O my Servants!
In this article, we will go through a beautiful hadīth.
The hadīth is found in many books of ahaadith including Sahih Muslim (2577c)
On the authority of Abu Dharr al-Ghifaree (RA) from the Prophet ﷺ from his Lord , that He said:
This indicates the hadīth is Hadīth Qudsi, meaning, the hadīth transmitted to us from the Prophet ﷺ, in which he attributes the words to his Lord and in which the narrator says: The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, narrating from his Lord and so on. [IslamQA,121290 1]
The hadīth has 10 points, all starting with O My servants which itself is a beautiful way of addressing. Allāh could have said O people which serves same purpose but this way of addressing shows the mercy of Allāh and His love for His creation, addressing some very important points.
The hadīth from the beginning till the end contain tawheed, the oneness of Allāh and attributes of His Majesty.
1. Dhulm (Oppression)
O My servants! I have forbidden dhulm (oppression) for Myself, and I have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another.
The word dhulm (translated oppression), means giving right of someone to someone else. The biggest form of dhulm is when someone is associated as a partner of Allāh . This is dhulm because He alone is our Creator and Provider and He is the Only One deserving of our worship. Luqman (the wise) said to his son,
وَإِذْ قَالَ لُقْمَٰنُ لِٱبْنِهِۦ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُۥ يَٰبُنَىَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِٱللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ ٱلشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ
And, when Luqman said to his son while he was instructing him, “O my son, do not associate [anything] with Allāh. Indeed, association [with him] is great injustice.” [Surah Luqmaan 31:13]
And likewise, the oppression can be in other forms. Like, children not giving rights to their parents or vice-versa. Allāh said, that He has forbidden dhulm upon Himself and amongst us. And know that no one can forbid anything for Allāh except He Himself. For He is not to be questioned, rather He holds every one accountable:
لَا يُسْـَٔلُ عَمَّا يَفْعَلُ وَهُمْ يُسْـَٔلُونَ
He is not questioned about what He does, but they will be questioned. [Surah al-Anbiyya 21:23]
This is from the greatest Mercy of Allāh that he does not oppress anyone. For if He was to be unjust, no one could question him why.
وَلَا يَظْلِمُ رَبُّكَ أَحَدًا
And your Lord does injustice to no one. [Surah al-Kahf 18:49]
O My servants, all of you are astray except those whom I have guided, so seek guidance from Me and I shall guide you.
If Allāh wanted to guide every single person on the face of the earth, He is all able to do so.
وَلَوْ شَآءَ رَبُّكَ لَجَعَلَ ٱلنَّاسَ أُمَّةً وَٰحِدَةً
And if your Lord had so willed, He could surely have made mankind one Ummah [nation or community (following one religion only i.e. Islam)] [Surah Hud 11:118]
And He said
وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَءَاتَيْنَا كُلَّ نَفْسٍ هُدَىٰهَا
And if We had willed, We could have given every soul its guidance, … [Surah as-Sajda 32:13]
But, it is from His infinite wisdom that He guides whoever He wants and leaves someone to go astray whoever He wants. The criterion of guidance is also linked to what we just discussed above, i.e, dhulm.
Criteria of Guidance
وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ
And Allāh does not guide the wrongdoing people. [Surah al-Jumuah 62:5]
But whoever is keen to be guided and asks Allāh for guidance will surely be guided. Allāh also said in Qur’ān
وَٱلَّذِينَ جَٰهَدُوا۟ فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَمَعَ ٱلْمُحْسِنِينَ
And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allāh is with the doers of good. [Surah al-Ankaboot 29:69]
Imam Ibn Katheer said in his Tafseer
وَالَّذِينَ جَٰهَدُوا۟ فِينَا
As for those who strive hard for Us,
meaning the Messenger and his Companions and those who follow him, until the Day of Resurrection,
We will surely guide them to Our paths.
means, `We will help them to follow Our path in this world and the Hereafter.’
