Characteristics of the Believer: Selections from Kitab al-Iman of Miftah al-Ma`ani

1. On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet said, “A believing man is not struck with fatigue, sickness, an anxiety, sadness or an obnoxious (remark), to the extent that a thorn pricks him, but Allah (swt) expiates thereby his sins.”

Commentary

Obviously, the expiation is conditioned to not committing a major sin. (Tuhfah)

In any case, in Mirqah, it has been stated that there are no ahadith which promises expiation for anxieties that befall a man. Thus, the hadith expresses the notion of Allah’s special mercy with which He deals with the believers. (Husni Ibrahim)

2. Of the many narratives coming from Abu Hurayrah one of them says that the Prophet said: “One of you may not wish for death, nor ask for it before it comes to him. When one of you dies, his deeds are severed (from him), while a believer’s (life-) term does not extend but is a means of goods for him.”

Commentary

One may not wish for death for a personal calamity that strikes him. However, it is not disapproved that one wishes death from fear concerning his religion. (Mirqah)

It is better to bear calamities with patience. Khabbab b. al-Art was found ironing his stomach with a hot iron, he remarked, “Had not the Prophet prohibited that one wish for death, I would have wished for death.” At best one might say, as in another hadith: “O Allah! Let me live so long as life is good for me but deal me death if death is better for me.”

Nonetheless, one may wish for death for his own reasons. `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz would always inquire about `Umar ibn al-Khattab as to how he did things, and then imitate him. When he came to know that `Umar I had wished for death, `Umar II also wished it for himself. It is said that he died by the next Jumu`ah. (Al-Tamheed).

In other circumstances, too, one could wish for death. A hadith says, “Seek early death for six reasons: Affairs in the hands of imbeciles, numerousness of the law and order forces, a bribe-bearing transaction, making light of blood-letting, severance of ties, and young men treating the Qur’an as a musical instrument, bringing forward a man to sing the Qur’an for them although he would be the least knowing of them.” (Al-Tamheed)

Lengthening the life-term of a believer is always a good thing for him. A hadith says, “Good news for he whose life-term is lengthened and whose deeds grow virtuous.” Another says, “The best of you are the longest in life-term and the best in deeds.” (Mirqah)

Lengthening of life-term also allows time for repentance. (Fayd)

3. Abu Hurayrah reported the Prophet as having said, “A strong believer is better and more approved by Allah than a weak believer, although there is good in everyone of them. Covet for what will benefit you, seek Allah’s help and do not despair. Then if something (untowardly) strikes you, do not say, ‘Had I done it that way, it would have been this way,’ Rather, say, ‘Allah destined it, and did what He willed,’ for, ‘only if,’ opens the door for Shaytan’s gimmicks.”

4. Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet (saws) said, “A believer is not bitten from the same hole twice.” (Sahihayn)

Commentary

A believer is not a stupid person who does not learn from his mistakes. He is not a simpleton who can be repeatedly deceived and defrauded. He is “farees” (smart and quick to learn).

The above hadith was provoked by a clever Makkan pagan poet called Abi `Azza al-Jumahi. At Makkah, he used to pour scorn on the Prophet with his poems, casting aspersions and inciting the Makkans to go after the Muslims – now refugees at Madinah: no small crimes in that clime and culture. On top of that, he came to Badr along with the Quraysh army to fight and annihilate the Prophet and his followers. After the defeat, and unable to escape, he was taken prisoner. He sought the Prophet’s forgiveness by citing his responsibility of wife and children. The Prophet forgave him, and released him without ransom on promise that he would not repeat his misdoings. But once in the safety of Makkah, he was back to his mischiefs, particularly inciting the Makkans to take revenge.

So, it was natural that when the Makkan army headed to Madinah and defeated the Muslims at Uhud, he was with them. But he was taken prisoner. Once again, he pleaded pardon citing the responsibility of wife and child on him. The Prophet said, “I will not allow you to go back to Makkah and boast there, thus: ‘I deceived Muhammad twice.’” He also said, “A believer will not be bitten twice from the same hole,” and got him executed. (Fath, Fayd and others)

`Askari has mentioned that once Hisham b. `Abdul Malik paid up on behalf of Zuhri 7,000 Dinar (that Zuhri owed to somebody) and advised him, “Don’t repeat it.” (That is, do not take loans again). Zuhri replied, “O leader of the faithful, the Prophet has said, ‘A believer cannot be bitten from the same hole twice.’” (What Zuhri meant was that he will learn the lesson, and not borrow again for others, who would not pay him back).

But Zuhri also used to say: “It seems the generous don’t learn lessons.” That is because Zuhri kept borrowing for others, and running into debts.

5. Abu Musa al-Ash`ari narrated that the Prophet said, “A believer unto another believer is like a building, one of it strengthens the other.” Then he pressed fingers of his one hand into another. (Bukhari)

Commentary

Believers then, their nature is that of co-operation, alleviation, mutual support, and preference of the common good over personal beneficence.

As for pressing the fingers of a hand into another, which other reports prohibit, there is no contradiction because the prohibition is for ordinary times, whereas, if it is done to press a point, then it is allowed (Al-Adab al-Nabawiyy).

Some have thought that the prohibition is to do it inside a mosque (`Awn al-M`bud).