It was late night when Abu Ubaidia Ibn Al-Jararah (r) came back from al-Bahrain, in the east of the Arab peninsula with a lot of money. People of Medina knew the news and was hoping that the prophet would give them from the money that came as he usually does. However, it was late at night. What are they going to do? Go and knock at the door of the prophet? It does not make sense. But what could have they done? They are in a dire need of this money and there is nothing that gathers them soon with the prophet so they will have an opportunity to ask. What if the prophet puts this money in something else? They all got the same idea. They all thought the same way: Let us go and pray Fajr with the prophet tomorrow morning in his masjid. The Masjid of the prophet was unusually full of people that do not live close to it. That morning, it was. 🙂 All of those who lived far and used to pray in their own local masjids were suddenly in the prophet’s masjid. After had finished his salah, the Prophet started leaving the masjid going home. The people of Medina started worrying and started showing themselves to the Prophet. Here is what happened
The Prophet smiling: You probably heard that Abu Ubaidah came with something from al-Bahrin, didn’t you?
They quickly and honestly said: Yes, O Messenger of Allah
The Prophet: Rejoice and expect that which pleases you, for I swear by Allah it is not poverty that I fear for you. What I am afraid of is that this life becomes very prosperous for you as it became for people before you; then you compete and fight for it as they did so it destroys you as it did to them.
Is that it? Yes! end of story. I would like to drag your attention to the few points to keep in mind as we interact with people and help them get closer to Allah.
- Who were these people in the story? These were al-Ansar, the people of Medina, the companions of the prophet, those who hosted him and support him in conveying his message. They are just human beings; they have needs and they seek provision and wealth as all of us do. There weren’t a community of angels who do not care about human needs. However, as they sought provision and experienced what other people experienced, their eyes were always on the hereafter and their hearts were full of love to Allah, His Messenger, Islam, and their support to its message.
- See how merciful and understanding the Prophet was when he (pbuh) acknowledged their needs and even smiled to them showing approval of what they have done. He did not blame them for seeking the dunia nor did he made fun of them for unexpectedly coming to join him for Fajr. He just smiled
- The prophet wanted to give a message, a message to remind them with the hereafter and from the tests they may face if they excessively indulge in the pleasures of this life. However, this message may find closed ears or worried hearts thinking that the prophet is saying that to distract them from the wealth Abu Ubaidah brought. The few words the prophet inserted after his smile made a big difference in receiving the message. “Rejoice and expect that which pleases you,” a few words that comforted the heart and opened the ears, for everyone now is sure that they will get something and the message is not to distract them from this wealth.
- Asking leading questions was always the habit of the prophet to start interesting discussions, grab attention, and leave memorable messages. The question looks embarrassing at a first glance, “you probably heard that Abu Ubaidah came with something?” Well, it shows how open the prophet was with his companion. I would imagine how much love, respect, and closeness they had for him to make him ask such a straight forward question to his people. I also would imagine the nice, open, free environment where they just answered, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” No fear from labels; no fear from criticism; no fear from losing stature in the eyes of the prophet. “That is our heart and here it is in front of you O messenger of Allah to see it and fix it if necessary,” was their attitude. It was this relationship and this environment that fostered effective tarbiya messages like the one in this story.
- The prophet had this strong ability and attribute of turning EVERY opportunity to a tarbiya opportunity, not to give a lecture but to give a quick, strong, and lasting message to help people understand and get better. He also had this ability to read between the lines: analyze the actions and anticipate misunderstanding and problems and deal with them head on. The prophet saw people who came to him for a dunia matter. Yes, nothing impermissible in that; he even smiled and acknowledged. However, who knows what is the hearts? Who knows how would this develop? Who knows how the rest of us who hear this story afterwards think of this dunia and what it brings? The message has to be sent and the lesson has to be learned. A warning has to be made and the consequence has to be clear. There is no better opportunity.
Let us learn from the prophet in creating such an excellent learning environment. Let us learn from the prophet how to comfort people and acknowledge their needs. Let us learn from the prophet how to open the ears and the hearts of people and give a strong chance for our message to be heard. Let us learn that we are living with humans not angels and we need to deal with humans in a way suitable to them. Let us learn from the Prophet how to turn every chance to a tarbiya opportunity for ourselves and others around us. You want to follow the sunnah of the prophet, here you go!
May Allah have peace and blessings on the Messenger and may He be pleased with his companions and all of us, Amin!