Competing for the Hereafter…
by Imâm al-Haramain ‘Abdul-Bârî ibn ‘Awad ath-Thubaytî
All praise is due to Almighty Allaah Who has made Ramadaan a month of plentiful reward. I thank Him for favoring us with these last ten days. I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad r is His Servant and Messenger. May Allaah bestow peace and blessings upon him, his family and companions.
Brothers in Islaam, fear Allaah as He should be feared and be mindful of Him openly and secretly.
“O you who believe! fear Allaah as He should be feared and die not except in the state of Islaam.” (Aal ‘Imraan 3:102).
Fellow Muslims, Our Almighty Lord says
“And march forth in the way (which leads) to forgiveness from your Lord and for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for the pious.” (Aal ‘Imraan 3:133).
He also says:
“Race one with another in hastening towards Forgiveness from your Lord, and towards Paradise, the width whereof is as the width of heaven and earth, prepared for those who believe in Allaah and His Messengers. That is the Grace of Allaah which He bestows on whom He pleases. And Allaah is the Owner of Great Bounty.” (Al-Hadeed 57:21)
Dear brethren, when one carefully looks at peoples’ behavior, he will notice different kinds of competition. Some people do compete over this mundane world as to conquer and hold it in their possession; some compete over the attainment of high positions; some compete to achieve fame and stardom and some compete on building luxurious houses just as if this world is an everlasting one.
Let us leave those people moving directionlessly in their fake pleasures and ponder over a better and sublime competition; a competition that is encouraged by the Glorious Qur’aan. It is a race towards the Pleasure of Allaah and the Paradise, a competition in the field of righteous deeds. It is a competition in which the participants are wise people who are aware that this live is short hence they compete with one another in investing their lives in acts of obedience to Allaah.
The Messenger of Allaah saws kindled the fire of race towards what pleases Allaah in the hearts of his companions when he said:
“The Mufarridoon have gone ahead!’ The companions asked: ‘Who are the Mufarridoon O Messenger of Allaah!’ He answered: “They are those men and women who remember Allaah much.” (Muslim)
He also said
“Should I teach something with which you can catch up with those who have gone ahead of you and outstrip those who are behind you and none will be better than you except the one who does as you do?’ They said: ‘Yes! O Messenger of Allaah!’ He said: ‘You should glorify Allaah, exalt him and praise Him 33 times at the end of every prayer.” (Muslim)
He also said:
“If people had known the reward of Aadhaan and the first row (in the congregational prayer) and would not get a way to it except by casting lots they would have certainly done that; and if they had known the reward in the midnoon prayer, they would have raced with one another to attend it. If they had known the reward in the late evening prayer (‘Ishaa) and the dawn prayer (Fajr) they would have attended it even if they had to crawl.” (Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim).
When you read the stories of the Sahaabah, you will see that they are resolute, enthusiastic and serious as far as good deeds are concerned to the extent that the poor among them do compete with the rich in carrying out meritorious acts even though they had no excessive money with which they could compete with them in acts of charity.
Some poor companions came to the Messenger of Allaah saws one day and asked him of what they could do to be ahead of the rich in terms of reward.
They said: ‘O Messenger of Allaah! The rich people have made away with rewards. They pray as we do, fast as we do and spend their excessive wealth in charity.’
He answered: ‘Has Allaah not provided for you what you can do charity with? Indeed, every glorification (Subhaanallaah) that you do is charity, every exaltation (Allaahu Akbar) that you do is charity, every praise that you give(Alhamdulillaah) is charity, every ‘Laailaaha illa Allaah’ that you say is charity, enjoining what is good is charity, preventing evil is charity and even doing marital intercourse with one’s spouse is charity.’
They said: ‘O Messenger of Allaah! How can we enjoy ourselves and still get reward for it?’
He replied: ‘Tell me, if he does it in an unlawful way, is it not going to be a sin? Likewise is when he does it in a lawful way, he is going to get a reward for that.” (Muslim).
Here is a good example of the Sahaabahs’ competition with one another in the field of meritorious deeds. In the days of the Battle of Badr, Sa‘d ibn Khaythamah draw lots with his father as to whom of both will participate in the battle. Sa‘d’s lot emerged and his father told him: ‘My son, give me preference over yourself today.’Sa‘d answered: ‘If it is other things beside Paradise I would have done that.’So Sa‘d went to the Battle of Badr and was martyred. His father later took part in the Battle of Uhud and also got martyred.
The noble and commendable competitions that occurred between Aboo Bakr and ‘Umar is also well-known though ‘Umar never succeeded in outstripping Aboo Bakr. To cite an example, the Messenger of Allaah saws once called upon his companions to give charity.
