The compilation of hadiths into a small group, 40, has been a tradition for some time in the history of Muslim scholarship. ‘Ulama’ (scholars) have recognized the limits and constraints placed on the average Muslim in their pursuit of requisite and inspirational knowledge of Islam. By compiling a smaller number of Prophetic narrations, often under an overarching theme, it was a way to help make the Deen accessible to Muslims so they might better improve their relationship with Allah. The 40 American Hadith is a gesture in that same direction, a collection of Prophetic wisdom aimed and tailored for a modern American Muslim, to assist him or her in their daily aspirations to walk, live, and breathe, as Believers.
سألت عائشة رضي الله عنها, ما كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يصنع في بيته؟ قالت, كان يكون في مهنة أهله, تعني خدمة أهله, فإذا حضرت الصلاة خرج إلى الصلاة
الراوي: عائشة, المحدث: البخاري, المسند: صحيح البخاري, الصفحة أو الرقم
"A'ishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked (by al-Aswad), 'What kinds of things did the Prophet ﷺ used to do in his house?' She replied, 'He worked for his family, meaning in the service of his family. However, when it the time for prayer came, he went out to the prayer'." (Sahih al-Bukhari, #676)
We live today in a world of extremes. Even dedication to God has not escaped the grasp of extremism. There is the notion, sadly, by some that suggests that in order for one to live a devoted life one must shun the world entirely. Often, this shunning is misunderstood to even extend to the abandonment of one’s family and friends. In recent years, many texts on zuhd, tasawwuf and tazkiyyah al-nafs have been translated into the English-speaking Muslim world. These texts extol the virtues of abstinence but I feel they have also falsely given the notion that a full and devout life must come at the expense of one's family and social obligations. From the example of the Prophet, this could not be further from the truth.
Service to others is never an unworthy endeavor. The Prophet ﷺ and the Qur'an teach us that our families are a priority, even coming first in many regards over community obligations. This can take the form of earning income to support one's family to overseeing the education of children and the maintaining of intimacy between spouses. In fact, I would say that it is these three concerns that most Muslim (and non-Muslim) couples struggle to find an appropriate balance in maintaining.
That a Muslim man should go out and earn income is a given, so long as he is healthy and sane. But all too often I hear and see accounts of men being negligent in their duty to work. If this is the case then you must see that your total life is out of balance, not simply your work/life balance. For instance, 'Abdullah Bin 'Amr Bin 'As narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ entered his apartment and said:
دَخَلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم حُجْرَتِي فَقَالَ أَلَمْ أُخْبَرْ أَنَّكَ تَقُومُ اللَّيْلَ وَتَصُومُ النَّهَارَ قَالَ بَلَى قَالَ فَلاَ تَفْعَلَنَّ نَمْ وَقُمْ وَصُمْ وَأَفْطِرْ فَإِنَّ لِعَيْنِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِجَسَدِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِزَوْجَتِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِضَيْفِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِصَدِيقِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا
"I have been told that you stand all night in prayer and fast all day.' I said, 'Yes, I do.' He said, 'Do not do that. Sleep and stand in prayer and then fast and break your fast. For your eyes have a right over you, your body has a right over you, your body has a right over you, your wife has a right over you, your guest has a right over you, and your friend has a right over you.” (Sunan al-Nasa'i, #2391)
As one can see, the Prophet ﷺ has actually admonished us into going into extremes of abstinence. Instead, he has encouraged us to manage our rest (turn off your iPhone at night, shut your eyes, and go to sleep!), maintain intimacy with our spouses (your wife/husband have a right over you) and maintain healthy social interactions (the guest and the friend). Much of the isolation many in our community feel might be successfully addressed by embodying these principles.
Lastly, there is the pursuit of wealth, which can be done for noble (educating children, providing a certain lifestyle) and ignoble reasons. Since the latter are more obvious, I want to briefly bring attention to the former as one of the means by which our earning of income can become unbalanced. It is one of the warnings the Prophet ﷺ gave us:
فَأَبْشِرُوا وَأَمِّلُوا مَا يَسُرُّكُمْ، فَوَاللَّهِ لاَ الْفَقْرَ أَخْشَى عَلَيْكُمْ، وَلَكِنْ أَخْشَى عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْ تُبْسَطَ عَلَيْكُمُ الدُّنْيَا كَمَا بُسِطَتْ عَلَى مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ، فَتَنَافَسُوهَا كَمَا تَنَافَسُوهَا وَتُهْلِكَكُمْ كَمَا أَهْلَكَتْهُمْ
“By Allah, it is not poverty that I fear for you, but I fear that this world will be spread out in front of you as it was spread out in front of those before you, and then you will vie for it as they vied for it, and it will destroy you as it destroyed them”. (Sahih al-Bukhari, #3158)
So work to find that balance. Go to the masjid and pray when the prayer comes and and through it, maintain your community relations. Invite friends for dinner and get the blessings of being a good host and the benefits of healthy social interaction. Spend time with your spouses and maintain your relationships. And remember, enjoy being a Muslim!
By Marc Manley , 21 Nov 2016