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Being Pure (At-Tayyib)
By Imam Nawawi
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger.
Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
“Verily Allāh the Exalted is pure. He does not accept but that which is pure. Allāh commands the believers with what He commanded the Messengers. Allāh the Almighty has said: “O you Messengers! Eat of the good things and act righteously” (Al-Mu’minun ,23:51-53). And Allāh the Almighty also said: “O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided you with” (Al-Baqarah,2:167-172). Then he (the Prophet) mentioned (the case of) the man who, having journeyed far, is dishevelled and dusty and who stretches out his hands to the sky (saying): "O Lord! O Lord!" (while) his food was unlawful, his drink was unlawful, his clothing was unlawful, and he is nourished with unlawful things, so how can he be answered?”
[Recorded by Muslim]
The word “at-tayyib” is used in the Qur'an and Sunnah to describe good actions, deeds, people, things, speech, etc. And this term is used as adjectives. Literally it means something good. Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) interpreted the word as “at-tahir, or pure”.
The term “Verily Allāh the Exalted is pure” means Allāh the Almighty has all the attributes of perfection and completeness, free from any kind of shortcomings, weaknesses or needs.
As for the term “He does not accept but that which is pure”, the hadith refers to Allāh’s wouldr accepts that are pure without taited, corrupt,or impure. Allāh does not accept any deeds that are spoilt by any aspects that may ruin it; or the intention of deed must be free from showing-off to others, and in the case that involves goods, properties, wealth it must be from lawful sources.
Allāh Says: “O you Messengers! Eat of the Taiyibat (the good things) and act righteously” (Al-Mu’minun ,23:51)
The term “the good things” implies that they should be wholesome and must have been “pure things” earned in lawful ways. Here the instruction, "eat of pure things", is meant to refute the theory and practice of asceticism. The Qur’an teaches the middle way between the life of asceticism and that of licence. The fact that the instruction, "eat of pure things", precedes "do righteous deeds", is meant to impress that righteous deeds are meaningless without eating lawful provisions.
Allāh Says: “O you who believe! Eat of the Tayyibat that We have provided you with and be grateful to Allah...” (Surah Al-Baqarah,2:172)
Allāh commanded Believers (Mu’minin) in the same manner as He commanded the Messengers to eat from the “pure things” that He has created for them and to “be grateful to Him for it”, if they are truly His servants.
The hadith indicates Allāh the Almighty commands His believing servants (Mu’minin) in the same manner as He commanded the Messengers to eat from the pure things that He has created for them and to thank Him for it, if they are truly His servants. Then the Prophet (Sallallāu ‘alayhi wasallam) mentioned eating from pure sources is a cause for the acceptance of supplications and acts of worship, just as eating from impure sources prevents the acceptance of supplications and acts of worship.
The Exception of the rule.
Permission for the use of an unclean thing has been given on three conditions:
1) It must be really a case of extremity. For instance, if one is dying of hunger or thirst or if one's life is in danger because of some disease and there is nothing available except an unclean thing, one is permitted to take it.
(2) One should not cherish any desire in one's heart to break the law of Allah.
(3) One should not take even a bit more than what is absolutely necessary. For example, if in a certain case, a few bits or drops of an unclean thing can save life, then nothing more than this absolute minimum should be taken.
The hadith imply the following rulings:
1.The money that the Muslims earn must be pure and legal.
2.The food that is consumed must be lawful (halal).
3.The money with which a person buys food must be lawful, coming from lawful sources.
4.These are the keys for acceptance of our deeds by Allāh.
5.Whether something is permissible or prohibited is by the will of Allāh the Almighty. He explains, guides and tells us what are permissible and what are not. It is mentioned in the Qur’an that some people have wrongfully made something unlawful when actually Allāh has made it lawful, and vice versa. It is actually Allāh’s right to make things lawful and unlawful.
6.Earning and consuming lawful things are important conditions for acceptance of our supplications (du’a) by Allāh.
The Adab of making du’a mentioned by the hadith:
1.Earning and consuming lawful things.
2.Travelling is one of the occasions when du’a is accepted by Allāh. Other occasions mentioned by other hadiths are as follows: during travelling, sickness, prostration, rainfall and during the last third of the night. These chances need to be observed so as not to be missed by the people going through these occasions.
3.Being humble in the du’a.
4.To raise the hands towards the sky.
5.Eagerness in performing the du’a, such as asking Allāh many times like saying “ Ya Rabb!, Ya Rabb!”. Du’a is an important form of worship (ibadah) that must be eagerly practised by the Muslims. It is a high form of ibadah as it shows our need of Allāh in helping us. We are in need of Allāh’s mercy more than we need the air for breathing. We need His help, guidance and mercy in every second and our every single movement.
