The Crawling of Ants

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ نُمَيْرٍ حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْمَلِكِ يَعْنِي ابْنَ أَبِي سُلَيْمَانَ الْعَزْرَمِيَّ عَنْ أَبِي عَلِيٍّ رَجُلٍ مِنْ بَنِي كَاهِلٍ قَالَ خَطَبَنَا أَبُو مُوسَى الْأَشْعَرِيُّ فَقَالَ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا هَذَا الشِّرْكَ فَإِنَّهُ أَخْفَى مِنْ دَبِيبِ النَّمْلِ فَقَامَ إِلَيْهِ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ حَزْنٍ وَقَيْسُ بْنُ المُضَارِبِ فَقَالَا وَاللَّهِ لَتَخْرُجَنَّ مِمَّا قُلْتَ أَوْ لَنَأْتِيَنَّ عُمَرَ مَأْذُونٌ لَنَا أَوْ غَيْرُ مَأْذُونٍ قَالَ بَلْ أَخْرُجُ مِمَّا قُلْتُ خَطَبَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ذَاتَ يَوْمٍ فَقَالَ أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا هَذَا الشِّرْكَ فَإِنَّهُ أَخْفَى مِنْ دَبِيبِ النَّمْلِ فَقَالَ لَهُ مَنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَقُولَ وَكَيْفَ نَتَّقِيهِ وَهُوَ أَخْفَى مِنْ دَبِيبِ النَّمْلِ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ قُولُوا اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّا نَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ أَنْ نُشْرِكَ بِكَ شَيْئًا نَعْلَمُهُ وَنَسْتَغْفِرُكَ لِمَا لَا نَعْلَمُ

Abu ‘Ali said, “Abu Musa al-Ash’ari said to us in a sermon, ‘O people, fear this shirk [and guard against it], for certainly it is harder to detect than the crawling of ants.’ So ‘Abdullah bin Hazn and Qais bin al-Mudarib went up to him and said, ‘By Allah, you will certainly take back what you have said, or else we will take you to ‘Umar – either with your permission or without!’ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘I will not do so; for the Messenger of Allah, salllallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, one day told us in a sermon, “O people, fear this shirk [and guard against it], for certainly it is harder to detect than the crawling of ants.” So someone whom Allah willed to speak, asked, “And how are we supposed to guard against it when it is harder to detect than the crawling of ants, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Say: ‘O Allah! Indeed, we seek protection in You from knowingly associating anything with You, and we seek Your forgiveness for what we are unaware of.‘”‘”

(Musnad Ahmad)

The shirk referred to here is the minor one – al-riya‘. This is when we do things for some motive other than solely for the sake of Allah ‘azza wa jall. And this motive could even be something good and praiseworthy! It need not necessarily be for “showing off”, as we might think. (See this link for more details).

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It is not easy to discern and pick up when this quality is present within us. In fact, it is extremely hard to do that – even harder than spotting the crawling of ants, as is stated in the hadith. I had written something concerning this issue before, where I said that because it is so difficult for us to determine whether or not we are afflicted with this disease, we should do good deeds secretly. To conceal our good from the eyes of men would increase the chances that we are doing it only desiring the Countenance of Allah, and for no other reason besides that.  

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And yet we should not allow the Deceiver to use this against us by preventing us from carrying out good. Shaitan might whisper to one, “Don’t perform salah in the first row. If you do that you would be showing off, and then your deed would be nullified!” So he falls back and remains in the last rows and thus misses out on immense reward. And if one were to fall into this trap, how much good would not pass him by!? Imam Fudail bin ‘Iyad, rahimahullah, said that this – the abandonment of good deeds because of people – is in fact riya’!

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Rather we should perform as much good as we are capable of and protect ourselves from shirk in doing so by acting upon the above hadith and reciting the dua related therein. Here it is again: 

اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّا نَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ أَنْ نُشْرِكَ بِكَ شَيْئًا نَعْلَمُهُ وَنَسْتَغْفِرُكَ لِمَا لَا نَعْلَمُ

 Allahumma innaa na’oodhu bika min an nushrika bika shai-an na’lamuh; wa nastaghfiruka limaa laa na’lam.

O Allah! Indeed, we seek protection in You from knowingly associating anything with You, and we seek Your forgiveness for what we are unaware of.

~~~~

 Learn it. Memorise it. Recite it.

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May Allah ta’ala protect me from the shirk that I know very well is present within me in writing this, and forgive me for what I am unware of. May He accept all our good, despite all our shortcomings within them, and forgive us all our sins.

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3 Responses to The Crawling of Ants

  1. Al-hayaa says:

    as salaamu aleykum

    Jazakallaah khyran for sharing, subhanAllaah so true.

  2. Anon says:

    Salam. Could you help me find the Arabic for this:

    “Allahumma innee a’oozu bika min an ushrika bika shay-a`w wa-ana a’alam wa-astaghfiruka limaa laa a’alam.”

    It’s slightly different from the one you gave,

  3. the middle road says:

    Wa alaikum salaam

    اللهم إني أعوذ بك أن أشرك بك شيئا وأنا أعلمه وأستغفرك لما لا أعلم

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