A person’s craving after status is even more destructive than his craving after wealth. Seeking after worldly status, position, leadership and domination causes more harm to a person that his seeking after wealth – it is more damaging and harder to avoid since even wealth is expended in seeking after leadership and status. Craving after status is of two types.
The first is seeking status through authority, leadership, and wealth and this is very dangerous – since it will usually prevent a person from the good of the Hereafter and nobility and honour in the next life, Allah, the Most High says:
“That home of the Hereafter We shall assign to those who seek neither haughtiness nor any corruption on earth. The good end is for the pious.” Al-Qasas (28):83
So it is rare that a person seeks after position in this world by seeking authority and is guided to and granted what is good for him. Rather he is entrusted to his own self, just as the Prophet (pbuh) said to Abdur-Rahman ibn Samurah, (ra), “O Abdur-Rahman! Do not ask for authority since if you are given it due to requesting it then you are abandoned to it, but if you are given it without requesting it then you will be aided in it.”
One of the Salaf said, “ No one seeks after authority and then behaves justly in it.” Yazid ibn Abdullah ibn Mawhib was a just judge and one of the righteous people and he used to say, “Whoever loves wealth and status and fears adversity will not behave with justice.” There occurs in Sahih al-Bukhari from Abu Hurairah, (ra), from the Prophet (pbuh) that he said, “You will be keen to attain authority and it will be a source of regret on the Day of Resurrection. So what an excellent wet-nurse it is and what an evil weaner.”
(Al-Bukhari) also reports from Abu Moosa al-Asharee, (ra), that two men said to the Prophet (pbuh), ‘O Messenger of Allah! Appoint us to some position of authority.’ So he said, ‘We do not appoint to authority in this affair of ours one who requests it, nor one who is keen to have it.”
Know that craving after status and position inevitably causes great harm before its attainment due to the striving necessary to attain it, and also afterwards due to the person’s strong desire to hold onto it which produces injustice, haughtiness and other evils.
Abu Bakr al-Ajurree, who was one of the wise scholars and teachers at the start of the fourth century, wrote at treatise about the manners and the sentiments of the scholars and it is one of the best works on this topic. One who studies it will know from it the way of the scholars of the Salaf, and will know the innovated ways contrary to their way. So he describes the evil scholar at length, from this description is that: ‘He has become infatuated with love of this world, and with praise, honour and position with the people of this world. He uses knowledge as an adornment just as a beautiful woman adorns herself with jewellery for this world, but he does not adorn his knowledge with action upon it.” He then mentions a lengthy speech and then says, “So these characteristics and their like predominate in the heart of one who does not benefit from knowledge, so whilst he carries these attributes his soul will come to have love of status and position – so that he loves to sit with kings and the sons of this world. The he loves to share in their opulent lifestyle, sharing their lavish attire, their comfortable transport, servants, fine clothing, delicate bedding and delicious food. He will love that people throng to his door, that his saying is listened to, and that he is obeyed – and he can only attain the latter by becoming a judge (qadi) – so he seeks to become one. Then he is unable to attain it except at the expense of his Religion, so he debases himself to the rulers and their helpers, serving them himself and giving them his wealth as a tribute. He remains silent when he sees their evil actions after entering their palaces and homes. Then on top of this he may praise their evil actions and declare them good due to some false interpretation in order to raise his position with them. So when he has accustomed himself to doing this over a long period of time and falsehood has taken root in him – then they appoint him to the position of judge (qadi) and in so doing slaughter him without a knife.”
Then they have bestowed such a favour upon him that he is obliged and has to show his gratitude to them – so he takes great pains to make sure that he does not anger them and cause them to remove him from his position. But he has no concern about whether he angers his Lord, the Most High, so he misappropriates the wealth of orphans, widows, the poor and the needy, and wealth be quested as waf (religious endowment) for those fighting Jihad and the nobles of Makkah and al-Madeenah, and wealth which is supposed to be of benefit to all the Muslims – but instead he uses it to satisfy his clerk, chamberlain and servant. So he eats that which is haram and feeds with that which is haram and increases that which is a proof against him. So woe to the one whose knowledge which the Prophet (pbuh) sought refuge from and ordered us to seek refuge from. This is the knowledge which the Prophet (pbuh) mentioned, saying, “Those amongst the people receiving the severest punishment on the Day of Resurrection is the scholar who is not given benefit through his knowledge by Allah.” He (pbuh) used to say,
(Allahumma innee a’oodhubika minal arba’i, min ilmin la yanfau, wa min qalbin la yakhshau, wa min nafsin la tashbau, wa min dua in la yusmau) “O Allah I seek Your refuge from knowledge which does not benefit; from a heart which does not fear; from a soul which is never satisfied; and from a supplication which is not heard.”
