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Lessons in Staying Behind – Part 4: Unconditional Obedience

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When a beloved friend turns away, it is heartbreaking. But when he is so beloved that you are willing to sacrifice for him your mother, father and yourself, it is a stab in the heart.  

Ka’b bin Malik describes the agony he felt saying,

…and I would come to Allah’s Messenger and greet him while he was sitting in his gathering after the prayer, and I would wonder whether the Prophet did move his lips in return to my greetings or not. Then I would offer my prayer near to him and look at him stealthily. When I was busy with my prayer, he would turn his face towards me, but when I turned my face to him, he would turn his face away from me.

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In desperation, Ka’b examined the noble face of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). His only wish at the time was a response of acknowledgement, even if it be mere lip movement. This pain was the result of an act of disobedience to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Today, he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)is no longer among us to reprimand us if we turn away. But his commands, his sunnah, have been safely preserved for the purpose of our compliance.

He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “All of my ummah will enter Paradise except those who refuse.” They said: “O Messenger of Allaah, who would refuse?” He said: “Whoever obeys me will enter Paradise and whoever disobeys me has refused.” (Al-Bukhari)

To love our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is great and required, but greater is that he would love us had he been among us.

One of our pious predecessors, Al-Rabee’ bin Khaythama was a man of  noble character, tender speech, and good companionship. Abdullah bin Mas’ud raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) as a Companion, knew the likes and dislikes of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and told Al-Rabee’, “Ya Aba Yazeed, if the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saw you, he would love you!”

How is our level of obedience and observance of his sunnah? Would it please him and earn us his love?

Although the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was of great moral character, he avoided returning the salaam to Ka’b and turned his face away in conformity with what Allah had commanded to him regarding the three men.

From this action it is derived that the Imam, scholar or leader who is obeyed may resort to boycotting a sinner in an effort to make him amend his ways and give up his sin. The use of this treatment method is conditioned on actually serving the purpose and having a positive effect, otherwise, it should not be used.

With a heavy heart, Ka’b raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) moved on.

When this harsh attitude of the people lasted long, I walked till I scaled the wall of the garden of Abu Qatada who was my cousin and dearest person to me, and I offered my greetings to him. By Allah, he did not return my greetings. I said, ‘O Abu Qatada! I implore you by Allah! Don’t you know that I love Allah and His Apostle?‘ He kept quiet. I asked him again, beseeching him by Allah, but he remained silent. Then I asked him again in the Name of Allah. He said, “Allah and His Messenger know better.’

They loved one another, but their love for Allah and His Messenger surpassed any other ties of love or kinship.

Abu Qatadah could have found excuses away from the eyes of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to speak to his dear cousin. But the believers of this city were raised between the hands of none other than a Prophet, who ingrained in the hearts a spirit of unconditional obedience to their Creator. Finding excuses to get around the commands of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was not their practice and custom.

The level of muraqabah (watchfulness) that they held is evident in this incident. Obeying Allah was not confined to the company of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and the rest of the Companions alone. They carried it in their hearts everywhere, avoiding what they were prohibited from in the most secluded of situations, knowing that Allah Knows and Sees all.

Abu Qatadah knew that Ka’b loved Allah and His Messenger, yet his only words after being asked in the Name of Allah were, ‘Allah and His Apostle know it better.’  This was not responding to Ka’b and was not considered conversing with him.

Thereupon my eyes flowed with tears and I returned and jumped over the wall.

The young strong man that he was, could no longer bear the pain of being cut off. The test was a huge one, and its intensity increased.

Ka’b added, “While I was walking in the market of Madinah, suddenly I saw a Nabati (i.e. a Christian farmer) from the Nabatis of Shaam who came to sell his grains in Medina, saying, ‘Who will lead me to Kab bin Malik?’ The people began to point (me) out for him till he came to me and handed me a letter from the king of Ghassan in which the following was written:

“To proceed, I have been informed that your friend (i.e. the Prophet ) has treated you harshly. Anyhow, Allah does not let you live at a place where you feel inferior and your right is lost. So join us, and we will console you.”

