Obedience to the commands of Allah and His Messenger

The spiritual degree of a believer is in accordance with the degree to which they obey the commands of Allah and His Messenger. And the perfection of one’s faith increases with the degree of the meticulousness, sensitivity, love and ardour within this obedience. Those people who move up a step up in their love and obedience are those who are subject to divine bounties in both worlds. It is stated in a verse from the Qur’an:

“Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger will be with those whom Allah has blessed: the Prophets and the sincere lovers of truth, the martyrs and the righteous. What excellent company such people are!(Nisa 4:69)

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has informed us:

“Your Lord – dignified and majestic is He – states: “If my servants obeyed Me in the manner required, I would make the rain pour down for them at night and make the sun rise over them during the day. And I would not let them hear even the roar of thunder”. (Ahmad, II, 359; Hakim, IV, 285/7657)

The hearts of those who carry out their obedience to Allah’s commands with love and submission and who can preserve their state of contentment under changing conditions, will become conduits of wisdom, goodness and prosperity. In contrast to this, those hearts and bodies which have not been protected from unlawful and doubtful things, will turn into complete refuges of evil and nests of immorality.

Scenes of Virtue

Before embarking on the battle of Badr, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) wished to learn the opinion of his Companions. Mikdad bin Aswad  rose and gave the following speech:

“O Messenger of Allah! Do whatever you have been commanded to do. We are with you. I swear by Allah we will not say to you that which the sons of Israel said to Moses u. They said: “…So you and your Lord go and fight. We will stay sitting here”.(Maida 5:24).

I swear by Allah who sent you as a true prophet that even if you make us walk to Birku’l Gimad[1], as long as we are with you we would withstand even greater difficulty. We are always ready to fight the enemy to the end, on your right, and on your left, and in front of you and behind you[2]. (Bukhari, Megazi 4, Tafsir 5/4; Wakidi, I, 48)

After Mikdad spoke Sa’d bin Muadh  arose:

“O Messenger of Allah! We have believed in you and We have confirmed you. We have born witness that the Qur’an that you brought with you and the sunnah are true. We have promised with certainty that we will listen to your every word and obey you. O Messenger of Allah! Do as you wish! I swear by Allah who sent you as a true prophet that if you were to show us that sea and dive into it, we would dive into it together with you, and none of us would stay behind. And we will not feel displeasure at your bringing us face to face with our enemies tomorrow. To show patience and forbearance during battle and to remain true to loyalty is our trademark. It is hoped that Allah will show you something from us that will brighten your eye. Come o Messenger of Allah, take us towards the bounty of Allah”.

Hearing these words of loyalty and submission, the blessed face of the Messenger of Allah filled up with a smile and he made a prayer asking for goodness:

In that case come and walk with the bounty of Allah. Let it be glad tidings for you, Allah has promised us one of two unspecified groups[3]. By Allah, it is as if I can see now the places where the Quraysh will be defeated on the battlefield…” (Muslim, Jihad, 83; Wakidi, I, 48-49; Ibn-i HIsham, II, 253-254).

How beautifully the words of the Companions registered their love for and obedience of Allah and His Messenger.

***

Anas  narrates the following hadith which presents in the best way the sincerity, genuineness, sensitivity and immediacy of the obedience of the Blessed Companions to Allah and His Messenger:

“I was the cup-bearer at Abu Talha’s house. I used to serve the visitors and fill their glasses with wine. At that time alcohol suddenly became prohibited. Allah’s Messenger commanded a public crier to announce this prohibition to the people. We heard the news while we were still in the house. Abu Talha said to me:

“Go outside and find out what this cry is about”. I went outside and came back, saying:

“It is a public crier crying out: “Beware, beware, alcohol has been prohibited”. He turned to me and said:

“In that case take these and pour out all of this alcohol”.

