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Ethics of the Salaf
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Aphorisms Of The Salaf (Predecessors) On Ethics

Author: Compiled by Shaykh Ahmad FarÓd

Ibr‚hÓm at-Taymi (rahimahull‚h) would say: The sincerely devoted one is he who conceals his good deeds like he conceals his bad ones.

 

Once ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘AzÓz (rahimahull‚h) was advised, O Umar, beware of being the ally of All‚h in open, while being His enemy in secret.  If ones nature in open and secret do not equate then he is a hypocrite, and the hypocrites occupy the lowest level in Hellfire.

 

It was asked by one of them, “Beware of hypocritical fear!” On being asked, “What is hypocritical fear?” he replied, “When your body is seen fearing whereas you heart is not fearing.”

 

One of them said, Accompanying the righteous people gives rise to righteousness in the heart.

 

Ahmad ibn Harb (rahimahull‚h) said, There is nothing more beneficial to a Muslims heart than to mix with the righteous and to watch their actions, while nothing is more harmful to the heart than mixing with the sinners and watching their actions.

 

One of the Salaf said, “If it can be that no one beats you to Allh, then do so.”

 

AbŻ Turb an-NakhshabÓ (rahimahullh) would say, “If a person resolved to leave sinning, Allh would send him reinforcements from all sides.  What indicates the blackness of the heart are three: Not to find an escape from sinning, nor a place for obedience to occur, nor a haven for the sermon that warns.”

 

One of them said, If the only quality of obedience was light appearing on the face and its radiance, love in the heart, strength in the limbs, security of the soul (nafs), all these would have been enough for leaving sins.  And if sins only produce ugliness in the face, darkness in the heart and fear over the soul, then all this would have been enough for leaving sins.  For both the obedient and disobedient All‚h has left indications and signs to please one and make the other sorrowful.

 

Qatdah was asked, Which person has the highest standing?”  He replied, The most abundant in his pardon.”

 

One of the Salaf said, I disobey All‚h to find its effect in the way my animal behaves and my wife.

‘AlÓ ibn AbÓ T‚lib (radiyAll‚hu ‘anhu) said, What contents a person is five things.  For his wife to be agreeable, his children to be loyal, his brothers to be pious, his neighbours righteous, and his provisions in his Lord.

 

Ahmad ibn Harb (rahimahullh) would say, “If six mannerisms are gathered in a woman, her goodness is perfected: Guarding the five prayers, yielding to her husband, pleasing her Lord, guarding her tongue from backbiting and gossip, forsaking worldly possessions, and being patient following a tragedy.”

 

Sufyn ath-ThawrÓ (rahimahullh) said, “Do not seek leadership except after fighting the soul (i.e., fighting your desires and self) for seventy years.”

 

Bakr ibn Abdullh al-MuzanÓ (rahimahullh) said, “If you see someone older than you then respect him saying, He has beaten me to Islm and righteous action. If you see someone younger than you then respect him saying to yourself, I have beaten him in sins.  If the people honour you then say, That is from the grace of Allh, but I do not deserve it.  If they degrade you then say , This happened as a consequence of a previous sin.  If you throw a pebble at your neighbor's dog, then you have harmed him.”

 

Mutarrif ibn Abdullh (rahimahullh) would say, “I am not surprised at the one who is destroyed, how he was destroyed, but am amazed at the one who was saved, how he was saved, and Allh never granted a blessing greater than the gift of Islm.”

 

Yahy ibn Mu‘‚dh (rahimahullh) gathered the characteristics of the believers in one of his essays as follows, “It is to be full of modesty, and to be harmless too.  To be full of goodness and not to be corrupt.  For the tongue to be truthful, for the words to be little and to be plentiful in good action.  To have little slip-ups and not to be excessive.  To be good to ones relatives, building closeness between them.  To be dignified and grateful.  To be full of contentment if Allh restricted some provision.  To be forbearing and friendly to his brothers.  To be compassionate and chaste.  Not to curse, swear, insult, backbite, nor to gossip.  Not to be hasty, envious, hateful, arrogant nor vain.  Not to lean towards worldliness, nor to extend long hopes and wishes.  Not to sleep too much nor to be absent-mined, nor to show-off nor be hypocritical.  Not to be selfish, but to be soft and cheerful, nor servile.  Loving for only the sake of Allh, being pleased for His sake and being angry for His sake.  His provision is taqw (reverential fear of Allh).  His worries are what will happen to him in the Afterlife.  His friends remind him.  His beloved is His Protector and Master.  His struggle is for Afterlife.”