And he (pbuh) used to say:
(Allahumma inne asaluka ilman nafian, wa aoodhubika min ilman la yanfau) “O Allah I ask You for beneficial knowledge, and I seek Your refuge from knowledge which does not benefit.”
This was said by Imam Abu Bakr al-Ajuree, rahimahullahu taala who lived at the end of the fourth century and corruption increased and multiplied greatly since his time – and there is no might and no strength except by Allah’s will.
From the subtle afflictions caused by love of status is seeking after and aspiring positions of authority – this is something whose reality is hidden and obscure. It is not understood except by those who have knowledge of Allah, those who love Him and who are at enmity with those ignorant one’s from His creation who desire to compete with Him with regard to His Lordship and Divinity and right to worship, despite their despicability and the contemptible position they have before Allah and in the eyes of His chosen servants who have knowledge of Him. It is just as al-Hasan (al-Basri), rahimahullah, said about them, “Even if the hooves of mules clatter for them and riding beasts strut for them, yet still the humiliation of sin rests upon their necks. Allah has refused except that He will humiliate those who are disobedient to Him.” Know that love of status attained by having one’s orders and prohibitions obeyed and enacted, and by merely the attainment of a position above the people and to have importance over them, and that it be seen that the people are in need of him and seek their needs from him – then the soul of this person is seeking to compete with Allah in His Lordship and His Divinity and right to worship. Some such people may even seek to put the people into such a condition of need that they are compelled to request their needs from them, and to display their poverty before them and their need of them. Then he is inflated with pride and self-importance because of that, whereas this befits none except Allah alone. He who has no partner. Allah, the Most High, Says,
“Verily, We sent (Messengers) to many nations before you (O Muhammad (pbuh)). And We seized them with extreme poverty (or loss in wealth) and loss in health with calamities so that they might believe with humility.” Al-Anam (6):42
It also occurs in some narrations that Allah, the Most High, sends adversity upon His servant in order to hear him call upon him with full humility. There also occurs in the narrations that when the servant whom Allah loves supplicates to Allah, the Most High, then He, the Most High, says, “O Jibreel! Do not hasten to carry out his need, for I love that I should hear him calling with full humility.” So these matters are worse and more dangerous than mere injustice and are more sinister, and they are a part of shirk – and shirk is the greatest injustice and transgression with Allah. It is reported in the Sahih from the Prophet (pbuh) that he said, “Allah, the Most High, says, ‘Pride is my cloak and majesty is my lower-garment so whoever vies with Me regarding them I will punish him.’”
It also happened that one of the people of the past was a judge and he saw in a dream that someone was saying to him, “You are a judge and Allah is a Judge.” So he awoke in a distressed state and removed himself from the position of a judge and abandoned it.
Some of the pious judges used to prevent the people from calling them ‘Judge of judges’ (Qadiyyul-Qudat) since this name resembles the name ‘King of kings’ which the Prophet (pbuh) censured that one should use as a title, and ‘Judge of judges’ is like that.
Also related to this is the one having status and authority loves that he is praised and commended for his actions and seeks that from the people. Those who do not comply with this suffer as a result. It may even be that his actions are actually more deserving of blame than of praise, or he manifests something that is apparently good - and loves to be praised for it, yet in reality he is intending something evil and is happy that he is able to deceive the people and fool them about it. This falls under the saying of Allah, the Most High:
“Think not that those who rejoice in what they have done (or brought about), and love to be praised for what they have not done, think not that they are rescued from the torment, and for them is a painful torment.” Al-‘Imran (3):188
Since this Ayah was sent down regarding those who have these attributes, and this attribute (i.e. seeking praise from the creation and loving it and punishing those who do not give it) is not fitting except for Allah, alone, having no partner. This is why the rightly guided leaders used to forbid people to praise them for their actions and any good which if they did, and they would order that rather praise be given to Allah alone, having no partner – since all blessings are from Him.
Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, rahimahullah, was very particular about this and he once wrote a letter to be read out to the people performing Hajj. It contained an order that they should be treated well and that oppression of them should stop, and in it there occurred, “And do not praise anyone for this except Allah, since if He abandoned me to my own devices I would be just like the others.”
There is a also a well-known narration about what occurred with him concerning the woman who requested from him that he should provide an allowance for her orphaned daughters. She had four daughters and he gave an allowance to two of them and she praised Allah. Then he gave an allowance to the third so she thanked him, so he said, “We were giving an allowance to them as long as you were giving praise to the One to whom it is due, but now order this third one to share her allowance with the fourth,” or as he said, (ra). He wanted to make it known that the position of leadership is only established so that Allah’s commands are carried out, and so that the servants can be commanded to obey Allah, the Most High, and forbidden from those things which Allah has prohibited, and so that the leader acts with sincerity towards Allah’s servants by calling them to Allah. His intention is that the Deen should in its entirety be for Allah, and that honour be for Allah. Along with this he is fearful that he is himself falling short with regard to the rights of Allah, the Most High.
So as for those who love Allah, then the limit of their desire with regard to the creation is that they should also love Allah, obey Him and single Him out with all worship and recognise His Divinity alone. (Then how about one who seeks to vie with Him in this?!) Rather this type of person does not desire any reward or any thanks from the creation, but hopes for reward for his actions from Allah, the Most High:
“It is not (possible) for any human being to whom Allah has given al-Hukma (knowledge and understanding of the laws of Religion etc.) and Prophethood to say to the people: “Be my worshippers rather than Allah’s.’ On the contrary (he would say): ‘Be you rabbaniyyoon (learned men of Religion, who practice what they know and also preach to others) because you teach the Book, and you study it.’ Nor would he order you to take angels and Prophets for lords (gods). Would he order you to disbelieve after you have submitted to Allah’s Will?” Al-Imran (3):79-80
He (pbuh) said, “Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the Messiah, the son of Maryam. Indeed I am only a slave. So say the slave of Allah and His Messenger.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) also used to criticise anyone who did not keep to this manner of address with regard to him, just as he (pbuh) said, “Do not say, ‘Whatever Allah has willed and Muhammad has willed, but rather say, ‘Whatever Allah has willed, then what Muhammad has willed.’”
He also replied to a person who said, “Whatever Allah and yourself have willed,” by saying, “Have you made me a rival for Allah! Rather say, ‘Whatever Allah alone has willed.’”
Due to this khulafa who have succeeded the Prophets, and their followers – the just rulers and their successors, and their judges, never used to call to glorification of themselves but rather to the glorification of Allah alone and that He is to be singled out with worship and divinity. From them were those who did not wish for leadership at all except as an aid to calling to Allah alone. Some of the righteous people who accepted the position of judge said, “Indeed I accepted this in order to use it to help me in ordering the good and forbidding the evil.”
Indeed the Messengers and their followers would persevere in the face of injury and harm which they suffered whilst calling to Allah, and in carrying out Allah’s commands they were put into the severest hardship by the people and yet they bore it with patience. Indeed being pleased with that, since one who has love may find pleasure in any harm he meets whilst seeking to please the one whom he loves. Just as Abdul-Malik ibn Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz used to say to his father when he was the khaleefah and he had keen desire that the truth and justice be established, “O father I would have loved that we had been forced into boiling cooking pots for the sake of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic.”
Another righteous person said, “I would have loved that my flesh were cut away with scissors if it meant that all the creation would obey Allah, the Mighty and Majestic.” This saying of his was related to a certain wise person, so he said, “If what he was speaking of was sincere concern for the creation, otherwise I do not know.” Then he fainted. The meaning of this is that the one who said this had true and sincere concern
for the creation and pity for them, fearing Allah’s punishment for them, so he would have loved that they could have been saved from Allah’s punishment at the expense of his ownself. It could also be that he was considering the Majesty and Greatness of Allah and the glorification, honour, obedience and love due to Him, so he wished that the creation would fulfil that even if it meant the most severe harm to himself. This is the state of mind of the distinguished ones who love Allah and have knowledge of Him and keep Him in mind. This is what caused the man to faint.
Allah, the Most High, also described in His Book those who love Him as being those who fight Jihad in His cause and do not fear the blame of those who seek to blame.
Concerning this someone said:
“I find that being blamed whilst pursuing what you desire is delightful, For having love for your remembrance let those who wish to blame me do so.”
