Notes on Perfecting One’s Deeds and their Acceptance: ibn Rajab

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali made the following beneficial points in one of his smaller monographic work:

وكان السلف يوصون بإتقان العمل وتحسينه دون مجرد الإكثار منه ، فإن العمل القليل مع التحسين والإتقان أفضل من الكثير مع عدم الإتقان ، قال بعض السلف : < إن الرجلين ليقومان في الصفّ بين الصلاتيهما كما بين السماء والارض ، كم بين من تصعد صلاته لها نور وبرهان كبرهان الشمس ، وتقول : حفظك الله كما حفظتني ، وبين من تلفّ صلاته كما يلفّ الثوب الخلق ويضرب بها وجه صاحبها ، وتقول : ضيعك الله كما ضيعتني > . ـ

The salaf used to advise one another to perfect their deeds and to beautify them rather than merely performing an abundance of them. For surely a small amount of deeds performed excellently and perfected is more virtuous than a large amount done without excellent performance. One of the salaf said:

Two men might stand to pray in the same row while the difference between their two prayers is as great as the distance between the heavens and the earth, such that one’s prayer will raise him up in honor with light and a proof like the sun for him and it will say, “Allah will preserve you just as you preserved me.” And such that the other’s prayer will envelope him just as a garment envelopes the body and strike him on the face and say, “Allah will neglect you just as you neglected me.”

ولهذا قال ابن عباس وغيره : < صلاة ركعتين في تفكر خير من قيام ليلة والقلب ساه > . ـ

And in this regard, ibn ‘Abbaas and others said, “Two raka’a of prayer with deep thought is better than standing the entire night in prayer with an inattentive heart.” Continue reading

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Two Types of Determination: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali commented in one of his monographic works:

والعزم نوعان: ـ

Determination [al-‘azm] is of two types:

أحدهما : عزم المريد على الدخول في الطريق : وهو من البدايات . ـ

The first of them is the determination of the follower to enter upon the path, and this is in regards to the beginnings.

والثاني : العزم على الاستمرار على الطاعات بعد الدخول فيها ، وعلى الانتقال من حال كامل إلى حال أكمل منه ، وهو من النهايات . ـ

And the second is the determination to continue upon acts of obedience after entering into that and to move from an excellent condition to an even more excellent condition than that one. And this is in regards to the conclusions.

ولهذا سمى الله خواص الرسل أولو العزم ـ وهم خمسة ـ وهم أفضل الرسل . ـ

And for this reason Allah named the leading Messengers the “Possessors of Determination” [al-Uloo al-‘Azm] – and there are five of them – and they are the best of the Messengers*.

فالعزم الاول يحصل للعبد به للدخول في كل خير ، والتباعد من كل شر ؛ إذ به يحصل للكافر الخروج من الكفر والدخول في الإسلام ، وبه يحصل للعاصي الخروج من المعصية والدخول في الطاعة ، فإذا كنت العزيمة صادقة ، وصمم عليه صاحبها ، وحمل على هوى نفسه وعلى الشيطان حملة صادقة ، ودخل فيما أمر به من الطاعات فقد فاز . ـ

So the first type of determination allows the slave to thereby attain every good and to distance himself from every evil. And in the case of the disbeliever, then he thereby attains exodus from disbelief and entrance into Islam. And the disobedient one thereby attains leaving from disobedience and entering unto obedience. So if it is true determination and its possessor persists upon it and launches a true offensive against his own desires and against the shaytaan, and he enters into what he has been commanded with of the acts of obedience, then he has achieved success.