From that point on, wine poured into the streets of Madina (Bukhari, Tafsir, 5/11)

These Blessed Companions obeyed the command as soon as heard that alcohol had been prohibited. They did not put forth excuses, and they did not say: Let me just finish what is in my hand and then I will leave it”. They did not linger. They were able to pour out all of the alcohol that was in their possession, including what they were drinking at that very instant.

***

A young man from the tribe of Aslam came to the Prophet and said:

“O Messenger of Allah! I wish to join the troops, however I do not have any equipment necessary for battle”.

The Prophet (pbuh) said to him:

Go to such and such person; he had prepared to go to battle but he got sick”. The young man went to that person and said:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sends greetings of peace and says that you are to give what you have prepared for battle to me”. Upon this the man turned to his wife:

“My dear lady! Give everything I had prepared for battle to this young man. Do not leave anything behind. Do not leave anything behind for the right of Allah so that we may be blessed in this”. (Muslim, Imare, 134)

This Companion obeyed the command of the Messenger of Allah with great passion and ardour, and insisted that his wife give everything he had prepared leaving none of it behind. In this way he demonstrated his love, devotion and obedience to the Messenger of Allah and also the great desire and enthusiasm he had for performing good deeds.

***

Ibn-i Omar  relates:

“On the day of Victory when the Prophet (pbuh) entered Mecca, he asked one of the hajibs[4] of the Ka’bah, Othman bin Talha  to bring the key to the Ka’bah.

Othman went to his mother in whose protection was the key. However the woman, who was a pagan, refused to give him the key. Othman said to her:

“By Allah! Either you give me the key or this sword will come out of its sheath”.

The woman handed him the key. Othman brought the key to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). The Prophet opened the door and entered the House of Allah. Usama , Bilal  and Othman  entered together with him. The Prophet (pbuh) stayed in the Ka’bah for a long time before he finally exited. Following him many people raced each other to get inside.

The first person to get inside was Abdullah bin Omar . As soon as he entered he found Bilal  standing behind the door.

“Where did the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) pray? He asked. Bilal pointed to the place where the Prophet prayed. Abdullah later said:

“I forgot to ask how many cycles he prayed”. (Bukhari, 127, Salat 30, 81, 96, Tahajjud 25, Hajj 51, 52, Megazi 77, 48; Muslim, Hajj 389)

In this example we witness the determination of Othman  in obeying the command of the Messenger of Allah, and the praiseworthy meticulousness in following the Prophet by Abdullah bin Omar.

***

The Prophet said:

“Let no one make another person arise from where they are sitting and sit down in his space. Enlarge the circle and make room so that Allah will give you increase”.

 When Abdullah bin Omar  learnt of this command of the Messenger of Allah, he applied it his entire life and if someone happened to rise and give him his spot, he never sat there. (Bukhari, Isti’zan, 32; Muslim, Salam, 29)

***

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“When you are invited somewhere, accept the invitation”.

When Ibn-i Omar  heard this, he made sure to accept all invitations, to weddings or otherwise, even if he were fasting. (Bukhari, Nikah 71, 74; Muslim, Nikah 103).

That is, if he were performing a supererogatory fast he would break it and then make it up later. If his fast was an obligatory or necessary one, he would still attend the invitation without breaking his fast, in order to comply to the command of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).

***

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) one day allocated one of the doors of the Mosque for the ladies. Hearing this, Ibn-i Omar  never again went through that door until the day he died. (Abu Dawud, Salat, 53/571)

***

Tufay, the son of Ubayy bin Ka’b , is considered to be of the Tabi’een[5]. He used to meet with the Companions and benefit from their knowledge. From time to time he would visit Abdullah bin Omar  and go to the market together with him.

Tufayl explains the meticulousness in the obedience of Abdullah to the commands of the Prophet:

“Whenever we went to the market, Abdullah bin Omar would give greetings of peace to everyone he came across. Whether it be someone who was selling used goods or valuable goods, poor or unknown, he would make sure to greet them all. One day I had gone to see him again. He suggested once more that we go to the market together:

“What are you going to do at the markets?” I asked him. “You know nothing about buying and selling. You don’t ask the price of anything you buy. You never buy anything anyway. You don’t sit where all the people sit and talk. Instead of going to the market let’s sit here and talk”.

