not your eyes overlook them."
The Holy Prophet SAW is asked not to refrain from paying attention to those who are poor, low in status and who belong to the depressed classes of the society.
Who are the beloved of Allah?
There is no Muslim who is not aware of the intimate relations existing between Almighty Allah and the Holy Prophet SAW. He is the most beloved in the sight of Allah of all that is in the universe, so much so that the entire Qur'an abounds in his praise.
Allah SWT has said:
"O (Prophet)! We have indeed sent you as a witness and a bringer of good tidings and a warner; and a summoner to Allah by His permission and as an illuminating lamp." (Surah 33: Ayat 45~46)
Whenever Almighty Allah decides to praise His beloved Prophet SAW, He is very generous in using beautiful words of praise.
A Loving Indifference
There are two or three places in the Holy Qur'an where Almighty Allah has expressed towards the Holy Prophet SAW a little, mild reproof in a lover's style, showing His disapproval of some action of the Prophet SAW. One of these is the incident mentioned in the 80th Surah of the Qur'an. The unbelievers were on a visit to the Holy Prophet SAW. Considering that preaching Islam to them would be more profitable for the cause of Islam, the Prophet SAW became more attentive to them. In the meantime, Abdullah ibn Umm Makhtum RA also came to the Holy Prophet SAW. He was a blind companion whom the Holy Prophet SAW had also appointed as a Muazzin (caller to prayer) of his (SAW) mosque.
Abdullah ibn Umm Makhtum RA began to ask the Holy Prophet SAW some questions about some religious points. As he was the Prophet SAW's follower, he (SAW) ignored him for the moment and continued talking to the leaders of the unbelievers. The Prophet's (SAW) idea was that if these leaders embraced Islam, then their entire clans would also become Muslims. Almighty Allah did not appreciate this conduct of the Holy Prophet SAW and revealed this verse.
In this verse, the Holy Prophet SAW has been addressed in the third person as:
"He frowned and turned away, because the blind man came to him." (Surah 'Abasa: Ayat 1~2)
This shows that Allah did not appreciate this act of the Holy Prophet SAW.
Allah further said:
"What could make you (O Prophet) know that he might perhaps become reformed or take heed, so the reminder might benefit him." (Surah 'Abasa: Ayat 3~4)
And Allah SWT further continues:
"As for him who thinks that he is independent, you pay attention to him." (Surah 'Abasa: Ayat 5~6)
"Yet, it is not the responsibility of yours if they (the leaders) do not reform themselves." (Surah 'Abasa: Ayat 7)
And Allah SWT continues:
"As for him who hurries up to you in right earnest and feel afraid, you are unmindful of him." (Surah 'Abasa: Ayat 8~10)
The Seeker Of Guidance Has A Preference
Here, we understand that the seeker of guidance has a preference. All this was a very mild reproof to the Holy Prophet SAW, as if from a lover to his beloved. It was never the intention of the Holy Prophet SAW to ignore the weak and the poor blind man in preference ot the rich and powerful leaders of the unbelievers. The Holy Prophet SAW considered it better to attend to the leaders first to convey the truth. His own blind, poor companion could be attended later on. Yet Allah did not appreciate even this inattention and explained that the man who had come seeking guidance had a preference over the one who had come without no crave for knowledge.
Although these verses have been addressed to the Holy Prophet SAW, yet through them the entire Ummah has been taught that they should not despise anyone who looks to be poor and weak, because no one knows that this poor man may enjoy a respectable place and position in the sight of Allah.
Who are the People of Paradise?
The first hadith which Imam Nawawi RA has cited under this chapter is as follows:
Addressing the noble companions, the Holy Prophet SAW is reported to have said:
"Should I not tell you who are the people of Paradise?"
Then he (SAW) himself said in reply:
"Every one who is weak, financially or bodily or weak in rank and status and the people of the world also look down upon such a person yet that weak person may be so beloved in the sight of Allah that if he takes an oath for anything, Allah fulfils his oath."