The second type of seeking status and position over the people is through matters of the Deen such as knowledge, action and zuhd (shunning this world and its delights). This is more wicked than the first type, more disgraceful, more corrupt and more dangerous. This is because knowledge, action and shunning of this world are for seeking the high ranks and never-ending bliss that are with Allah, and to seek nearness to Allah.
Ath-Thawree said, “The excellence of knowledge is due only to the fact that it causes a person to fear and obey Allah, otherwise it is just like anything else.” So if a person seeks through any of this some worldly end, then this is also of two types:
The first type is he who seeks wealth through it – then this is a part of craving after wealth and seeking it through forbidden means. Concerning this there is the hadith from the Prophet (pbuh), “Whoever seeks knowledge from that by which Allah’s Face is sought but does not learn it except for some worldy goal, then he will not smell the fragrance of Paradise on the Day of Resurrection.” It is reported by Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban in his Sahih from the hadith of Abu Hurairah from the Prophet (pbuh).
The reason for this, and Allah knows best, is that in this world there is a foretaste of Paradise and it is knowledge of Allah, love of Him, being happy with Him, longing to meet Him, fearing Him and obeying Him. The way to this is shown by beneficial knowledge and he whose knowledge leads him to experience this foretaste of Paradise in this world will enter Paradise in the Hereafter, and he who does not smell its fragrance will not smell the fragrance of Paradise in the Hereafter.
Therefore the one who receives the severest punishment in the Hereafter is the scholar to whom Allah does not grant the benefit of his knowledge. He is one of those people who will suffer the most severe regret on the Day of Resurrection since he had what was required to take him to the highest levels and most elevated stations [in Paradise] yet he used it only to attain the most lowly, inferior and contemptible ends. So he is like a man who had valuable and expensive pearls and sold them for a piece of animal dung, or something filthy and of no use. This is the condition of one who seeks this world with his knowledge, rather he is worse. Worse still is one who seeks by it outwardly displaying that he is one who abstains from this world – this is a very despicable deception.
Sulayman ad-Daranee used to criticize a person who wore a simple course cloak if he had some worldly desire in his heart greater than the value of the cloak. What he was indicating was that manifesting one’s aversion to this world by wearing clothes showing connection to the Religion only befits one whose heart is empty of any attachment to it – such that his heart has no greater attachment to it than the value of the clothes he is seen to be wearing, so that he is the same outwardly and inwardly with regard to his disassociation from this world.
How well a certain wise person spoke when asked about the (true) Sufi, so he replied,
“He who wears the woollen clothes on top of purity and sincerity, whilst following the way of the Chosen Messenger: Who tastes delight despite experiencing harshness, And the world is thrown behind his neck.”
The second type is he who through his knowledge, action and shunning of this world seeks: leadership of the people and a position of honour above them and that the creation should comply and submit to him and turn their faces to him. He seeks that it should become manifest to the people that he has the greater knowledge than the scholars so that he can attain a status greater then theirs and so on. The appointed place for a person like this is the Hell-Fire. This is because intending to arrogantly raise oneself above the creation is itself something forbidden, then if one seeks it through the means of attaining the Hereafter then this is worse and more despicable than attempting it through use of worldly means such as wealth and leadership.
There occurs in the Sunan a narration from the Prophet (pbuh), “Who ever seeks knowledge in order to argue with the ignorant and to argue with the scholars, or to turn the people’s faces towards him, then Allah will enter him into the Fire.” It is reported by Imam Ahmad and at-Tirmidhi from the hadith of Ka’b ibn Malik. Ibn Majah reports it from the hadith of Ibn Umar, (ra), and Hudhayfah, (ra), and the wording is, “….then he is in the fire.”
Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban in his Sahih report the hadith of Jabir, (ra), from the Prophet (pbuh) who said, “Do not seek knowledge in order to compete with the scholars, nor to argue with the ignorant, nor to gain ascendancy in the assemblies. So whoever does that, then the Fire, the Fire!”
Ibn Adiyy reports it like from the hadith of Abu Hurairah, (ra), from the Prophet (pbuh), and he added, “…Rather learn it for the Face of Allah and the Hereafter.” Also from Ibn Masood, (ra)ma, who said,
“Do not learn knowledge for three: To argue with it with the ignorant, nor to contend with the scholars through it, nor to turn the people’s faces towards yourselves. Rather seek by your saying and action that which is with Allah – since it will remain and everything else will perish.”
