Better Than A Servant
Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu narrates : “Fatima Radhi Allahu Anha complained of the suffering caused to her by the hand mill. Some captives were brought to the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. She came to him but did not find him at home. Aisha Radhi Allahu Anha was present there and Fatima Radhi Allahu Anha told (of her desire for a servant). When the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam came, Aisha Radhi Allahu Anha informed him about Fatima’s visit. So the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam came to us, while we had gone to bed. I wanted to get up but the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam said, “Remain at your place”. Then he sat down between us till I could feel the coolness of his feet on my chest. Then he said, “Shall I teach you something which is better than what you have asked me? When you go to bed, say, ‘Allahu-Akbar’ thirty-four times, Subhan Allah thirty-three times and Alhamdu-lillah thirty-three times for that is better for you than a servant.” (Bukhari)
This incident has been mentioned in Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, Nasai, and other books. From other narrations of this hadith, we learn more about this incident :
Fatima Radhi Allahu Anha had developed sores on her hands due to grinding flour with her hand mill. She had also developed sores on her neck due to carrying water. Sweeping her home had made her clothes dusty and baking bread had discolored her face. Now, Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam had received some slaves and Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu had heard about this. Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu advised her to go to him and ask for a servant to help her with her household chores as these had overpowered her. When she came to the house of her father she did not find him. Rather, he was in the masjid in discussion with his companions. Later, after he was told about the arrival of his daughter to see him, he came to see them in their room. The cloth that was covering Ali and Faatima Radhi Allahu Anhuma was so small that their feet were exposed when they covered their heads and their heads were exposed when they covered their feet. When he requested to enter they wanted to first dress appropriately but he asked them to remain lying down as they were. He said that he would prefer to sell the slaves that he had received and spend the money on the Ahlus Suffa as they had no food. He instead taught them certain azkaar which were better than a servant.
Ali Radhi Allahu said : “I have not left practicing on this ever since I heard this from Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam.” Somebody asked : “Not even on the night of Siffeen?” Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu replied : “Not even on the night of Siffeen.” (Muslim)
Siffeen is the name of a place close to the Euphrates where the famous battle took place between Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu and the Syrians in the year 37 Hijri. It was a trying and strenuous battle for Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu, hence the questioner asked him to see if he had remembered to practice on the advice of his master on that night too. This shows Ali’s Radhi Allahu Anhu obedience to Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam and his punctuality and discipline in worship.
It is important to note that Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam mentioned a number of different azkaar to be recited at the time of going to sleep. These are applicable to different situations and occasions. Each of these is virtuous in their own way.
The statement of Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam that these azkaar were better than a servant can mean two things. Firstly, a servant is related to this worldly life whereas azkaar are related to the hereafter. The hereafter is superior and everlasting when compared to this world. Secondly, it could mean that these azkaar are of greater benefit in fulfilling the household chores than a servant.
- From this hadith, we learn that Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu was very close to the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. Proof of this is from the following :
- Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu was the son-in-law of Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam
- Imam Bukhari Rahimahullah mentioned this hadith in the section dealing with the virtues of Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu.
- Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam entered into their private room in a very informal manner.
- Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam gave preference to Aakhirah for his close family. He did not choose the comforts of the world for them. He encouraged his daughter and son-in-law towards patience and the remembrance of Allah Azza Wajal instead of acquiring a servant. Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam chose for his daughter what he chose for himself in terms of patience and azkaar in times of difficulty.It was a settled principle with the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam that he always placed his family members and those who were nearer to him in the front line in facing risk or hazard but allotted them the last place when he distributed favors, rewards, and spoils of war. When the three well-known warriors of the Quraish, Utba, Shayba, and Walid Ibn Utba, challenged the Muslims to single combat at Badr, the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam sent forward Hamza, Ali and Ubayda Radhi Allahu Anhum, although he knew about the bravery and strength of the enemy combatants. Hamza, Ali, and Ubayda Radhi Allahu Anhum belonged to the Prophet’s Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam own clan, the Banu Hashim, and were his near relatives.
- Scholars mention that from this hadith one learns an important technique in teaching people. Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam approached his daughter and son-in-law with extreme love and affection asking them not to inconvenience themselves by moving from their bed. He then sat affectionately between them as close as he could. He explained to them what he thought was better for them by means of kind words. Such kindness and affection will melt the heart of any person. When one wants to convince another it can be easily achieved with love and affection.
- This zikr makes strenuous tasks easy.
- Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam through this incident taught the Ummah to exercise patience in difficulty, to accumulate good deeds for the hereafter, and to be kept safe from the deceptive worldly life by focussing on the hereafter.
- One should encourage one’s family towards giving preference to the hereafter over the world according to their level of tawakkul and reliance upon Allah Azza Wajal.