 

Fudayl ibn ‘Iy‚d (rahimahull‚h) said, A believer plants a palm tree and fears that thorns will grow.  The hypocrites plant thorns expecting ripe dates to grow!

 

Mlik ibn DÓnr (rahimahull‚h) said, “Whoever proposed to the world, then the world would not be satisfied until he gave up his Deen as dowry.”

 

Fudayl ibn ‘Iy‚d (rahimahull‚h) said, If you remember the creation (gossip about such and such a person), then remember All‚h the Most High.  Remembering Him is the medicine for remembering His creation.

 

Yahy‚ ibn Mu‘‚dh (rahimahull‚h) said, Renew your hearts with the remembrance of All‚h because it rushes into forgetfulness.

Kab al-Ahbr (rahimahull‚h) said, “I prefer to weep out of the fear of Allh [even] with only one tear drop falling from my eyes than the spend a mountain of gold with an ungracious heart.”

 

‘AlÓ (radiyAll‚hu ‘anhu) would say, The signs of the righteous are a pale complexion, bleary eyes, lips shriveling from their hunger, weeping, and wakefulness in prayer at night.

 

Mlik ibn DÓnr (rahimahull‚h) said, “Beware of the sorcerer who enchant the hearts of the scholars distracting them from Allh the Most High, i.e., the world.  Its nature is uglier than the magic HrŻt and MrŻt came with, since their magic separated a man from his wife, whereas the world separates a slave from his Master.”

 

‘Abdull‚h ibn Mub‚rak (rahimahull‚h) would say, The world is the believers prison.  The best action in the prison is patience and control of ones anger.  The believer has no country in the world, His land will be there tomorrow in the Afterlife.

 

[The aim (and All‚h knows best) is that the believer does not aspire for the world as evidenced in the statement of the Most High: That Home of the Hereafter We shall give to those who intend not high-handedness or mischief on earth: and the end is (best) for the righteous. {SŻrah Qasas: (28):83} But All‚h will elevate him in this world and the Hereafter and give him honour in this world as for the Hereafter.]

 

One of the Salaf used to say, If you want to be close to All‚h then put an iron wall between yourself and your desires.

 

AbŻ Muslim al-Khawl‚nÓ (rahimahull‚h) said, Many people live amongst the people just with their knowledge, destroying their souls, i.e., with vanity and egoism.

 

AbŻ H‚zim (rahimahull‚h) said, The scholars of our time have been content with speech and with no practise!  The Salaf used to practice but not speak.  After them the people practised and spoke being followed by a people who spoke but did not practice.  There will come a time when people will not speak nor practise.

 

Sufy‚n ath-ThawrÓ (rahimahull‚h) said, Whoevers knowledge makes him weep, then he is a scholar (‚lim).  All‚h the Most High said, Verily those who were given knowledge before it, when it is recited to them they fall down on their faces in humble prostration. [SŻrah BanÓ Isr‚’Ól (17):107] He also said, When the verses of Ar-Rahm‚n is recited to them they fall in prostration weeping. [SŻratul-Maryam (19):58]

 

One of the Salaf said, If one of you do not wish to fulfil his brothers needs by sharing his worries or by making invocations (du) then do not ask How are things? because it is considered hypocrisy.

 

AbŻ Bakr as-SiddÓq (radiyAllhu anhu) was asked, “How are you this morning?” He replied, “This morning I enter as a lowly slave to a magnificent Lord. I enter the morning commanded by His command.”

 

Imam ash-ShfiÓ (rahimahull‚h) was asked, “How are you this morning?” He replied, “This morning I have entered eating my Lord’s provision but not fulfilling true gratitude towards Him.”

 

Mlik ibn DÓnr (rahimahull‚h) was asked, “How are you this morning?” He replied, “I enter the morning with my remaining age diminishing and my sins increasing.”

 

Fudayl ibn Iyd (rahimahull‚h) said, “If IblÓs conquers the son of ¬dam with one of the three [things] he says: I will not seek anything else from him - 1) being fond of himself, 2) deeming his deeds to be plentiful, and 3) forgetfulness of his sins.”

 

Al-Hasan (rahimahull‚h) said, If shayt‚n saw you consistently obeying All‚h he will seek you time and time again.  If he sees your consistency he grows weary of you and rejects you.  If you changed, however, each and every time, then he begins to have hope in you.

 

Sahl at-TustarÓ (rahimahull‚h) said, Gratitude to All‚h is not to disobey Him with His favours.  The whole body is from the favours of All‚h and His giving, so do not disobey Him with any of it.

