Category Archives: Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī

Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī on Health and Leisure

…Ibn ‘Abbās (رضي الله عنه) said: ‘The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “There are two blessings in which many people are cheated: health and leisure.’”

 Two blessings: a blessing [ni‘ma] is ‘a goodly state’; it is sometimes defined as ‘a benefit conferred upon another out of kindness’.

The word cheating may be vocalised as ghabn or ghaban. According to al-Jawharī, the former refers to cheating in sales, and the latter to cheating in respect of opinions*. On this basis both may be appropriate to this hadith, since the individual who fails to use these two blessings appropriately is cheated, both in that he has sold them at a ridiculously low price, and in that his opinion is not esteemed in consequence. According to Ibn Baṭṭāl, the meaning of the hadith is that a person cannot be leisured until he is financially secure and sound of body; hence whoever experiences this should be careful not to be cheated by abandoning the thanks due to Allah for His blessings, one aspect of such thanks taking the form of obeying His commands and prohibitions. Whoever is lackadaisical in this is ‘cheated’.

Many people: an indication that only a few are granted success in this. Ibn al-Jawzī remarks that a person may be healthy but not leisured because of his preoccupation with earning a living; conversely, he might be financially independent but in ill health; so when both come together, and he is overwhelmed by sloth and hence abandons good acts, he is said to be ‘cheated’. The upshot of this is that ‘this world is the sowing-ground of the next’**, and the place where one trades for the sake of profit in the Afterlife. Hence whoever uses his leisure and health in the obedience of Allah is to be envied [maghbūṭ], while whoever uses them in disobedience is cheated [maghbūn], since in due course his leisure must be succeeded by work, and his health by sickness or decrepitude.

Al-Ṭībī says: ‘The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) coined the parable of a merchant possessed of capital, which he aims to preserve intact while making a profit. The way he may accomplish this is by taking every precaution in selecting the people with whom he deals, and by being honest and intelligent so as not to be cheated. Now, health and leisure are one’s capital, and one should deal with Allah by maintaining faith, and strugging against the ego [nafs] and against the enemies of the religion, so that one may gain the profit of this world and the next. This is akin to His statement (Glorious is He!): Shall I point you to a trade which shall save you from a painful punishment? [61:10] Consequently he must avoid obeying the nafs and responding to Satan, lest he lose his capital as well as his profit. His saying in which many people are cheated resembles His saying: And scarce among My slaves are the thankful: [34:13] the “scarce” in this Qur’anic text is the reciprocal of the “many” in the hadith.’

Al-Qāḍī Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabī states: ‘There are different views as to which is the first blessing which may come upon a slave of God. Some say that it is faith, others that it is life, while still others hold it to be health. But the first of these is the preferable understanding, since it represents an unconditional blessing; while life and health are worldly blessings and are not real blessings at all unless accompanied by faith. In their absence, ‘many people are cheated’, that is to say, they lose all or part of their profit. Whoever goes along with his Soul that Commands Evil [al-nafs al-ammāra bi’l-sū], which eternally summons us to take our ease, and abandons any respect for the divinely-appointed boundaries and of consistent acts of obedience, has been cheated. Likewise if he is at leisure, for work might have served as an excuse for him.’

*That is, ghaban means stupidity

**A popular proverb, not a hadith

[Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fat al-Bārī Sharḥ aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), English Translation: Selections from the Fat al-Bārī (Commentary on aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī) by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Academic Trust, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 5-6]

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Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī on the Final Hour

…The man said: “Messenger of Allah! When is the Final Hour?” The Prophet replied [صلى الله عليه وسلم]: “The one who is questioned about it is no more informed at all than the questioner. However, I shall tell you about its preconditions (ashrāṭihā). When the slave girl gives birth to her master – that is one of its preconditions. And when the naked and barefoot are the top leaders of the people – that is one of its preconditions. And when the shepherds compete in building tall structures – that is one of its preconditions. [It is] among five things none knows but Allah.” [aḥīḥ Muslim]

 

“are the top leaders of the people” This means the kings of the earth as explicitly stated in al-Isma‘īlī’s and Abū Farwa’s narrations. Those meant are the people of the desert, as explicitly stated in Sulayman al-Taymī’s and other narrations: “Who are the barefoot and naked?” He replied: “The little Arabs (al-‘urayb).”

