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5 Steps Towards a Noble Life ….. On the Fingers of Abu Hurayrah

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“I, ya Rasulullah!” Such were the words of the great Companion, Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) in acceptance of the request of his beloved, when he asked, “Who among you will accept of me the following words and adopt and execute their meaning or teach someone to adopt them and act according to them?”

Then, as Abu Hurayrah recalls: “So he held my hand and counted five things according to my five fingers as follows.”

Upon pondering over this sentence, one can rightfully assume that this act of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) of teaching Abu Hurayrah in such a personal manner – one by one, on the fingers of his hand – was a significant step in the effort to keep these words etched in his heart. In fact, it was a method of aiding him in fulfilling the responsibility to which he agreed to moments earlier.

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So, what were these teachings that numbered the fingers of Abu Hurayrah’s hand?

عن أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رضي الله عنه ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ :
( مَنْ يَأْخُذُ عَنِّي هَؤُلاَءِ الكَلِمَاتِ فَيَعْمَلُ بِهِنَّ أَوْ يُعَلِّمُ مَنْ يَعْمَلُ بِهِنَّ ؟ فَقَالَ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ : فَقُلْتُ : أَنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ !
فَأَخَذَ بِيَدِي فَعَدَّ خَمْسًا وَقَالَ :
اتَّقِ الْمَحَارِمَ تَكُنْ أَعْبَدَ النَّاسِ ، وَارْضَ بِمَا قَسَمَ اللَّهُ لَكَ تَكُنْ أَغْنَى النَّاسِ ، وَأَحْسِنْ إِلَى جَارِكَ تَكُنْ مُؤْمِنًا ، وَأَحِبَّ لِلنَّاسِ مَا تُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِكَ تَكُنْ مُسْلِمًا ، وَلاَ تُكْثِرِ الضَّحِكَ ، فَإِنَّ كَثْرَةَ الضَّحِكِ تُمِيتُ القَلْبَ ) .
رواه أحمد والترمذي والطبراني في الأوسط
  1. Keep away from prohibited things and you will be the best of worshipers.
  2. Be content with what Allah has given you, and you will be the richest of people.
  3. Be good to your neighbor and you will be a true believer.
  4. Love for other people what you love for yourself and you will be a (perfect) Muslim.
  5. Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter deadens the heart.

(Recorded by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi)

“Keep away from prohibited things and you will be the best of worshipers.”

In such concise words, our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us that worship is not only in bringing forth good deeds, but also in abstaining from the prohibited. Extra prayers, fasting and charity are praiseworthy, but inclusive in worship is to be able to place boundaries between yourself and that which is haram. This is of particular importance to those sins that we may have become desensitized to, and as a result are prone to falling into them regularly.

Yusuf, 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), was in a situation with the wife of Al-Aziz, where there were many reasons available for him to easily fall into the haram. Yet he proved to be among the “best of worshipers” when she invited him to the forbidden, and he proclaimed; “I seek refuge in Allah (or Allah forbid)!” (Yusuf 12:23). In fact, his ardent will to stay away from the prohibited led him to prefer the life of prison; “O my Lord! Prison is dearer to me than that to which they invite me. Unless You turn away their plot from me, I will feel inclined towards them and be one (of those who commit sin and deserve blame or those who do deeds) of the ignorant.” (Yusuf 12:33).

To establish our personal level of ubudiyyah (worship) to Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), we should turn to our situation in cases where a sin is of easy access to us. Are we able to give our wealth in charity, yet weak when the desire to lie or indulge in ill-talk arises? Or perhaps it is easy for a person to perfect their conduct, yet they have fallen into the desire of not paying heed to acquiring their wealth from only the purest and halal of sources? The examples are many, and each of us can relate, on a personal level, which of the haram actions we are prone to slipping into.

In a hadith narrated by Thawban, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned against this when he described the situation of those who fall into the prohibited when they are far from the eyes of others. He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“I certainly know people of my ummah who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawbaan said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly.’ He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshiping at night as you do, but they will be people who, when they are alone, transgress the sacred limits of Allah.” (Ibn Majah).

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself was the utmost example of protecting himself from the haram. Anas narrated that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed a date fallen on the way and said, “Were I not afraid that it may be from a sadaqa (charitable gifts), I would have eaten it.” (Bukhari).

So while we undergo efforts to increase our good deeds, we should also pay heed to those evil deeds, whether they are actions of the heart, tongue or limbs, which bar us from reaching this status. This is particularly to those ones which come about in daily life, such as evil talk or letting our gazes roam. Let us become more aware of our actions and work on building a barrier that stands between us and Allah’s prohibitions, thus serving as a step in the path of earning this title of the “best of worshipers.”