Hearing this Abdullah  said to me:

“My brother! We are going to the market to give the greeting of salam (peace) of Allah to the people we come across. We have no aim other than this”. (Muwatta, Salam, 6; Bukhari, al-adab’ul Mufrad, s 348)

All of the Blessed Companions showed the utmost sensitivity in obeying the commands of Allah and His Messenger. By spreading peace amongst the people and increasing love, they fostered an exceptional foundation upon which the brotherhood of faith could be lived in the hearts of the believers. The enthusiasm and fervour of Abdullah bin Omar  on this topic attracted much attention due to its exalted nature. The above examples show this in a most evident form.

***

One day the following verse from the Holy Qur’an was revealed: “You who have faith! Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet…” (Hujurat, 49: 2)

When Thabit bin Kays  heard this verse, he sat in his home and wept.

When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) failed to see Thabit for a while, he asked where he was. A person there told him:

“O Messenger of Allah! I know where he is”. He went straight to his house and found him, head hung forth, crying.

“What is wrong? Why are you crying?” he asked.

“(Don’t ask). I have committed much evil. I have raised my voice above the voice of The Messenger of Allah. All my deeds have been in vain. I am destined for the fire”, he answered.

The Companion reported the words of Thabit back to the Prophet. The Prophet said:

“Go and tell him that he is not for the fire but rather he is for Paradise”. (Bukhari, Menakib, 25, Tafsir 49/1; Muslim, Iman 187).

Thabit, who had a naturally loud voice, was devastated and grief-stricken, thinking that he had disobeyed a command of Allah. However, because his loud voice was a part of his nature and because he had a sincere heart, his situation was an exception and the Companion who brought him the news returned to him in joy at giving him the glad tidings of paradise.

The Companion who had gone to learn the condition of Thabit was also a beautiful example of how the Blessed Companions took any and all indications of the Prophet as commands and were ready to sacrifice their all for him.

 ***

The wife of Abdullah bin Rawaha  narrates:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had climbed the pulpit (to give his sermon). At the same time Abdullah  was coming towards the Masjid when he heard the call from afar from the Messenger of Allah to “sit”.  Even though he had not even reached the Mosque, he immediately sat down where he was. When this situation was relayed to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) he said to Abdullah:

May Allah Most High increase the zeal in your obedience for Allah and His Messenger”.

***

Abdullah bin Abbas  narrates:

“Uyayna bin Hisn once came to Madina to visit his nephew Hur bin Kays . Hur bin Kays was one of the members of the advisory committee of Omar . Whether they be young or old, all scholars were included in this advisory committee. For this reason Uyayna said to his nephew, Hur bin Kays:

“My nephew, your standing with the ruler of the government is high. Arrange a meeting for me with him”.

Hur asked permission from Omar . When Uyayna entered the presence of Omar he said to him:

“O son of Khattab! I swear by Allah that you do not give us much and you do not rule with justice amongst us”.

Omar got angry and wanted to punish Uyayna. Hur, who sensed this, immediately interjected:

“O Commander of the believers! Remember what Allah said to the Prophet – “Make allowances for people, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant”. (Araf, 7:199). My uncle is of the ignorant ones”.

I swear by Allah that when Hur read this verse Omar  immediately changed his mind about punishing Uyayna. Omar was ever devoted to the book of Allah. (Bukhari, Tafsir 7/5, I’tisam 2)

When reminded of a command of Allah, Omar immediately took control of his anger. He obeyed within an instant the divine command and abandoned that which he had wished to do himself. In this way he displayed the sensitivity of a perfect believer when it came to obeying Allah’s commands.

***

Hisham bin Hakim , one of the Companions, was once in Palestine. He saw a group of non-Muslim farmers who had been imprisoned for not paying their taxes and who were being punished by having olive oil poured over them and left to wait under the sun. He went straight to the governor and told him that this was a very bad thing to do. Then he narrated to him a hadith that he had heard directly from the Prophet:

“Allah will most definitely inflict pain on those who unrightfully inflict pain on others”.

