How to Be the Best of Muslims, Not the Worst?
If, as it is said, ‘conduct is the best proof of character,’ then it befits each of us Muslim to adorn their conduct with sincerity, honesty, integrity and piety. In other words, we should each aspire to be people of beauty: inwardly and outwardly. Collectively, the ummah may be excused, in some part, for its lack of political and economic progress. It may even be forgiven for its lack of contribution to modern scientific and technological advancements. But there can be no excuse for us Muslims to have anything but noble character and honourable conduct. As part of his discussion on the duties attached to the Islamic month of Rabi‘ al-Awwal, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali has a section wherein he offered this advice to this currently fragile, yet blessed Muslim ummah:
‘My brothers! Whosoever is from this ummah, is from the best of all nations in Allah’s sight. For Allah, exalted is He, stated: You are the best nation that has been raised up for mankind. [3:110] The Prophet ﷺ said: “You are equivalent to seventy nations; you are the best and most honoured of them with Allah.”1
Now, as this Messenger, the unlettered Prophet ﷺ, is the best of creation and the noblest of them in Allah’s esteem, his ummah is thus the best of nations and the noblest. It is not fitting, therefore, to be from the best of nations and be ascribed to following the best of creation (particularly those who live in [Damascus] the best of places for the Muslims, toward the End of Days), except that he adorn himself with good traits and shun evil ones. Odious it is to be content with being from the worst of people, whilst being ascribed to the best of nations and being a follower of the best of prophets.
Allah, blessed and exalted is He, said: Those who believe and do good works, they are the best of created beings. [98:7] Thus the best of people are those who profess faith and act righteously. Allah said: You are the best nation that has been raised up for mankind. You enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, and you believe in Allah. [3:110]
It was narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: “The best of people are those who possess understanding of Allah’s religion, maintain ties of kinship, and enjoin good and forbid evil.”2
In another narration: “The best of people are those who have most fear of their Lord, maintain ties of kinship, enjoin good and forbid evil.”3
He also said ﷺ: “People are like mines; the best of them in the pre-Islamic days are the best in Islam, providing they gain understanding of it.”4
And he ﷺ stated: “The best of people is he who lives long and whose deeds are good, while the worst of people is he who lives long but whose deeds are bad.”5
He [also] said: “The best of you are those from whom good is hoped and from whose harm others are safe. The worst of you are those from whom no good is expected, and from whose harm others are not safe.”6
And: “Shall I not inform you of the best of you?” They said: Indeed, do so. He replied: “Those who, when you look at them, remind you of Allah.” He then said: “Shall I not inform you of the worst of you?” They said: Yes! He said: “Those who spread gossip and cause schisms between close friends and spread mischief between the innocent.”7
“The worst person in Allah’s estimation is someone who others avoid for fear of his ill conduct.”8
“From the worst people in Allah’s sight is someone who is two-faced: he comes to one group with one face, and to another with a different face.”9 …
The deeds of the ummah are presented to the Prophet ﷺ in the Intermediate Realm (barzakh),10 Hence a person should feel shy of presenting to his Prophet those deeds he has made forbidden. It is for this reason when he, peace be upon him, addressed the masses during the Farewell Pilgrimage, he said: “I shall precede you to the Pool (hawd) and will have the largest number of followers of any nation. So do not disgrace me.”11 This is an indication that he shall feel shy at the sinful actions of his ummah when they are presented to him.’12
1. Al-Tirmidhi, no.3001.
2. Ahmad, Musnad, no.27434. Its chain is weak (da‘if).
3. Ibn Abi Shaybah, Musannaf, no.25388.
4. Al-Bukhari, no.3382; Muslim, no.2526.
5. Al-Tirmidhi, no.3375.
6. Al-Tirmidhi, no.2263.
7. Ibn Majah, no.4119; al-Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad, no.323.
8. Al-Bukhari, no.6053; Muslim, no.2591.
9. Al-Bukhari, no.6057; Muslim, no.2526.
10. A reference to the hadith: ‘My life is a great good for you, you will relate about me and it will be related to you. And my death is a great good for you, your actions will be presented to me: if I see good I will praise Allah and if I see evil I will seek forgiveness of Him for you.’ Al-Bazzar, Musnad, no.845. Its chain was graded as sound (hasan) by al-‘Iraqi, Tar’ al-Tathrib (Beirut: Dar al-Ihya al-‘Arabi, n.d.), 3:297 – his last book; as opposed to his Takhrij al-Ihya, no.3810, where he questioned the reliability of one of the narrators, ‘Abd al-Majid b. Abi Rawwad, It is on such grounds that led al-Albani to grade the hadith da‘if. See: Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Da‘ifah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma‘arif, 1992), no.975.
11. Ibn Majah, no.3057.
12. Lata’if wa’l-Ma‘arif (Riyadh: Dar Ibn Khuzaymah, 2007), 220-25.