Whether we have been blessed to travel aboard or have had the opportunity to benefit from the vast resources and people of knowledge in our locality, the journey in pursuit of sacred knowledge is a huge blessing from Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). This blessing truly cannot be comprehended, since it is through this ‘seeking’ that Allāh – through His infinite bounty, love, and favour upon His servants – will make one’s path to Paradise easy. Studying and seeking sacred knowledge can often be a tiresome and lonely task. It not only requires hard work, serious effort, motivation, high and lofty aspirations, and a lifelong dedication, but also requires a degree of worship of Allāh. This is because it is unlike any other mundane ‘worldly’ discipline where the depths of knowledge can be attained without piety and worship. Often what is required to rejuvenate one’s desire and thirst to progress is to study something one has studied many times before, but this time not for the sake of absorbing more knowledge, but to revise and relive the sacred sources of the Sharī’a and accumulate more good deeds.
It is for this reason that I wanted to share some ‘gems’ from a course I took in July 2018 on the 40 Hadith Collection of Imam Al-Nawawi. These general life ‘gems’ were extracted by our teacher and can be applied to almost every scenario for those wanting to live a life of piety, sincerity, and tawakkul (trust in Allāh). Prior to enrolling in the course, I heard many positive things about the institution and the course instructor, who is a well-known Muhaddith (scholar of Hadith) whom I always wanted to study Hadith from but never had the chance to do so.
I had only one reservation before attending the course: how would I complete the study of the entire 40 Hadith Collection in just a single weekend? However, by the first day, it was quite clear that this course was not intended to be a detailed coverage of every Hadith, but a reading of the entire collection and extracting the main important principles and ‘gems’. Despite the fact that I had been blessed by Allāh to have studied the 40 Hadith Collection of Imam Al-Nawawi many times over the last decade, this particular course was an immensely beneficial experience and one that I would recommend to everyone! Sometimes it not about the book that you are studying or how many times you have studied it, but more about the person you are studying from who may teach you to look at and examine something you are already very familiar with in a very different way. This allows you to appreciate the depth of our comprehensive and holistic sacred sources: the Qur’ān and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).
If anyone would like to study the Hadiths of our beloved Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) as contained in the 40 Hadith Collection of Imam Al-Nawawi in more detail, I would strongly recommend various comprehensive works written on this collection that are available in both English and Arabic. These explore each Hadith from various perspectives, including sincerity, aqīdah, fiqh, spirituality, piety, and social and moral conduct. I like to think that we are all very familiar with the Hadiths of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) contained within this collection as we have heard them many times throughout our lives in sermons, circles, and classes. However, I took this course because I wanted to go from simply knowing the Hadiths from an academic and intellectual sense to actually being able to live by the intended purpose of the Hadiths, which is to allow us to live wholesome lives within the framework of fulfilling the rights of the Creator as well as the rights of His creation. Of course, it would be impossible to capture the content of the entire course, so what follows are ‘gems’ extracted by our teacher during the study of each Hadith. These ‘gems’, I hope, will help to capture the spirit of this particular course and some of the core lessons behind the traditions of our beloved Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).
💎 # 1: Intentions are always internal – they are of the heart and mind (with the exception of the talbiya of Hajj and Umrah). Always check, revise, and rectify your intentions so that they are connected to only pleasing Allāh in every act of worship. Even everyday actions can be rewarded with the correct intention. For example, going out to work with the intention of feeding and proving for one’s family and not having to ask anyone will turn the everyday mundane action into act of good deed that is rewarded by Allāh, in shā Allāh.
💎 # 2: Muslims must have Islam (belief and acting upon the five pillars of Islam) and Imān (belief and acting upon the six pillars of Imān). When that is present, build upon your Ihsān – it will beautify your Islam and Imān and strengthen them both.
💎 # 3: Even though our rizq (sustenance), life spans, actions, and whether we will end up in Paradise or the Hellfire is known by Allāh and written down, we are still expected as Muslims to work hard to perform good deeds. Work hard to earn a halal living and expect good from Allāh. Do what you have to do for your dunyā and your ākhira then put your trust in Allāh alone and rely on Him, not your limited abilities. Allāh wants you to take action before he makes things happen for you. For example, if He wanted, He could have parted the sea for Musa (ʿalayhi al-Salām), but he wanted Musa to take some action first (however trivial it was) of striking the sea with his staff before parting the sea and saving the believers.
💎 # 4: Never try to be ‘over-pious’ and create new acts of worship. There is enough in this Dīn for you to do and enter Paradise by the Mercy of Allāh. Never transgress the limits of Allāh with disobedience or newly invented actions that are seemingly acts of ‘obedience’.
