I heard the following incident for the first time in one of the lectures by Shaykh Rāshid az-Zahrānī حفظه الله in his series, “How do you become a student of knowledge?” Its in Arabic and one can listen/watch it here. Nevertheless, this story had a great impact on how I viewed certain issues in my life. Here it is:
‘Abdullāh bin ‘Abdul-‘Azīz al-‘Umarī رحمه الله once wrote a letter to al-Imām Mālik رحمه الله encouraging him to worship in solitude and to abandon the gatherings of people in knowledge. So al-Imām Mālik رحمه الله wrote to him in reply, “Indeed Allāh سبحانه و تعالى has apportioned actions amongst His servants the same way He has distributed provisions. So it may be that Ṣalāh (voluntary indulgence) has been made easy upon an individual whereas Ṣiyām is not. And it is possible that Allāh سبحانه و تعالى has made it easy for someone else to wage in Jihād (voluntary indulgence) whilst indulgence in Ṣalāh is not made as easy. And it is also possible that Ṣadaqah is made easy for someone else whereas Ṣiyām is not. You are you well aware that spreading and teaching knowledge is from amongst the most virtues actions and I am pleased with what Allāh سبحانه و تعالى has made easy upon me and given me from it. I do not suspect that what I am indulged in and what you are indulged in is other than worship and both of us are upon goodness in shā Allāh.”
This story is filled with some amazing lessons and in shā‘ Allāh I shall be sharing few of them in this post.
Lesson 1: The first thing we learn is the righteousness in the heart of ‘Abdullāh al-‘Umarī رحمه الله when he wrote a letter advising his Muslim brother. This is a practice many Muslims have forgotten. The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم said,
“Religion is naṣīḥah.” We said: “To whom?” The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “To Allāh and His Book, and His messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk.”
Many a times we find people wanting to give advice to their brothers but they end up using incorrect means to do so such as:
1. They do not maintain the correct mannerism when giving advice
2. They backbite and ‘share’ the mistake of the brother by telling it to someone else and not telling to the actual brother.
Lesson 2: I used to think that any Muslim who is not actively involved in seeking knowledge or not intending to do so is not a ‘good’ Muslim. But the reality couldn’t be any different. This incident of al-Imām Mālik رحمه الله, firstly, shows his in depth knowledge of this Dīn. Secondly; it also shows on how the deeds differ from people to people. Not everyone is same. Some people might be good at one type of good deeds and others are good something else. Some people have a strong passion for charitable works and they are not good at memorizing Qur’ān. This should not be a reason to discriminate between Muslims. However, one should keep in mind that we are referring to Sunan and Nawāfil actions and not the Fard ones. We, as Muslims, are in such a situation in our lifetime (as an Ummah) that there is a huge demand of good Muslims in every field of life from worship in solitude to being a good politician.
It is narrated that
‘Ali رضي الله عنه said, “We were accompanying a funeral procession in Baqī` Al-Gharqad when the Messenger of Allāh صلى الله عليه و سلم proceeded towards us and sat down. We sat around him. He had a small stick in his hand. He was bending down his head and scraping the ground with the stick. He said, “There is none among you but has a place assigned for him either in the Jannah or in the Hell.” The Companions said: “O Messenger of Allāh, should we not depend upon what has been written for us (and give up doing good deeds)?’” The Messenger of Allāh صلى الله عليه و سلم said, “Carry on doing good deeds. Every one will find it easy to do such deeds (as will lead him to his destined place) for which he has been created.”
This ḥadīth tells us that we should continue performing any good deeds we are currently performing. Whatever they maybe, they could the means towards our end to Jannah. One should also not feel bitter by seeing someone engaged in, for instance, Islamic activism whilst he is busy in charity work degrading his own actions. Maybe Allāh سبحانه و تعالى has made it easy for this person charity and that will lead him to Jannah. Each one of us should sit down with themselves and contemplate. Which voluntary deed do I enjoy doing? Which voluntary deed I often find myself engaging in? Is it dhikr? Is it recitation of Qur’ān? Is it spending money in charity? This way we can build upon our already obligatory deeds (which we should be fulfilling anyway!)
Lesson 3: Finally, we also see al-Imām Mālik رحمه الله’s good akhlāq when he responds to the letter. He does not have bad suspicion about his brother rather he accepts his advice with patience. He does not blast at him. He does not insult him. He does not tell him, “Who are you to tell me when I am Imām Mālik?!” We have probably never heard of ‘Abdullāh al-‘Umarīرحمه الله but he advised al-Imām Mālik رحمه الله who, being the giant he was, politely accepts his advice unlike many of us who are maybe more learned religiously or even in worldly issues. He was not like those whom Allāh سبحانه و تعالى has mentioned in the āyah,
“And when it is said to him, ‘Fear Allah’, he is led by arrogance to (more) crime. So enough for him is Hell, and worst indeed is that place to rest!”
On top of that, he also concludes his letter by saying that both of them were involved in worship. This shows that he did not put down anyone’s effort in Dīn whatever it may be and how little it may be.
And Allāh سبحانه و تعالى knows best
 Tanwīr ul-Ḥawālik
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim
 Ṣaḥīḥ ul-Bukhārī and Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim
 Sūrat ul-Baqarah,2:206