Upon this the governor immediately let the farmers go free. (Muslim, Birr, 117-119; Abu Dawud, Imare, 32; Ahmad III, 403,404,468).

These blessed people did not hesitate, even for a second, in responding to the prophetic announcements, and carried them out immediately.

***

Abdullah bin Abi Awfa  had pronounced the takbir (Allahu Akbar) at the funeral of his daughter four times. After the fourth takbir, he paused for the time between the two takbirs, and asked that his daughter be forgiven and prayed for her.

Those around him thought that he was then going to make takbir for the fifth time. Then he gave his greetings of salam to the right and the left. After the prayer they asked him:

“What was this that you just did”?. He replied:

“This is what the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to do”. (Hakim, I, 360; Ibn-i Majah, Janaiz, 24).

The reply of Abdullah bin Abi Awfa  is very significant in showing the care that the Blessed Companions showed in taking the Prophet of Allah as a model in everything. Their standard was the sunnah of the Prophet. This is why all of their defences and explanations were in the form of providing proofs from the Qur’an and the sunnah. They organised their life according to the Qur’an and the sunnah. And how much we need, today especially, to apply the sunnah as our standard in everything we do and to benefit from the prosperity of the Qur’an and sunnah so that our proofs and debates can all comply with the divine direction. For the loftiness of our character and personality and the perfection of our Islam is proportional to the degree of our attachment to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

***

One night when it was time for the ‘isha (nightime) prayer, the Prophet (pbuh) said to his Companions:

Gather together for the prayer tomorrow. There is something I want to tell you”. One of the Companions said to his friends:

“O so and so. You memorise the first thing that the Messenger of Allah says, and then you (o so and so) memorise the second thing, and then (o so and so) you memorise the next so that we do not miss any of what the Messenger of Allah has to say”. (Haysami, I, 46).

This care displayed by the Companions in learning and applying the commands of the Blessed Prophet are truly praiseworthy. For it is due to the meticulous efforts of this blessed generation that we have the opportunity today to become closely acquainted with each and every state and action of the Prophet of Allah. May Allah be pleased with them…

***

Abu Burda narrates:

Once Abu Musa al Ash’ari  became ill and fainted whilst his head was resting on the lap of his wife. Upon this his wife let out a scream and began to sob loudly. However Abu Musa was not at that time in a position to stop his wife. When he came to, he said to his wife, in the form of a warning:

“Anything that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was not pleased with and distanced himself from, I am not pleased with and I distance myself from. The Prophet dissociated himself from wailing women who tear their hair out and rip their clothes (out of grief)”. (Bukhari, Janaiz, 37, 38; Muslim, Iman, 167; Nesai, Janaiz, 17)

What great sensitivity in faith to try to obey the commands of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)even when grappling with death.

***

Dihya bin Khalifa  once saw some people acting contrary to the sunnah and he said to them:

“By Allah, I have come face to face with an event which would never have crossed my mind; Certain people have turned away from the sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) and His Companions. O Allah! Please take my life now, that I may be with You”. (Abu Dawud, Sawm, 47/2413).

***

Bishr-i Hafi (q.s) states:

“One night I saw the Messenger of Allah in my dream. He said to me:

“O Bishr! Do you know why Allah has increased your worth?”

“No, I do not, o Messenger of Allah” I said. He continued:

“Because you follow my sunnah, and you serve the righteous. You advise your brothers in religion, and you love my Companions and the members of my family, and this is why Allah has raised you to the level of the righteous ones[6]”.

***

How beautifully does Abdulhalik Gujduvani (q.s) explain true servanthood:

One day he was asked:

“Should we do what the nafs wants us to do, or oppose its demands?”

