The Unknown, Young Worshiper who used to Hide his Good Deeds
“My neighbour was a young boy, whenever I called the adhaan and iqaamah for prayer, it would seem that he was standing at the nape of my neck. When he had prayed, he would put on his shoes and enter his house.
I would hope that he talk to me or ask me for something and one day he asked me, “Abu ‘Abdillaah, do you have a mushaf that you could lend me that I may recite from?“
I gave him one, he took it and held it against his chest and said, “Something will happen to you and I today.“
That whole day I did not see him. I called the iqaamah for Maghrib but he did not come, and likewise for ‘Ishaa’, so I started having suspicions. I went to his house and all I saw there was a bucket and a washroom. There was a curtain on his door which I pulled back and saw him there, dead.
My mushaf was also there which I took and then called some people to help me lift him onto his bed. I spent the night thinking who I could ask concerning his burial sheet. I called the adhaan for Fajr and entered the masjid to see a light coming from the direction of the qiblah, I went to it and found a wrapped burial sheet there which I took, all the while praising Allaah, the Most High.
I put it in my house and then called the iqaamah; after prayer I found sitting on my right hand side Thaabit Al-Bunaanee, Maalik Ibn Dinar, Habeeb Al-Faarisee and Saalih Al-Murree.
I said, “Brothers, what has brought you here?“
They said, “Has someone died here this night gone by?“
I said, “A young boy who used to pray with me.“
They said, “Show us.“
When they entered the house, Maalik Ibn Dinar (radhiAllaahu ‘anhu) removed the garment covering the deceased face and kissed his forehead on the place where he would prostrate and said, “May my father and mother be ransomed! You – Hajjaaj, if you became known in a particular place, you would move on to a place in which you were not known… come let us wash him!“
Each one of them had a burial sheet in which they wished to wrap him, I informed them of what had happened that morning and they agreed to bury him in the burial sheets I had found. We then left and could hardly lift up his bier for the great crowd of people who had gathered to attend his funeral!”
[Source: Related in “The Journey Of The Strangers”, translated by Shaykh Abu Rumaysah, Pg. 50-51]
A Great Lesson for Us
That young worshiper of Allaah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) was afraid of fame, he was afraid of his good deeds or worship being known to people around him. He wanted to remain unknown, so much so that, he would make sure to have his deeds between himself and Allaah that nobody else would know of. So, if the people were to come to know of this act of worship that he was engaged in, he would quickly leave that area and move on to the next place in order that he would be once again hidden from the people. This is why so many people came in search of this young man, who had once stayed in the localities of these people, worshiped, and then moved on to the next.
But today, the situation is opposite. People often deceive themselves by becoming show-offs under the pretense of making casual conversation. There are people who cannot sit with others without saying: “I did this and I did that… I spent so much in charity.” Or some of them would put up their photographs doing good deeds or to show to the common people how popular they are, or to be known in front of the public.
Sometimes they can be a bit more subtle – usually deceiving themselves more than those with whom they are speaking – saying things like: “Actually, I cannot stay up in prayer at night more than two hours…” or: “Unfortunately, I cannot cope with fasting every day, so I must suffice with fasting on Mondays and Thursdays…” By saying these things, they want to show others just how much they are praying and fasting.
Compare our situation, with that of the youth about whom we mentioned and also, with the character of all the sahaabahs, and all our righteous salafs, may Allaah be pleased with them all. They were miles away from talking about their good deeds and were very particular about having both their apparent and inner conditions be one and the same, even if in the most difficult of circumstances.
There are numerous such examples from the lives of our pious predecessors (the salaf as-saaliheen). We present to you few of the statements of the righteous salafs, so that it may melt your heart and teach you the true meaning of being sincere in your worship and good deeds, Insha’Allaah.
And why do we always present to you examples from the speech and lives of the righteous salafs? Well, here is your answer.
Hamdoon Al-Qassaar was asked: “Why is the speech of the Salaf more beneficial than ours? He replied: This is because they spoke to give ascendancy to Islam and to please The Most Merciful; whereas we speak to give ascendancy to ourselves, to seek after the worldly life and please the creation. (Safwatus Safwah: 2/122)
Statements of our Righteous Salafs on hiding one’s Good Deeds
Muhammed ibn Al-Qaasim said: I accompanied Muhammed ibn Aslam for more than 20 years, and I never saw him pray two supererogatory rak’ahs, except on the day of Jum’ah. On one occasion, I heard him take an oath: “By Allaah – If I was able to pray a supererogatory prayer where my two angels could not see me; I would do so out of fear of showing off. He used to enter his house and close his door. I was never aware of what he would get up to until I heard his young son conversing how he used to cry. However, when he used to go outside, he would wash his face and apply kuhl, and no sign of him crying would be visible. He used to provide for a people and clothe them, but when he would send his Messenger, he used to say: Make sure they don’t know who sent you. (As-Siyar: 12/201)
Ya’qoob al-Makfoof said: “The sincere person is the one who hides his good deeds just like he hides his evil deeds.“
Ibrahim al-Nakha’i: “They (the pious predecessors) used to dislike showing the righteous deeds that performed in secret.” [See: Tahdhib al-Hilyah]
Al-Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyyadh: “The best of knowledge and righteous acts are those hidden to the people.” [See: Tanbih al-Mughtarin]
Sufyan al-Thawri: “Every deed that I have manifested to the people, I do not count it as being anything…” [See: Tanbih al-Mughtarin]
Wuhayb ibn al-Wird wrote to a brother of his the following: “By the external appearance of your knowledge, you have attained (high) ranks and reverence with the people! So seek with Allah higher ranks and closeness by virtue of your hidden good deeds. And know that these two ranks, one cancels out the other.” [See: Tahdhib al-Hilyah]
Khalid ibn Durayk said about Ibn Muhayriz: “… He had two characteristics which I haven’t seen in anyone I’ve met in this Ummah; He was the furthest from remaining silent over Truth after it became clear to him, regardless of who was angered or pleased, and he was the most ardent in hiding his best deeds from himself.” [See: Tahdhib al-Hilyah]
Imam al-Shafi’i: “The scholar/knowledgeable one should have good deeds stored in secret between him and Allah the Most High. Indeed, all that he manifests of knowledge or deeds to the people, will be of little benefit in the Hereafter.” [See: Tanbih al-Mughtarin]
And regarding the verses:
“Their sides forsake their beds, to invoke their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend out of what We have bestowed on them.
And no person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.” [al-Sajdah: 16-17]
Al-Hasan al-Basri said, “These people hid their deeds so Allah the Most High hid for them that which no eye has seen and no ear has heard.”
May Allah help us in attaining and retaining good intentions and deeds of great sincerity, Ameen.