“Be content with what Allah has given you, and you will be the richest of people.”

This beautiful part of the hadith, if truly and sincerely applied, can relieve heavy burdens off the most slender of shoulders. How many times have we allowed ourselves to be overcome by worries whose main source was not being fully content with what Allah has granted us?

We have laid forth excuses and placed barriers to our achievements, many of which arise from not being content. We tell ourselves, “If I lived in such and such place, I would be able to do such and such. And if I had what so and so had, I would….” The list is endless. It is true that perhaps we did not always openly proclaim such sentences, but we know that at times they have at least crossed our mind and deceived us into believing that our state of failure to achieve is unchangeable.

Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) says, (interpretation of the meaning) “And do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given enjoyment to [some] categories of them, [its being but] the splendor of worldly life by which We test them. And the provision of your Lord is better and more enduring.” (Ta-ha 20:131).

In order to fulfill this command, we should remember that whatever Allah decrees for the believers is better for them, and this is only for the believers. We should also avoid looking towards those who have been given more than us in matters of this dunya and divert our attention to the state of those who have been given less; who are deprived of blessings that we forget in ourselves. Think of the poor laborer who is able to fall fast asleep in the middle of his busy workplace, and the wealthy businessman who is deprived of sleep in the softest of beds. Think particularly of those who have lost both; their dunya due to an unhappy life of misery and lost their akhira (Hereafter) due to being deprived of the blessing of Islam. You will surely feel that you are among the richest of creation. Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

“Successful is the one who has entered the fold of Islam and is provided with sustenance which is sufficient for his needs, and Allah makes him content with what He has bestowed upon him.” (Muslim).

Another aspect of contentment is keeping oneself from asking from others and avoiding being dependent on them. An example of such character is that of the Companions of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), who if they dropped their whip while mounted on their riding animal, would not ask someone to retrieve it for them, although it would have been easier. Rather they would dismount and pick it up themselves, because they did not want to be dependent on others.

The meaning of contentment is not to be stretched to the matters of the Hereafter, as it is only praiseworthy in application to matters of this world. As for increasing virtuous deeds, then ‘greed’ is more befitting since the Muslim should always be in search of more. Allah says,

Surah Hadeed

(interpretation of the meaning) “Race toward forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whose width is like the width of the heavens and earth.” (Al-Hadeed 57:21).

Surah Qasas

Allah says, (interpretation of the meaning) “And your Lord creates what He wills and chooses; not for them was the choice.” (Al-Qasas 28:68). A man may be poor, yet healthy. Another may be wealthy, yet he wishes for good health more than wealth.  Be pleased with what Allah has given you, and you will be the richest of people. Through this principle, we are able to overcome Shaytaan’s technique of making us feel sorry for ourselves as well as purify our hearts of diseases, such as envy. Such a teaching is in fact a key to one’s very own gate to riches that even those with much gold and silver have not been able to unlock.

“Be good to your neighbor and you will be a true believer.”

After focusing on points pertaining to strengthening our own souls, the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) third piece of advice relates to strengthening one’s belief through the fulfillment of the rights of those around us.  A wonderful opportunity is present everyday to try and strengthen our bond with our neighbors. It is one of the most virtuous of deeds; the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

“Jibreel kept advising me of the rights of neighbors so much that I thought he would make them my heirs.” (Agreed upon).

Whether it is through a smile, a kind word or a simple gift, all of these kind actions have an effect on the hearts and are of the best forms of silent da’wah. The sign of the true mu’min is that he is good to his neighbors; perhaps it may be such a simple deed for some, but the reward is great.

“Love for other people what you love for yourself and you will be a (perfect) Muslim.”

This advice from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is repeated often in gatherings, lectures and articles. Although it may be easy to say, this much-needed characteristic that strengthens community bonds and raises our status as Muslims, actually requires effort in achieving. This is because we sometimes limit the application of this characteristic to our hearts only and do not extend it practically in our lives. So, if for example, we love that we have knowledge, we should love that others have access to this knowledge as well. If we love that our acts of worship are done in a correct manner, likewise should this love stretch forth so that we may teach those whose worship may be contrary to the Shari’ah while they know not. When you have knowledge that what they are doing is incorrect and would not like for yourself to be left in the darkness if you were in their place, try to gently correct them and teach them what is right. Passing on knowledge is one example; by reflecting and asking ourselves the question of ‘would I like this for myself?’ before many acts and words is a step in the path of applying this principle in everyday life.