 

Muj‚hid and MakhŻl (rahimahumull‚h) used to say about the statement of All‚h, Then you will be asked that Day about the enjoyment [SŻratut-Tak‚thur (102):8], Indeed this is the cool drink, the shelter of a home, the satisfaction of ones belly, the perfection of one's features, and joy of sleep.

 

‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘AzÓz (rahimahull‚h) used to say, None can reach the station of taqw‚ until he possesses neither action nor words that can be exposed to his embarrassment either in this world or the Hereafter.  He was once asked, When does the worshipper reach the peak of taqw‚?  He replied, If he put all his thoughts and desires in his heart on a plate and then wandered around in the market, he should not feel ashamed of anything there.  He would frequently say, The sign of the muttaqÓ (pious person) is to bridle oneself from speaking just like one in ihr‚m bridles himself from speaking.  The muttaqÓ need to be a scholar of the SharÓah, all of it, otherwise he leaves taqw‚ without realising.

 

AbŻ Dard (radiyAllhu anhu) said, From the completion of taqw‚ is that the slave fears from his Lord even with regards to things the weight of an atom.”

 

AbŻ Hurayrah (radiyAllhu anhu) was asked about taqw. He said, It is a road full of thorns.  One who walks it needs to have extreme patience.”

 

Sufyn ath-ThawrÓ (rahimahull‚h) said, We met a people who loved it when it was said to them, Fear All‚h the Most High. Today you find that people only become annoyed at this.”

 

From the statements of the AmÓrul-Mu’minÓn ‘AlÓ (radhiAll‚hu ‘anhu), The tallness of the slave ends at the age of twenty-two.  His intelligence reaches its peak at twenty-eight.  What is after that until the end of his life is just test and affliction.

 

Qat‚dah (rahimahull‚h) would say, Men are of three types: A man, half a man and no man.  The man is the one from whose opinion and intelligence there is benefit.  The half man is the one who questions the intelligent and practices according to their opinion. The no man is the one who has no intelligence nor opinion nor does he ask anyone else.

 

Sufy‚n ibn ‘Uyaynah (rahimahull‚h) said, The most nimble of creatures still have need of a voice.  The cleverest women still need to have a husband, and the cleverest man still needs to consult wise men.

 

Wahb ibn Munabbih (rahimahull‚h) said, Whoever claims to be intelligent but his attention is not geared towards the Afterlife, then he is a liar.

One of the Salaf said, “Wisdom is kindled by four things: sorrow after sins, readiness for death, emptiness of the stomach, and accompanying the forsakers of this world.”

 

Ash-Sh‚fi‘Ó (rahimahull‚h) said, Whoever spread gossip for you spreads gossip against you.  Whoever relates tales to you will tell tales about you.  Whoever when you please him says about you what is not in you, when you anger him will say about you what is not in you.

 

Fudayl ibn Iyd (rahimahull‚h) said, “Whoevers admonition is much, his friends will be few.”

 

Ibr‚hÓm an-Nakh‚‘Ó (rahimahull‚h) said, Whoever reflects will find that the noblest and most dignified person of every gathering is the one who is most silent, because silence beautifies the scholar and conceals the faults of the ignorant.

 

Ma‘rŻf al-KirakhÓ (rahimahull‚h) said, A person speaking about unnecessary things is [indication] from All‚h abandoning him.

 

ShignÓ ibn M‚tÓ’ al-AsbahÓ (rahimahull‚h) said, Whoevers speech increased, his mistakes [also] increased.

 

Sufy‚n ath-ThawrÓ (rahimahull‚h) said, When your brother is out of your sight, mention him as you would like him to mention you when you are out of his sight.

 

One of the Salaf said, One of you might see his own faults but he still loves himself.  He then hates his Muslim brother on suspicion.  So where is the logic?

 

Ash-Sha‘bÓ (rahimahull‚h) would say, Whoever sought the mistakes of his brothers is left with no friends.

 

Sufyn ath-ThawrÓ (rahimahull‚h) used to be overjoyed if he saw a beggar at his door saying, Welcome to the one who has come to wash my sins.

 

Fudayl ibn Iyd (rahimahull‚h) said, “Beggars are such good people!  They carry our provision to the Afterlife without payment until they place it on the scale in front of Allh the Most High.”

 

RabÓ ibn Khuthaym (rahimahull‚h) said, “No one should isolate himself in worship except after studying the religion deeply, because Imm Mlik used to say: Study deeply and then seclude yourself.”

 

It was said, Secluding oneself from the general public is from the completeness of morals.

approximate meanings only