The most beloved fast and prayer to Allah(SWT) – reflections on Alhamdulillah

Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, the most beloved fasting to Allah is the fasting of David and the most beloved prayer to Allah is the prayer of David, upon him be peace. He would sleep half of the night and stand in prayer for a third of it and then sleep for a sixth of it. He would fast every other day.” [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3238, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1159]

What great quality this must have had that Allah(SWT) and the Prophet(SAW) recognised the excellence of this fast and prayer. How do we emulate this?

Allah(SWT) recognises and elaborates on this great quality in the Qur’an:

“Work, O family of David, in gratitude. And few of My servants are grateful” (Surah Saba 34:13)

Allah (SAW) did not say, “Be grateful!” rather He said to work in gratitude.

Thabit al-Binani (rahimahullah) says regarding this ayah, Dawud (AS) would divide the hours of the night and day between his family so that there wouldn’t be an hour of the night or day except that a person from the family of Dawud would be praying, so Allah addressed them all by saying, ‘Work, O family of David, in gratitude. [Uddat al-Saabireen]

From this ayah, Imam ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) states that there are three branches of shukr:

  1. Knowledge:Knowledge is the foundation of shukr. We must be aware and knowing of the fact that Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is the One who is bestowing us with these blessings. We attribute all of our blessings to Him ta’ala. Some people attribute good to themselves, and when they are faced with difficulty or hardship, they attribute it to Allah. This is not gratitude rather it is kufr, a defiant denial of Allah’s favors.
  2. Recognition and Awareness: The slave remembers Allah and His favors with his tongue – by praising Allah, and remembering Him through supplication and words of remembrance, and acknowledges it in his heart. It is reported in Tafsir al-Qurtubi that Dawud (alayhi salaam) said, “O my Lord! How can I be grateful to You when gratitude is a blessing from You?!” Allah (azza wa jall) responded to him, “Now you have shown true gratitude (because you’ve recognized that all blessings are from Me).”
  3. Deeds: The slave works in gratitude by being an obedient slave to Allah.  It is reported in Tafsiral-Tabari that Abu Abdur-Rahman al-Hubaly (rahimahullah) said, “Prayer is shukr, fasting is shukr and any deed done for the sake of Allah is shukr.”

What was it that motivated our Beloved Prophet(SAW) to stand for so long, that his feet swelled and the skin cracked? A’ishah, his beloved wife, (RA) asked him, “O Prophet of Allah, why do you undergo so much hardship despite the fact that Allah has pardoned for you your earlier and later sins?” He (SAW) responded, “Afala akuna abdan shakura? Should I not prove myself to be a thankful servant?”

Some of the scholars said that shukr is more encompassing than hamd because praise is expressed by the tongue whereas thanks can be expressed by the tongue, heart and limbs. Thanks with the tongue is done by praising the Bestower of Blessings. Thanks by the limbs is done by acting in obedience to Him and abandoning actions of disobedience. Thanks in the heart is done by recognising the magnitude of the blessing and knowing that it has been given by the grace of Allah and not by the servants own merit.

Imam ibn al-Qayyim states that the pillars of being grateful to Allah are:

1- Submission of the believer to Allah
2- Love of Allah
3- Acknowledging His favors
4- Praising Him for His favors
5- Refraining from utilizing the favors in a way displeasing to Allah

In many places in the Quran, Allah compares the terms shukr and kufr.  “Then remember Me; I will remember you. Be grateful to Me, and do not reject Me” (Al-Baqarah 2:152).

Iman (belief) implies shukr or gratefulness as opposed to kufr or ungratefulness. A kafiror disbeliever is ungrateful to the Being Who has given him everything, whereas a Believer is one who is ever thankful for all that Allah has given him.

Al-hamd means all types of praise and every manner of thanks at all times is due to Allah ‘azza wa jall. Abu Ja`far bin Jarir said: The meaning of alhamdulillah is: all thanks are due purely to Allah, alone, not any of the objects that are being worshipped instead of Him, nor any of His creation. [Tafseer ibn Katheer]

Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Alhamdulillah is the statement of every thankful [servant].”

When we want to thank someone, we go the extra mile to make them happy, especially when they are beloved to us. We go to great lengths to show our parents, spouse or friend that we appreciate them. We offer our help without their asking. We plan time to spend together. We give them gifts without expecting one in return. We do whatever will make them happy. We show our love and appreciate through our actions.

Yet, how can we claim that we love Allah when we do not even act this way with Him? We do not abide by His Rulings. We hardly go past the bare minimum of worship. We do not honor His Book. We swear by His Name in vain. We are not shy to sin in front of Him while we are shy when others are watching. We delay our daily conversations with Him, and when we finally do go to pray, we do it as fast as we can – rushing back to what we think is more important than Him.

Would we ever claim to love our mother, spouse, or friend if we treated them this way? Would they feel that we love them and appreciate them if we treated them this way?

Wa sayajzillah-us shaakireen And Allah will reward the grateful.[3:145]

The need for speed

Think about your conversations with a best friend – how time flies and you can talk about anything until your phone battery dies. However, our best friend today may not have been the same a year or 5 years ago. And they can’t support us much and will eventually continue with their lives – Allah(SWT) has been with us since we were born and before and He(SWT) has looked after us at every turn and been there for us – he is truly our best friend. So how do we transform our conversation with Allah(SWT) into one of a best friend?

All truly meaningful conversations have similar characteristics:

  • Common ground – something the two of you know, like or are sharing together
  • Vulnerability and openness
  • Open-ended questions
  • Focus
  • Reciprocity

Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Allah Almighty said: I have divided prayer between myself and my servant into two halves, and my servant shall have what he has asked for. When the servant says ‘all praise is due to Allah the Lord of the worlds,’ Allah says: My servant has praised me. When he says ‘the Gracious, the Merciful,’ Allah says: My servant has exalted me. When he says ‘the Master of the Day of Judgment,’ Allah says: My servant has glorified me and my servant has submitted to me. When he says ‘you alone we worship, you alone we ask for help,’ Allah says: This is between me and my servant, and my servant will have what he has asked for. When he says ‘guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom you have favored, not those who went astray,’ Allah says: This is for my servant, and my servant will have what he has asked for.” [Muslim 395]

The Prophet(SAW) would stop at the end of each ayah when reciting the Qur’an. Perhaps if we used this same approach, we could listen to the response of Allah(SWT) to each of these statements and here His Promise to respond to our deepest needs.

Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Muslim

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى

قَسَمْتُ الصَّلَاةَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي نِصْفَيْنِ وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ

فَإِذَا قَالَ الْعَبْدُ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ  قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى حَمِدَنِي عَبْدِي

وَإِذَا قَالَ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى أَثْنَى عَلَيَّ عَبْدِي

وَإِذَا قَالَ مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ قَالَ مَجَّدَنِي عَبْدِي وَقَالَ مَرَّةً فَوَّضَ إِلَيَّ عَبْدِي

فَإِذَا قَالَ إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ قَالَ هَذَا بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ عَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ

فَإِذَا قَالَ اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ  قَالَ هَذَا لِعَبْدِي وَلِعَبْدِي مَا سَأَلَ

395 صحيح مسلم كتاب

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