I came across some old notes of mine (on an old blog) about a special SunniPath lecture a few years ago on the 19th Hadith from Imam Nawawi’s Forty Hadith collection. In the spirit of the hadith of the Prophet (may peace be upon him) “Let him among you who (was present and) saw, inform him who was absent”, and because I’d like to remember these notes in my “virtual notebook” here are some gems from this mubarak event.
Firstly, a bit about Imam Nawawi:
Imam Nawawi is from Syria, and is called Nawawi because he was from the village of Nawa. He was born in 1233 C.E and is an Imam of the later Shafi’i school. He was the scholar of his time, and a master of the hadith sciences in particular. He is known especially for his book Riyad as-saliheen (Gardens of the Righteous), and his Kitab Adkar (a book of invocations). He compiled his collection of Forty Hadith however, because he wanted Muslims to have access to the foundational hadiths of Islam.
The narrator of this hadith is ibn Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet and the son of the Prophet’s paternal uncle. He was born 3 years before the Hijrah, during the difficult time when the nascent Muslim community was being boycotted. It was a source of hope for Muslim community to have children born in this time, and the Prophet made dua for ibn Abbas and asked Allah for knowledge and understanding of the deen for him.
The text of Hadith #19 is as follows. (translation from the SP event)
Abu al-Abbas ‘Abdullah bin Abbas (radiyallahu anhuma) reported: I was behind the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasalaam) when he said: Oh young man, I will teach you some words (of wisdom). Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of Allah; if you seek help, seek help of Allah. Know that if the whole community were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already prescribed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”
According to a line of transmission of other than that of al-Tirmidhi, it reads:
Keep Allah in mind and you will find Him in front of you. Get acquainted with Allah in times of ease and He will know you in days of distress. Know that what missed you could not have hit you, and what hit you could not have missed you. Know that victory comes with patience, relief follows distress, ease follows hardship.
We see in this hadith the Prophet in the role of a father figure, as ibn Abbas is very young when this incident occurs. There are so many images in the media of the Prophet that are not favourable, and with representations it is important to be conversant with the hadith collections of the Prophet so we are able to counter these images with knowledge.
There are two different versions of this hadith, and it is important to reflect on the meanings of these two different narrations.
We brainstormed as a class about these differences, but one key difference is in the manner that the hadith talks about divine destiny. Each hadith gives us a different understanding of destiny. This is noteworthy because qada and qadr are fascinating topics that have fascinated Muslim theologians for centuries, and in this hadith we have a couple of different glimpses of this concept.
(Refer back to the hadith of Jibril to get an explanation of Qada and Qadr)
This hadith explains divine decree as knowing that what has passed you by was not going to benefit you. In other words, Allah is in control of our affairs and creates means and outcomes. This does not mean that Muslims are fatalists, but that with complete and total trust in Allah, whenever difficulties/sadness occurs, we have trust in Allah although we take the means available to us.
This hadith offers encouragement, something that is a common feature of the hadiths of the Prophet. We have many examples of hadiths where the Prophet lays out appropriate behaviour and encourages believers. Rarely do you find statements where the Prophet prohibits actions and does not offer alternatives. Here for example, we see the Prophet saying be mindful, and mindfulness has its own reward.
In this hadith we are taught about proper adab (etiquette) which is that as Muslims we rely on Allah in all affairs. This means that we take the best means possible, but we leave the outcome to Allah. Supplication is a powerful tool however, and it is possible that through supplication Allah will cause our destiny to unfold in different ways. Through supplication it is possible that Allah may ward off harm or cause some benefit. Which is why when we ask, we ask Allah.
Book recommendation: Reflections of Pearls.
What is Mindfulness?
To be truly mindful, one is cognizant and conscious. It means to respect Allah’s limits, and adhere to the sacred law and have taqwa. At the highest levels, it is to have scrupulousness, (wara’a).
Mindfulness is a covenant between us and Allah. If we remember Allah, Allah will remember us. Deeply reflected upon, this hadith acts as a balm for troubled hearts.
Verse for contemplation: Ali Imran: Verse 186 (3:186)