Ka’b bin Malik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) had just received an invitation from one of the Kings of Al-Shaam, an unbeliever, of a ‘guarantee’ of protection from the ‘inferiority’ he was assumed to be facing in Madinah.

So, what was his response?

When I read it, I said to myself, ‘This too is a test.’

What an amazing man! He could have concluded that the anticipated relief from Allah had arrived, and at 33 years of age, could have proceeded in search of a new life in another land. But, because of his sincerity, Allah guided him to realize that it was part of the test and protected him from stumbling.

Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) says,

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ فَإِذَا أُوذِيَ فِي اللَّهِ جَعَلَ فِتْنَةَ النَّاسِ كَعَذَابِ اللَّهِ

And of the people are some who say, “We believe in Allah,” but when one [of them] is harmed for [the cause of] Allah, they consider the trial of the people as [if it were] the punishment of Allah. (al-‘Ankabut 29:10).

Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Meaning that their trial is leaving Islam if they are made to suffer for Allah.” (Tafsir ibn Kathir).

Here, we are taught steadfastness in the face of difficulty in the way of Allah. When taking the right path involves treading bumpy patches, will we then abandon it? Or will we follow the example of this noble Companion; remain patient whilst waiting for relief from Allah?

This big test revealed blessings in disguise. Through the reaction of Ka’b to this invitation, Allah showed the Muslims that his faith was not weakened in the face of the boycott.  It was proof that regardless of the strength of the trial he was facing, not for a moment did he contemplate leaving his religion. He was not one of weak faith, who sought status, kingdom and the life of this world. Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) says,

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ
وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ

Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars.” (Al-‘Ankabut 29:2,3).

Through a test, the faith residing in the hearts becomes evident. Al-Hasan al-Basri said: The state of a people in the time of well-being (‘aafiya) is hidden. If they are afflicted with trials, each is revealed in their true state: the believer to his true belief and the hypocrite to his hypocrisy.

Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) made it clear through this test that Ka’b was absolutely innocent from any strains of hypocrisy and remained sincere to Allah and His Prophet. This was mercy from Allah and source of coolness to the burning pain in his heart.

When weeds invade your garden, learn to look for the beautiful flowers hidden in their midst. Pick them out, so that their colors stand out and their fragrance sweetens your trial. Allah’s tests us with His Divine Wisdom; just like this test carried abundant lessons for Ka’b, it is upon us to reflect and derive the good that comes with every test we face. It is through such reflection that the pain of the trial decreases and gratefulness to Allah increases.

On the path seeking to extinguish the fiery pain of his own trial, Ka’b lit a fire; but it was one of unconditional obedience, even in the tightest of circumstances.

Then I took the letter to the oven and made a fire therein by burning it.

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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.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Sayf

    June 10, 2010 at 12:58 AM

    Mash’Allah, keep up the excellent work!
    May Allah reward you immensely, ameen.

    • Mariam E.

      June 10, 2010 at 8:49 AM

      Asalamu Alikum

      Jazakum Allah khayr for your encouragement.

  2. Amad

    June 10, 2010 at 2:03 AM

    I don’t know why but I have goose-pimples every time I read your articles… mashallah, you really extract deep lessons and inspiration.

    This story of Ka’ab rd is one that always touches me… because of his sincerity and pain, and his joy of being forgiven… what amazing human emotions.

    I would like to add that

    From this action it is derived that the Imam, scholar or leader who is obeyed may resort to boycotting a sinner in an effort to make him amend his ways and give up his sin. The use of this treatment method is conditioned on actually serving the purpose and having a positive effect, otherwise, it should not be used.

    is something that has to be very, very carefully used, if ever. There is a tendency to abuse this. I have seen this boycott phenomenon used because of an imam or shaykh’s personal issues with other person(s). Only if there is a real, significant issue and a nearly unanimous agreement among community members already that (a) someone needs to be boycotted, and (b) that there will be actual tangible benefit of that boycott (i.e. the person is sincere Muslim who will take lesson from the boycott, not become vengeful).

    wallahualam

    • Mariam E.

