Story below is dramatized from a collection of narration in the authentic book of Muslim and Musnad of Imam Ahmed
My name is Al-Rabi’ ibn Ka’b al-Aslammi. I was 17 years old, a very poor young man who did not have money not even a house to live in. I was part of a group of very poor people who used to sleep in the masjid of the prophet and live on the charity given to us by the generous people of the Medina. It was a good opportunity though. I spent my time serving the prophet (pbuh): bringing him water for washing, responding to his requests, and helping him with any of his matters. I was lucky enough to spend the whole day with him (pbuh) as a servant. When the night comes and the messenger goes to his house to sleep, I tell myself, let me stay in front of the house just in case the prophet needs something. I will be there to help. I used to sit down and hear the prophet say “Subhana Allah, Subhana Allah, Praise be to Allah,” until I fell asleep. Anyway, one time the prophet came out to me and liked my dedication and readiness to help him and serve him.
“O Rabi’, ask me something.” Said the Prophet (pbuh)
I felt very happy the prophet is going to reward me for my service to him. It is a nice opportunity. I better ask for something great.
“Give me sometime to think O Messenger of Allah” I replied
I left thinking of what I should ask the prophet (pbuh). I am poor. I have no wife. I also have no house. If I ask him any of these things, he will probably help me. But then I told myself, “if I ask about something from this life, I know it is written for me and it won’t escape me.” “I also know how close the Messenger is to Allah and if I ask him something for my hereafter, I would be better.”
“Did you decide O Rabi’?” Asked the prophet when he saw me the next day.
“Yes, O Messenger of Allah. I want to ask you to be your company on Paradise!”
“Is that it?” Asked the prophet. “Don’t you want anything else?”
“Yes, that is it! Nothing else,” I replied.
“Who asked you to say this Rabi’?” The prophet inquired
“I swear by Allah that no one did. I thought of myself and I found out that anything I would ask from this life is written for me and will reach me. I also know how close you are to Allah and I thought of asking you something for my hereafter.” I explained.
The prophet said in conclusion, “I will do so.” “However, help me with lots of prostration.”
END OF STORY. I read and reflect:
This is a young man, a 17 year old man. He, compared to our youth, just graduated from high school. He wasn’t so sophisticated nor was he a known scholar. Yet, he was able to articulate a very simple yet strong message such as the one in this story. What made him reach such a level of deep understanding and strong faith. I am not surprised. If I have the chance to ask the prophet something, I will ask him probably for something similar (I hope). You do not get a chance to have this “blank check” offer from the Messenger himself. WHAT SURPRISED ME is when he was given the chance of asking for something else. He could have told himself, “now that we guaranteed Paradise and the company of the prophet, here comes another chance. Let me ask the prophet something for me life then. I am poor, very poor, and I am in a need of a house, wife, and some money to start a business or to even eat. And the prophet never minded giving people. Why don’t I ask him to give me some of these things? These things are permissible, actually required for a good life.” It is really surprising that he did not
Maybe the reason is that the love and attachment to the first request masked his desire of anything else. This “masking” phenomenon is like someone who is very poor but yet has been dreaming about having a billion dollars. This person had a chance to meet a person who is very rich and this person asked him if he needs anything. He made the request to have a billion dollars. The rich man responded saying, “You got it!” And then added while showing a couple hundred dollars in his hand, “Anything else?” Would you ask for a hundred dollars even if you are starving? The man would have given it to you.
After going through this story, it has become very clear to me that the reason we are not attached to Paradise as much as we are to this life is that we have not YET felt their relative values. When we really look at Paradise like a billion dollars and to life like a hundred dollars, we can start walking our road to it. The fact of the matter is that the real comparison is not a billion to a hundred. It is infinity to zero.