Ep. 35 The Forties – The Sign of Sincerity

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Al-Salam ‘Alaykum, this is Syed Ali Imran – and you are listening to the Forties podcast, brought to you by Mizan Institute.

This is episode 35 – The Sign of Sincerity

أشار ص بقوله‏ يَا أَبَا ذَرٍّ لَا يَفْقَهُ‏ الرَّجُلُ‏ كُلَ‏ الْفِقْهِ‏ حَتَّى يَرَى النَّاسَ أَمْثَالَ الْأَبَاعِرِ فَلَا يَحْفِلُ بِوُجُودِهِمْ‏ وَ لَا يُغَيِّرُهُ ذَلِكَ- كَمَا لَا يُغَيِّرُهُ وُجُودُ بَعِيرٍ عِنْدَهُ‏ – ثُمَّ يَرْجِعَ إِلَى نَفْسِهِ فَيَكُونَ أَعْظَمَ حَاقِرٍ لَهَا.

Hadith #34: The Prophet (p): O Aba Dharr, a man will not comprehend astutely until he begins to see other humans like the camels. Their presence does not excite him and neither do they cause him to change – just as the presence of a camel besides him will not cause him to change. Then such a person will revisit his self and will be the foremost to belittle himself. [1]

We can extract some key points from this narration: The narration gives us a measuring stick to determine our own sincerity as opposed to doing riyā’ and showing off for others. This measuring stick is mentioned in a figurative language, which is that when it comes to dealing with Allah, we should consider others like camels. Now this doesn’t mean we insult and mock other humans and call them camels – we will expand on human relationships and interactions in the last 40 narrations of this series later in the future, but rather this is a metaphor describing how our state should be in relation to others. In order to understand the metaphor, we have to understand the era of the Prophet (p) where we know camels were a part and parcel of people’s lives, but a person’s life was not dictated by a camel such that they would do riyā’ for it.

The value of a camel in comparison to their own life is nothing, they don’t show off for a camel, they don’t do riyā’ in front of a camel, they don’t do certain acts of worship or other behaviour in order to impress this camel. If a person were to show off and someone asked them who are you showing off in front of, and they responded, I’m trying to impress and show off in front of my camel, such a person would be considered a fool! What is the impression of a camel worth for you!? Absolutely nothing.

This is what the narration is trying to get at. Just as you don’t even think or bother about trying to impress a camel, the presence of a camel doesn’t motivate you to do any such thing, likewise the presence of people around you should also not motivate you do to any such thing for their sake. People should not be impacting your acts in any way, God should be the criteria for that. Once a person has taken this step and has repelled the chance of showing off, they should then look at themselves and see themselves in front of their Lord and realize how belittled they are in front of Allah (swt). An act that is done in this state is going to be a sincere act.

There is a side point that could be mentioned here as it is sometimes observed in our communities. Sometimes during the congregational prayers when the lines are longer, when the Imam of the congregation begins the prayers, there are some people who say the takbir out loud in different part of the prayers and their intent is to let others behind them know that the prayers has begun. There are two possible situations here, one is that this person is saying this takbir purely as an announcement for others to hear, or in another situation the person is actually saying the takbir as part of the ṣālat, that is their intent, but the consequence of this intent is also that people become aware of what the Imam is doing.

The first scenario actually invalidates the prayers, because saying the takbir as an announcement and not as a dhikr or part of the salat is like speaking in the salat, and this breaks the prayers. But if it is being said as part of the dhikr of the Salat, then the prayers is not invalidated. It is important to note these particular differences so that we don’t end up invalidating our worship.

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[1]  In many books this statement is attributed to the tābi’ scholar Khālid ibn Ma‘dān (d. ~ 103-105 AH). This narration in this episode is taken from ‘Uddah al-Dā‘ī of Ibn Fahd al-Ḥillī, pg. 218.