      June 10, 2010 at 8:47 AM

      Asalamu Alikum

      Jazakum Allah khayr.
      The same condition of actually reaching a positive outcome through boycotting was mentioned in most of the sources I referred to.
      In fact, it is emphasized in the story itself, as it had such a strong impact on Ka’b bin Malik that he even felt the land around him was strange. And this is while he is a Companion and a man of strong faith. But the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) took this action based on Divine revelation.

      So it is obvious it cannot be used with anyone, particularly with someone who is very weak in faith. The hypocrites were not boycotted, as their hearts were dead and would not feel it’s effect anyway.

  3. ummfatima

    June 10, 2010 at 5:33 AM

    assalamualykum dear sister,

    Jazakillahu khairaan kaseera .Subahanallah.It`s really heart softner.we often disobey and yet no remorse.May Allahtaala guide us .

    salaam.

  4. Amatullah

    June 10, 2010 at 7:50 AM

    SubhanAllah, beautiful piece Mariam. Baarak Allahu feeki.

    How many more parts until the end of this series? It’s really wonderful mashaAllah, jazaaki Allahu khayran.

    • Mariam E.

      June 10, 2010 at 8:56 AM

      Asalamu Alikum

      wa baraka Allahu feeki. To be honest, I am not quite sure how many parts are left, but as we approach the end of the story……..relief for Ka’b (radhiAllahu anhu) is near. We’ll see inshaAllah.

  5. Me

    June 10, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    Jazaki Allahu khairan! :)

  6. mystrugglewithin

    June 10, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    I read between the lines, and I could relate everything surrounding me to nothing but a tribulation by Allah swt .. for sure, your message is delivered! :>

    -jazakallah khayrun

  7. Cub

    June 10, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    Jazakallahu Khayr! This is so inspiring, SubhanAllah! Especially the encounter with Abu Qatada.

    Oh and the daisy pic is pretty! =)

  8. Abd- Allah

    June 10, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    JazakumAllah khayr!

    Sister Mariam, I would suggest that once you are done with all parts of this story, that you compile them all together as a pdf booklet so that it can be spread to others.

  9. Ify Okoye

    June 10, 2010 at 4:57 PM

    I love the story of Kab especially that part with Abu Qatadah, it’s so powerful and so heartbreaking.

  10. Sadaf Farooqi

    June 11, 2010 at 2:01 AM

    Really touching and heart-rendingly inspiring. Barak Allahu feeki ya Mariam! :)

  11. elham

    June 11, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    SubhanAllah,beautiful story!

    May Allah bless you for these reminders and help the believers in their trials

  12. Amatul Wadood

    June 13, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    Salam warat wabart!

    @ sis Mariam: JazakAllah Khair! may Allah SWT accept ur deeds and may He help you to continue ur efforts in His Name ,in His Cause!

    Stories of repentance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSfy5zP1E78

  13. Pingback: Lessons in Staying Behind – Part 5: In Temptation, a Steady Heart | MuslimMatters.org

  14. ummmanar

    July 11, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    jazakallah khair sis.I really love your articles.I thimk I read them each twice,but I can’t stil relay it to my friendsand family. There is so much to learn from this lesson love, patience,tolerance,friendship. barakallahu fiki keep up the good job.I am so proud to be your sis im islam.May allah(swt) reward you with jenetal firdus .

    • Mariam E.

      July 12, 2010 at 4:22 AM

      Asalamu alikum

      jazaki Allah khayr for your kind words. I ask Allah to accept from us and make them of benefit.

  15. Pingback: Lessons in Staying Behind – Part 6: ‘With Difficulty Comes Ease’ | allah.eu

  16. Pingback: পিছনে পড়ে যাওয়া থেকে প্রাপ্ত শিক্ষা- ৪র্থ কিস্তিঃ নিঃশর্ত আনুগত্য (অনুবাদ) | আমার স্পন্দন

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