Guidance comes from Allāh alone
Guidance are of two kinds:
- Guidance of Irshaad
- Guidance of Tawfeeq
Guidance of irshaad is showing the correct path which is what Prophet ﷺ was sent with. He showed us the path, Qur’ān revealed to him ﷺ which is full of guidance. Likewise, we as Muslim ummah also show path of guidance.
The guidance of tawfeeq is when someone was shown the path of guidance, he accepts that path. No one has has this choice (of who to guide and who to misguide) – this is what is in the Hands of Allāh . Even Prophet ﷺ was not given this ability (to guide whom he wanted – ﷺ)
Allāh said addressing Prophet ﷺ
إِنَّكَ لَا تَهْدِى مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَهْدِى مَن يَشَآءُ ۚ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِٱلْمُهْتَدِينَ
Indeed, [O Muhammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allāh guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided. [Surah al-Qasas 28:56]
And if Allāh guides someone, no one can misguide and vice-versa. Allāh said
مَن يَهْدِ ٱللَّهُ فَهُوَ ٱلْمُهْتَدِ ۖ وَمَن يُضْلِلْ فَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُۥ وَلِيًّا مُّرْشِدًا
He whom Allāh guides is the [rightly] guided, but he whom He leaves astray – never will you find for him a protecting guide. [Surah al-Kahf 18:17]
3. Provision (Inner)
O My servants, all of of you are hungry except those whom I have fed, so seek food from Me and I shall feed you.
Our purpose of creation is to worship Allāh with pure tawheed. There is no other purpose of the creation except that. This is our primary goal.
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ ٱلْجِنَّ وَٱلْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. [Surah adh-Dhaariyaat 51:56]
This ayah is followed by Allāh saying:
مَآ أُرِيدُ مِنْهُم مِّن رِّزْقٍ وَمَآ أُرِيدُ أَن يُطْعِمُونِ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ هُوَ ٱلرَّزَّاقُ ذُو ٱلْقُوَّةِ ٱلْمَتِينُ
I do not want from them any provision, nor do I want them to feed Me. Indeed, it is Allāh who is the [continual] Provider, the firm possessor of strength. [Surah adh-Dhaariyaat 51:57-58]
The meaning of this Ayah (51:56) is that, Allāh created the creatures so that they worship Him Alone without partners. Those who obey Him will be rewarded with the best rewards, while those who disobey Him will receive the worst punishment from Him. Allāh stated that He does not need creatures, but rather, they are in need of Him in all conditions. He is alone their Creator and Provider. [Tafseer Ibn Katheer]
4. Provision (Outer)
O My servants, all of you are naked except those whom I have clothed, so seek clothing from Me and I shall clothe you.
Allāh has outlined both the inner provision and outer provision. He provides for us all types of provision, food, shelter, drinks, travel mounts etc. If it wasn’t for Him, there is no one who could provide, even if every one on the face of the earth gathered together for this purpose. On the other hand, if Allāh wants to provide for us, there is no one that can prevent it from reaching to us.
Means of Provision
وَمَن يَتَّقِ ٱللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُۥ مَخْرَجًا وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ
And whoever fears Allāh – He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. [Surah at-Talaaq 65:3]
The only condition is “fearing Allāh ” – the word يَتَّقِ ٱللَّهَ derived from taqwa oftenly translated as “fearing Allāh”. The correct translation is being conscious of Allāh in every step you take, knowing that you will be held accountable for your actions and words.
Imam Ibn Katheer summoned it well in his tafseer
Meaning, whoever has Taqwa of Allāh in what He has commanded and avoids what He has forbidden, then Allāh will make a way out for him from every difficulty and will provide for him from resources he never anticipated or thought about
O My servants, you commit sins by day and by night, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness from Me and I shall forgive you.
Every son of Adam commits sin, as been mentioned by the truthful, Prophet ﷺ
كُلُّ بَنِي آدَمَ خَطَّاءٌ وَخَيْرُ الْخَطَّائِينَ التَّوَّابُونَ
Every son of Adam commits sin, and the best of those who commit sin are those who repent. [Ibn Majah 2]
Forgiveness vs Repentance
Often times these two words come interchangeably in Qur’ān and sunnah.
