Rush to Fulfill Needs

One’s etiquette in social situations is the key foundation to having strong relationships with others. This article is the twenty-first in a series taken from the On Demand Course: Discussion on Sulami’s Adab of Keeping Company.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) encouraged that:

“Allah is in the aid of the servant, as long as the servant is in the aid of their brethren.”

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly mentioned that:

“Whoever relieves from another a distress of the distresses of this life, Allah will lift from them the distresses of this life and the next.”

There are many encouragements in the Sunna of our beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) regarding this. This comes from what faith itself is: seeking good for others. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) frequently used to walk behind his Companions.  There are many wisdoms for this. One is that he used to not just wait for them to raise their needs to him, he used to observe and seek out his Companions, such that if he saw someone was sad or someone was in difficulty, or if they looked like they were in financial need, he would proactively go forth and assist them in fulfilling their needs. 

This is the way of the early Muslims. One of the great Imams of the Salaf, Jafar al-Khuldi, said, “The effort and striving of the noble is for their brethren, not for themselves.” Their focus is not what they can get out of this, but what can they do for others. 

It also has to do with being very keenly observant during conversations. Knowing the likes and dislikes of the people around you. If they give subtle cues for things that they like, you are very keen and avid to get that for them. 

One cultivates this by sometimes preferring others to oneself. If you are thinking of buying something, you buy it for someone else, once in a while. You do not get it yourself. Allah says:

لَن تَنَالُوا۟ ٱلۡبِرَّ حَتَّىٰ تُنفِقُوا۟ مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَۚ 

“None of you shall attain devotion to their Lord in every good, until you spend of what you truly love.” [Quran, 3:92; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

There are financial needs people have. There are also needs of time and attention. Contact them and assist them. Support them. Facilitate for them.

Four Ways of Success

There are four ways one can live one’s life successfully. Then there is other than that which is an unsuccessful life for a believer. The greatest and first way someone could dedicate themselves to (if their circumstances are right)  is to learn and transmit the religion. If they do so intending to act on it, and with sincerely benefiting others. 

The second way is to make one’s work a means of serving others. So one seeks out a profession or shapes one’s career in a manner that seeks to fulfill an area of genuine human need. One works with intention. 

A third is that one works in a permissible way, in a good way and one dedicates some of one’s money and time towards areas of religious or worldly good. Giving charity, volunteering your time, but also making yourself available for family, friends, etc.

The fourth way is that you just earn a lawful living. You do not engage in the prohibited, and you fulfill the basic rights of those around you. Anything short of that, you are in degrees of losing out. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was never asked about anything to which he said no. He either did what was asked or he would facilitate what was asked by suggesting to someone he knew to be of assistance or he would give facilitative words: he would explain to them how they could achieve what they wanted. 

If someone comes and they need financial assistance, if you can, give. Can you not give, then try to connect with people you know to assist the person. Otherwise, point them meaningfully with concern towards ways that they can find assistance.

Distance and Neglect

This is both in accepting their reaching out to you, and in you reaching out to them. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) accepted invitations from those near, but also those who lived outside Madina. There was no one ever busier than him (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Classically, people used to stay in touch through letters, and it was difficult. If you read about Islamic history or human history more broadly, humans exerted tremendous efforts in building networks for correspondence. 

This Sunna of remaining in touch developed a beautiful tradition of writing letters across the lands. They used to take that very seriously. They would rebuke each other if they were not able to. 

Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari was forced to leave Istanbul when the Ottoman Empire fell, and eventually, he ended up in Egypt. Until he passed away, he was in very difficult circumstances for almost three decades. He was in correspondence with many scholars – in the late 1940s – from India and what became Pakistan. 

He delayed responding for a couple of months to Allama Yusuf al-Binuri. Then finally he wrote a beautiful letter apologizing. He made excuses saying that “getting out of touch with someone like you is unbecoming, but make dua that Allah protect our health,” and so on. That was the final correspondence between the two.

Keep in Touch

Texting tends to be quite superficial. One of the merits of letters was that people would express themselves more deeply in writing letters than they would in even in-person.

Many people do not send emails anymore. They just do quick messages back and forth. Journaling is very beneficial because it helps one take account of one’s own life and what one is up to, it helps with reflection. However, journaling is a very individualistic act. Letter writing also helps you with having self-awareness, but also concern for others. 

If you are not going to write a letter, consider sometimes sending an email to a friend updating them where things are at. 

You could send a small gift along with a small handwritten note. People appreciate that a lot.

The other way of remaining in contact is the actual human contact which is very important. Try to be in actual contact with friends and family right. You are responsible for as best you are able. 

When sending a greeting for Eid, it is more emotionally touching if you actually mention the person by name when you are sending greetings to them.