Imām ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī Mentions:1 The Prophet (ﷺ) chose the station of al-ʿubūdīyyah (slavery and servitude) over and above the station of kingship. Once – on the day of the conquest of Makkah – a man stood-up (out of reverence) for the Prophet (ﷺ), who, being shocked, said to him, “Do not trouble yourself! Indeed, I am not a king. Rather, I am merely the son of a Qurayshī woman who eats dry meat.”2
It has also been authentically reported from the Prophet (ﷺ) that he said,
Do not over-praise me as the Christians over-praised ʿĪsá, son of Maryam. Indeed, I am only a slave. So call me the Slave of Allāh and His Messenger.3
Imām Aḥmad (d.241 AH) – raḥimahullāhu taʿālá – reports from Muḥammad Ibn Fuḍayl, from ʿAmmārah, from Abū Zurʿah who said: I do not know this except from Abū Hurayrah – raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu – who said: Jibrīl was sitting with the Prophet (ﷺ) looking towards the sky, when he saw an angel. So Jibrīl – ʿalayhi al-Salām – said to him: Indeed, this angel has never descended before today. So when the angel had descended, he said: O Muḥammad! I have been sent by your Lord (to inquire) whether He should make you a Prophet-King or a Slave-Messenger.4
And in a mursal narration from Yahyá Ibn Kathīr – raḥimahullāh that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “I eat as a slave eats, and I sit as a slave sits. Since indeed I am a slave.”5 This has been related by Ibn Saʿd in at-Tabaqāt.
There is also a narration related by Abū Maʿdhr from al-Maqburī from ʿĀʾishah – raḍī Allāhu ʿanha – that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “An angel came to me and said: Allāh sends blessings upon you and says: If you wish you may be a Prophet-King or a Slave-Messenger. So Jibrīl – ʿalayhi al-Salām – indicated to me that I should humble myself: So I said: A Prophet-Slave.” So ʿĀʾishah said: So after that day, the Prophet (ﷺ) never ate whilst reclining, saying, “I eat like a slave eats and I sit like a slave sits.”6
And from the mursal narrations of az-Zuhrī – raḥimahullāhu taʿālá – who said: we were informed that an angel came to the Prophet (ﷺ), who had never come to him before. Accompanying him was Jibrīl – ʿalayhi al-Salām. So the angel spoke, and Jibrīl – ʿalayhi al-Salām – remained silent, so he said: Your Lord inquires whether you wish to be a king or a Prophet-Slave. So the Prophet (ﷺ) looked towards Jibrīl – ʿalayhi al-Salām – as if he was seeking his advice. So Jibrīl indicated that he should be humble. So Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “A Prophet-Slave.” Al-Zuhrī said: So it is said that from that day onwards, the Prophet (ﷺ) never ate whilst reclining, until he departed from this world.7
And it is related in the Musnad, or in the Sunan of al-Tirmidhī, from Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu), from the Prophet (ﷺ) who said, “My Lord – the Mighty and Majestic – gave me the choice that the valley of Makkah be filled with gold, but I said: No! O Lord. However, grant food to me one day, and hunger the day after. So when I am hungry I humble myself before You and remember You, and when I am full, I am grateful to You.”8
Some of the knowledgeable people have said: Whoever claims al-ʿubūdiyyah (slavery and servitude to Allāh), but desires still remain with him, then he is lying in his claim. Indeed, al-ʿubūdiyyah will only be true for the one who annihilates his desires and establishes the will of his Master, where his name is what He called him (i.e. ʿibād al-Raḥmān: the Slaves of the Most Merciful).
Al-Ḥāfiẓ Abū Nuʿaym – raḥimahullāhu taʿālá – relates in the book: Asmāʾa‘us-Sabābah, by way of Shaykh Abū Sulaymān ad-Darānī (d.215H) – raḥimahullāhu taʿālá – who related from ʿAlqamah Ibn al-Ḥārith al-Azdī, from his father, from his grandfather who mentioned the saying of Luqmān the wise when he said to his son, “I have gathered my wisdom for you in six sentences: Work for this world in proportion to how long you shall remain in it, and work for the Hereafter in proportion to how long you shall remain in it. Commit acts of sin in proportion to how much you can endure it. Act for Allāh in accordance to how much you are in need of Him. Commit acts of disobedience in accordance to how much you can endure the punishment. Do not ask except from the One who is in need of no one. And when you intend to commit a sin against Allāh, then do it in a place where He cannot see you.”
Ibrāhīm al-Khawwās – raḥimahullāhu taʿālá – said, “The cure for the hearts is in five things: reciting the Qurʾān with reflection and contemplation; emptying the stomach (i.e. frequent fasting); praying at night; humbling oneself in the early hours of the morning; and being in the company of the sāliḥīn (righteous).”
Ibrāhīm Ibn Adham (d.160H) – raḥimahullāhu taʿālá – said in an admonition, when he was asked (by some people) about the saying of Allāh – the Most High -:
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ ۚ ﴿٦٠﴾
“Call upon Me and I will respond to you.”
(They said): We call upon Him, but He does not respond to us. So he said to them, “You know Allāh, yet you do not obey Him. You recite the Qurʾān, but you do not act according to it. You know Shayṭān, but still agree with him. You claim to love Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ), yet you abandon his Sunnah. You claim to love Paradise, yet you do not work for it. You claim to fear the Fire, yet you do not stop sinning. You say: Indeed death is true, yet you have not prepared for it. You busy yourselves with the faults of others, but you do not look at your own faults. You eat the sustenance that Allāh provides for you, yet you are not grateful to Him. You bury your dead, but you have not heeded its lesson.”
We ask Allāh to grant us the ability to please Him and to bestow upon us His mercy.