Allāh said (mentioning the story Prophet Hood )
وَيَٰقَوْمِ ٱسْتَغْفِرُوا۟ رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهِ
And O my people, ask forgiveness of your Lord and then repent to Him. … [Surah Hud 11:51]
Generally, seeking forgiveness is spontaneous as a result of realising the sin. It is then followed by repentance which essentially has three conditions as outlined by Imam an-Nawawi.
Repentance is essential from every sin, even if it is something between a person and Allāh and has nothing to do with the rights of another person.
- You should give up the sin
- You should regret having done it
- You should resolve never to go back to it.
If one of these three is missing, then your repentance is not sincere.
If the sin has to do with the rights of another person, then there are four conditions: the three mentioned above and restoring the rights of that person. If it is money or property, etc, it must be returned to him; if it had to do with slandering him etc, then you should allow him to insult him in return, or ask for his forgiveness; if it had to do with backbiting about him, then you have to ask for his pardon. It is essential to repent from all sins; if a person repents from some, his repentance from the sins from which he repented is valid – according to the scholars who follow the right path – but he must still repent from the rest as well. [IslamQA, 46683 3]
None forgive sins except Him
وَمَن يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ
… and who can forgive sins except Allāh? … [Surah aali-Imraan 3:135]
فَإِنَّهُ لاَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ
No one forgives sin except you
You might be interested in this article as well: Repentance – will Allāh forgive me?
6. Harming & Benefitting Allāh
O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and you will not attain benefiting Me so as to benefit Me.
Allāh is our Lord. He created us, provides for us, will hold us accountable for our actions and words. There is no one who can harm him or benefit him. Rather it is He who benefits and harms. No benefit come to us or harm come to us, except it is by His permission.
He is all-powerful. He created seven strong heavens in all their perfectness. Whoever wants to plot against Allāh, he cannot harm Him and if Allāh plots against anyone, they cannot avert it.
Allāh said (regarding people of Salih )
وَمَكَرُوا۟ مَكْرًا وَمَكَرْنَا مَكْرًا وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ
So they plotted a plot: and We plotted a plot, while they perceived not. [Surah an-Naml 27:50]
وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَا فِى كُلِّ قَرْيَةٍ أَكَٰبِرَ مُجْرِمِيهَا لِيَمْكُرُوا۟ فِيهَا ۖ وَمَا يَمْكُرُونَ إِلَّا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ
And thus have We made in every city great ones of its wicked ones, that they should plot therein. They do but plot against themselves, though they perceive not. [Surah al-An’aam 6:123]
In commentary it says
Means, the harm of their wicked plots, as well as misguiding those whom they lead astray, will only strike them. [Tafseer Ibn Katheer]
7. Peak of Piety
O My servants, if the first of you and the last of you, and the humans of you and the jinn of you, were all as pious as the most pious heart of any individual amongst you, then this would not increase My Kingdom an iota.
Dominion of Allāh is independent of His creation. No matter how pious and obedient His creation becomes, it does not affect the Kingdom of Allāh . Allāh is telling us that even if all of you become most pious having same (and the highest) level of piety, it has no effect on Allāh – He is still the Owner of Greatness, Sublime, Majestic. This is due to the perfection of His Self-sufficiency, so the obedience of the subservient does not benefit Him, nor does the disobedience of the sinners harm him. The intent of these two sentences is the encouragement of obeying Allāh, The Mighty, The Majestic, and abstaining from sin.
8. Peak of Wickedness
O My servants, if the first of you and the last of you, and the humans of you and the jinn of you, were all as wicked as the most wicked heart of any individual amongst you, then this would not decrease My Kingdom an iota.
Similar to what we said above in piety, because of Allāh’s Self-sufficiency, nothing avail Him anything. He is Self-sufficient, Al-Ghanni.
9. Treasures of Allāh
O My servants, if the first of you and the last of you, and the humans of you and the jinn of you, were all to stand together in one place and ask of Me, and I were to give everyone what he requested, then that would not decrease what I Possess, except what is decreased of the ocean when a needle is dipped into it.
