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Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud, radiyallahu ‘anhu, reported: The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, the most truthful, the most trusted, told us:
[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
This hadith was not only recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim but by other Scholars as well. Apart from ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud, this hadith was also narrated by many other companions (Sahabahs).
This narration by ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud was recorded with different versions where some words/terms conflicted with each other, resulting in different versions having different meanings regarding Creation. The conflicts are as follows:
The Scholars say when we do a research on a concept or an issue mentioned in hadiths, we shouldn’t depend on only one hadith – we need to search for other similar hadiths, which deal with the same issue/matter. We must remember that some narrators will narrate a hadith by its meaning, and not exactly as it was said by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. This is because being human, some of them may forget some of the exact words/terms used by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam – but they still understand the actual meaning of what was said.
Then we need to compare the different texts of hadiths on the same issue with each other in order to have a more complete interpretation and better understanding of the issue/matter at hand.
Some people, on hearing this hadith as it is and without further explanation, might feel despair, fearing that they fall into the bad group of people mentioned. This will lead to determination (jabriah) – they may think that no matter what they do, if their end has already been written, then why should they bother to do good deeds. This is the wrong attitude to have as it is based on a wrong perception. Allah is Just. We should trust Allah. If we are good to Allah and trust Him, He will be good to us. We should be optimistic and not pessimistic. We follow Allah’s commands and make the effort to be good Muslims and we should not despair.
During one of the battles, a companion (Sahabi) said to the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, that he was following him, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, to fight in the hope that an arrow will be shot through his (the Sahabi’s) neck, coming in from the front and going out the back. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said, “If you are honest with Allah, Allah will be honest with you.” The Sahabi died exactly as he hoped to.
The Prophet’s, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, words here are generic and can be used for all situations. If we are honest with Allah, Allah will not leave us – He will help us – He will guide us, etc. The closer we are to Allah, the more He will help us and guide us. Thus, the last section of this hadith is an exception and applies only to few people such as the Munafiqin.
But this, on the other hand, does not mean that we live in hope alone. The Scholars say that we must combine hope with fear – when we worship Allah, we should have hope as well as fear of Him. Fearing Allah is a positive thing. The more we fear Allah, the closer we get to Him. The more we fear Allah, the more calm and at peace we will be. This is unlike the natural ‘fear’ where if we fear something, e.g. a fire or a dangerous animal, we will try to get away from it.
Scholars say that we should have an equal amount of hope to the amount of fear. This is so we will have a better status of Iman (faith) – there is no despair and at the same time there is no excessive hope (over-confidence) which could lead to laziness and the non-fulfillment of our obligations. This is why we need to combine hope and fear, as well as love Allah the most and have trust in Him.
This above hadith is about Allah’s Creation and Qadar. The statement: “that which has been written will overtake him” should be understood in the positive sense and not negatively. Allah with His ultimate knowledge knows what will happen as it has been explained in the previous hadith.
Al-Qadar can be categorized as:
What has been written in Al-Lauhulmahfudz is only known to Allah. It is not revealed to us – we don’t know about our destiny, what our rizq is, where we’ll end up, etc. To us it is ghaib and unknown. The translation of this hadith using the word “overtake” may not give the true meaning if it were to be understood that whatever has been recorded by the angels will be “imposed” on a person’s life. We are simply being told about Ilmu Allah or the ultimate knowledge of Allah. What has been written does not cause us to do what we do. It is not a cause and affect situation, as believed by many Muslims. Many Muslims believe that as it has already been written, therefore this will cause us to do whatever has been written. The truth is even though it has been written and even though we will do it, we will not do it because it has been written. It is actually an association, or a matching. What we are going to do matches the knowledge of Allah, because Allah’s knowledge is ultimate. In other words, what we are going to do matches what has been written. This shows the glory of Allah, the ultimate knowledge of Allah. So we should not have the understanding that things are imposed on us. Otherwise this will nullify the whole concept of iman (faith) and the whole concept of Creation and all other related concepts.
We are responsible for what we choose and for what we do. Referring to the last section of this hadith where a person’s final destiny changes at the last minute and he ends up not as expected, there are examples in the Sirahs where some people embrace Islam in the last minute – e.g. they embrace Islam and go into battle and die, some of them not having done a single good deed. There are also many examples today where non-practicing Muslims or those doing bad deeds, having reached the last stages of their lives (at the age of 50 or 60), will repent and turn into a good Muslim. The same applies for thousands of new converts every year.These people, according to the will of Allah, will be forgiven and enter Paradise.
