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Prophet Muhammad: The Thankful Slave

How often do we see such humble and thankful behavior, especially after a wife’s death?

How many husbands remember their deceased wives years later like this, especially if they remarry and acquire younger wives?

More often than not, families move on with their lives, eventually forgetting about loved ones who have passed away years ago. But not so the Prophet, who kept his deceased wife’s memory alive by appreciating her and being thankful of her good deeds long after she was gone from his life!

An Accepting Guest

Prophet Muhammad would never reject gifts or invitations to banquets. This, again, indicated his humility. He would always accept the food that his friends and companions offered him, and after he had eaten, he gave duaa to those who fed him or hosted him as a guest at a banquet:

Anas narrated that the Prophet came to Saad ibn Ubadah who brought him some bread and oil, and he ate. Then the Prophet said:

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“May fasting people break their fast with you, may the righteous eat your food, and may the angels send blessings upon you.” (Abu Dawud)

He did this even though, as we know from the sunnah of his ascetic lifestyle, he did not harbor any particular love for food, nor did he have greed for worldly blessings. But his acceptance of these gifts indicates his thankfulness to the good that people did for him.

Thankful Leader and Authority Figure

The Prophet would reward and thank people under his authority for their services. This included minors, slaves, and other people of lower social rank who performed menial tasks; tasks that some of us consider it beneath our dignity to perform, unless we absolutely have to.

Rabi’ah ibn Kaab Al-Aslami said:

“I used to bring to the Messenger of Allah water for wudu and serve him. He said: “Ask of me.” I said: “I want to be with you in Paradise.” He said, “Is there anything else?” I said: “That is all.” He said: Help me to fulfill your wish by prostrating a great deal.” (Muslim)

Just look at how the Prophet is prodding his valet to ask him for anything he wants! Can more beautiful manners exist among human relationships than those exhibited by our Prophet?

Even after Rabi’ah, the hadith narrator, asked for just his company in the hereafter, even then the Prophet prodded him to ask for more, in order to make sure he really did not want anything more.

Do we treat those who serve us even remotely the way the Prophet did?

We consider it socially awkward if not outright demeaning to talk nicely to, much less thank, peons, valets, domestic servants, waiters, and all those who serve us. We consider it enough that we pay them measly wages for their work.

Nay, our Prophet even went so far as to pray for the forgiveness of a female sweeper of his masjid. He did this many days after her death, when she was no longer around to see him appreciate her in this manner:

Abu Hurairah said:

“A black woman who used to sweep the masjid died. The Prophet inquired about her. The people told him that she had died. He said, Why did you not inform me? He then said: Lead me to her grave. They led him to it and he prayed over her.” (Muslim)

When this cleaning lady died, the Prophet noticed her absence even though she hailed from a lower social rank, undoubtedly because of the high rank of the good deed that she performed habitually, namely, cleaning his masjid.

His offering her funeral prayer posthumously after a few weeks is a great act of thankfulness anyone can do for someone who has worked for them!

Analyze Ourselves

Let’s ponder a bit about the state of our own hearts, keeping in mind the definition of shukr (thankfulness) that I have outlined above in this article.

When we realize the enormous blessings that God has bestowed upon us, can we become grateful to Him, by using those blessings according to His pleasure, and remembering and praising Him often for them?

In turn, we will hopefully realize that the blessings of God unfold in our lives through His order and decree first but through means of His creation, e.g. a mother’s love and care nurtures a child physically and emotionally; a father’s toil becomes the means by which God provides for him; a teacher’s hard work and effort becomes the means by which God grants him knowledge and skills, and so on.

Narrated Abu Hurairah, Prophet Muhammad said:

“He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah.” (Abu Dawud and At Tirmidhi)

Acknowledgement of God’s blessings; their appreciation and recognition should automatically lead one to be more humble and appreciative with God’s creation as well, just as was the case with Prophet Muhammad, who appreciated the good in people, no matter how little or seemingly insignificant it appeared to be.

(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)

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