بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
What is the first thing we do when coming face-to-face with a difficulty? Do we immediately call up a good friend to vent? Or have a nap to forget it for a while?
While all of these are understandably just very human for us to do in times of stress and hardships, there is one extraordinary avenue that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has opened for us, but perhaps we have not come to realise or utilised yet. To showcase how powerful this avenue is, ponder on the hadith recorded in Riyad As-Salihin 12 (from Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim), about an amazing story of three men who got trapped in a desolate cave.
The story began as the three of them were walking together, until nighttime approached. They found a cave that they hoped to rest for the night. But when they entered it, a huge boulder fell and blocked its only entrance, completely cutting them out from the rest of the world. With no way to escape, no means to get help, and perhaps even a limited supply of oxygen, the cave would have been their final resting place.
But when a believer’s heart is connected to Allah, he knows that there is always The One whom he can depend on. And this is why we find in the hadith, that even in the midst of stress, chaos and uncertainty, the three men immediately remembered Allah. They said to each other:
“Nothing will save you from this, unless you supplicate to Allah by virtue of a righteous deed you have done.”
This is the avenue that I mentioned earlier — and that is calling upon Allah by virtue of the most amazing, sincere, good deed that you did for the sake of Allah alone.
🌸 The sincere good deed of the three men
Thus, the three men began to recall, and looked deep inside themselves for that one particular honourable deed they did. One of them began to supplicate to Allah:
“O Allah, I had parents who were very old, and I used to offer them milk (at night) before any of my children or servants. One day, I went far away in search of grazing (for my sheep) and when I came back, my parents had already slept. When I milked as usual and brought the drink, I found them still asleep. I hated to disturb them, and also disliked giving milk to my children before them. My children were crying out of hunger at my feet, but I continued to wait for them to wake up, with the bowl still in my hand. When they awoke at dawn, they drank the milk. O Allah, if I did so to seek Your pleasure, then deliver us from this distress.”
Allah not only accepted his ihsaan (excellence) towards his ageing parents, but also his supplication — so imagine their surprise when they witnessed the boulder that trapped them moved slightly to the side!
The second man made his du’a:
“O Allah, I had a cousin who was more beloved to me than anyone else (to the point that) I wanted to commit zina with her, but she refused. Hard-pressed in a year of famine, she approached me (for help). I gave her 120 dinars on condition that she would yield herself to me. She agreed, but when we got together, she said: ‘Fear Allah, and do not break the seal unlawfully.’ I moved away from her despite the fact that I loved her most passionately, and I let her keep the money I had given her. O Allah, if I did that to seek Your pleasure, then remove us from this distress.”
Upon making this du’a, Allah caused the boulder to move aside a bit further!
And I want to focus a bit more on this part of the hadith. In another narration, it was mentioned that the man was already on the verge of physically committing the haram with her! But the moment he heard the words of “Fear Allah”, it penetrated deep inside his heart, which made him quickly jump away and left her. Even at the peak of his passion, he immediately abandoned it altogether because of his fear of Allah.
And this is truly an amazing point of reflection. In the midst where our nafs pushes us to sin, but we’re able to abstain ourselves from committing that sin, know that this is actually a remarkable good deed in the Sight of our Rabb. A sin that we choose not to commit will earn us hasanah (rewards) from Allah. So the next time we come face-to-face with something haram, especially in our privacy, remember that if we were to abandon it out of fear of Allah, it will benefit us. And it’ll be powerful enough to remove any difficulty, and relieve us from a hardship in our lives — in shaa Allah!
Now the third man supplicated: “O Allah, I hired some labourers and paid them their wages except one, who departed without taking his wage. I invested his wage in business, and the business prospered greatly. After a long time, he returned to me and said: ‘O servant of Allah, pay me my dues.’ I said: ‘All that you see is yours — camels, cattle, goats, and servants.’ He said: ‘O servant of Allah, do not mock me!’ I assured him that I was not joking. So he took everything, and went away. He spared nothing (for me). O Allah, if I did so seeking Your pleasure, then relieve us of our distress.”
At the end of the hadith, we learn that Allah accepted all three supplications, for the huge boulder moved and fully unblocked the entrance. The three men were thus saved by the Help of Allah, and by virtue of their amazing good deeds.
🌸 We too have caves in which we are trapped
Metaphorically, this cave represents a hardship in our lives, and we face it the same way as these three men when they were trapped in the cave. But as long as our hearts are busy with Allah during times of ease, He subhanahu wa ta'ala will remember us during our times of difficulties. Indeed, the closer one’s heart is attached to Allah, the easier the hardships, tribulations, and calamities in life. Rasulullah salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (ﷺ) said:
“Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. Recognize and acknowledge Allah in times of ease and prosperity, and He will remember you in times of adversity.” [Hadith #19, 40 Hadith An-Nawawi]
Notice also that Allah did not make the boulder move until all three made their du’a — and from this we see the importance of collectivity. We have brothers and sisters in Islam all over the world, who are trapped in their own metaphorical caves, caves of oppression and tyranny, who depend on the ummah’s du’a. So do good deeds for the sake of Allah, and then ask Allah through that good deed to relieve the ummah from their hardships. Rasulullah ﷺ said:
“No Muslim servant supplicates for his brother (in faith) behind his back, but that the angel says: And for you the same.” [Sahih Muslim 2732]
If you were the fourth person in that cave, what would your du’a be? What is that one amazing, sincere good deed that you have done in your life, that you can make du’a to Allah through it?
A colossal boulder cannot be moved by sheer human’s strength; but one sincere good deed, one heartfelt du’a to Allah can be enough to move it by His permission. So never lose hope in Allah, even when we’re in the depths of our calamities. Always have good thoughts of our Rabb, Whose mercy encompasses all.
Your sister in Deen,