💎 # 5: When you have doubts about something, always stick to the asl (default position). For example, if you do not remember if you broke your wudu’ or not – avoid the doubt and assume you had wudu’ because of the principle in the Sharī’a that “certainty is not broken by doubt.” If you travelled somewhere and are unsure whether the concessions of a ‘traveller’ apply to you or not – go back to the asl and assume that it does not unless you are sure. Therefore, offer the full prayer without shortening it. From your own piety and caution, when it comes to doubts regarding rulings, always try to stick to the positions of the righteous and qualified scholars and try to avoid issues where scholars have differed (as far as possible) which may create doubts in your heart.
💎 # 6: Living as a minority in a non-Muslim society means that you are not obliged to fulfil all of the rulings of hisbah (enjoining the good and forbidding the evil). Some of these rulings are for those in authority alone. Therefore, focus on da’wa; teaching people and bringing them closer to Allāh so they leave off sins by their own accord.
💎 # 7: Allāh tells us to fear Him as much as we can. Therefore, strive hard to do good deeds and avoid sins. If you fall into a sin (whether a ‘minor’ or ‘major’ sin), do not persist in it. Follow up the sin with tawba, istighfār, and good deeds, because good deeds wash away the sins. Even your wudu’ cleanses you of your sins. Have a charity box in your house – every time you fall into a sin, make sincere tawba, do lots of istighfār, and give charity. Whether it is £5, £10 or £20, make sure it is a significant amount depending on your financial ability. When the effect of the sin ‘hits’ your pockets, it will gradually reduce. Another thing to help decrease the sins or a particular sin you seem to fall into frequently is to make an oath to pray a certain number of raka’at (units) of nafl (voluntary) prayers each time you fall into that sin. For example, you can promise Allāh that every time you have more than one desired glance at the opposite sex, you will pray ten raka’at. Eventually, you will see that the sin will decrease and Shaytān will leave off tempting you to do that sin. In order to have that intended effect if you make promise or oaths to Allāh, make sure to fulfil the oath as unfulfilled oaths entail another sin!
💎 # 8: Eating halal food is important and an integral part of your faith, but what is more important is earning halal in order live halal. Nowadays, people are obsessed with obtaining certificates to prove the meat they are eating (as consumers) or selling (as traders) has been slaughtered in the proper way. There is no doubt that this is important, but what is more important before you eat halal food is to ensure that your earning is halal. We find Muslims lying and cheating to obtain money, then over-concern themselves from eating only ‘certified’ halal food. This is a confusion of priorities. If you are employed, do the job you are paid to do to the best of your ability, because this is something that Allāh loves. If you are in business, never lie, cheat, or even exaggerate in order to obtain a profit from your sales. Earning and eating halal is important for the piety, guidance, and prosperity of you and those in your care.
💎 # 9: In the age of media and social media, everyone seems to be concerned with things that have no impact in their lives. Therefore, leave that which does not concern you because that is from the perfection of Imān.
💎 # 10: We live in highly consumerist societies where people only care about eating, sleeping, and living better than everybody else. Be concerned with the situation of your fellow Muslim brothers and sisters everywhere and try to alleviate however possible within your own capacity any problems, issues, and difficulties they may face.
💎 # 11: Understanding the Qur’ān and Sunnah can only be done by looking back at how these sources were understood by our pious predecessors and our ʿulamā. Never dwell on the words and sentences of the Qur’ān and Hadith and try to understand them according to our modern society.
💎 # 12: Work hard, do good deeds, and trust and depend on Allāh, expecting a reward from Him only in the Hereafter. You may experience some of the fruits of your good deeds in this dunyā, but do not expect all of it here. The real distribution of rewards will be in the afterlife, which is the real life for the believer.
💎 # 13: Never be angry, because anger is from Shaytān. This is why the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) repeated “don’t be angry” several times. Anger is a choice – no one can make you angry to the extent that you completely lose control of yourself. You may find controlling it difficult depending on your level of patience and tolerance, but you have to train yourself. When you feel angry, do practical things to ‘cool’ yourself down. Sit down if you are standing. Make wudu’ and pray two rak’ats of nafl prayer before having an argument (if you feel like arguing!). If you allow yourself to become angry, you are allowing someone else (Shaytān) to have control over your emotions. Stop, think, reflect, and control yourself. Most divorces in our community happen because people cannot control their anger. Look at the ramifications of a divorce for the couple, their family, and any children involved – all because of anger! If you are harmed, hurt, or oppressed, and you cannot do anything to resolve the issue, have patience, because Allāh is with the patient. What could ever be better than having the Lord of the Worlds with you? He sees and knows your problem and can find solutions from where and when you least expect.
💎 # 14: Whatever you are doing in life – working, studying, volunteering – perfect it as much as possible. Strive hard to perfect your work, art, or trade. Proficiency and perfection in all that you do is true ihsān.
💎 # 15: Behave well towards people and develop good adab especially with your family. Spread peace, love, and mercy through your actions. Be a force for positivity and be positive wherever you go and with whomever you interact with.
