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Chapter 3. Counsel In Fours

[1] The Messenger of Allah (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said to Abu Dharr al- Ghifari, “O Abu Dharr! Mend the ship for the sea is deep, take all provisions for the journey is long, lighten the load for the obstacles are difficult, and make sincere your actions for the Critic is All-Seeing.”


[2] A poet said: It is an obligation upon people to repent. But leaving sins is even more of an obligation. Patience in the midst of hardships is difficult to bear. But loosing the opportunity for reward is more difficult to bear. Time is indeed perplexing in the way it passes. Yet people’s heedlessness is even more perplexing. Everything that is due to arrive is indeed close, Yet death is closer than everything else.


[3] An ascetic said, “Four things are good but four others are even better – chastity is good in men, but in women it is even better, justice is good in lay people, but in rulers it is even better; repentance by an old man is good, but by a young man it is even better; and contentment by the rich is good, but by the poor it is even better.”


[4] A wise man said, “Four things are bad but four others are even worse – sinning is bad from a young man, but from an old man it is even worse; busying oneself with the dunya is bad from an ignorant person, but from a scholar it is even worse; laziness in fulfilling religious obligations is bad from laymen, but from scholars and students of knowledge it is even worse; and pride is bad from the rich, but from the poor it is even worse.”


[5] Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (radyAllahu`anhu) said, “Four things are completed by four others – prayer with the Two prostrations of Forgetfulness (sajdaty al sahw), fasting [Ramadan] with sadaqat al-fitr (alms given at the end of Ramadan), hajj with sacrificial slaughter, and iman (faith) with jihad.”


[6] `Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak said, “The one who prays twelve rak`ahs everyday has fulfilled the right of prayer; the one who fasts three days every month has fulfilled the right of fasting; the one who recites one hundred verses everyday has fulfilled the right of the Qur’an; and the one who gives a dirham in charity every Friday has fulfilled the right of charity.”


[7] `Umar (radyAllahu`anhu) said, “There are four types of oceans – passion is the ocean of sins, the nafs is the ocean of desires, death is the ocean of lives, and the grave is the ocean of regrets.”


[8] `Uthman (radyAllahu`anhu) said, “I found the sweetness of worship in four things – the first in fulfilling Allah’s commandments, the second in abstaining from Allah’s prohibitions, the third is enjoining good with the intention of attaining Allah’s reward of Allah, and the fourth in forbidding evil fearing Allah’s wrath.”


[9] `Uthman (radyAllahu`anhu) also said, “There are four things, the outward of which is a virtue but the inner of which is an obligation – being in the company of the righteous is a virtue and imitating them is an obligation; reciting the Qur’an is a virtue and acting according to its commandments is an obligation; visiting the graves is a virtue and preparing for the time when one will enter them is an obligation; visiting a sick person is a virtue and asking him for advice is an obligation.”


[10] `Ali (radyAllahu`anhu) said, “The one who longs for Paradise will rush towards good deeds; the one who dreads Hell will put an end to his vices; the one who has a firm conviction in [the imminent arrival of] death will lose all his passions; and the one who really knows the dunya will find disasters easy to bear.”


[11] It is said that Allah revealed to one of the prophets of Bani Isra`il: “Remaining silent instead of speaking evil is fasting for Me; guarding your organs against prohibition is prayer for Me; loosing any hope in creatures [that they can bring one good or evil] is charity for Me; and refraining from hurting Muslims is jihad for Me.”


[12] `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud (radyAllahu`anhu) said, “Four things are from the darkness of the heart – a full stomach without caring [whether it is halal or haram]; keeping the company of oppressors; forgetting past sins; and being under the delusion that one’s lifetime will surely be long. There are another four things that are from the illumination of the heart – an empty stomach because of caution; accompanying the righteous; remembering past sins; and not expecting to live for long.”


[13] Hatim al-Asamm said, “The one who claims four things without doing four others has lied – the one who claims to love Allah yet does not abstain from things prohibited by Him has lied; the one who claims to love the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) yet dislikes the poor and needy has lied; the one who claims to love Paradise yet does not give charity has lied; and the one who claims to fear Hell yet does not give up sinning has lied.”


[14] The Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “ Premonitory signs of wretchedness are four – forgetting past sins whilst their record is with Allah the Exalted; remembering past good deeds whilst one does not know whether they have been accepted or rejected; looking to those of a higher status in the dunya, and looking to those of a lower status in the Religion [of Islam]. Allah will say, ‘I wanted him but he did not want Me and thus I have left him.’ Premonitory signs of bliss are four – remembering past sins; forgetting past good deeds; looking at those of a higher status in the Religion [of Islam]; and looking at those of a lower status in the dunya.”


[15] An ascetic said, “The rights of faith (iman) are four – God-consciousness, shame, gratitude and patience.”


[16] The Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Mothers are four: the mother of cures, the mother of manners, the mother of worship, and the mother of hopes. The mother of curses is eating less, the mother of manners is speaking less, the mother of worship is sinning less, and the mother of hopes is patientce.”


[17] The Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said, “There are four gems in the body of the son of Adam that are removed by four things – as for the gems they are intellect, Religion, shame, and good deeds. Anger removes the intellect, envy removes Religion, desire removes shame, and backbiting removes good deeds.”


[18] He (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said, “There are four things in Paradise that are better than Paradise itself – remaining eternally in Paradise is better than Paradise; being served by the angels in paradise is better than Paradise; being in the company of the Prophets in Paradise is better than Paradise; and gaining Allah’s pleasures in Paradise is better than Paradise itself. There are four things in Hell that are worse than Hell itself – remaining eternally in Hell is worse than Hell; the reproaching of the unbelievers by the angels in Hell is worse than Hell; being in the company of Satan in Hell is worse than Hell; and Allah’s wrath in Hell is worse than Hell itself.”