This is from the perfect Dominion of Allāh . Anyone who has wealth in this world is given by Allāh and his wealth decreases and he is tested for his wealth where as Allāh’s treasures do not decrease. The wordings of Allāh are only indication of vastness and are not to be taken as literal.
except what is decreased of the ocean
implies that ocean will have that much less water (whatever was taken out on the tip of needle) but Allāh’s treasures are countless and nothing decreases from it whatsoever.
O My servants, it is but your deeds that I account for you, and then recompense you for. So he who finds good, let him praise Allāh, and he who finds other than that, let him blame no one but himself.
Allāh does not burden soul more than it can bear. We’re held accountable for our actions (including the words etc) and not more than that. It is from the Great Mercy of Allāh that we’re not held accountable for what passes by in our thoughts. In fact, we’re rewarded good reward for our good intentions and we’re rewarded good for our bad intentions if we were abstain from what we intended. For example, if someone intended to steal and he didn’t steal because he feared Allāh he is rewarded for it.
A man came to the Messenger of Allāh and said: ‘I intend to undertake a journey, so give me provision. He said: ‘May Allāh grant you Taqwa as your provision’ He said: ‘Give me more.’ He said: ‘And may He forgive your sin’ He said: ‘Give me more, may my father be ransomed for you, and my mother.’ He said: ‘And may He make goodness easy for you wherever you are’ [Tirmidhi 5]
When person continues to praise Allāh , he is helped in every regard. So much so, even if someone has given taufeeq to pray a prayer in jamaa’, it is from Allāh and he should praise Allāh for that opportunity and seek forgiveness for the shortcomings etc.
Prophet ﷺ said
عَجَبًا لأَمْرِ الْمُؤْمِنِ إِنَّ أَمْرَهُ كُلَّهُ خَيْرٌ وَلَيْسَ ذَاكَ لأَحَدٍ إِلاَّ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرَّاءُ شَكَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرَّاءُ صَبَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ
How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him. [Muslim, 2999 6]
The hadīth, from the beginning to the end contain lessons for Tawheed of Allāh . Whatever we have said in this article, indeed we cannot word the Majesty of Allāh and this is as Allāh said himself
قُل لَّوْ كَانَ ٱلْبَحْرُ مِدَادًا لِّكَلِمَٰتِ رَبِّى لَنَفِدَ ٱلْبَحْرُ قَبْلَ أَن تَنفَدَ كَلِمَٰتُ رَبِّى وَلَوْ جِئْنَا بِمِثْلِهِۦ مَدَدًا
Say, “If the sea were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement.” [Surah al-Kahf 18:109]
You might be interested in this article: The Words of Allāh cannot be exhausted
And Allāh Knows Best!
حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ بَهْرَامَ الدَّارِمِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا مَرْوَانُ، – يَعْنِي ابْنَ مُحَمَّدٍ الدِّمَشْقِيَّ – حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ، عَنْ رَبِيعَةَ بْنِ يَزِيدَ، عَنْ أَبِي إِدْرِيسَ الْخَوْلاَنِيِّ، عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِيمَا رَوَى عَنِ اللَّهِ، تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى أَنَّهُ قَالَ “ يَا عِبَادِي إِنِّي حَرَّمْتُ الظُّلْمَ عَلَى نَفْسِي وَجَعَلْتُهُ بَيْنَكُمْ مُحَرَّمًا فَلاَ تَظَالَمُوا يَا عِبَادِي كُلُّكُمْ ضَالٌّ إِلاَّ مَنْ هَدَيْتُهُ فَاسْتَهْدُونِي