💎 # 16: Fear Allāh wherever you are, do not transgress His limits, and be mindful of living by the rules and regulations He has proscribed for you. If you do, He will aid, protect, and support you. When you seek assistance and help, seek it from Allāh alone and never compromise your Islamic principles for the sake of people. No one can benefit or harm you except by the permission of Allāh. When you find yourself in any difficulty, seek help from the One who is in control of everything and is capable over all things.
💎 # 17: Part of piety is to develop a sense of shame and modesty so that you become embarrassed to commit sins in front of people. Improve on this so that you have shame and modesty in front of the Creator and feel guilty to even commit sins in secret.
💎 # 18: Remain steadfast in Islām and never falter – you are following the last and final revelation of the Almighty. Allāh has honoured and blessed you with Islām, so why would you compromise your faith for worldly gain?
💎 # 19: The Sunnah prayers are a gift and favour from Allāh so that you are able to repair, protect, and perfect the obligatory prayers. Never neglect them and feel that they are a burden.
💎 # 20: Diversify your voluntary acts of worship so that you are doing different things all the time. For example, make dhikr, give charity, perform Umrah, visit the sick, fast, etc. You truly do not know the quality and value behind the good deed and which will be accepted and loved by Allāh. Just continue to do them and be sincere.
💎 # 21: Never oppress anyone. Oppression is such an evil crime that even Allāh – who is the Creator of everything that exists and able to do whatever He wants – has forbidden oppression upon Himself! If you have the choice of either being the oppressed or the oppressor, choose to be oppressed, because there is no veil between the du’a of the oppressed and his Lord, even if that person is a sinner.
💎 # 22: When advising or admonishing people to refrain from sins, you have to first gain knowledge of the thing you are speaking about, because you could be warning people against something that you do not really understand. Always be soft, fair, and just. Make excuses for people, have husn al-dhan (good thoughts) of them and avoid suspicion, envy, and jealousy.
💎 # 23: Be approachable and someone anyone can come to if they need help, assistance, or advice. Some so-called ‘religious’ people are closed off from society and live in a complete vacuum. Always be willing to help people remove grief from their lives, and in turn Allāh will remove from you a grief on the Day of Resurrection.
💎 # 24: Allāh is merciful beyond our understanding and comprehension. He multiplies the reward for your intentions and actions when doing a good deed. Yet for evil deeds, He only writes down one sin if you complete the sin, and even then, He gives you plenty of opportunities to have that sin erased. Hasten to do good deeds. You have no excuse but to build up mountains of good deeds.
💎 # 25: Another sign of Allāh’s infinite Mercy is the fact that He has pardoned the things done mistakenly, out of forgetfulness, or through coercion. Leave any wasāwis (evil whisperings of Shaytān) that you might get regarding past sins and mistakes. Make tawba, do good deeds, and get on with life.
💎 # 25: Never think that you are in this world forever. A believer should always be ready for death – it may come suddenly when you least expect it. This world will continue to spin and people will soon forget about you, so prepare for death as much as possible by performing good deeds, avoiding sins, and living a productive and wholesome life for the sake of Allāh.
💎 # 26: Whatever happens to you and whatever state you are in, always have husn al-dhan (good thoughts) of Allāh. He loves you more than your own mother. He wants to forgive you and He finds no pleasure in seeing you in difficulty and hardship. Focus on all the good in your life; all the things that Allāh has blessed you with. Never look at what you do not have, because whatever Allāh has prevented you from is not good for you. Something has been restricted from you by Allāh because He knows from his infinite knowledge that it is not good for you.
 Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allāh, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Whoever travels a path in search on knowledge, Allāh will make easy for him a path to Paradise.” (Muslim 2699)
 To worship Allāh as if you see Him, and if you cannot do that then worship Allāh with the certainty that He sees you!
 “Perform Salāh at the two ends of the day and in some hours of the night [i.e. the five compulsory prayers]. Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds (i.e. small sins).” Al-Qur’ān 11:114
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “The five daily prayers and Jumu’ah (Friday prayers) and Ramadān take away the bad deeds between one and the next, if you avoid major sins.” (Muslim 344).
 Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allāh said: “When a Muslim or a believer washes his face in ablution, then every sin that he committed with his eyes will be washed away with the last drop of water. When he washes his hands, then every sin that he committed with his hands will be washed away with the last drop of water. When he washes his feet, then every sin that he committed with his feet will be washed away with the last drop of water, until he emerges purified from sin.” (Muslim 244)
 On the authority of Abu Ya’la Shaddad bin Aws, the Messenger of Allāh said:
Verily Allāh has prescribed ihsan (perfection) in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill well; and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.” (Muslim)
 “Indeed, Allāh is with the patient.” (Al-Qur’ān 2:153)
 Mu’adh ibn Jabal reported: The Messenger of Allāh said:
“Beware of the supplication of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and Allāh.”
(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 4090)