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The Parable of the One Who Remembers Allāh and the One Who Does Not Is Like the Living and the Dead

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī

Expounding on a parable of the Prophet (ﷺ), muslims are urged to remain steadfast in their worship of Allāh in order to give their existence meaning.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: the parable of the one who remembers Allāh and one who does not is like the living and the dead.

Narrated by al-Bukhārī and Muslim

Imām Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī [d. 1250 AH] said:1

This ḥadīth has been narrated by al-Bukhārī and Muslim from the aḥadīth of Abū Mūsá [al-Ashʿarī] (may Allāh be pleased with him). This is al-Bukhārī’s wording of the ḥadīth in the chapter entitled ‘Invocations’ and Muslim mentioned it in the chapter of ‘Ṣalāh’ from his [book] ‘Al-Ṣaḥīḥ’ with the wording:

‘The likeness of a house in which Allāh is remembered and a house devoid of Allāh’s remembrance is like [the difference between] one who is alive and one who is dead.’

Within this parable, there is exalted merit, and noble bounty for the one who engages in the remembrance of Allāh. It is as if the benefit of his remembrance of Allāh the Exalted in Majesty is extended to his physical and spiritual state such that he is covered in luminosity for the rewards he will receive. Just as the one who chooses to leave the true remembrance [of Allāh], even if he is physically alive, there is no meaning to his existence. Rather, he is most similar to the dead that receives none of the benefits that is perpetually showered upon those who have true life that is constantly engaging in the obedience of Allāh the Exalted in Majesty. This ḥadīth is similar to the saying of the Most High:

‘And is one who was dead and We gave him life and made for him light by which to walk among the people like one who is in darkness, never to emerge therefrom? Thus it has been made pleasing to the disbelievers that which they were doing.’
[Al-Anʿām, 6:122]

Its meaning is to denote similarity between the disbeliever and that which is dead, and guidance to Islām with life [itself].

Endnotes:

[1] Tuḥfah al-Dhākirīn: 17
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: September 6, 2022
Edited: January 30, 2023

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