Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Among the most ascetic and bravest of the Companions of the Prophet s.a.w.s. was a man called Abu Dharr al Ghifari. The story of his conversion to Islam is really amazing, and in one sense amusing. His tribe, al Ghifar, were a group of bandits. They would attack any caravans that would pass by their area and loot whatever they could find.

Having heard about the ongoing tumult at Makkah due to the arrival of a new prophet there, he went have a look. He found the Prophet, and asked him to recite some of the Quran. After listening a bit, he said the Shahadah. The Prophet asked him, ‘Where are you from, my Arab brother?’ He said, ‘From Ghifar’. The Prophet was astonished. How had this man from a group of robbers come all the way to him in order to become a Muslim, whilst the Prophet’s own fellow tribesmen and even his relatives were campaigning against him?

Abu Dharr’s astonishing story doesn’t end there. After saying the Shahadah, he went to the Ka’bah and proclaimed at the top of his voice, ‘I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger!’

Very soon he was being beaten by the polytheists. News reached the Prophet’s uncle al Abbas, who by his insight came up with an idea. He reminded the Qurayish where this man had come from. If they harmed him, the Ghifar tribe would take revenge by attacking their caravans.

Abu Dharr returned to his tribe and started preaching Islam. In the meantime, the Prophet migrated to Madinah and was laying the foundations of the Islamic stronghold there. One day, the flourishing city of Madinah witnessed the coming of a huge group of people, people on horseback and people on foot. This huge assembly consisted of the tribe of Ghifar, and also the tribe of Aslim, all these people having converted to Islam through that brave man, Abu Dharr.

Abu Dharr was known later in his life for his asceticism and his outspokenness.

It was to Abu Dharr that the Prophet gave the following three-fold advice:

Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow an evil deed with a good one to wipe it out, and treat the people with good behavior. [Tirmidhi]

This is a recipe for success – it encompasses conduct towards Allah and towards creation.

Have Taqwa

Taqwa entails:

  1. Fear of punishment in the Hereafter
  2. Fear of punishment in this world
  3. Hope of reward in the Hereafter
  4. Hope of reward in this World
  5. Fear of accounting of one’s deeds
  6. Feeling of shame if Allah sees him performing bad deeds
  7. Feeling thankful for the blessings of Allah
  8. Being aware of the Names and Attributes of Allah
  9. Being aware of and realizing Allah’s greatness
  10. Loving Allah truthfully

Following up a bad deed with a good deed

This portion of the hadith is proof that even people of taqwa can sometimes slip up and commit sins. What distinguishes people of taqwa from sinners is that they immediately realize that they have done a mistake, repent from the heart and ask for forgiveness from Allah at Tawwab. Then they follow up the bad deed with a good deed. Allah has said (translation),

O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful. [39:53]

In the above ayah, Allah calls those who have transgressed His ‘slaves’. He knows our weaknesses and He has kept the door of repentance open until the Day of Judgment.

Every son of Adam commits sin, and the best of those who commit sin are those who repent. [ibn Majah]

Good behavior towards people

Treating people with good behavior is in fact part of taqwa, but the Prophet mentioned it separately because we tend to forget that this is also part of one’s Islam. The Prophet said,

By his good character a believer will attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day. [Abu Dawud]

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