In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
We had a WhatsApp conversation with one of our beloved young brothers – who is studying abroad at the moment – regarding some Dawah affair. During the conversation we mention the problem of blameworthy competition, so he stated: “This is the poison! I have moved to such and such level in my studies and now I understand where the poison starts. May Allaah protect me. Ego, some people are involved in seeking to gain ascendency and respect, and they want to be the reference point. It’s an easy trap to fall into which we are shielded from by our elders (i.e. the elder Students) in the UK”.
Pay attention to the statement of our beloved younger brother: some people are involved in seeking to gain ascendency and respect, and they want to be the reference point. It’s an easy trap to fall into here which we are shielded from by our elders (i.e. the elder Students) in the UK.
Indeed, the above reminder reminds us of the observations of the scholars of the pious predecessors and our present day scholars. Imaam Al-Fudayl Bin Iyaad [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “There’s none who loves leadership, except that he will envy, transgress, seek after people’s fault (i.e. falsely) and hates that anyone else is mentioned with good”. Reported by Ibn Abdil Barr in Al-Jaami. Number 971
Al-Allaamah Rabee Bin Haadi Al-Mad’khali [may Allaah preserve him] stated: “Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood [may allaah be pleased with him] said that the noble Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, ‘There is no envy except in two cases: a man whom Allah has given Al-Hikmah [i.e. knowledge of the Qur’aan and Sunnah] and he acts according to it; and a man whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it righteously. [Al-Bukhaari. Number 73] These people have Ghibtah [i.e. they desire the blessings bestowed on others but do not have a blameworthy envy]. Envy in this hadeeth means Ghibtah, but (as for blameworthy) envy, it is to wish that the blessings bestowed upon a person, such as wealth, knowledge and other that, should cease to exist – regardless whether you want to have the same or merely wishing that the blessings be taken away from him. This is a disease of the Yahood [i.e. those Yahood who knew the truth brought by the Prophet], but they rejected it out of envy] and we ask Allaah to alleviate (this disease) from the Muslims, for indeed it is destructive disease – and Allaah’s refuge is sought.
So, the envy intended in this hadeeth [i.e. the hadeeth of Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood] is Al-Ghibtah, which is to wish for the same blessings given to another person (without wishing that he be deprived of it). For example, Allaah gives a person knowledge and the (ability) to perform good deeds, so you wish that Allaah should also give you knowledge and the (ability) to perform good deeds just as it has been bestowed upon that person. This is Ghibtah and it is praiseworthy. It is a (praiseworthy) striving to excel one another in good deeds. Allaah said: [وَفِى ذَٲلِكَ فَلۡيَتَنَافَسِ ٱلۡمُتَنَـٰفِسُونَ – And for this (i.e. paradise) let (all) those strive who want to strive (i.e. hasten earnestly to the obedience of Allah)].
Therefore, it is incumbent upon the students of knowledge to strive in acquiring knowledge and hasten towards all that is good, but without blameworthy envy; rather they should do this based on Ghibtah and hastening earnestly to the obedience of Allaah. As for striving and hastening towards the Dunyah (against one another), it is blameworthy. ‘Do not envy one another and do not hate one another (i.e. blameworthy envy and hatred), do not outbid one another (i.e. do not offer a higher price for a commodity when someone else wants it even though you do not intend to buy it (see footnote a) and do not compete one another in a blameworthy manner’. [Muslim 2563]. All these traits are blameworthy – both in the worldly and religious affairs.