Al-Ṭabaranī narrates through Abū Hamza, from Ibn Abbās, from the Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم]: Part of the overthrow (inqilāb) of the Religion is the affectation of eloquence by the boors (al-naba) and their betaking to palaces in big cities.” Al-Qurṭubī said: “What is meant here is the prediction of a reversal in society whereby the people of the desert will take over and hold sway over every region by force. They will become very rich and their primary concern will be to erect tall buildings and take pride in them. We have witnessed this in our time.” Of identical import are the ḥadīths “The Hour will not rise until the happiest man in the world will be the depraved son of a depraved father (luka‘ ibn luka‘)” and “If leadership is entrusted to those unfit for it, expect the Hour,” both of them in the aḥīḥ.

[Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fat al-Bārī Sharḥ aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī). English translation of excerpts in Sunna Notes Volume 3, Studies in adīth and Doctrine: The Binding Proof of the Sunna by Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, AQSA Publications, UK, 2010, pp. 159-160, 196]

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Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī on Obligatory and Optional Acts

“…My slave draws near to Me with nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him. And My slave continues to draw nearer to Me with optional acts of devotion [nawāfil] until I love him…” [Bukhārī]

My slave draws near to Me with nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him. From this we learn that the discharge of obligatory acts [farā’iḍ] is the most beloved of acts in the sight of Allah.

Al-Ṭūfī said: ‘The command to observe the farāiḍ is absolute, and punishment results from abandoning them, in contrast to nāfila actions. However if nāfila acts accompany the farā’i, then the farā’i are more perfect. This is why they are more beloved to Allah, and more effective in bringing one closer to Him. Moreover, the far action is like a root and a foundation, while the nāfila act is like a branch or a building. When one performs the obligations in the required way, and obeys the commandments and respects the Commander, and magnifies Him through obedience, and manifesting the majesty of Lordship and the baseness of slavehood, then using this to draw close is the greatest of actions. Someone who carries out the far may be doing so out of fear of punishment, while the person who practices the nawāfil is doing so only because of his preference for service. Hence he is rewarded with love, which is the greatest aspiration of the person who seeks Divine proximity though his acts of service.’

 

And My slave continues to draw nearer to Me with optional acts of devotion [nawāfil] until I love him. There appears to be a problem in reconciling this to the previous statement. Given that the farā’i are the most beloved of works to Allah, how can they themselves not bring His love? The answer is that what is meant by nawāfil is that totality of practices which includes the farā’i, and perfects them. Moreover, it is customarily the case that ‘drawing near’ takes place with something other than that which is obligatory for the one who seeks proximity, such as a gift, in contrast to, for instance, taxation, or the repayment of a debt. Further, one of the reasons for existence of nawāfil is to compensate for inadequately discharged farāiḍ, as in the sound hadith narrated by Muslim which runs: ‘Look, and see if My slave has some supererogatory act by which his farīḍa may be made complete.’ This makes it clear that ‘drawing close with optional acts of devotion’ takes place for those who have performed what is obligatory, not for those who fail to do so. One of the great ones has remarked that ‘whoever is too busy with his obligations to do what is optional has an excuse; while he who is too busy with what is optional to do what is obligatory is beguiled and led astray.’

[Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fat al-Bārī Sharḥ aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), English Translation: Selections from the Fat al-Bārī (Commentary on aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī) by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Academic Trust, Cambridge, 2000, pp.18-19]

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Imām Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī on the Reality of the Dunyā

Know that in their forgetfulness the people of dunyā are like a group of people sailing upon a ship. When they come to an island, and disembark to relieve themselves, the captain warns them against returning late, and instructs them to remain only so long as is necessary, lest he raise anchor and set sail without them. Heeding this, some of them hurry back quickly, and hence find themselves able to sit in the best and most spacious part of the ship. The others, however, behave in different ways. Some become entranced by gazing at the island’s flowers and rippling streams, and its gems and precious metals, and then suddenly come to, and hasten back to the ship, and although they find spaces which are inferior to those occupied by those who preceded them, they are still safe. Others are so preoccupied by the flowers that they cannot bring themselves to leave them, although the flowers fade and dry soon enough. When the wind gets up, they are forced to throw their dry flowers overboard, and escape just with their own lives. Others, however, have penetrated the jungles and forgotten the captain’s advice, so that when they hear his final call to depart, they rush back only to find that the ship has sailed without them, and they remain marooned with what they had collected, until they perish. Still others are so obsessed with gathering good things that they are deaf even to the captain’s cry. Of these, some are eaten by wild beasts, or are poisoned by snakes, while others wander aimlessly until they die of hunger. This class resembles the people who live for the world, who are preoccupied with its mortal pleasures, and live in heedlessness of their future. How repulsive is the man who claims to be intelligent and full of insight, and yet is deluded by gems, silver and gold, and by flowers and fruits, nothing of which will accompany him to his destination!

[Imām Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, quoted by Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī in فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fat al-Bārī Sharḥ aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), English Translation: Selections from the Fat al-Bārī (Commentary on aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī) by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Academic Trust, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 6-7]

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Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī on Hope with Fear

Looking in hope should not cut one off from fear, and vice versa, lest the former lead one into a Divine ruse, and the latter into despair. ‘Hope’ [rajā] means that someone guilty of a shortcoming should have a good opinion of what Allah will do, and hope that He will erase his sin; likewise in the case of someone who has carried out an obedient act which he hopes will be accepted. A man who, without sorrowing or ceasing, plunges into disobedience hoping not to be taken to task, is deceived.

 

Admirable is the saying of Abū ‘Uthmān al-Ḥīrī: ‘It is a sign of felicity that you should obey God, and fear that your action will not be accepted; and it is a sign of damnation that you should rebel against Him and hope to be saved.’

 

It is said that fear is the preferable state for a person who is healthy, and that hope is preferable for someone who is sick. Some say that on one’s deathbed one should limit oneself to hope alone, since this entails absolute neediness of Allah, as in the hadith which runs: ‘Let none of you die without harbouring a good opinon of Allah.’ But others say that fear is never completely to be renounced, since no-one should be entirely convinced that he is safe. This is supported by the hadith which al-Tirmidhī narrates on the authority of Anas, that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) once came in upon a young man who was dying, and asked: ‘How are you’, to which the man replied: ‘My hope is in Allah, and my fear is for my sins.’ Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: ‘These two things never conjoin in the heart of a slave of Allah in this condition without Allah giving him what he hopes for, and saving him from what he fears.’

[Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fat al-Bārī Sharḥ aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), English Translation: Selections from the Fat al-Bārī (Commentary on aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī) by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Academic Trust, Cambridge, 2000, p. 15]

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Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī on Kindness to Women

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

“Be kind to women, for they were created from a rib, and the most crooked part of the rib is the top. If you try to straighten it, you will break it, and if you leave it alone, it will stay crooked. So be kind to women.” [Bukhārī on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه)]

Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī comments:

“The words ‘treat women kindly’ indicate that you shoud try to put them right gently, because if you go to extremes in trying to straighten them you will break them, and if you leave them they will remain crooked… What we learn from this is that we should not leave them crooked if they go beyond the natural expected shortcomings  and commit sins or neglect duties. What is meant is that we can leave them crooked with regard to permissible matters. We also learn from the hadith that a gentle approach wins people over and opens their hearts. It also tells us to deal with women by being easy going with them, and to bear their crookedness with patience. Whoever insists on putting them right will not benefit from them, and as a man cannot do without a woman to enjoy the pleasure of living with her and to be his support in life, it is as if he said, ‘you cannot enjoy her company unless you put up with her.’”

[Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fat al-Bārī Sharḥ aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), 9/954]

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