‘Umar saw that as an oppurtunity to outstrip Aboo Bakr and he said: ‘Today, I am going to surpass Aboo Bakr.’ He said: ‘So I came with half of my property. The Messenger of Allaah r asked: ‘What have you left for your family?’ I answered: ‘As much as this.’ Then Aboo Bakr came with all that he has and the Messenger of Allaah r said: ‘What have you left for your family?’ He replied: ‘I left for them Allaah and his Messenger.’ It is then that I said: ‘I shall never compete with him on anything again.” (At-Tirmidhee).
It is quite wonderful that Aboo Bakr participated competitively in all aspects of good deeds; be it spending in the cause of Allaah, worship and propagation of Islaam.
Actually, entering the competition for meritorious acts creates in a Muslim a desire to meet up with those who are above him in terms of devotion, Da‘wah and Jihaad. Some ‘Ulamaa while commenting on the verse:
“Hasten towards all that is good” (Al-Baqarah 2:1448) said: “Whoever beats others to the righteous deeds in this world will be the foremost on the Last Day and the foremost people are the highest in position.”
Allaah says while lauding the foremost:
“Verily, they used to hasten on to do good deeds, and they use to call on Us with hope and fear, and used to humble themselves before Us.” (Al-Anbiyaa 21:90)
The above verses are enough to make a Muslim aim for the highest possible rank through a noble race towards all acts of worship. As for the Taabi‘een, they have laid a great example in the arena of competition over good deeds. They used to rebuke their souls whenever it lagged behind in the race towards righteous acts and they would tell it:
“The Sahaabah rode behind the Prophet saws on the backs of the perfectly breeded race horses and we are riding on the backs of lame donkeys. Do you then want to hamper our movement so that they can win the Messenger of Allaah saws while we remain on the way? ..By Allaah, we shall meet up with them even though we have to crawl so that they will know that those they left behind are really men.”
If you therefore, want to increase your reward in the hereafter, hasten to join the arena of the great race, for you are now in the season of good deeds. The highest thing that people can compete for is the Paradise which is as wide as are the heavens and the earth. Allaah says:
“Such is the Paradise which We shall give as an inheritance to those of Our slaves who have been Al-Muttaqun (pious and righteous persons).” (Maryam 19:63)
These are the last days of Ramadaan; days of bounties and rewards. It is a period in which supplications are answered and it is the best time to beseech the Lord of the heavens and the earth. For this let the competitors do compete.
Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim reported from Aaishah that she said:
“In the last ten days of Ramadaan, the Prophet saws would tighten his loincloth, spend his nights in worship and wake up his household.”
These three short sentences explain the manner in which the Prophet r spent the last ten days of Ramadaan in the most beautiful way. You all know how busy the Prophet r used to be, yet he would not allow this best season to go unused in acts of worship. He would devote himself exclusively during these ten days to Ibaadah, seeking for Allaah’s reward. He would do all this, regardless of the fact that Allaah has forgiven him all his sins. What then are we doing?!!
The phrase ‘ would tighten his loincloth’ is used figuratively to mean: ‘he would exert all efforts and vigor in the acts of ‘Ibaadah’.The Messenger of Allaah would preoccupy himself with different kinds of worship throught the day and night. You would see him standing in prayer, doing a lot of Istighfaar, reciting the glorious Qur’aan and raising his hand in prayer doing all these in the quest for Lailatu-Qadr upon which a Soorah -that will continue to be recited till the Day of Ressurection- was revealed:
“We have sent it (this Qur’an) in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree). And what will make you know the night of Al-Qadr (Decree). The night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months (i.e. worshipping Allah in that night is better than worshipping Him a thousand months, i.e. 83 years and 4 months). Therein descend the angels and the Ruh [Jibrael (Gabriel)] by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees. Peace! (All that night, there is Peace and Goodness from Allah to His believing slaves) until the appearance of dawn.”
Yet, it is quite unfortunate that Satan do overpower some people and prevent them from remembrance of Allaah and other acts of worship during these good and merciful seasons with trivialities like how to spend the Eid nights, what to wear, passing the night in pastime and the day in sleep hence making them lose the reality of fasting and the blessing of Laylatul-Qadr (night of majesty).
Dear brethren, your Lord is throwing His doors of Mercy opened and is providing you with means to prosperity. Why then would some people be unheeding?! He is saying:
“O ‘Ibaadee (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the mercy of Allaah, verily Allaah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And turn in repentance and in obedience with true Faith (Islamic Monotheism) to your Lord and submit to Him (in Islam), before the torment comes upon you, then you will not be helped.” (Az-Zumar 39:53-54)
 This verse is included by the translator for its direct connection to the topic.