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The Man Who Said Alhamdulillah

Written by Imam Ghazali (r.a.)

You may have heard of people residing in remote rural areas and whose means of earning consist of going to the towns and habitations, buying grain, etc., and then selling these elsewhere. Their permanent places of residence remain these out-of-the-way wildernesses.

Imam Ghazali (r.a.) writes a qissah of one such group of people who lived in a few houses in some wilderness. Each household possessed a dog, a cock and a donkey. The donkey was there to transport trading goods from one area to another to sell these goods there. The dog was there to protect the household from thieves, etc. The cock would crow early in the morning and the people in the house would come to know that it was nearly dawn and they would rouse from sleep. Each house in the area had these three animals.

There was a buzurg (pious, saintly person) also living in one of the houses with his wife. He also possessed these three animals. One day a wolf came and killed the donkey.

The wife commented drily to her husband, "You see that? The donkey is dead! Now, how are you going to go about to earn a living? Others will go out to do their buying and selling, and enjoy themselves! But your donkey is dead!" The husband merely said, "Alhamdulillah!" This enraged the wife even more. After all, is she not a woman? "Wah! The donkey is gone and with it our livelihood and all you can say is, 'Alhamdulillah!'" The husband calmly repeated, "Alhamdulillah!"

The next day when the buzurg came home he found that the dog had suddenly died. His wife confronted him, remarking sarcastically, "Say again 'Alhamdulillah!' - the dog has died! The houses of the others will be protected, but your house will be looted! Yes, say it, say 'Alhamdulillah'" The husband was unperturbed by her sarcasm. He calmly said, "Alhamdulillah!"

On the third day a fox came and carried the cock away. The wife said, "See what good your 'Alhamdulillah!' has brought you - the cock is gone! Now you can sleep till late in the mornings! Everybody else will be getting up early and will be setting out for their work, and earning good profits in their trading - while you will be still fast asleep! Yes, the cock is also dead." The husband merely said, "Alhamdulillah!" She carried on but each time he would respond by saying simply "Alhamdulillah!"

On the fourth day they really got up late, seeing that the cock was not there to wake them up by its crowing. The wife started again, "I had warned you that this would happen! All you could do was say 'Alhamdulillah!'. Everybody has gone to work by now and you got up only now." The husband was his normal cool and calm self, and he consoled his wife, "Dear wife! It is nothing to be upset about. Alhamdulillah!"

The husband got up, made his preparations - wudhu, namaz, etc. - and then headed for the door. He opened the door, stepped out and...stopped dead in his tracks! "That is most unusual - the neighbour's front door is open. And what is that? His dog is lying dead outside!" As he entered their gate to investigate there was no evidence of the cock. When he entered the house he found that all those dwelling in the house were lying dead! All the members of the household had been slain!

As he wandered from house to house, he came across the same scene - the dogs and cocks either killed or missing, and none of the inhabitants alive! The husband went back to his house and told the wife, "See here! Alhamdulillah! Come with me and have a look!" He took her to all the houses to witness the tragedies. "Are the dogs alive? Are the cocks alive? Are any of the people alive?" he asked her. "Hai! What happened?" she asked.

He explained to her, "This is why I said Alhamdulillah! At our gate there was no dog. In our yard there was neither a cock nor a donkey. The thieves must have come at night to all the houses, saw signs of these animals and knew that the houses were inhabited. At each place they killed the animals, entered the houses and killed those in the houses and took away all their wealth. They must have come to our house as well but there was no dog, no cock and no donkey, as at the other houses. Obviously, they thought that our house was deserted. What was to be gained from coming inside?"

This qissah appears in Imam Ghazali's (r.a.) writings.

Do you understand?

So, the dog dying, the cock dying and the donkey dying - were these calamities or were they acts of rahmat? Obviously, these were acts of mercy. Kash! Would it not be wonderful if we mu'minin being mu'min, should understand such affairs from Allah Ta'ala to be acts of fadhl for us!

So, whatever events occur contrary to one's tabiyet will cause grief - grief that is temporary. Such grief will occur and should occur, otherwise how will one attain the maqam of sabr?