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Reflections on the Humility of the Salaf

An extremely inspiring account of the humility and constant remembrance of the Salaf.

And it is from the likes of such weeping souls that we have inherited the knowledge of our Religion!

The Best of Both Worlds

ʿAbdullāh Ibn Masʿūd (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu) said that the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) would supplicate:

“O Allāh, I ask You for guidance, piety, safety and well-being and contentment and sufficiency.” [اللهم اني أسالك الهدى والتقى والعفاف والغنى]1

Imām as-Saʿdī (d.1376H) – raḥimahullāh – said:

“This duʿāʾ (supplication) is from the most comprehensive and beneficial duʿāʾs (supplications), since it involves asking Allāh for well-being in regards to both the Religion and the world. Thus, al-hudā (guidance) is beneficial knowledge, and likewise, al-tuqā (i.e. taqwá) is righteous actions and leaving off what Allāh and His Messenger have forbidden; and this is (asking) for correctness and well-being of a person Religion. Indeed the Religion comprises of beneficial knowledge and recognizing the truth – which is guidance – and standing firm upon obedience to Allāh and His Messenger (ﷺ) and this is piety.

And al-ʿafāfa (well-being and safety) and al-ghinā (contentment and sufficiency) comprise being safe from (the harms of) the creation and that the heart is not attached to them. And it also comprises being content with Allāh and what He provides, and seeking whatever will cause the heart to be satisfied with Him. So with this, happiness in this worldly life has competed, and the heart tastes true sweetness and delight – and this is a goodly life. So whosoever is granted the provisions of guidance, piety, and well-being has indeed achieved true happiness and has acquired all that could possibly be sought after, as well as being saved all that is dreadful and frightening.”2

Knowledge and Humility

Imām al-Dhahabī (d.748H) – raḥimahullāh – said:

“Whosoever seeks knowledge for actions, then his knowledge makes him humble and fearful, and causes him to weep at (the deficiencies in) himself. But whosoever seeks knowledge for the sake of merely teaching, giving verdicts, in order to brag, or to show-off; becomes foolish and arrogant and looks down in contempt at the people, and is destroyed by pride, and the people hate him.

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا ‎﴿٩﴾‏ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا ‎﴿١٠﴾‏

“Truly he succeeds who purifies his soul and he fails who corrupts it.”
[Al-Shams, 91:9-10]

Meaning that it is corrupted with sin and disobedience.”3

Remembering the Guidance

Al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (d.595H) – raḥimahullāh – relates:

“Mus‘ab Ibn ʿAbdullāh said: When Imām Mālik (d.179H) would mention the Prophet (ﷺ), his colour would change and he would have to lean down, and those in his gathering would feel disturbed. So one day he was being asked about this and he said: If you had seen what I have seen, you would not have rejected what you had seen. I have seen Muḥammad Ibn al-Munkadir (d.130H) – and he was the leader of the reciters – that he would never be asked about a ḥadīth, except that he would weep, until we had mercy upon him. And I have seen Ja‘far Ibn Muḥammad (d.148H) who used to smile a lot. Yet whenever the Prophet (ﷺ) was mentioned to him, he would turn pale. I have never seen him relating the Ḥadīth of the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ), except in a state of purification. And when times deteriorated, I never saw him except in one of three conditions: either praying, observing silence, or reciting the Qurʾān. He never uttered a word having no significance, and he was one of the scholars and worshippers who had great fear of Allāh. Whenever ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn al-Qāsim (d.126H) mentioned the Prophet (ﷺ), he turned pale as if the blood had been drained from his face, and his tongue dried up due to reverence of the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ). I went to ‘ʿĀmir Ibn ʿAbdullāh Ibn al-Zubayr (d.123H), and whenever the Prophet (ﷺ) was mentioned to him, he would weep so much, until he was unable to weep any longer. I saw az-Zuhree (d. 124H) – and he was from the kindest people, and closest to them – that when the Prophet (ﷺ) was mentioned to him, he would not be able to recognize you, nor would you be able to recognize him. I came to Ṣafwān Ibn Sulaym (d.132H) – and he was one of the Mujtahid scholars and worshippers – that whenever he mentioned the Prophet (ﷺ), he would weep and he would not stop weeping, to the extent that the people would have to get up and leave him.”4

And it is from the likes of such weeping souls that we have inherited the knowledge of our Religion!


  1. Related by Muslim (no. 2721).
  2. Bahjatul Qulūbul Abrār (p. 198).
  3. Siyar Aʿalámun Nubʿalá (18/192).
  4. Related by Ibn Taymīyyah in Kitābul-Wasīlah (p. 92).
Published: June 12, 2007
Edited: April 3, 2023


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