It is also established in Sahih Muslim from Abu Hurairah, (ra), from the Prophet (pbuh) who said, “The first of the creation for whom the Fire will be kindled on the Day of Resurrection are three.. from them is the scholar who recited the Qur’an in order for it be said that he is a recitor, and he learned knowledge in order for it to be said that he is a scholar, and it will be said to him, “That was said,” then the order will be given regarding him and he will be dragged upon his face and flung into the Fire.” He mentioned the same regarding the one who gives charity in order for it to be said that he is generous, and the one who fights Jihad in order for it to be said that he is a brave person.
Also from Alee, (ra), who said, “O bearers of knowledge! Act upon it since the scholar is the one who acts upon what he knows, so that his actions conform to his knowledge. For there will come a people who carry knowledge but it does not penetrate beyond their throats. Their knowledge will be contrary to their actions, and what they hide will be contrary to what they manifest. They will sit in circles and vie with one another to the point that a man will become angry with one who sits with him if he sits with someone else and abandons him. Their actions in those assemblies of theirs will not be raised up to Allah, the Mighty and Majestic.”
Al-Hasan [al-Basri] said, “Do not let the share of knowledge that one of you possesses be merely that the people say that he is a scholar.” It also occurs in some reports that Isa, alaihis-salam, said, “How can a person be from the people of knowledge if he only seeks knowledge in order to be able to narrate it, and does not seek it in order to act upon it.” One of the Salaf said, “It has reached us that he who seeks ahaheeth merely in order to narrate them will not find the fragrance of Paradise,” meaning he whose only intention in seeking them is to be able to narrate them, and not to act upon them.
This is similar to the hatred of the Salafus-Salih (the Pious Predecessors) that a person should put himself forward to give religious verdicts (fatawa) and to crave them, and to hasten to it, and to do it to excess. Ibn Laheeah reports from Ubaydullah ibn Abi
Jafar in mursal form from the Prophet (pbuh) that he said, “He who is boldest from you in giving religious verdicts, will be the boldest in proceeding to the Fire.” Alqamah said, “They used to say, ‘The boldest of you in giving religious verdicts is the one having the least knowledge.”
Al-Bara said, “I met a hundred and twenty of the Ansar from the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) and when one of them was asked about a matter there was not a single man amongst them except that he wished that his brother would suffice him (by answering).”34 In a narration there occurs the addition, “…so this one would refer it to another, and he would refer it to someone else until it would eventually return to the first one.” From Ibn Mas’ood, (ra), who said, “The one who gives a religious verdict to the people about everything that he is asked is indeed insane.”
Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz was asked about a question and replied, “I am not one who is bold about giving religious verdicts.” He also wrote to one of his governors, “By Allah I am not one who craves after giving religious verdicts, as long as I can find a way to avoid it.”
Ibn Yameenah said, “This affair is not for those who love that the people should have need of them, rather this affair is only for those who love that someone can be found to take their place.” It also reported from him that he said the most knowledgeable of people concerning religious verdicts is the one who is most often silent, and the most ignorant of people about them is the one who speaks the most with regard to them.”
Sufyan ath-Thawree said, “We reached the scholars and they used to hate answering questions and giving religious verdicts until they could find no way out except to give a verdict, but if they were relived of having to do so then that was more beloved to them.”
Imam Ahmad said, “He who puts himself forward to give religious verdicts has put himself forward to something very serious, unless he is forced into it through necessity.” It was said to him, “Then which is better: for him to speak or to remain silent?” He said, “It is more beloved to us that he should withhold.” It was said, “But if there is a necessity?” So he started saying “Necessity! Necessity!” And he said, “It is safer for him to withhold.”
So those who give religious verdicts should realise that they are transmitting Allah’s orders and prohibitions and that he will be made to stand to account and be questioned about it. Ar-Rabi ibn Khaitham said, “O givers of religious verdicts! Look and see how you are giving verdicts.” Amr ibn Deenar said to Qatadah when he sat to give religious verdicts, “Do you realise the affair that you have fallen into? You have come between Allah and His worshippers and say, ‘This is correct and this is not correct.’” From Ibnul-Munkadir who said, “The scholar enters between Allah and His creation, so let him look and see how he enters between them.”
When Ibn Sirreen was asked about anything pertaining to the permissible and the forbidden his colour would change and he would alter so that he would not seem to be the same person. When an-Nakha’ee was asked something then hatred would be seen upon his face and he would say, “Could you not find someone else to ask other than me?” He also said, “I spoke and if I had found any way out I would not have spoken and indeed a time when I am the scholar of Kufah is an evil time.”