An extraordinary example of putting this teaching into practice is that of some of our righteous predecessors. Ibrahim al-Nakha’ee rahimahullah was a’war al-‘ayn (blind in one eye), and his student Sulayman ibn Mihran suffered from weak eyesight (a’mash al-‘ayn). Ibn al-Jawzi related a story about them in his book Al-Muntathim that they were walking in the streets of Al-Kufah headed to the masjid.

As they were walking, Imam Al-Nakha’ee said, “Sulayman, can you take one road and I take another? For I fear that if we were to pass together by the foolish people, they would say, ‘A’war – one eyed – is leading an a’mash – bleary eyed- (through the road) and they would then have backbitten us and fallen into sins.”

So Sulayman replied, “O Abu ‘Imran! What is wrong then when we are rewarded while they are sinful?”

Ibrahim al-Nakha’ee replied, “SubhanaAllah! Bal naslam wa yaslamun! Rather, that we be safe (from their backbiting) and they be safe (of sin) is better than if we are rewarded and they are sinful!” (al-Muntathim fee Tareekh al Muluk wal Umam).

Their application of this principle reached heights that perhaps we never even thought it could reach. Such were the hearts that understood the meaning of the one who wished good for his people even after he died in the ayah (interpretation of the meaning); “It was said, “Enter Paradise.” He said, “I wish my people could know of how my Lord has forgiven me and placed me among the honored.” (Surah Yaseen 36:26,27)

36:27 Surah Yaseen

“Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter deadens the heart.”

For every believer who wishes to keep the heart alive with faith, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught in the final advice of this hadith that excessive laughter is a cause for a dead heart. Let no believer assume that this implies he or she must wear a frown in order to keep the heart alive with faith, for the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had the most cheerful countenance and taught us that to smile was a rewarded act of sadaqa.

Hence, if we are among those who have trouble keeping a cheerful face, this is not an opportunity to prove the virtue of such an expression, rather it is a chance to rethink and realize that while excessive laughter is denounced, a smile is praised and written as a good deed. Such a simple change in expression, will surely lead us to see notable change in our hearts towards others and in their character towards us.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to make his Companions laugh and his Companions would make him laugh. But he taught us not to be excessive in laughter for it will cause a dead heart and dry eyes. Let us not be among those who only keep the company of those who make us laugh and find anyone else “boring.” Or those who only attend lectures of those who have the highest sense of humor. Or those who read only that which makes them laugh and watch only those programs that make them laugh. Rather, even in laughter, our religion teaches moderation. It is possible to forget this, and that is why our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did not forget to remind us; so that we may pay attention to the weight laughter carries in our everyday lives.

Such concise words, amounting to the fingers of one hand, yet beautiful in meaning and  comprehensive in application. With the same enthusiasm of Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with Him, who took upon himself the task of taking care of them until they reached us, let us work on remembering them, applying them and letting them affect our lives. Perhaps now, you will look at your fingers and view them from a different perspective, as you count on them 5 steps towards a more noble life.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Mariam is of Middle Eastern origin, raised in North America, not quite settling in one specific place. After living up in the North of North America, she has shifted continents and currently residing in a rapidly flourishing, historical city located in the desert of Arabia. She is a recent graduate of the American Open University, with a Bachelors in Islamic Studies. She believes that regardless of where a person is, writing is a tool to reach out and express that which inspires, touches and affects them. So she writes; perhaps that which inspires her will be a source of good for at least one other person.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Amatullah

    March 17, 2010 at 5:40 AM

    SubhanAllah, jazaaki Allahu khayran!

    I think this is the first time I’ve reading that complete hadeeth, I’ve seen parts of it before but never knew it had a story behind it, may Allah reward you for sharing this amazing gem!

  2. Abdus Sabur

    March 17, 2010 at 6:02 AM

    Jazakallahu khair for the beautiful reminder :)

  3. abu Rumay-s.a.

    March 17, 2010 at 7:35 AM

    jazakie Allahu khairun… indeed the reminder benefits the believer…I pray that all of us a benefit from this excellent reminder. ameen..

    just a suggestion that parents/teachers can make this article “Hadeeth of the month”…..

  4. Ibrahim

    March 17, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    Masha’Allaah

    Beautiful post!

    JazakAllaahu khair :)

  5. ummahmed

    March 17, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    Assalamualykum,

    Jazakillahu khairaa.Mashaallah..Once a sister said “In a momin`s world there is no “IF” .”He/ she will always be thankful and content with Allah.

  6. AbdulHasib

    March 17, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    jazakillahukhaira

    sh.Muhammad al-‘Araify did a really nice dars on this hadith last year in Masjid Quba – can check it out here iA if anyone is interested in more fawai’d from this hadith.

    http://quran-karem.com/play-6122.html

    • Mariam E

      March 17, 2010 at 9:30 AM

      Asalamu Alikum,
      It was a similar lecture by the same Shaykh that was the main inspiration behind this piece. Jazakum Allah khair for sharing.