For the other scenario where a person performs good deeds most of his/her life and at the end of his/her life perform bad deeds deserving to enter the Hellfire (as mentioned in the hadith), this situation affects only a limited number of people compared to the first one. And it is because of the person himself, such as in the case of hypocrites.
To have the correct understanding of the concept of qadar, we need to know more about the creation of the human being. What is mentioned in this Hadith is actually a miracle. It describes the stages of the fetus and the creation of man 1,400 years before science and technology confirm it as fact. (This description of the stages of the fetus can also be found in the Quran but without the mention of the periods of times.) In other words, scientists were only able to observe this phenomenon in the last few decades whereas it was already mentioned in the Qur’an and Hadith hundreds of years ago.
A conference regarding the Creation was held in Europe several years ago and some Muslim Scholars were invited to attend. When these Scholars gave the Islamic perspective regarding the stages of the fetus, showing that this was documented in the Quran and the Hadith, some of the people who attended the conference embraced Islam – they were convinced that it is a Divine revelation.
We also need to understand the components of the human being in order to help us understand qadar in the positive way. The human being consists of the following components: –
We can see that some of the components of the human being help us while some are challenges. For example, the Fitrah and Aql are strong components which direct us to do good. However there is a limit to our intellect and for this Allah sent us the Messengers with the revelations to guide us. Allah’s Guidance helps us by telling us what is good and what is bad, in what forms the insinuation of Satan can come in, etc. When we recite the Qur’an with contemplation, we will attain the insight (basirah) which will activate the blaming-self and the nafs ul mutma’ inah.
The Qur’an tells us that we have been created to be tested: (Allah) Who has created death and life that He may test you which of you is best in deed. [Surah Al-Mulk (67): ayat 2]
Allah tells us what we are being tested on and the scenarios mentioned above describe the nature of the test. This is the mercy of Allah – He equips us with the power, the will, the fitrah, the aql, the Message/guidance, etc. But He warns us that our will is going to be tested by internal and external challenges. The power and willingness is neutral but it can be influenced/directed to go either way, good or bad. If we have the insight (basirah), if we recite the Quran, if we are close to Allah, if we have the wisdom (hikmah), then what will be activated is the sound mind and the shahawat (selfdesires) will be controlled and we will not be misled by them. Satan will not come close to us because he knows that if he does so he will not be able to influence us. If we look at it this way, our life is a challenge – it’s a real test that we have to go through.
Even with all these components Allah has equipped us with, we still need Tawfiqul Allah (guidance from Allah). Without tawfiq we might be misled by our desires or by the insinuation of Satan. Thus we need to be closer to Allah. We need to do du’a to Allah (calling on Him) all the time and to devote our hearts to Him so that we are constantly seeking His help, His refuge, His Hidayah (guidance). That’s why at least 17 times a day we say “Guide us to the Straight Way” – we need Allah’s guidance again and again. The guidance is not only to the path but it is also within the path. These are the two types of guidance (hidayah) – (i) to the path is becoming a Muslim and (ii) within the path is increasing our S. The Scholars say we need guidance within the path every second of the day – we need Allah’s guidance more than we need to breathe.
It is narrated by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, in one Hadith that Allah created a man on an island where he was the only person there. Allah gave the man rizq by providing fruits on which he survived. For 70 years the man lived and worshipped only Allah, as there were no challenges there. When the time came for the man to die, Allah commanded the angel to bring his soul to Him. Allah asked the man, “O My servant, to Paradise or to Hellfire?” The man replied, “O Allah, Almighty, to Paradise.” Allah said, “O My servant, is it because of My Mercy or is it because of your amal (good deeds)?” The man replied, “O Allah, it is because of my amal. For 70 years I worshipped you. I have done nothing bad, only good deeds worshipping you.” Then Allah commanded his angel to take the bounty of sight and put it on one scale. He then commanded the angel to put the man’s 70 years’ worth of good deeds on the other scale. The bounty of sight weighed heavier than the deeds of 70 years.
In summary, if for 70 years we were to worship Allah and do good deeds and refrain from bad deeds, we will still not be able to repay Allah for one of His bounties. The Scholars say if you want to know Allah’s bounty on you, close your eyes. If we close our eyes and imagine that we can no longer see and try to picture how our life would be, only then can we truly appreciate and value the mercy of Allah.
The hadiths are the sources of our iman (faith), knowledge, and guidance as we are taught by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. Studying and understanding the Hadiths will activate our insight (basirah), enlighten our hearts, and uplift our souls. This will by the help of Allah, lead us and keep us on the right path to the end, insha Allah.
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Hadith 04: Deeds are by their Final Actions