In order to succeed and progress in any objective, we need to adhere to certain principles and adorn ourselves with certain qualities. In order to understand them we need to study the lives of those who have already achieved success and have reached the peak of accomplishment and triumph.

The most successful group of this Ummah are the Sahābah, then the Tābi'ūn, then the Taba'-At-Tābi'īn and then those who followed in their footsteps. Allāh ta'ālā granted these people all forms of success: religious, spiritual, material and academic. These people attained respect in this very world before departing for the afterlife and they were also granted high ranks in the Hereafter. It is necessary that a careful study should be made of the key factors in their lives that led to success.

1. Ikhlās - Sincerity

Ikhlās was a profound quality amongst the salaf. Whatever they did, it was only for the Pleasure of Allāh ta'ālā. They had no other motive. The Pleasure of Allāh ta'ālā was at the forefront of all their affairs. Ikhlās is such a quality that a person adorned with it will not find it difficult to take unfavourable decisions even against one's self. Every move of a person with Ikhlās revolves around only the Almighty and His Pleasure, hence personal interests, desires, ambitions, fame etc. do not in any way hinder a decision. Let us take a look at a few incidents of the salaf to see their level of ikhlās.

The eminent Ṣaḥābī, Sa'd ibn Abī Waqqās radhiyallāhu 'anhu was seated in the palace of Kisrā after overpowering the enemy. He had ordered the booty to be gathered so that one fifth could be deposited to the Bayt-al-Māl and the rest distributed amongst the Mujāhidūn. At that moment, a person who was dishevelled entered the palace carrying a heavy bag with both hands. Those gathered had not seen anything like it before, and in the bag were such precious jewels that valued far more than what they had all gathered. Sa'd ibn Abī Waqqās radhiyallāhu 'anhu asked him from where he had acquired such precious wealth. He explained that from such and such battle. Sa'd ibn Abī Waqqās radhiyallāhu 'anhu asked him for his name upon which he replied:

By Allāh! I will not inform you of my name as you may praise me, and neither will I inform anyone else as they may talk good of me!

After investigating, they learnt that this person was 'Āmir ibn 'Abdullāh At-Taymī rahimahullāh, the Zāhid of Basra.

This incident is from the early period of the Muslims, but this characteristic of ikhlās remained with our salaf throughout history, and dozens of pious people lived in every era that possessed this quality. Shaykh-al-Hind, Mawlānā Mahmūd-Al-Hasan Ad-Deobandī rahimahullāh was a great personality from our recent salaf. On one occasion, Mawlānā Ashraf 'Alī At-Thānwī rahimahullāh states that he was giving a lecture to a gathering filled with 'Ulamā, and it was an amazing talk of a high academic calibre. Shaykh-al-Hind rahimahullāh was disseminating such pearls of knowledge that were previously unheard of. Just then, some scholars entered who were from such a group of scholars who held the assumption that the 'Ulamā of Deoband were not so well-versed academically. Mawlānā Ashraf 'Alī At-Thānwī rahimahullāh states that those present were elated as it was a great opportunity for these scholars to see the academic status of the 'Ulamā of Deoband, and the depth of knowledge they actually possessed. However, to the surprise and bewilderment of all, Shaykh-al-Hind rahimahullāh suddenly ended his talk.

Mawlānā Ashraf 'Alī At-Thānwī rahimahullāh further narrates that we enquired from our respected teacher as to why he had suddenly ended his talk, but it seemed he did not want to discuss the reason. However, we persisted and one of us commented that actually that was the real time for the talk (i.e. the other 'Ulamā could have been made to understand and acknowledge the academic calibre of our 'Ulamā). Upon this Shaykh-al-Hind rahimahullāh replied, “It is for this reason I ended the talk as the very thought crossed my mind too. Until then I was talking for the Pleasure of Allāh ta'ālā, but when my intention changed, I ended the talk.”

Subhānallāh, how astonishingly firm was their grip upon their ikhlās, a very delicate characteristic. When a person makes an effort in tazkiyah, ikhlās becomes a natural phenomenon in one's life and it automatically dictates his life. We may understand this by our many actions which we do with our subconscious nature and make no error in them. An experienced driver automatically moves the gears, brakes, looks in the mirror etc., though he maybe in a heated conversation with someone in the car. He does not need to think of what he must do; all the manoeuvres take place naturally. Similar is the case with those who have mastered this quality of ikhlās that it comes naturally and it is the focal point of their every action.

We need to continuously check our intentions and if any slight fault is found, we should correct it and seek forgiveness from Allāh ta'ālā. Together with this, a person needs to beseech Allāh ta'ālā to grant him sincerity. Guidance should also be sought from one's Shaykh in the acquisition of Ikhlās.

2. Taqwā

The second quality found common in the salaf is taqwā. In simple terms, taqwā means not to do anything that makes Allāh ta'ālā unhappy.  Every endeavour should be made to abstain from sin, and one should never compromise a command of Allāh ta'ālā for any worldly gain or pleasure. Sometimes a person feels that a little twitch, a little compromise, will solve the problem. However, this is an illusion. Not holding fast to taqwā will deprive a person from divine blessings help. Sometimes the negligence of one individual with regards to taqwā results in a loss of barakah (divine blessing) and success for the whole group or community.

