Abu al-‘Abbas ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas(ra) reports:
“One day I was riding (a horse/camel) behind the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when he said, ‘Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of God, and He will take care of you. Be mindful of Him, and you shall find Him at your side. If you ask, ask of God. If you need help, seek it from God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together in order to help you, they would not be able to help you except if God had written so. And if the whole world were to gather together in order to harm you, they would not harm you except if God had written so. The pens have been lifted, and the pages are dry.’ ”
Related by Tirmidhi
Ibn Abbas was, at most, 13 years old when he was gifted these words of advice by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Imagine the impression this made on a teenager, who would grow up to be an ocean of knowledge and for whom the Prophet said the prayer, “Allah, give him understanding of the religion, and teach him to discern its meanings.” As we equip children with every means of success, we should not forget to imprint in their memory and hearts these powerful rules to live by.
In another narration, the Prophet says, “Be mindful of Allah, you shall find Him in front of you. Know Allah in times of prosperity so He will know you in times of hardship. Know that whatever passed you by could never have happened, and what happened could never have been avoided. Know that victory comes with patience, relief comes with affliction, and with hardship comes ease.”
Take Care of Your Relationship with Allah
“Be mindful of Allah, He will be mindful of you...” This hadith reveals core truths about the nature of our relationship with Allah. If you take care of your relationship with Him, He will take care of you. Whatever you need or desire, in the end it can only come from Him. This is not to say that we can never ask people for help, but we should understand that ultimately Allah is the source of all help that comes our way. The companions used to ask Allah for help in everything, large or small, even in getting salt for their food.
We sometimes get bogged down with the side issues in our religion: with definitions, fiqh issues, and the differences between us, while forgetting the essence of our relationship with the Creator. The Prophet captured this essence for Ibn Abbas and for all Muslims, and taught us that as long as we turn to Allah, we will be all right. In order to understand we must try it; it is one thing to read about it, and another to actually experience finding Allah at your side in moments of hardship.
The Prophet told us a story of three men who were caught in a storm and sought shelter in a cave. No sooner had they entered the cave than a massive boulder fell and blocked the only exit. The three men called upon Allah to help them, testifying to deeds they had done solely for the sake of Allah, and as each one told the story of their deed, the boulder shifted and they were able to escape. One lesson of this story is that if we are mindful and obedient to Allah in times of ease and enablement, He will be at our side when we are desperate.
Freedom Through Reliance on Allah
What transformation will take place when we internalize the guidance in this hadith: being mindful of Allah so that He takes care of us; seeking help only of Allah; and understanding that no good or harm, no matter how inevitable it seems, can befall us unless Allah wills? There is tremendous freedom from the hindrances of fear and loneliness when we rely only on Allah. Great acts of courage, patience and independence become possible, because the individual senses the company of Allah by his or her side. When Prophet Ibrahim was about to be burned alive after destroying the idols of his people, the angel Jibreel came to him and asked him, “Do you need help?” Ibrahim replied, “From you? No. As for Allah? Then yes!”
Moreover, the we know that whatever harm Allah has written for us is inevitable, because the “pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” We can put our hearts and minds to rest, knowing that what is written will come to be no matter what, and Allah will be at our side.
Difficulty Lies Ahead
It is implied in the hadith that there will be challenges and trials for the believer. Perhaps it is in difficulty that the strength and power of the Prophet’s words shine brightest. Hardship is never meant to break us. Even in the darkest moments, there will be unexpected sources of coolness and ease, and always the hope of victory that comes with patience. Allah says in the Quran,
We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property, lives, and crops. But give good news to those who are steadfast. Those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’ These will be given blessings and mercy from their Lord, and it is they who are rightly guided.