Chapter 2 – Ḥadīth 15: Repentance
وعن أبي حمزةَ أنسِ بنِ مالكٍ الأنصاريِّ – خادِمِ رسولِ الله – قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ الله : « للهُ أفْرَحُ بِتَوْبَةِ عَبْدِهِ مِنْ أَحَدِكُمْ سَقَطَ عَلَى بَعِيرهِ وقد أضلَّهُ في أرضٍ فَلاةٍ » . مُتَّفَقٌ عليه .وفي رواية لمُسْلمٍ : « للهُ أَشَدُّ فَرَحاً بِتَوبَةِ عَبْدِهِ حِينَ يتوبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ أَحَدِكُمْ كَانَ عَلَى رَاحِلَتهِ بأرضٍ فَلاةٍ ، فَانْفَلَتَتْ مِنْهُ وَعَلَيْهَا طَعَامُهُ وَشَرَابهُ فأَيِسَ مِنْهَا ، فَأَتى شَجَرَةً فاضطَجَعَ في ظِلِّهَا وقد أيِسَ مِنْ رَاحلَتهِ ، فَبَينَما هُوَ كَذَلِكَ إِذْ هُوَ بِها قائِمَةً عِندَهُ ، فَأَخَذَ بِخِطامِهَا ، ثُمَّ قَالَ مِنْ شِدَّةِ الفَرَحِ : اللَّهُمَّ أنْتَ عَبدِي وأنا رَبُّكَ ! أَخْطَأَ مِنْ شِدَّةِ الفَرَحِ »
Anas b. MālikAl-Anṣāri (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu) the servant of the Messenger of Allāh narrated: Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said,
“Verily, Allāh is more delighted with the repentance of His slave than a person who lost his camel in a desert land and then finds it (unexpectedly)”.[Bukhāri and Muslim].
In another version of Muslim, he said:
“Verily, Allāh is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than a person who has his camel in a waterless desert carrying his provision of food and drink and it is lost. He, having lost all hopes (to get that back), lies down in shade and is disappointed about his camel; when all of a sudden he finds that camel standing before him. He takes hold of its reins and then out of boundless joy blurts out: 'O Allāh, You are my slave and I am Your Rubb'.He commits this mistake out of extreme joy.”
Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen said in his explanation of this ḥadīth:
The author (Al-Nawawi) raḥimahullāh says, 'the servant of the Messenger of Allāh ' in reference to Anas (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu), whose mother brought him to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) upon arriving in Madīnah and said, 'here is Anas ibn Malik to serve you'. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) accepted him, and Anas (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu) became the servant of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam).
Anas (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu) related that the Messenger (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: “Verily, Allāh is more delighted with the repentance of His slave” more than the happiness of a man who finds his camel after losing it, and he mentioned the story: that a man was in a desert alone, with no water, food, or people…and he lost his camel. He searched, but failed to find it. So he went to sleep under a tree, awaiting death! He lost hope in finding his camel and lost hope in life, for his food and drink were on the lost camel.
Then suddenly, in this state of hopelessness, he finds his camel right in front of him, its reins attached to the same tree he slept beneath.
What is comparable to such happiness? No one can truly relate to such joy except one who was in the same situation. Indeed, it is great joy; joy of life after death. For this reason he took hold of its reins and cried, “'O Allāh, You are my slave and I am Your Rabb!'” He wanted to praise Allāh saying: 'O Allāh, You are my Lord and I am Your Slave', but due to his extreme joy, he made a mistakenly switched it around.
From the Benefits of this ḥadīth: is evidence of Allāh's – azza wa jal – happiness with the repentance of His slave to Him, and that He – subḥānahu wa ta'āla – loves this deed greatly. But this is not due to His need for our deeds and repentance, for Allāh is Free of needs from us, rather this is due to Allāh's love for Generosity, for He, subhanahu wata'ala, loves to Pardon and Forgive. This is more beloved to Him than taking retribution and imposing blame. For this reason, Allāh loves the repentance of the slave. So in this ḥadīth, there is encouragement towards repentance, due to Allāh's love for it and the benefit it holds for the slave.
From the lessons of this ḥadīth is affirmation (of the attribute) of 'happiness' to Allāh 'azza wa jal. For He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla, becomes Pleased, Angry, Hates and Loves. But these attributes are unlike our own, because Allāh says,
لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ ۖ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ
“There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Sūrat'l-Shūra 42:11).
So, this 'happiness' is befitting to His Might and Majesty and does not resemble the joy of the creation.
In this ḥadīth, there is also evidence that if a person's tongue slips and they say a certain statement mistakenly, even if it is in essence (a statement of) kufr (disbelief), then they are not held accountable for it. In the case of this man (in the hadith), his statement was one of disbelief. This is because, a person saying to his Lord, 'You are my slave and I am you Lord'; this is undoubtedly a statement of disbelief. But when it was uttered mistakenly – under circumstances of extreme joy – then he was not held accountable for it. So if a person makes a mistake regarding a word or statement of disbelief, then he is not accounted for it. Similar is the case for other words or statement, such as if he unintentionally cursed someone or mistakenly freed his slave. All of this does not make him accountable for anything, because he did not intend it. It becomes similar, in such a case, to the unintentional oath (al-laghw fil yameen). Allāh ta'āla said:
“Allāh does not impose blame upon you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He imposes blame upon you for what your hearts have earned.” (Sūrat'l-Baqarah 2:225).
This is different from the case of the mocker, who becomes a disbeliever if he says a statement of disbelief, even if he was mocking. This is due to what Allāh says,
لَا تَعْتَذِرُوا قَدْ كَفَرْتُم بَعْدَ إِيمَانِكُمْ
“And if you ask them, they will surely say, “We were only conversing and playing.” Say, “Is it Allāh and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?”
Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after your belief.” ( Sūrat'l-Tawbah 9:65, 66).
This is because the scoffer meant what he said, and meant it's meaning, but said it in the form of mockery and ridicule. For this reason, he became a disbeliever. This is contrary to the case of one who did not intend it, thus making his statement not considered as anything.
This is from the Mercy of Allāh –'azza wa jal ¬– and Allāh is the source of success.