Commentary ~ Is Not Goodness the Reward of Goodness?

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Imam, Al-Qadi, Abu Bakr Muhammad bin’ Abdul-Baqi Al-Ansari – may Allah have mercy on him – used to live in Makkah. Having gone without food for longer than was comfortable for him, he became extremely hungry, but had nothing with which he could fend off his hunger. As he was walking through the streets of Makkah, thinking about his predicament, he found a silk bag that was tied by a silk string. After he picked up the bag, Imam Abu Bakr took it to his house. There he opened the bag and found in it a pearl necklace, the likes of which – in terms of beauty and quality – he had never before seen in his entire life. But if he felt any joy at having found such a valuable thing, that joy was short-lived, for when he went into the street, he came across an old man who was announcing that he had lost a silk bag that contained a valuable necklace. The old man said that there was a reward of 500 dinars for the person who returned the bag and necklace.

Many others who are put through a similar test fail, especially those who are poor and for whom the temptation of a valuable item is simply too much. But not so for Imam Abu Bakr, who instead of reflecting on his own situation, took the old man back with him to his house and asked him to describe the bag, the string, the pearls, and the string to which they were attached. The old man of course gave an accurate description of everything, after which Imam Abu Bakr took out the lost items and gave them to him. The old man immediately took out 500 dinars and tried to hand them over to Imam Abu Bakr, who then refused to take the reward, explaining that it was a religious duty upon him to return the lost items and that, therefore, it was not befitting for him to take a reward for having fulfilled that duty. The old man continued to insist for a while, but Imam Abu Bakr was adamant that he was not going to take the money. The old man then took his leave and went on his way.

Shortly thereafter, Imam Abu Bakr, perhaps seeking out a new life and a new means of gaining sustenance, left Makkah and became a passenger on a sea vessel. During his journey, the ship began to sink, and as a result, many people died, and their wealth went with them to the bottom of the sea. The ship was breaking into pieces, and with a great deal of difficulty, Imam Abu Bakr managed to hold on to one of those pieces and thus remain afloat. He continued to hold on to the broken piece for a long time, and when he finally reached an inhabited island, he could not tell how many days he had spent all alone in the sea.

As a newcomer to the island, he did not know anyone, and needing a place to rest and recuperate, he sat down in a Masjid. While he was seated in the Masjid, reading the Quran, many people heard him and approached him, asking him to teach them the Quran. He was all too happy to teach them, and as a reward for his services, they paid him a significant amount of money.

Later on, he found papers on which was written chapters of the Quran. He finally found an opportunity to read directly from the Quran instead of reciting from memory. Apparently, at least most people on the island were illiterate, for seeing that he could read, a throng of people approached him and asked him if he was able to write. He answered in the affirmative, and they said, “Teach us how to write.” They then brought to him children of all ages and he became their teacher. And again, in return for his services, he was paid a handsome sum of money.

Being pleased with both the character and knowledge of the newcomer, the leaders of the island approached him, saying, “Among us lives a young female orphan. She is rich, and we want you to marry her.” At first Imam Abu Bakr refused, but they insisted until he finally gave in and agreed to marry her.

On the day of their marriage, the leaders of the island presented Imam Abu Bakr’s new bride to him. With a look of utter amazement in his eyes, he began to stare at the necklace that she was wearing. So long did he stare at it, that the leaders of the island said, “You are breaking the heart of this young orphan, for instead of looking at her, you are looking at her necklace.” Imam Abu Bakr then told them of his story with the old man in Makkah. Everyone present began to pronounce the Testimony of Faith and to extol Allah’s greatness; they were so loud that their voices could be heard by all of the inhabitants of the island. Imam Abu Bakr asked, “What is the matter with you?” They said, “The old man who took the necklace from you is the father of this girl, and he used to say: ‘I have never found a [true and sincere] Muslim in the world except for the man who returned this necklace to me.’ And he used to supplicate, saying: ‘O Allah, bring me and that man together, so that I can marry my daughter to him.’ And now that has happened.”

Imam Abu Bakr outlived his wife and the children she bore him. Inheriting the necklace and then selling it for 100,000 dinars, he remained a wealthy man to the end of his days.

Gems and Jewels
Compiled by: Abdul-Malik Mujahid
Publisher: Maktaba Dar-us-Salam
ISBN: 9960-897-59-1
Page 270

Leave a Comment