[19] When one of the ascetics was asked, “How are you?” He replied, “I am with my Lord in compliance, with the nafs in opposition, with creatures in [giving and taking] advice, and with the dunya only in necessity.”


[20] An ascetic selected four aphorisms from the four revealed Books – from the Torah: “The one who is content with what Allah has given him will find repose in this world and in the next”; from the Bible: “The one who destroys his vices will be honoured in this world and in the next”; from the Psalms: “The one who isolates himself away from people will find salvation in this world and in the next”; and from the Qur’an, “The one who safeguards his tongue will be safe in this world and in the next.”


[21] `Umar (radyAllahu`anhu) said, “I swear by Allah! I have never been tested by hardship except that Allah bestowed up on me due to it four blessings – the first is that I was not tested through a sin; the second, that the hardship was not greater than it was; the third, I wasn’t deprived of being contented with it; the fourth, I hope that I will be rewarded for it.”


[23] ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak said, “A wise man collected numerous sayings and from them he selected forty thousand; from the forty thousand he selected four thousand, from the four thousand he selected four hundred, from the four hundred he selected forty, and from the forty he selected four – the first, “Don’t trust a woman in any situation.”; the second, “Don’t be deluded by wealth in any situation”; the third, “Don’t burden your stomach with what it can’t bear”; and the forth, “Don’t gather from knowledge that which is no benefit to you.”


[24]`Ali (radyAllahu`anhu) said, “Din and dunya will continue to exist as long as four things exist – as long as the rich are not miserly in that which they have been blessed; as long as the scholars practice what they have learnt; as long as the ignorant are not arrogant about that which they do not know; and as long as the poor do not sell the Hereafter in return for the dunya.”


[25] The Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “On the Day of Judgement Allah will use four people as a proof against four types of people – [Prophet] Sulayman [Solomon] against the rich, [Prophet] Yusef against servants, [Prophet] Ayyub against the sick, and [Prophet] `Isa (Jesus) against the poor.”


[26] Sa`d ibn Bilal said, “Despite committing a sin, Allah still bestows four blessings on His sinful servant – He does not cut off his sustenance, He does not cause his health to deteriorate, He does not make the sin apparent on him for all to see, and He does not hasten his punishment.”


[27] Hatim al-Asamm said, “The one who delays four things until four others will find Paradise – sleep until the grave, pride until after the accounting [of good and bad deeds], repose until after the crossing of the sirat (bridge to be crossed on the Day of Judgement), and desires until entering Paradise.”


[28] Hamid al-Laffaf said, “We searched for four things in four others and failed to find them there, but found them in yet another four things – we sought richness in money but found it in contentment; we sought peace in opulence but found it in poverty; we sought pleasure in abundance but found it in good health; and we sought sustenance in the earth and found it in the sky.”


[29] `Ali (radyAllahu`anhu) said, “Four things, a little of which is still a lot – pain, poverty, fire and enmity.”


[30] Hatim al-Asamm said, “Four things are not appreciated except by four types of people – youth is not appreciated by the old, freedom from worries is not appreciated by those afflicted with calamities, health is not appreciated but by those in poor health and life is not appreciated but by the dead.”


[31] The poet Abu Nuwwas said: My sins, if I think about them, are many But the mercy of my Lord is much vaster I do not hope for salvation in any good action I may have done Rather in Allah’s mercy is my hope He is Allah my Lord who is my Creator And I am [in front of Him] a slave who obeys and submits If forgiveness is intended for me then that is mercy And if it is other than it then what am I to do?


[32] The Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “On the Day of Judgement the scales will be placed and the people of prayer will be brought forward and they will be compensated according to the Scales; then the people of fasting will be brought forward and they will be compensated according to the Scales; then the people of hajj will be brought forward and they will be compensated according to the Scales; and then the people afflicted with hardships and calamites [in the dunya] will be brought forward and the Scales will not be used for them nor will their records be brought out, and they will given their reward without any account, so much so that the people who used to be free of worries and calamities would wish that they were in their position, such is the immensity of their reward from Allah the Exalted.”


[33] A wise man said, “The son of Adam will face four seizures – the Angel of Death will seize his soul, his heirs will seize his wealth, the worms will seize his body, and his adversaries (the people he had wronged or backbitten) will seize his honour, meaning his good deeds, on the Day of Judgement.”


[34] An ascetic said, “The one who preoccupies himself with desires must have women; the one who preoccupies himself with collecting wealth must indulge in the prohibited; the one who preoccupied himself with bringing benefit to Muslims must have secrecy; and the one who preoccupies himself with worship must have knowledge.”


[35] “Ali (radyAllahu`anhu) said, “The most difficult of actions are four – forgiving when in a state of anger, contentment in times of hardships, chastity in seclusion, and speaking the truth in front of someone whom one fears or from whom one hopes for largesse.”


[36] In the Psalms it is stated, “Allah revealed to [Prophet] Dawud that a wise and intelligent person never neglects four periods of time – a time to intimately converse with his Lord, a time to bring himself to account, a time to visit those of his brothers who will show him his defects, and a time to give himself free reign to indulge in the permissible.”


[37] An ascetic said, “The whole of worship is in four things – honouring promises, abiding by the limits [set by Divine Law], being patient over loss, and being content with whatever is in one’s possession.”