Therefore, in the hadeeth [i.e. hadeeth reported by Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood], Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] urged the Ummah to [hasten and seek to excel one another] in good deeds, such as in [acquiring] knowledge, [performance of the] Salaah etc. The Prophet said, ‘The best rows are the first rows’ [Muslim 440]. ‘If the people knew (the reward for) pronouncing the Adhaan and for standing in the first row [in the congregational prayer] and found no other way to get it except by drawing lots, they would do so’. [Al-Bukhaari 654] Hastening to get to the first row is a praiseworthy deed. Likewise, (it is praiseworthy to) hasten towards seeking knowledge, seeking to become proficient in it, excel and become talented in it. I ask Allaah to facilitate (ease and the means) for the Mutanaafiseen (i.e. those striving and hastening towards all good), so that there arises from this Ummah the likes of the senior Imaams, such as Al Awzaa’ee, Ath-Thawri, Maalik, Ash-Shaafiee, Ahmad, Ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad Ibn Abdil Wahhaab and those like them amongst the Imaams of guidance – those by way of whom Allaah raised the guiding light of Islaam and guided the nations, and whose knowledge enlightened the whole world'”. (1)
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] stated about praiseworthy competition for good deeds and to excel each other: Every competitor competes the other and is happy when joined in it, just as the companions of Allaah’s Messenger [perace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] used to compete in good and they were pleased when others joined them; rather they used to encourage one another whilst competing. This is [an act of] seeking to be foremost in (good deeds). Allaah [The Most High] said: [ فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ-So hasten towards all that is good].
Allaah [The Most High] said: [سَابِقُوا إِلَىٰ مَغْفِرَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا كَعَرْضِ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ – Race one with another in hastening towards Forgiveness from your Lord (Allah), and towards Paradise, the width whereof is as the width of heaven and earth]. [57:21]
Umar Ibnul Khattaab used to hasten towards (good deeds to compete) Abu-Bakr [may Allaah be pleased with them], but he never won. (2)
Umar said: One day Allaah’s Messenger commanded us to give sadaqah. At that time I had some property, so I said: Today I shall surpass Abu-Bakr if I am to surpass him any day. So I brought half of my property. Allaah’s Messenger said: What did you leave for your family? I replied: The same amount. Then Abu-Bakr brought all that he had with him. So Allaah’s Messenger said to him: What did you leave for your family? He replied: I left Allah and His Messenger for them. I [Umar] said: I shall never (excel you) in anything. (3)
Mercy Between Seekers of Knowledge
Al-Allaamah Saaleh Aala Ash-Shaikh [may Allaah preserve him] gave some advice regarding the relationship expected between students of knowledge whilst in pursuit of knowledge: There may be different people in attendance -some of them attend for knowledge, some of them attend as beginners, among them are those who attend to be in a sitting where Allaah is remembered and they listen (especially if it is after dawn or during time periods when supplications are answered), and among them are those who attend for a benefit, and are content with whatever they obtain. And that which is befitting in reality is that the students of knowledge should treat each other well, so the student teaches his brother – who is a beginner – the way to learn and gives him advice. This is why we should show mercy to one another in the lessons, and in all affairs of knowledge, and perhaps the reason scholars begin their texts with the advice to the seeker of knowledge to be merciful. This is why you find in Hadeeth Ijaazaat that the first hadith transmitted is “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you”. [Saheeh Sunan Tirmidhee 1924]
Question: Why do they learn the hadith, “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful?” Answer: Know, may Allaah have mercy upon you, that it is one of the qualities of a seeker of knowledge – whom Allaah blesses and shows mercy – that he is merciful towards those around him, guides, teaches and aids them etc. If whilst in pursuit of knowledge you are merciful to the people – to colleagues and friends, and being present in cooperation and goodness, then receive glad tidings of Allaah’s Mercy and His true promise based on the statement of His Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him], “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful”. (4)
We ask Allaah to protect us and our young brothers from misguidance, self-amazement, envy and all blameworthy traits. May Allaah protect us and young brothers from every danger encountered in our path towards the Afterlife. Aameen.
Footnote a: For further detail see Al-Minhatur Rabbaaniyyah Fee Sharhil Arba’een An-Nawawiyyah’ page 260
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from ‘Marhaban Yaa Taalibal Ilm’ pages 51-52. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 2: An Excerpt from Ar-Rooh 431-432]
[Ref 3: Saheeh Sunan Abee Dawud. Number: 1678. kitaab Az-Zakaah]