This saint answered as follows:

“It is very difficult to determine the difference between the two of these. The nafs generally misleads people as to whether these desires are from Allah, or whether they are from Satan. This is why one should only do what Allah commands and refrain from doing what He forbids. This is true servanthood”.

***

The journeyers on the path of truth must make it an undying principle to obey Allah’s commands and to serve and advise their brothers in religion. These are means to eternal happiness and they must be used in the effort to gain Allah’s pleasure. One day a person who was a habitual attendant at the talks of David-i Tai said to Maruf-i Kerhi:

“Make sure that you do not abandon good deeds as they will bring you closer to the pleasure of almighty Allah”. Maruf asked:

“What deeds should I perform?” That person replied:

“Always be in a state of obedience to your Lord; serve the Muslims and counsel them…”

***

In short, obedience is the greatest sign of love. There is a principle that “the one who loves will obey”, and so the believers who love their Lord will always be in a state of obedience to Him. A small act of worship done obediently and submissively is more acceptable in the eyes of Allah than mountains worth of worship done disobediently and unwillingly. This is because servanthood begins with obedience and submission. Satan was cast out of the supreme presence of Allah not because of any deficiency in his worship but rather due to his refusal to obey and submit to the commands of Allah.

The Blessed Companions reached a state of perfection in accordance with the degree of their love for, devotion to and obedience of Allah and His Messenger. By submitting without objection to the divine commands with love and submission, they were able to become model star personalities amongst the entire community.

In his Mathnawi, Jalaluddin Al Rumi illustrates nicely the obedience of even lifeless beings to the divine commands:

“Do you not see? The clouds, the sun, the moon and the stars all move about in an orderly fashion. Each of these innumerable stars rises on time. They are never late, nor do they set before their time is due. How is it that we do not understand these wonders by looking at the miracles of the prophets? They gave intelligence to the rock and the staff. See these and then compare those other lifeless beings with the Staff (of Moses) and compare them with other pieces of rock.

The pieces of stone that obeyed the great Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the obedience of the Staff of Moses to Prophet Moses are an indication of how all other beings that we think are lifeless, in fact bow down to the commands of Allah.

They say through their tongues of disposition: “We know Allah and we obey Him. We are not randomly created things. We each resemble the Red Sea. Even though it was a mere body of water, it was able to recognise the Pharoah that it was about to drown and distinguish him from the sons of Israel…

Wherever it happened to be, a tree or a rock would give greetings of peace to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when they saw him; therefore know that everything which you once thought to be lifeless is in actual fact, full of life”.

That is, it is not just people and the jinn that are in a state of obedience to Allah and His Messenger, it is also all animals and in fact all non-living things. How sad it is that whilst all creatures are rushing to obey Allah, man is drowning in the pits of rebellion. In that case it is necessary to take heed from the obedience of all creatures created by Allah. We must train ourselves and perfect our conduct before the Divine Presence.

[1].     Birku’l Gimad – a place that is five days from Mecca al Mukarrama, near the Red Sea. It is also reported to be the name of a city in Yemen.

[2].     Ibn-i Mas’ud has said: “I was witness to such a certain word of Mikdad bin Aswad that to be the possessor of those words seemed more pleasing to me than all other worthwhile words that could be equal to it”…” (Bukhari, Megazi, 4, Tafsir, 5/4)

[3].     One of the two parties that was promised in the seventh verse of Chapter Al Anfal was the Quraysh themselves, that is them being defeated and taken prisoner, and the other was the large caravan of Quraysh coming from Syria.

[4].     A hajib is a person dedicated to the duty of ‘hijabe’, which involves such important duties like taking care of the Ka’bah, the safekeeping of the key and its door, the opening of its doors at certain times for visitors, the preservation and maintenance of the Station of Abraham, valuable gifts, and the inner and outer covers.

[5].     The Tabi’een are the second generation of Muslims after the Companions. They are those Muslims who saw the Companions, but not the Prophet, during their lifetime (translator’s note)

[6].     Mahir Iz, Tasawwuf, Istanbul 1969, s. 184)