(Adapted from Asbaabul Fitnah of Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi)
OUR SALAF (Spiritual Forefathers) had such a simple outlook towards life that when Hadhrat Umar Faarooq (Radhiyallahu anhu) set out for Baitul Maqdis simplicity cascaded from every action and condition of his. [Baitul Maqdis was in the clutches of the Roman Christians at the time, just as today it is the control of the Zionists of Israel.]
The Sahaabah (Radhiyallahu anhum) had surrounded the city of Baitul Maqdis. The Christians in the city were prepared to fight to the death to hold onto the city. They said that in their scriptures the description of the Conqueror of Baitul Maqdis was clearly depicted. They were only prepared to open the gates of the city for the person who fits the description. They, therefore, wished to see the Leader of the Muslims – the Khalifah.
The Commander of the Muslim Army, Hadhrat Abu Ubaidah Bin Jarraah (Radhiyallahu anhu) wrote to the Khalifah, Hadhrat Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) for his graceful presence to break the deadlock. Thus Ameerul Mumineen Umar Bin Khattaab (Radhiyallahu anhu) set out on the long journey from Madinah Munawwarah through the arid desert to Shaam (the Levant).
The first mark of simplicity was that he did not travel with a procession of ministers and bodyguards. There was no stately entourage with him. It was only him, his slave and one camel. And how was the journey undertaken? The two of them took equal turns to sit on the camel. When Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) would be seated on the camel, his slave would lead the camel by holding onto the rope of the camel. Then Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) would draw the camel whilst his slave would sit comfortably on the camel.
Can any other nation produce a similar example of such equality and simplicity? Never! The second mark of simplicity was that when they arrived in Shaam at the camp of the Muslims outside Baitul Maqdis, and coincidentally at that time Hadhrat Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) was pulling the camel whilst his slave was on the camel, the Sahaabah (Radhiyallahu anhum) exhorted Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) to don a new set of garments and seat himself on an Arabian stallion for his appearance before the Christian leaders and rulers of the city.
Hadhrat Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) was wearing a garment that was patched at many places and the long journey had borne its impressions on the ragged garment. In spite of this exhortation going against the grain of the Khalifah, he chose to please his advisers and therefore put on a new robe and got onto a majestic stallion. The proud Arab stallion kicked aloft its forelegs and neighed pompously. Immediately the Khalifah subdued the animal and got off the horse saying furiously to his advisers:
“Do you wish to destroy Umar! We are a nation whom Allah has granted honour by virtue of Islam.”
Thus saying he removed the new robe and got onto his camel. Let us pause here and remove the cobwebs in our thinking. We are blissfully unaware of the reality of honour and awe. We labour under the misconception that awe and honour come with extravagant garments and flashy vehicles. This is highly erroneous.
True honour is the product of perfection. What kind of honour is there in something fleeting? When one removes the extravagant garment one is stripped of one’s so-called honour! As long as one is covered with the fanciful garment one is honoured. The moment one changes the garment one becomes disgraced! Is this called honour? Honour is that which remains with one all the time. That honour stems from perfection. And the honour of a Muslim is inextricably interwoven in the Garment of Islam. Adopt Islam perfectly, then – Insha-Allah – you will be honoured without any paraphernalia.
Look at the dress of Hadhrat Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu)! Regardless, his awe and honour was such that when he departed from Madinah Munawwarah for Shaam the world shook with fear at the approach of the Khalifah of Islam. The kings of the world trembled and were struck with awe. What awe overwhelmed them? Was it awe for his dress? Never! His garment was such that Hadhrat Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) states:
“Once, I saw Umar making Tawaaf. The kurta he was wearing had twenty-one patches.”
People comment that Muslims are underdogs today on account of their poverty. Firstly, in spite of the [oil] riches of the Arab states look at their grovelling at the feet of their western masters. Secondly, if poverty was the reason for being losers how did the Sahaabah, in spite of their poverty, strike awe and respect into the hearts of the kuffaar? How did they conquer the world whilst being poor?
Let it be known that awe and respect is not in fashionable clothing and being millionaires. A Muslim’s honour lies solely in Islam. Muslims of yesteryear were Muslims in the true sense of the word and hence they achieved honour, whilst we are Muslims largely in name only and hence we are cringing in disgrace in spite of our relative affluence in relation to earlier Muslims.
Look at the illustrious Sahaabah (Radhiyallahu anhum). On one occasion when Hadhrat Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) came to Shaam and alighted at the tent of Hadhrat Abu Ubaidah (Radhiyallahu anhu) who was the commander-in-chief of the Muslim forces, the commander-in-chief only had some dry pieces of roti and water to serve as meal. Hadhrat Sarmid’s words come to mind here. He says: “The rich man eats his sumptuous dish, sips his sweet drink and passes away. Sarmid enjoys his dry roti and plain water and passes away.”
Tears swelled in the eyes of Hadhrat Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu).
“O Abu Ubaidah,” Hadhrat Umar started saying:
“Allah Ta’ala has opened up avenues of lavishness for you through the conquests. Why are you still living frugally?”
Hadhrat Abu Ubaidah (Radhiyallahu anhu) replied:
“O Ameerul Mu-mineen! This world is merely provision for sustaining one on a journey. Since this [type of food which I have] is sufficient for me reaching my destination of the Aakhirat, what must I do with more?”
Hadhrat Umar himself was asked once:
“The victories on the battlefield have brought riches to your feet. Why do you still persist in living such an austere life?”
Sayyidina Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) replied:
“Many of our brothers were martyred during the lifetime of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) in poverty. They achieved more in the Path of Allah and hardly enjoyed the pleasures of the world. Their full quota of thawaab has been reserved for the Aakhirah. We, on the other hand, have gained much wealth and riches with our conquests and our efforts have been rewarded here in this world. I fear that if I indulge in the luxuries of this world I will be rebuffed in the Aakhirat with the words:
“You have withdrawn in the world the deposits of your pleasures and indulged in them. Now you will be given a disgraceful punishment for you desired selfaggrandizement.” (Surah Ahqaaf, 20)
We also learn from this that the poverty of our Salaf was not involuntary. They were not poor on account of having received nothing. Allah Ta’ala gave the illustrious Sahaabah ample wealth [when they undertook the mission of spreading the Deen of Islam]. But they would not horde wealth. They would munificently give to the poor and destitute, whilst preferring for themselves a humble life.
Did this humble state reduce their honour in any way?
In fact, Allah Ta’ala conferred them with such honour that Muslims of today can only dream about such honour. Thus it is a grave error to think that leading a simple and humble life brings disgrace to one. It is in fact the foundation of grand honour when coupled with perfection in Deen.[Mujlisul Ulama]