What do the Highest Ranked Folks Quarrel About?
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday Speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, N. C., on March 11,1994)
Imam At-Tirmithi reported an authentic qudsi hadith from Mu'ath Bin Jabal may Allah be pleased with him. He said: "The messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), one day, did not show up for the fajr prayer until we almost noticed the sun rise, then we saw him coming out quickly, then he called for the salah, and quickly prayed, and when he made tasleem, he called for us and said: "Remain in your places", then he turned to us and said: "I will talk to you about what made me not show up earlier. I got up at night and made wudu' and prayed as much as I could, then felt sleepy to the extent that sleepiness prevailed over me, so I slept. Suddenly, I am in front of my Lord the most glorious the most High in the best image, then He (Allah) said: "Oh Muhammad", I replied, "Yes, my Lord", He said: "What do the highest ranked folks quarrel about?" I said: "I do not know, my Lord" (The messenger (S.A.W.) repeated this three times) The prophet (S.A.W.)said: "I saw him laying his palm between my shoulders till I found the coolness of his fingers in my chest, then it was revealed to me everything and I knew it. Then, He (Allah) said: "Oh Muhammad", I said: "Yes, my Lord", He said: "What do the highest-ranked folks quarelling about?" I said: "in Al-kaffarat - The deeds that wipe out the sins.", He asked: "What are they?", I replied: "walking for the jama'ah prayer, remaining still in the masjid after the prayers, and making a lengthy wudu' in times of hardship.", He asked: "then in what?", I replied: "providing food to the people, soft talk, and the prayer at night while the people are asleep.", He said: "Ask!", I said: "Oh Allah, I ask you for the doing of good deeds, leaving the bad ones, the love of the poor, and that you forgive me and have mercy on me, and if you want to test a group of people, I ask you to make me die unwronged, and I ask for your love and the love of those who love you, and the love of a deed that gets me closer to your love." The prophet (S.A.W.) said: "It is true, study it and learn it." This was reported by At-Tirmithi in his interpretation for the (verse 69) in surat Ssad, what can be translated as, "I had no knowledge of the chiefs (angels) on high when they were disputing and discussing."
This hadith is one of the greatest collections of hadiths that show the importance of righteous deeds that Allah (S.W.T.) wipes out with them, the sins and wrongdoings, and elevates with them to higher degrees on the Day of Judgment. This hadith also comprises great supplications that the prophet (S.A.W.) was given in one of the encounters with his Lord. All this occurred while he was asleep in a dream. The dream of the prophets is a revelation from Allah (S.W.T.), and it is true and right, devoid any falsehood or wrong. So no one should doubt that. The prophet (S.A.W.) said clearly at the end of this hadith: "It is true, so study it and learn it."
The prophet (S.A.W.) told his companions about this hadith and they passed it to us in a good and authentic chain not for entertainment or enjoyment, but for studying it very well because it has many great benefits. After studying it and knowing it, the great benefits come with implementing it.
Some of the great benefits of this hadith are:
The good deeds that wipe out the sins: Allah (S.W.T.) knows that due to the human nature that he created us with, we will fall into sins and wrongdoing. So, from His mercy upon us, He showed us things that wipe out the sins and wrongdoings. So we should learn what these things are and implement them. Many of us find these things small and simple, and in fact they are simple. But many of us underestimate the benefits of these things and turn away from them.
- The first good deed that wipe out the sins is the step that a Muslim takes toward the masjid for the prayer in jama'ah congregation prayer; The further he is from the masjid, and the more steps he takes toward the majid, the more benefits he gets from this good deed in wiping out the sins. The prophet (S.A.W.) indicated that to the people of Bani Salamah when they wanted to relocate closer to the masjid. So he said: "Remain in your places and do not leave them, you will have more rewards (in coming to the masjid.)" This is a great recommendation and good news for every one who lives away from the masjid.
Imam Bukhari reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said: "The prayer of the man in jama'ah, congregation prayer is 25 times better than his prayer at home or his work." then he said: "If a man went out to the masjid for the sake of salah, every step he takes, he will be elevated with it one degree higher, and one sin will be wiped out from him."
- The other good deed that wipes out the sins and elevates to higher degrees is remaining in the masjid after the prayers to remember Allah (S.W.T.) or waiting for the next salah. In this, the prophet (S.A.W.) said in another hadith reported by Imam Bukhari: "....If a man prays, the angels keep praying upon him as long as he is in the prayer location, saying: Oh Allah pray onto him, Oh Allah have mercy on him." Then the prophet (S.A.W.) said: "The one among you who is waiting for prayer is considered to be in prayer."
- The other good deed that the hadith mentioned from those deeds that wipe out the sins and elevate degrees is making a lengthy wudu' in times of hardships like very cold water, sickness, or fatigue. The prophet (S.A.W.) reconfirms that in a hadith reported by Imam Muslim: "Would I not show you what wipes out the sins and elevates to higher degrees?" they replied: "Yes, Oh messenger of Allah.", he said: "Making lengthy wudu' in times of hardships, taking many steps to the masjid, and waiting for the next salah after a salah, and this is the ribat (Guarding land against enemies)."
The other 3 good deeds mentioned by the hadith that wipe out sins and elevate to higher degrees are: offering food to people, soft talk, and the prayer at night while people are asleep." This is confirmed in many ahadith among which one what Imam At-Tirmithi reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Oh people, spread salam, and offer food and pray at night while people are asleep, you will enter Paradise peacefully."
As to offering food, it implies offering food to everyone; poor or non-poor. If it is to a poor, it is better for what Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Insan, (verse 8), what can be translated as, "And they give food, inspite of their love for it(or for the love of Him), to miskin (poor), the orphan, and the captive."
As to the softness of talk with people, it is general with Muslims and non-Muslims even with the enemies. This was from the manners of the prophet (S.A.W.) who orders us to follow him. Imam Bukhari reported that Ae'shah (R.A.) said: A group of Jewish people came to the prophet (S.A.W.) and said: "(Assam (Death) be upon you", the prophet replied: "Upon you" and I understood it, so I said: "Upon you is assam (death), curse, and the wrath of Allah ", The prophet (S.A.W.) said to me: "Wait Oh Ae'shah, be nice, and keep away from violence, and bad manners for Allah loves kindness in everything.", I said: "Did you not hear what they said?", he replied: "Did you not hear what I said? I replied to them and said: the same to you, and it will be accepted from me and not from them." In the authentic hadith, the prophet (S.A.W.) made from the manners of the hypocrites: "If he quarells, he is violent."
As to the prayer at night, it came in many verses and ahadith like which Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Az-Zariyat, (verse 17&18), what can be translated as, "They used to sleep but little by night. And in the hours before dawn, they were (found) asking (Allah) for forgiveness."
Imam Muslim reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said: "....The best prayer after the obligatory prayer is the night prayer."
Lastly, we should learn the supplication at the end of the hadith and use it in our supplication.