If these adab are not observed, then our du’a may not be responded by Allāh the Almighty. If we want Allah to respond to our du’a, then we need to respond to his commandments such as eating only that which are “pure” or “lawful” to us.
Filth Does Not Expiate Filth
Another ruling from the hadith is that charity (sadaqah) is only accepted by Allah the Almighty if it is from lawful sources. This is based on “Allah is pure and only accepts what is pure”. Wealth that is obtained from unlawful sources should not be given as sadaqah or used in performing any form of worship like performing the Hajj. An example is when a person steals money and uses it to perform the Hajj. In this context, Ibn Abbas (radiyallahu’anhu) said: “Filth does not expiate filth”.
Another ruling given by the scholars is that if somebody stole money, then it must be returned and not be given away as charity. This is particularly applicable in the case of a person wanting to repent (tawbah) after stealing the money. The person needs to return the money to the owner. If this is not possible, like if the owner is not known or cannot be found, then according to some scholars it can be used for public benefit like roads.
An explanation of the hadith given by Jamaluddin Zarabozo is that this hadith alludes to the importance of supporting oneself through permissible means. How one supports oneself is how one lives. If it is through legal means, then it will be blessed by Allāh the Almighty.
Not To Indulge In Ghalul
Another explanation given by the scholars is about the issue of ‘public belongings’, like the property of a company, organization or an institution. This is an important issue and must be observed because public belongings that are wrongfully taken are considered ghalul (a kind of stealing or taking something illegally), a practice which are is expiated even by Jihad in the way of Allāh the Almighty until one pays them back. This is related in a hadith about a martyr (shahid) who took a small portion of the booty of the war.
Today, many Muslims take this issue of ghalul for granted. For example, taking paper and pen from the office for personal use. Another example is the personal use of the photocopy machine, company car, telephone, company money or any other instrument without getting the permission from the authority. We will also be held responsible if we damage or vandalise public property or belongings.
A good example of protecting oneself from ghalul is one set by Khalifah Umar bin Abdulaziz when he used one candle for his administration duties and put it out upon completion of his duties. He would then use his personal candle.
We need to learn from this example of how we should use things in the way they are allocated for. For example, we need to turn off the lights and the air-conditioner when we leave the office and save the electricity bill of the company or organization. By doing this, we will be rewarded by Allāh and Allāh the Almighty will respond to our du’a.
We need to create awareness among the Muslims to be more responsible and not to indulge in ghalul.
Ensure That They Are Lawful
A contemporary issue related to this hadith is about caring what we eat, in terms of two things:
Firstly, to be aware of the ingredients of the food in the restaurant or packed or canned foods, especially if they are imported. We need to ensure that they are lawful.
Secomdly, many of the things that people eat may cause health problems. We need to be more aware about the healthy aspects of the food, that they are ‘pure’. Universities may need to introduce health education so that people can know what the good foods are. They need to be aware of preservatives, colouring and chemical used in the food. Harmful contents are not ‘tayyiban’ (pure).
Scholars mentioned that whatever we eat affects our attitude and behaviour. We need to eat the right food (at-Tayyib) and in the right manners (adab) as prescribed by Islam - e.g. not to eat excessively. By observing these issues, if Allāh wills, it will lead us to be better Muslims with a better level of Iman and purer heart devoting to Allāh. Then everything that we do can be described as ‘at-tayyib’. This condition is attained by those who observe the right manners (adab), earning, drinking, eating the ‘tayyib’ and giving charity from the ‘tayyib’. We will then be the ‘tayyibun’, pure and blessed by Allāh.
‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to say: "Allāh umma inni as ‘alukal-huda wat-tuqa wal-‘afafa wal-ghina (O Allāh ! I ask You for guidance, piety, chastity and self-sufficiency)". [Recorded by Muslim].
Guidance here means guidance at every turn of life and steadfastness on the path of truth. Fear of Allāh is the greatest means of piety and strongest defense against sins. Chastity is the state of being free from what is unlawful. Self-sufficiency is the antonym of poverty and here it means the self-contentment. What it implies is that one should not care for what people possess. In view of all these qualities, the do’a of the Prophet (Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam) mentioned in this Hadith is very comprehensive and valuable.And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[ Excerpted from a commentary on Hadith No.10: “Being Pure (At-Tayyib)” from 40 Hadiths Of Imam Nawawi, Via ICTruth]