  7. abu Abdullah

    March 17, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    barak Allah khayr ukhti, jazak Allah khayra for sharing.

    Working strongly on being grateful, alhamdulillah.

  8. coolguymuslim

    March 17, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    beautiful, jazakAllahkhair

  9. Abez

    March 17, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    JazakAllahuKheiran! This is a wonderful reminder, is very well written, and I would love to see more like this. This is the first time for me to come across this Hadith, and I think it’s going to become one of my favorites. :)

  10. Me

    March 17, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    Jazaki Allahu khairan.

    Just to all the writers in general, can you please place the verses of the Quran in its orginal Arabic form? I know some already do that. May Allah reward you all.

    • Mariam E.

      March 17, 2010 at 2:15 PM

      wa Alikum asallam warahmatu Allah

      Jazakum Allah khair for your suggestion. I completely agree with you and will keep this in mind inshaAllah.

  11. Mariam E.

    March 17, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    Asalamu Alikum warahmatu Allah

    Jazakum Allah khair for your comments. I ask Allah to make this hadeeth a source of khayr and benefit.

  12. NahyanInc

    March 17, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    Jazakallahukhair sr.Mariam.

    This was an excellently written article and a great reminder. mashaAllah.

  13. ma

    March 17, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    nice article i love it. can you give the link of the dars by Arifi behind this hadeeth. with english or french subtitles please jazakallah khair

  14. Abd- Allah

    March 17, 2010 at 6:53 PM

    JazakumAllah khayr for the reminder. Some one should put together all the hadiths which involve counting things on the fingers and post them as an article.

  15. Zulander

    March 17, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    Masha’Allah this is a great reminder. JazakiAllahu khairan!

  16. Sadaf Farooqi

    March 18, 2010 at 12:14 AM

    May Allah reward you for beautifully explaining this lovely hadith!

    Being good to one’s neighbors also includes forgiving them for hurting you in anyway, or wronging you. Also, it includes maintaining good relationships with them even if they have fought you vehemently in the past.

    I used to live in an apartment complex for many years. I witnessed firsthand the huge fights and blowups that took place between families, which started on the minimal of pretexts (such as a child climbing on the car of a neighbor). The families would not talk to each other, or even greet each other, for years after such fights. This is the point we should keep in mind — being good to our neighbors means forgiving them and moving on as if nothing happened.

    Neighbors have rights also because we inadvertently end up harming or offending them now and then, because of living in such close proximity. E.g. a party or dinner at one house can disturb the sleep of the neighbors next door; a child of one family might bully the child of another in the same neihborhood; one family’s litter can fall over and dirty the next-door neighbor’s yard; one couple’s fight may be overheard through the window, which can result in spread of the “juicy” details during neighborhood gossip sessions, etc.

    May Allah guide us to act upon the advice of our beloved Prophet [صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَ سَلَّم]. Ameen.

    • Mariam E

      March 18, 2010 at 3:12 AM

      Asalamu Alikum warahmatu Allah

      Jazaki Allah khair sister Sadaf. It’s very true, sometimes overlooking one small thing can prevent many big problems.

      Another point to notice is how the Prophet sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam related Eman (faith) directly with being good to neighbors in the hadeeth above, as well as other ahadeeth, such as:

      By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer.” It was asked, “Who is that, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “One whose neighbour does not feel safe from his evil.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

  17. Bint'Athar

    March 18, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    JAzak’Allahu Khayran!! :)

  18. Hakim

    March 19, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    Asalamualaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu. Amazing, just amazing. Thank you for posting this, your reward is with Allah azzawajal.

  19. shuja farooq

    March 19, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    aslamu alaikum

    what a perfect reminder to read right after coming back from Jummah!!

    jazak’Allah, this was beautiful

  20. ummmanar

    March 19, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    masha’allaah this is the best hadith I have heared. jazakie allahu khairun for sharing .we need more of these reminders.

  21. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    March 20, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    MashaAllah, my new favorite MM article! May Allah reward its author, and every person in the chain of good people who related these words, back to our beloved Prophet, may the praises of Allah and His Peace be upon him.

    And glad tidings for Allah’s Messenger said “May Allah make radiant the face of someone who has heard what I have said, learnt it by heart, and transmitted it as he heard it.” (as a teacher taught in class from the hadith of at Tirmidhi)

  22. Pingback: Abez sez Assalamualaikum! » Blog Archive » Lessons from Abu Huraira’s fingers :)

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