It is related that Ibn Umar (ra) said, “You ask us for religious verdicts in such a manner that is as if we are people who are not going to be questioned about the verdicts that we give you.” Also from Muhammad ibn Wasi’ who said, “The first of those who will be called to account are the scholars. It is reported about Malik, (ra), that when he was asked about a matter it was as if he were standing between Paradise and the Hell-Fire.
One of the scholars also said to a person who used to give religious verdicts. “When you are asked about a matter then do not let your concern be to release and find a way out for the questioner, but rather to release and save your own self.”43 Another said, “If you are asked about a matter then consider - if you find a way out of it then speak, otherwise remain silent.” The sayings of the Salaf about this are too many to quote and gather.
Also relating to this is the hatred of entering upon and coming near to the sovereigns, this is the means used by the worldly status and position. Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawood, at-Tirmidhi and an-Nasa’ee report from the hadith of Ibn Abbas, (ra), from the Prophet (pbuh) who said, “He who settles in the desert becomes coarse/hardhearted, and he who pursues the game will become negligent, and he who visits kings will be put to trial.”
Ahmad and Abu Dawood report its like from the hadith of Abu Hurairah, (ra), from the Prophet (pbuh) and there occurs in this hadith, “… And no one increases in nearness to the king except that he becomes further from Allah.”
Ibn Majah also reports from the hadith of Ibn Abbas, (ra)ma, from the Prophet (pbuh) who said, “Indeed some people from my Ummah will boast religious knowledge and will recite the Qur’an and will say, ‘We will enter upon the rulers and attain a share of their worldly riches, but will remain separate from them with our religion. But that will not be the case just as nothing will be harvested from the tragacanth (al-Qatad) except thorns. Likewise nothing will be gained from nearness to them except sins.”
It is also reported by at-Tabaranee and his wording is, “Indeed some people from my Ummah will recite the Quran and delve into the Religion. Shaitan will come to them and say, ‘If only you would enter upon the rulers and benefit from their worldly riches and remain separate from them with your Religion.’ Indeed that will not be the case, just as nothing will be harvested from the tragacanth except thorns. Likewise nothing will be gained from nearness to them except sins.” Also at-Tirmidhi reports from the hadith of Abu Hurairah, (ra), from the Prophet (pbuh) that he said, “Seek Allah’s refuge from the pit of grief.” They said: ‘And what is the pit of grief? ‘He said: “A valley in Hell from which Hell (itself) seeks refuge a hundred times a day.” It was said: “who will enter it O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “Those reciters who do their actions for show.”48 Ibn Majah reports its like and adds: “…And from the most hated of reciters of Allah are those who visit the tyrant rulers.” Its like is also reported from the hadith of Alee, (ra), from the Prophet (pbuh).
One of the greatest things that is to be feared for one who enters upon the oppressive rulers is that he will agree with their falsehood and help them to commit oppression seven if it is only by remaining silent and failing to forbid them. So if he enters upon them seeking and aspiring to status and authority, then he will not forbid them, rather he is liable to declare some of their evil actions to be good in order that he may be raised in their eyes so that they help him to attain his goal.
Imam Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa’ee and Ibn Hibban in his Sahih report from the hadith of Ka’b ibn Urjah, (ra), from the Prophet (pbuh) who said, “There will be after me rulers, so he who enters upon them and agrees with them in their falsehood and helps them in their wrongdoing – then he has no connection with me and I have no connection with him, and he will not come to me at the Pond (Hawd.) However he who does not enter upon them, and does not help them in their wrongdoing, and does not agree with them in their falsehood – then he is from me, and I am from him, and he will come to me at the Pond (Hawd).”
Imam Ahmad reports the meaning of this hadith from the hadith of Hudhayfah, (ra), and Ibn Umar, (ra)ma, and Khabbab ibn al-Aratt, and Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree and an-Numan ibn Basheer, (ra).
