(Also published here)
We all know that the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) had the best, most beautiful and most eloquent of speech. Allaah gave him this ability, such that he would give advice that was rich, admonition that was powerful and statements that were remembered. Of the many ahadith that prove this is the hadith in Muslim, which also has a narration in Bukhari.
On the authority of Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) that the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said:
“Look to those who are inferior to you, do not look to those that are superior to you, for this will keep you from belittling Allaah’s Favour to you.”[Wording of Muslim]
“When one of you looks at someone who is superior to him in property and appearance, he should look at someone who in inferior to him.” [Wording of Bukhari]
In this hadith, the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said ‘أسفل منكم’ meaning ‘inferior to you’ in the worldly aspects, such as houses, cars, income etc. The evidence of that is the second narration, since the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) referred to looking at property and appearances which are both adornments of the dunya. Allaah said:
“Look not with your eyes ambitiously at what We have bestowed on certain classes of them (the disbelievers), nor grieve over them. And lower your wing for the believers” [Surat al Hijr: 88]
This ayah came right after the ayah where Allaah told His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم):
“And indeed, We have bestowed upon you seven of Al-Mathaani (seven repeated verse i.e Surat al Fatihah) and the Grand Qur’aan” [Surat al Hijr:87]
The scholars say that these two ayaat are beautifully connected. Allaah confirmed His bounty on the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم), then He told him not to look at what others have in terms of the world. What Allaah gave the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is far more valuable; He made him a Messenger, the Imam of the Muwahideen and He gave him Surat al Fatihah and the Great Qur’aan, the likes of which was never given to any messenger before him.
“And do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given enjoyment to [some] categories of them, [its being but] the splendour of the worldly life by which We test them. And the provision of your Lord is better and more enduring.” [Surat Taha: 131]
Ibn Kathir said about this verse:
“Allaah tells His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) to not look at those who are adorned in the dunya and what they have from blessings. Verily it is a flower that will fade away, a blessing they will be separated from, and they will be tested by it.”
Mujahid said about this ayah:
“He means the rich and Allaah gave you better than what He gave them.”
We should understand that, as believers, we have the Qur’aan between our hands, the blessing of tawheed, and a heart that is serene through its submission to Allaah. There is no need, therefore, to look at those who enjoy the adornments of the dunya since what we have is better. The Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) mentioned the reason why we should look to those that are inferior as opposed to those that are superior since: this will keep you from belittling Allaah’s Favour to you.
The one that looks to those above him and sees that they have an abundance of luxuries in life will feel like he has very little in comparison. He will belittle the favour of Allaah and his heart will become tired due to striving to attain what others have. If what they have is unattainable this will breed envy, therefore it is sin upon sin: ingratitude and envy. On the other hand, looking to those that are lower than you will make you appreciate Allaah’s blessings and thank Him. The one that sees a blind man will appreciate his sight, if he sees a poor man, he will appreciate his wealth, and if he sees the unhealthy, he will appreciate his health. Being pleased with what Allaah has given you will cause your heart to be content and relaxed.
The scholars say that one should look to those who are less than him in terms of the dunya but look to those that are greater than him in terms worship and manners. There is no slave that is engaged in worship and striving hard in it, except that he will find someone better than him. Whenever you see such people, your soul inclines towards being like them, so you will get closer to Allaah thereby. Similarly no matter how bad someone’s situation is in the dunya, there is always someone worse off. If the slave gave thought to this he would realise Allaah’s blessings upon him.
“This hadith collects branches of goodness. If the man sees he who has more than him in the dunya, his soul will ask for the like of that and he will belittle what he has from blessings of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and he will have a conviction to increase so that he becomes close to the person he saw. This is the case for most people. As for if he were to look at the things of the dunya of those that are inferior to him, the blessings of Allaah will appear before his eyes so he will be grateful, humbled and will perform good deeds.”
We ask Allaah that He guides us to thank Him and that He does not take away the blessings that He has given to us from tawheed, learning and worshipping. May the Salaah and Salaam of Allaah be upon the Final Messenger.