Content of Character

Content of Character #56: Directing Others to Good

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving; and peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, his Companions and all who are faithful.

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash


Welcome to episode 56 of “The Content of Character” podcast. Today we will be discussing the idea of directing others to good. The Messenger of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said “He who directs others to a good deed is as the one who did it, and assuredly Allah loves the act of aiding the distressed.”

Directing Others To Good

In the collection of the “Content of Character”, it mentions that this was related by Ibn Abi Dunya. This is just one of the many collections you find this hadith in. It is also found in the collection of Imam Ahmad, Abu Ya’la, Ibn ‘Adiy, and others.

The first part of this hadith, “He who directs others to a good deed is as the one who did it” has been rigorously authenticated (sahih). The second half, “…and assuredly Allah loves the act of aiding the distressed”, has weakness in it. Nevertheless, the meaning is sound.

There is a similar hadith that points to the same meaning of the first part, with close wording, and that is found in the collection of Imam Muslim: “Whoever directs others to some form of good, he will have the same reward as the one who did it.”

In yet another hadith, we find a little bit of background about how this wording of the Prophet of Allah (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) came about. [It was related] that a man came to the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) asking him to support him in going out on a military campaign, and the Prophet was unable to do so. So he then sent him to someone else. And when that other person that provided for that man, then the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) said these famous words: “He who directs others to a good deed is as the one who did it.”

What Does It Mean to Be “As the One Who Did It”?

Let’s look a little bit more closely to these blessed words of the Rasul (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) who is the imam of all of those who direct to khayr. ‘Khayr’ is something that is very precious and very important for us as believers. We want to live lives of good that ultimately manifest in the next world with not only entering into paradise, but attaining a gaze upon the noble countenance of our Lord (Glorified and Exalted is He).

This [first] word here, al-dalla, it could be translated as ‘indicate, direct to, point others to, lead others to’. All of these meanings are contained in this blessed word. And what is meant here is that when you direct and point others to good, and we’ll talk in a little bit about what we mean by “good”, you are like the one who does it (ka fa’ilah). And when we talk about being like the one who does it, what do the scholars say about this?

Some of them say it just means a basic level of receiving reward. Just as the one who does it receives reward, you also receive reward; even though the person who actually does the act, according to this opinion of the scholars, might actually receive more reward. So their deed might be multiplied, they might receive three, five, ten, even many times over the rewards that you receive, but you share in that fact that you both get reward. And those who are of this opinion quote the principle (qa’ida) that states the reward that you get for an act is in accordance of the difficulty that goes into that act. The more difficulty, the more reward.

Other scholars like Imam al-Qurtubi, who said that this is not necessarily the case, is that outwardly this hadith indicates that there’s the same reward (musawa), meaning that the one who indicates and points someone to do some type of good, he gets the same reward as that person who actually does it. [al-Qurtubi] rationalizes the argument by saying that we know that Allah the Exalted gives by way of reward what he wills for all acts of goodness that we do.

So this is from the bounty (fadl) of Allah, even if the person who’s actually doing the act is putting in more effort by the fact that he’s doing the act, the one who indicates to him, from the bounty of Allah to do the act gets the same reward. And this is from the fadl of Allah who bestows His bounty upon whom He pleases, in any way He pleases, (Glorified and Exalted is He). So this second opinion means that it’s actually the same reward as the one who actually does it.

How Do We Understand “Good”?

So, if we look to this idea of directing and pointing towards good, how do we understand “good”? What is khayr? We translate khayr as good. And the true definition of khayr is that which will be of benefit in the next world. And so, any particular thing for any particular person, even if it be a bit bitter in this world, it’s difficult for them to go through that particular thing. They don’t like that particular thing.

If it leads to good in the next world, meaning that they will have benefitted by that thing in the next world, and it helps them in terms of the weighing of the scale of the good deeds preponderantly over the scale of the bad deeds, and helps them to enter into Paradise and to attain degrees of Paradise, that is considered to be good.

So in this world, there are certain things that might not appear to be good, but in reality they are good. This is how we truly understand khayr. In this hadith we can understand khayr in a more general way, in that there is worldly good and there is religious good. And so [as we see] here, any type of good that we are a means for, that we point people to, there is a reward that we get for that.

All Good in the ‘Hood

This is the way that we should approach life as believers. We should be people of benefit: meaning that we are always trying to benefit ourselves, but also trying to give benefit. We want to be people that are bringing benefit to our societies.

In many of the conversations that people are having nowadays about Muslim minorities and so forth, and how Islam relates to the modern world, the foundation of these discussions has to be rooted in our understanding of bringing about benefit. We should be contributors in our society. We should let [ourselves] be seen not for the sake of being seen, because this is the way that we are. [This is about] bringing benefit wherever we may be on the face of this Earth.

If people around us, even if they disagree with us, saw us as being beneficial to their societies, and we’re trying to bring about khayr at every single level, in the worldly and the religious sense, […] they will respect us. And this will be the greatest way for us to be able to point others to this great good that lies in the teachings of our Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him).

Launch Good

So this should be our perspective: how can we bring about good and benefit for others in every possible way with the words that we say, being very careful about how we speak to every single person, young and old, friends and neighbors, people that we work with?

[How do we] make sure not to incite the lower tendencies in people by being able to control our our egos (nafs)… especially when we’re angry, when we’re driving, when we’re going into stores; [and] also with our actions.

Everything that we do, we want to bring about good. We want to be locks that close the doors of evil, and keys that open up the doors of good. Most important to us is [expressing good] with our state (hal). They are people by virtue of their state that they bring about good people. And we know the famous statement of one of the early Predecessors (salaf), “When the righteous are mentioned, mercy descends.” There are people that are so beneficial to others and that bring about so much good to others, that mercy from the Most High descends just by mentioning them.

I remember asking one of my teachers as we entered a land where Muslims are a minority what happens when a true inheritor of the Prophet (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him) goes to such a place. He paused very briefly and said one comprehensive word: mercy (rahma). [Mercy] is one of the greatest manifestations of all of good. This is the way believers should be; we should point to, indicate, and direct others towards good with words, our actions, and most importantly our state, [be it] at home, work, and with our friends.

One of the great examples of this we find in the story of our master, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. It was the end of his life as he’s on his deathbed, that he sees a young man that was wearing his pants a bit low. He indicates to him to pull up his pants. This shows the greatness of the society of the Companions. All the things that we are struggling with in terms of the basics were pretty much a given for the vast majority of them. If there’s something of this nature that relates to etiquette, this was the way that the Companions were. They want everybody to be better in any possible way. So what we need is to create environments that are uplifting so that people can better themselves and prepare for the meeting with their Lord (Glorified and Exalted is He).

Good Grief, Good Relief

In the hadith in the “Content of Character”, it ends by saying, “Surely Allah loves the act of aiding the distressed.” The lahfan is the one who is sad, remorseful, and who has gone or is going through a difficult state. Allah loves for the believer to help people that are troubled and distressed. This is one of the greatest manifestations of pointing other people to good is doing things that can help alleviate the pain of those that are going through trouble.

May Allah the Exalted bless us to implement these blessed teachings of our Prophet Muhammad (peaceful prayers and blessings be upon him), inwardly and outwardly and in all of our different states. When we meet people that direct others to good in all of its meanings, may we receive the blessings of that in this world in the next. And Allah knows best.

Peaceful prayers and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Folk, and his Companions; and every praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.

The “Content of Character” podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersGuidance Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersGuidance website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.