أَهْدِكُمْ يَا عِبَادِي كُلُّكُمْ جَائِعٌ إِلاَّ مَنْ أَطْعَمْتُهُ فَاسْتَطْعِمُونِي أُطْعِمْكُمْ يَا عِبَادِي كُلُّكُمْ عَارٍ إِلاَّ مَنْ كَسَوْتُهُ فَاسْتَكْسُونِي أَكْسُكُمْ يَا عِبَادِي إِنَّكُمْ تُخْطِئُونَ بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَأَنَا أَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا فَاسْتَغْفِرُونِي أَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ يَا عِبَادِي إِنَّكُمْ لَنْ تَبْلُغُوا ضَرِّي فَتَضُرُّونِي وَلَنْ تَبْلُغُوا نَفْعِي فَتَنْفَعُونِي يَا عِبَادِي لَوْ أَنَّ أَوَّلَكُمْ وَآخِرَكُمْ وَإِنْسَكُمْ وَجِنَّكُمْ كَانُوا عَلَى أَتْقَى قَلْبِ رَجُلٍ وَاحِدٍ مِنْكُمْ مَا زَادَ ذَلِكَ فِي مُلْكِي شَيْئًا يَا عِبَادِي لَوْ أَنَّ أَوَّلَكُمْ وَآخِرَكُمْ وَإِنْسَكُمْ وَجِنَّكُمْ كَانُوا عَلَى أَفْجَرِ قَلْبِ رَجُلٍ وَاحِدٍ مَا نَقَصَ ذَلِكَ مِنْ مُلْكِي شَيْئًا يَا عِبَادِي لَوْ أَنَّ أَوَّلَكُمْ وَآخِرَكُمْ وَإِنْسَكُمْ وَجِنَّكُمْ قَامُوا فِي صَعِيدٍ وَاحِدٍ فَسَأَلُونِي فَأَعْطَيْتُ كُلَّ إِنْسَانٍ مَسْأَلَتَهُ مَا نَقَصَ ذَلِكَ مِمَّا عِنْدِي إِلاَّ كَمَا يَنْقُصُ الْمِخْيَطُ إِذَا أُدْخِلَ الْبَحْرَ يَا عِبَادِي إِنَّمَا هِيَ أَعْمَالُكُمْ أُحْصِيهَا لَكُمْ ثُمَّ أُوَفِّيكُمْ إِيَّاهَا فَمَنْ وَجَدَ خَيْرًا فَلْيَحْمَدِ اللَّهَ وَمَنْ وَجَدَ غَيْرَ ذَلِكَ فَلاَ يَلُومَنَّ إِلاَّ نَفْسَهُ ” . قَالَ سَعِيدٌ كَانَ أَبُو إِدْرِيسَ الْخَوْلاَنِيُّ إِذَا حَدَّثَ بِهَذَا الْحَدِيثِ جَثَا عَلَى رُكْبَتَيْهِ .
Abu Dharr reported Allāh’s Messenger ﷺ as saying that Allāh, the Exalted and Glorious, said: My servants, I have made oppression unlawful for Me and unlawful for you, so do not commit oppression against one another. My servants, all of you are liable to err except one whom I guide on the right path, so seek right guidance from Me so that I should direct you to the right path. O My servants, all of you are hungry (needy) except one whom I feed, so beg food from Me, so that I may give that to you. O My servants, all of you are naked (need clothes) except one whom I provide garments, so beg clothes from Me, so that I should clothe you. O My servants, you commit error night and day and I am there to pardon your sins, so beg pardon from Me so that I should grant you pardon. O My servants, you can neither do Me any harm nor can you do Me any good. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and even the whole of human race of yours, and that of jinns even, become (equal in) God-conscious like the heart of a single person amongst you, nothing would add to My Power. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of the Jinns too in unison become the most wicked (all beating) like the heart of a single person, it would cause no loss to My Power. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of jinns also all stand in one plain ground and you ask Me and I confer upon every person what he asks for, it would not. in any way, cause any loss to Me (even less) than that which is caused to the ocean by dipping the needle in it. My servants, these for you I shall reward you for thern, so he who deeds of yours which I am recording finds good should praise Allāh and he who does not find that should not blame anyone but his ownself. Sa’id said that when Abu Idris Khaulini narrated this hadīth he knelt upon his knees. [Sahih Muslim, 2577c – Darussalam publications, Vol. 6, Book of Virtue, Enjoining Good Manners and Joining of the Ties of Kinship, Hadīth 6246]