In other words, if he swears that this and this shall happen, Allah, by His mercy, shall cause that to happen as desired by the weak and low person, because he is Allah's beloved. Allah rewards His love in this way.
Almighty Allah Fulfils Their Oath
It occurs in a Hadith that once two women fought with each other and one of them broke a tooth of the other. According to the Islamic Shari'ah, judgement was passed that a tooth of the criminal should also be broken. On hearing this punishment, the guardian of the criminal uttered these words in the presence of the Holy Prophet SAW:
"I swear by Him who has sent you with the truth that her tooth shall not be broken."
The guardian of the criminal did not mean to object to the Holy Prophet SAW's judgement, nor was he malicious in any way. He uttered these words, depending on Allah's Omnipotence that circumstances might arise suddenly in which the judgement might not be executed. As the man did not utter those words by way of an objection to the Prophet SAW's judgment, the Prophet SAW did not feel offended at his words.
Retaliation has been prescribed in Islam: a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye subjection to the condition that if the person wronged or his guardians forgive the wrongdoer, then retaliation will be waived. It so happened in this case that the woman whose tooth was broken agreed to forgive the offender so it was not executed.
On that occasion, the Holy Prophet SAW said:
"Some men are dearly loved by Allah, yet outwardly they are in bad condition; with dishevelled hair, are so weak and repulsive that if they call at anyone's door, they shall be driven out by force. They are, however, so honourable in the sight of Allah that if they take an oath, Allah will fulfil for them their oath. This is also one such favoured person that he swore that the tooth of the criminal would not be broken and Allah fulfilled the oath by inducing the woman wronged to forgive the criminal and give up retaliation." (Bukhari)
The Holy Prophet SAW has referred in the Hadith to the same point, that there is a man apparently weak and depressed, but he is pious and righteous, closely attached to Allah and deeply devoted to Him. Such a man is so dear to Allah that if he takes an oath for anything Allah fulfils his oath, such persons are the inhabitants of Paradise.
Who are the People of Hell?
Thereafter, the Holy Prophet SAW said:
"Should I not tell you who are the people of Hell?"
Then he (SAW) said:
"Utull, Jawwadh, Mustakbir."
A person who is ill-tempered, ill-mannered and talks very rudely and is never polite in speech is generally seen in angry mood, and despises others, and has other vices is called - Utull.
The other word is Jawwaadh which means a person who is fussy, highly irritable and has a frowning face, too haughty to talk to ordinary people. He regards it an insult to talk to those who are weak, poor and depressed and low in rank and position. He always remains in a proud mood.
The third word is Mustakbir which means a person who is arrogant and thinks that he is far superior to others. The Holy Prophet SAW said that people having these evil traits are inmates of Hell.
The People who Possess Great Excellence
In this hadith, it has been pointed out that people should never look down upon those who are poor and in lower grades of the society, because they have great excellence and value in the sight of Allah. The community of the noble companions RA who embraced Islam at the hand of the Holy Prophet SAW consisted of person of different economic and social status. Their majority came from the poor classes, yet they attended the Prophet SAW's assemblies without any discrimination shown to them. On one side sat highly affluent companions like Abdul-Rahman bin 'Auf RA and Uthmaan ibn Affaan RA and on the other side sat poor companions like Bilal bin Rabah RA, Salman Farsi RA and Suhayb Rumi RA who frequently suffered from hunger.
These Starving People !
Once the unbelievers of Makkah told the Holy Prophet Muhammad SAW that they were prepared to call upon him and listen to him but they were prevented from doing this because he was always surrounded by poor and starving persons. They said that to sit along with such degraded persons was below their dignity and status. They proposed that they should be invited to see the Prophet SAW in separate meetings.