[Majmoo’ al-Rasaa’il li-Ibn Rajab 1/344]

*Translator’s Note: Concerning the definition of the Uloo al-‘Azm, Imam al-Shinqitee briefly wrote:

اختلف العلماء في المراد بأولي العزم من الرسل في هذه الآية الكريمة اختلافا كثيرا . وأشهر الأقوال في ذلك أنهم خمسة ، وهم الذين قدمنا ذكرهم في ” الأحزاب ” و ” الشورى ” ، وهم نوح وإبراهيم وموسى وعيسى ومحمد – عليهم الصلاة والسلام – . ـ

The scholars have differed greatly regarding the intended meaning of Uloo al-‘Azm among the messengers in this noble ayah [46:35]. And the most well-known position in that regard is that they are five, and they are those who were previously mentioned in surah al-Ahzab [33:7] and surah al-Shooraa [42:13], and they are Nuh, Ibrahim, Moosaa, ‘Eesaa and Muhammad (‘alaihim al-salaatu wa’l-salaam).

[Adhwaa’ al-Bayaan 7/242. Read the entire discussion here]

See also: “Those of determination among the messengers”: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: Two types of despairing of Allah’s Mercy: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: You will surely be tested: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: “Indeed to Allah we belong, and indeed to Him we will return”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: We have made for every prophet an enemy: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: You will surely hear much abuse: Tafsir al-Sa’di

When I am afflicted with a calamity, I praise Allah four times

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali reports that some of the salaf used to say:

قال بعض السلف : إني لأصاب  بالمصيبة فأحمد الله عليها أربع مرات : أحمد الله إذ لم تكن أعظم مما هي ، وأحمد الله إذ رزقني الصبر عليها ، وأحمده إذ وفقني الاسترجاع ، وأحمده إذ لم يجعلها في ديني

When I am afflicted with a calamity, I praise Allah four times: I praise Allah for it not being worse than it is, I praise Allah that He provided me with the ability to bear it patiently, and I praise Him for granting me the accord to say, ‘Verily to Allah do we belong and to Him do we return’, and I praise Him for not making the tribulation in my religion.

[Majmoo’ al-Rasaa’il Ibn Rajab vol. 3 p. 155]

See also: “Indeed to Allah we belong, and to Him we will return”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Whoever believes in Allah, He will guide his heart in times of trial: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Ask that his eemaan be preserved!

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, in his monograph Noor al-Iqtibaas fi Mishkaat Wasiyyah al-Nabi l-Ibn ‘Abbaas wrote the following:

ودعا رجل من لبعض السلف بأن يحفظه الله فقال : يا أخي ، لا تسأل عن حفظه ، ولكن قل يحفظ إيمان . يعني :  أن الهم هو الدعاء بحفظ الدين ، فإن الحفظ الدنيوي قد يشترك فيه البر والفاجر ، فالله يحفظ على المؤمن دينه و يحول بينه وبين ما يفسده عليه بأسباب قد لا يشعر العباد ببعضها وقد يكون يكرهه

A man once said to one of the Salaf, “May Allah preserve him.” So he replied, “O my brother! Do not ask that he be preserved. Ask instead that his eemaan be preserved!” Meaning: to stress the importance of supplicating for the preservation of one’s religion. This is because worldly preservation could be conferred on both the righteous and the sinner, but Allah only safeguards the religion of the believer, and comes between it and anything that would corrupt it via numerous means, some of which the slave is unaware of, and yet others he may dislike.

وهذا كما حفظ يوسف – عليه السلام – < كَذَٰلِكَ لِنَصْرِ‌فَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَاءَ ۚ إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُخْلَصِينَ > [يوسف ٢٤] فمن أخلص الله خلصه الله من السوء والفحشاء وعصمه منها من حيث لا يشعر ، وحال بينه وبين أسباب المعاصي المهلكة

And this is like how He preserved Yusuf (‘alaihis salaam), “And thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our chosen servants“. So whoever is sincere to Allah, Allah will safeguard him against evil and indecency. He will guard him against them via means that he is not even aware of, and He will come between him and the routes leading to destructive disobedience.

