Excerpt taken from lecture by Ustadh Nouman Ali KhanArticle by Dahlia Saddiq
There is a Hadith narrated by Abu Ayyub Al Ansari that states that a man came to the Prophet ﷺ and asked him to give him advice and to make it concise.
In response, the Prophet ﷺ replied with three statements:
When you stand for your prayer, pray as if you are saying farewell.
Do not say anything for which you must apologise.
Give up any desire to acquire what people have.
(Hadith found in Sunan Ibn Mājah 4169)
When we break down this Hadith, we can truly see how profound such simple statements are.
1. Pray as if it is your last prayer
A very common question scholars get is ‘How do I gain Khushoo’ in my prayer? In other words, how do I gain concentration, mindfulness and humility in my prayer so that I am not distracted?
Generally speaking, most of us enter our prayer already thinking about what we have to do after the prayer. A phone call we need to make, chores we need to complete or a job we need to attend to. We might be going through the physical motions of prayer but our minds and hearts are engaged elsewhere.
Consequently, the prayer becomes an interruption as opposed to being the foremost essential element of our day. The Prophet ﷺ gives us very efficient advice – do not think beyond prayer. Being mindful that this could be the last time we stand before Allah in this life. And if this is the last time we get to pray before Allah and the first account taken on the Day of Judgement then it is a priority to give it due importance.
Have you ever considered why we open our prayers with “Allahu Akbar” (God is the Greatest), as opposed to any other statement of praise such as “Subhan Allah” (Glory be to God)? By saying “Allahu Akbar’, we are essentially declaring Allah is Greater than my work, my children, my wealth, my appointments, my cooking or my social image.
The Prophet ﷺ is teaching us mindfulness. He ﷺ is teaching us to live in the moment. By doing this, I am prioritising my relationship with Allah over my relationship with everyone and everything else.
2. Do not say anything for which you must apologise
Imagine we lived our entire lives in accordance with this principle. It would save marriages, friendships and numerous moments of regret and pain. In the midst of an argument, people often say the most hurtful words one can verbalise with the naive assumption that there will be a moment of reconciliation. Assuming that there will be a later on.
A harsh reality is that many loved ones have passed away before having the opportunity for reconciliation. Family members are left with regret their entire lives being unable to forgive themselves.
Ask yourself this in the midst of the conversation ‘Would I be comfortable with this being my final conversation with this person? Allah teaches us that when we go to sleep, He takes our soul and decides whether or not to restore them in the morning (Quran 39:42).
Abdullah Ibn Umar would often say:
“In the evening do not expect [to live until] the morning, and in the morning do not expect [to live until] the evening” (Bukhari).
Don’t say things today that you will have to apologise for tomorrow.
Our default thinking is that we are going to get up in the morning, oblivious of the supplication we say before bed, ‘In Your Name Oh Allah I die and I am brought back to life’.
The truth is, there are many people who without cause just don’t wake up in the morning.
The sad reality is that most of us have our most heated exchanges with those we are closest to. It’s usually our spouse, our children, our family, our closest friends. So don’t say things that you are going to have to apologise for tomorrow. Catch yourself and think it through.
3. Give up any desire to acquire what people have.
The last one is the one most people have a hard time understanding. ‘Lose hope in what other people possess’. Or ‘despair in what other people possess’. Now despair is usually a negative connotation. Despairing in the Mercy of Allah is not healthy; it is debilitating. Having despair is detrimental when we talk about your own potential for growth, which is another form of despairing in Allah’s Mercy.
Yet despairing in what other people possess is actually something empowering. This doesn’t mean that you should approach this world with mediocrity, for Muslims are encouraged to have Ishaan (excellence) in all things. But rather it teaches us to stop obsessing over that which is in the hands of others.
How much of our daily stress and how thoughts at night have been occupied by feeling insufficient in our worldly lives. Perhaps we do not have something that someone else has, and because of that we experience emotions of sadness, jealousy and discontent with our lives.
And this isn’t just something that preoccupies the minds of the youth. This pressure exists throughout our entire lives. Shaytan has a great way of making us feel discontent in regards to what we possess in the world. This inhibits us from working for our Hereafter as we are constantly fixated on perpetually building our Dunya.
As Muslims we should maintain excellence in our pursuit of the world along with our pursuit of the Hereafter but we will never be able to pursue our Hereafter if we are not content with what we have in this world.
Let us embody these three principles throughout our lives and let it begin with our prayer. As Umar Ibn Khattab r.a. once said,
“Guard your Salaah, for if you lose that, you lose everything else”.
By repairing our prayer, we will fix our relationship with Allah. By fixing our relationship with Allah, we will better our relations with everyone and everything else.
May Allah guide us in doing our part in following the Prophet’s advice, and grant us the benefit from it. Ameen