It is narrated in some commentaries of the Qur'ān regarding Mūsā 'alayhis salām that he took his army to battle with the enemy. The enemy, seeing that there was no chance of victory, decided to allure the Bani Isrā'īl to the disobedience of Allāh ta'ālā by placing beautiful women in their path. The whole army abstained from falling in this trap except one person, as a result of which the Help of Allāh ta'ālā was taken away, and the displeasure of Allāh ta'ālā in the shape of a plague descended upon the Bani Isrā'īl.

Taqwā is extremely important, as this will open the door of Divine assistance. Allāh ta'ālā says, “Whoever abstains from the disobedience of Allāh ta'ālā, He will make a way out for him.” (65:2)

Tawbah (repentance) is an essential part of Taqwā, therefore, if one errs and falls into sin, he/she should immediately resort to tawbah. The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said, “A person who repents from sin is like the one who has no sin.” (Ibn Mājah)

3. Tawakkul- Reliance in Allāh ta'ālā

All the pious salaf had great tawakkul (reliance) in Allāh ta'ālā. In a nutshell, tawakkul is to use the means available remaining within the boundary of Sharī'ah and rely totally on Allāh ta'ālā. One should not rely on the means only. It is only Allāh ta'ālā who fulfils our needs with or without means. A Sahābī radhiyallāhu 'anhu once asked the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam, “O Messenger of Allāh! Should I tie [my conveyance] and rely on Allāh, or should I leave it free and rely on Allāh?” Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam replied, “Tie it and rely on Allāh.” (At-Tirmidhī)

4. Ittihād - Unity

Unity was also a common feature in our salaf which too is very important for success. In a collective effort it is no doubt a backbone as disunity results in the loss of the Help of Allāh ta'ālā. Once in the time of 'Umar radhiyallāhu 'anhu, a group of Sahābah radhiyallāhu 'anhum were faced with a large enemy force. Seeing the swelling ranks of the enemy, a difference of opinion arose in whether they should advance or take a back step and gain further reinforcements. As they could not decide, they wrote to 'Umar radhiyallāhu 'anhu. 'Umar radhiyallāhu 'anhu replied that in such circumstances, unity is our way. Because people like us when we become united, we are not defeated due to less numbers.

The way to bring unity is to follow the haqq and look at the bigger picture of things and sacrifice one's own desires and wishes. We also need to adopt the attitude of forgive and forget to remain united.

5. Du'ā

The great weapon of du'ā was used excessively by our salaf. A person should always turn to Allāh ta'ālā and ask for His help whether he/she has the resources or not. A person should not resort to du'a only when faced with lack of resources or no resources, rather, even in times of ample resources one should turn to Allāh ta'ālā and with gratitude supplicate to Him.

6. Holding fast to the Sunnah

Adherence to the sunnah was an inherent quality amongst the salaf. As mentioned earlier, Taqwā is a must but furthermore, whatever we do, we should try and do it as close to the sunnah as possible. An action may not be ḥarām, but it being according to the sunnah is an extra meritorious act. For example, when making a pulpit in the masjid, it can be made using any kind of material and it can have three steps or four steps. There is no sin to make it from marble or granite and there is no sin if one built it four steps. However, to make it out of wood and with three steps would be according to the sunnah of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam as that was how the pulpit of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam was. Therefore, when faced with any situation we should find the sunnah method. The lives of the pious salaf were a personification of the sunnah because they were an embodiment of 'ilm and 'amal.

Mawlānā Ilyās Al-Kāndhalwī rahimahullāh was in the final stages of his life. He had become weak and could only express his needs by indication. At one point he made a gesture, which was understood to mean that he would like his socks to be removed. His attendees attempted to take his socks off, but Mawlānā would pull his feet back. After this happened a few times, the attendees consulted Mawlānā's son, Mawlānā Yūsuf rahimahullāh  who pointed out that his father wasn't allowing them to remove his socks as they were doing so contrary to the sunnah; the left one should be taken off first and then the right. Such was the adherence to the sunnah of our pious salaf.

Following the sunnah was such a feature of their lives that their practice was a manifestation of the sunnah of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam. Once a person asked Mawlānā Khalīl Ahmad As-Sahāranpūrī rahimahullāh for the sunnah method in relation to a certain action. Mawlānā Khalīl Ahmad rahimahullāh asked him whether he had seen Shaykh Mawlānā Rashīd Ahmad Al-Gangohī rahimahullāh do that action, as the questioner had spent some time with him. He replied in the affirmative. Upon this Mawlānā Khalīl Ahmad rahimahullāh said,“ That is the sunnah method, as Mawlānā Rashīd Ahmad Al-Gangohī rahimahullāh would only do things according to the sunnah.”

Inshā'allāh, if we take on board these six points we shall acquire success in this world and also in the Hereafter. May Allāh ta'ālā grant us all the tawfīq. Āmīn.

© Riyādul Jannah (Volume 23 Issue 1)