[Majmoo’a Rasaa’il ibn Rajab 3/106]

See also: We preserved these limbs in our youth, so Allah preserved them for us in old age

We preserved these limbs in our youth, so Allah preserved them for us in old age

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said in part of his famous hadeeth to ibn ‘Abbaas:

احْفَظْ اللَّهَ يَحْفَظْك

“Preserve the limits of Allaah and He will preserve you…”

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, while explaining this hadeeth, mentions an amazing story about the famous judge and Shaafi’ jurist, Abu al-Tayyib al-Tabari:

و كان أبو الطيب الطبري قد جاوز المائة سنة وهو ممتع بعقله وقوته ، فوثب يوما من سفينة كان فيها إلى الارض وثبة شديدة. فعوتب على ذلك ، فقال : هذه جوارح حفظناها عن المعاصي في الضغر ، فحفظها الله علينا في الكبر

Abu al-Tayyib al-Tabari exceeded the age of 100 yet his intellect remained very much intact, as did his strength. One day he leapt off a large ship he was on onto the ground. When reprimanded for this, he said, “We preserved these limbs from disobedience in our youth, so Allaah preserved them for us in our old age.”

[Majmoo’ al-Rasaa’il ibn Rajab 3/100]

And Ibn Kathir mentions the same story with the wording: Continue reading

The difference between sincere advising and shaming: Ibn Rajab

al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, in his monograph al-Farq bain al-Naseehah w’al-Ta’eer, devotes one section to the topic of “On the Difference between advising about one’s short-comings in order to return from that, and rebuking and scolding for one’s sins.” It reads as follows:

ومن هذا الباب أن يقال للرجل في وجهه ما يكرهه فإن كان هذا على وجه النصح فهو حسن وقد قال بعض السلف لبعض إخوانه: لا تنصحني حتى تقول في وجهي ما أكره.

And from this is that one would tell a man something that he disliked to his face, and if that was with the purpose of sincerely advising him, then that is good. And one of the Salaf said to his brother, “Do not advise me until you can say something to my face which I dislike.”

فإذا أخبر أحد أخاه بعيب ليجتنبه كان ذلك حسناً لمن أُخبر بعيب من عيوبه أن يعتذر منها إن كان له منها عذر وإن كان ذلك على وجه التوبيخ بالذنب فهو قبح مذموم.

Then if one of his brothers informs him of a short-coming in order for him to avoid it, then that is good for the one who was informed of one of his short-comings so that he can be wary of it, if it served as a warning for him. And if that [advising] was with the purpose of rebuking him for his sin, then that is distasteful and blameworthy.

وقيل لبعض السلف: أتحبُّ أن يخبرك أحد بعيوبك؟ فقال: إن كان يريد أن يوبخني فلا.

And it was said to one of the salaf, “Would you like for someone to inform you of your short-comings?” So he replied, “If he wanted to reprimand me, then no.” Continue reading

A cure for 99 problems

Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, in his discussion of the famous hadeeth of ibn ‘Abbaas (‘Preserve the limits of Allaah and He will preserve you…’), brings this following point of benefit regarding belief in qadr (the preordainment of Allaah) and placing ones reliance in Allaah:

وفي حديث أبي هريرة عن النبي < لا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله دواء من تسعة وتسعين داء ، وأيسرها الهم > خرّجه الطبراني والحاكم

And in the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The statement ‘La hawla wa laa quwwata illa billaah‘ [There is no might or power except that of Allaah] is a cure for 99 ailments, the easiest of which is worry.”*

فإن تحقيق هذه الكلمة يقتضي تفويض الامور إلى الله ، وأنه لا يكون إلا ما شاء والايمان بذلك يذهب الهم والغم

Actualizing this statement entails entrusting ones affairs unto Allaah, and believing that nothing happens except what Allaah wills. And having faith in that removes worry and distress.

[Majmoo’a al-Rasaa’il ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, vol. 3 pg. 145-146]

*[al-Tabarani in al-Awsat #5028. al-Haakim #1990, and he said it was Saheeh, however al-Dhahabi disagreed with him, and al-Albaani ruled it to be da’eef (Da’eef al-Targheeb #970-1147)]

See also: “I entrust my affair to Allah”: Tafsir al-Shawkani