Generally, there was apparently no harm in accepting the unbelievers request, as it was in the interest of Islam. However still, as it involved a point of principle, Allah did not approve of such a proposal and revealed the following verse:
"Do not repel those who invoke their Lord morning and evening, seeking His countenance." (Surah 6: Ayat 52)
The Holy Prophet SAW therefore, announced that if they (unbelievers) were desirous to seek and find the truth, they would have to sit with the general public for the purpose. If they did not like to sit with poor classes, they should know that Allah and His Messenger SAW are in no need of them. Separate meetings would not be held for them. (Sahih Muslim)
The Followers of the Prophets AS
The other Messengers in the past also faced the same situation and the unbelievers of their days made similar remarks:
"We see that it is only the most degraded ones among us who follow you, without reflection." (Surah 11: Ayat 27)
It means, "How can we follow you, as we are wise and highly dignified and noble persons?" Almighty Allah told them that whom they regarded mean, weak, poor and helpless had great respect and status with Allah, so they should not be despised and looked down upon. A question of principle is involved here. It was not possible that the unbelievers should be accorded preference on account of their wealth, leadership and worldly possessions. This is a principle on which no compromise was to be made. Those believing servants of Allah enjoyed great status in the sight of Allah, in spite of their apparent conditions of weakness, poverty and disgrace.
The Companion - Zahir RA
Sometimes a villager called upon the Holy Prophet SAW. His name was Zahir RA. He was a rustic fellow, black-complexioned and very much depressed financially. He had no respect and regard among the people. The Holy Prophet SAW had great affection for him. Once while passing through the market, the Holy Prophet SAW saw Zahir RA standing there. To us, and perhaps to most people, who would take notice of a black, poor and unimportant villager, standing in a market in tattered clothes.
When the Holy Prophet SAW passed through the market, ignoring everything, he approached Zahir RA from the back and closing his arms round Zahir RA, Rasulullah SAW blindfolded Zahir RA's eyes with his (SAW) hands - a kind of joke which intimate friends oftem make with one another. Finding himself in this grip, Zahir RA tried to liberate himself from this, not knowing who was behind him. The Holy Prophet SAW, then pronounced these words loudly as the hawkers generally do, "Who will purchase this slave?"
As Zahir RA did not know who had held him from behind he was trying to liberate himself from the grip. When he came to know that the person holding him was infact the Holy Prophet SAW then, instead of liberating him from the grip, he began to press his waist closer and closer to the sacred body of the Holy Prophet SAW and the following words spontaneously escaped from his mouth:
"O' Messenger of Allah! If you sell me as a slave, a very scanty price will be offered for me, because I am a very ordinary and poor man, having no value."
The Holy Prophet SAW wonderfully replied:
"O' Zahir, whatever value the people may place on you. Your value in the sight of Allah is not little, it is great."
Now consider there are many rich and successful businessmen in the market rolling in millions but ignoring them all, the Holy Prophet SAW met Zahir RA to please him. He (SAW) gave him glad tidings and behaved with him freely and informally as two intimate friends behave with each other. (Musnad Ahmad)
The Holy Prophet SAW used to make the following Du'a:
"O' Allah, let me live as a poor man and let me die as a poor man and raise me to life (in the Hereafter) among the poor." (Tirmidhi)
The Position Of A Servant In The Prophet's Sight
Today, values and conceptions have totally changed. Today, the respected, honoured is one who occupies a high position and is wealthy. On the other hand, he who lacks in worldly resources, is weak and depressed, is disgraced and despised. Let us remember than a man who behaves with the poor and the weak in this way has no share in Deen (faith).
Sometimes, we do recite with our tongues this verse of the Qur'an:
"Indeed, the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah is the best in conduct." (Surah 49: Ayat 13)
It is regrettable that in actual practise we do not follow the principle laid down in this verse. How do you talk to your own servants and beggars who knock at your doors for alms? Do you try to solace them and please them or do you despise them? Do you act upon the Ahadith on this subject? It is very dangerous to misbehave and despise the weak and the poor.