Also many of the Salaf used to forbid entering upon the rulers even for those who wanted to enjoin the good and forbid the evil. From those who forbade this were Umar ibn Abdul-Azeez, Ibnul-Mubarak, ath-Thawree and other scholars. Ibnul-Mubarak said, “In our view the one who orders and forbids them is not the one who enters upon them and orders and forbids them. Rather the one who orders and forbids them is the one who keeps away from them.” The reason for this is the corruption that is to be feared may be caused through entering upon them. This is because a person may deceive himself whilst he is at a distance from them into thinking that he will order and forbid them and behave firmly with them. However when he sees them face to face his soul inclines towards them since love of status is concealed in his soul – therefore he flatters them and is lenient with them. He may even be charmed by them and come to love them particularly if they treat him kindly and bestow favours upon him and he accepts that from them. Something similar to this occurred with Abdullah ibn Tawoos along with one of the rulers in the presence of his father – so Tawoos rebuked him for that.
Also Sufyan ath-Thawree wrote to Abbad ibn Abbad and said, “…Beware of the rulers and of approaching and mixing with them in any of the affairs. Beware of being deluded so that it is said that you should do so in order to intercede with them for someone, or to help the oppressed or to stop oppression. This is a deception of Iblees, and is taken by the wicked reciters as a means of advancing themselves. When you have occasion to receive questions and of having to give religious rulings then avail yourself of that and do not compete with them in it. Also beware of being one of those who loves that his saying should be acted upon, publicized and listened to – so that when it is abandoned the effect it has upon him is noticed. Beware of leadership since love of leadership may be more beloved to a person that that of gold and silver. It is something whose reality is obscure and hidden and not comprehended except by the wise and perceptive scholars. So take care of your own soul and act with correct intention, and know that a matter is approaching the people which is such that a man will desire death due to it. Was-Salam.”
Also pertaining to this is the hatred of a man’s making himself known as being a person of knowledge, abstemiousness and Religion, or his manifesting actions, sayings and miraculous blessings in order that people should visit him, seek blessings through him, request supplication from him and kiss his hand – and he loves that, habituates it, is made happy by it, and seeks after it.
In this regard the Pious Predecessors (as-Salafus-Saliheen) used to have the utmost hate of fame. From those noted for this were Ayyoob, an-Nakha’ee, Sufyan, Ahmad and other wise scholars. The same was the case with al-Fudayl and Dawood at-Ta’ee and others who avoided the allurement of this world and were people of insight. They used to criticize themselves severely and take great pains to hide their actions. It happened that a man entered upon Dawood at-Ta’ee and he asked him why he had come. So he replied, “I came to visit you.” So he said, “Then you have reached a great deal of good in that you have visited someone for Allah’s sake, however I can only look to what I will face tomorrow when it will be said to me, ‘Who are you that you deserve to be visited? Are you one of those who remain aloof from worldly allurements?” No, by Allah. ‘Are you one of the (great) worshippers?’ No, by Allah. ‘Are you one of the righteous servants?’ No, by Allah… and he mentioned a number of the good qualities in this manner, then he began rebuking himself and saying, ‘O Dawood! When you were a youth you were wicked, and when you have grown old you have become a person who does actions for show – and this is worse than being a sinner.”
Muhammad ibn Wasi used to say, “If sins had an odour then nobody would be able to sit with me.” When anyone used to enter upon Ibraheem an-Nakha’ee and he was reciting from the mushaf he would cover it up. Uways and others who avoided the worldly allurements would, if they became known in a place, move on from it.
Many of the Salaf would also hate that anyone should ask them to make supplication for them, and they would say to those who requested it, “Who am I?” Amongst those whom that is reported from are ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab and Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, (ra)ma, and likewise Malik ibn Deenar. An Nakha’ee also used to hate that anyone should request him to supplicate for them. A man wrote to Ahmad asking for him to supplicate for him, so Ahmad said, “If we are to supplicate for this, then who will supplicate for us?”
Once the exertions of a pious man in worship were described to a ruler and so he decided to visit him. When the man heard of this, he sat at the side of the road eating a great deal and he pain no attention to the ruler. So the ruler said, “There is no good in this one,” and he went back. So the man said, “All praises and thanks for Allah who sent him back whilst he was finding fault with me.”
This matter is very vast, and there is a fine point here. It is that a person may criticize himself before some people, intending thereby that the people should see that he is modest and therefore be raised their eyes and be praised by them. This is one of the subtle doors of ostentation/show (riya’) and the Pious Predecessors have warned us about it. Mutarrif ibn Abdullah ibn ash-Shikhkheer said, “It is sufficient to amount to conceit that a person criticises himself in a gathering intending only self-adornment, and this to Allah is foolishness.”