A Poem in the Introduction to Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn

This poem is mentioned in the introduction of Imām Nawawi’s Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn. Below the Arabic is my sloppy attempt at a translation of both the poem and the explanation of the poem as given in Dalīl al-Fāliḥīn li Ṭuruq Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn, a commentary on Imām Nawawi’s ḥadīth work.

إِنَّ لِلّهِ عِبَادََا فُطَنَا               طَلَّقُوا الدَّنْيَا وَخَافُوا الْفِتَنَا

نَظَرُوا فِيْهَا فَلَمَّا عَلِمُوا         أَنَّهَا لَيْسَتْ لِحَيِِّ  وَطَنَا

جَعَلُوهَا لُجَّةََ وَاتَّخَذُوا           صَالِحَ الْأَعْمَلِ فِيْهَا سُفُنَا

Certainly, Allah has slaves who are very intelligent

They divorced the world, and feared tribulation

They looked at it, and when they knew

That it was not a home for the living

They made it a bottomless ocean, and took

Righteous actions as a boat therein

Dalīl al-Fāliḥīn li Ṭuruq Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn:

How excellent are the words of the poet in explaining the swiftness of the world’s passing: 

Certainly Allah has great slaves who are very intelligent (i.e. they possess intellect and consider the outcomes of things). 

They divorced the world, this being a metaphor for indifference towards the world and the abandonment of being engrossed with its affair. 

And feared tribulation, that is tests and examination as is mentioned in al-Nihāyah1. In the Mufradāt of al-Rāgib it says, “Fitna is used for a person being inserted in fire, and [sometimes, it is used for] that from which torment is acquired, and [sometimes] for examination. Fitna is used like balā: that is, they are both used to describe hardship or comfort that descends on a human being, however their usage is more prevalent, and their meaning is more apparent, when used for hardship.”2

The gist is that the fitna caused by being engrossed and mixed up in the world are abundant (e.g. greed, collecting wealth without consideration to its lawfulness, being stingy, blocking the rights that are obligatory in it, arrogance, and thinking highly of one self). 

They looked at it (i.e. the world) with the eye of insight and recognized the swiftness of its passing, its abrupt changes and transitions, and it [seemed] as though the world never existed and the hereafter didn’t stop. 

Then when they knew, through the clarity of this sight (i.e. they witnessed that) and it became an experience and permanent state for them, otherwise every intelligent person knows that the world is a fleeting and transient place; it’s just that their sight is covered by the veil of heedlessness so they incline towards its pleasures in spite of knowing its reality. 

Then when they knew that it was not a home for the living, that is, it was not a place to settle down forever because in this world people are like travelers who are in transit. The ḥadīth already preceded, “Be in the world as though you are a stranger or a traveler,”3 and in a similar vein, the poet said: “Ah! The world is only like the stage of a rider/ he stays for an evening, but in the morning he will set off.” The real home is the abode of the hereafter which, by the will and power of Allāh, has no end as is mentioned in the ḥadīth, “People of Jannah, eternity without death! People of Hell, eternity without death!”4. Some said this is what is meant by the ḥadīth, “Love of one’s homeland is a part of īmān.”5 So it behooves the one having perfect īmān that they should furnish their home with righteous actions. 

They made it a bottomless ocean (i.e. they made it equivalent to an ocean, the crossing of which, will cause one to reach their objective). 

And they took righteous actions in it (i.e. in the vast ocean) as a ship, making righteous actions equivalent to a ship that causes one to cross the abyss of the ocean. It is mentioned in the ḥadīth that the one who did righteous actions will ride them on the Day of Judgement
.6 He, Exalted is He, said, [to the near meaning], “Until the day We will resurrect the God-conscious before the All-Merciful, riding.”7 Similarly the evil actions will ride their doers: He, Exalted is He, said, [to the near meaning], “And they will bear their sins upon their backs.”8

1: al-Nihāyah, p. 410, Dār Iḥyā Turāth al-Arabī print
2: al-Mufradāt, p. 481, Dār al-Qalam print
3: Bukhārī #6416 of the Dār Ibn Kathīr print
4: Bukhārī #4730 of the Dār Ibn Kathīr print, with فلا instead of بلا
5: Imām Alī Ibn Sulṭān al-Qārī said, “There is no basis for it (i.e. the aforementioned narration) according to the Huffāẓ.”
6: See the tafsīr of 6:31 in Tafsīr Ṭabrī, 9:216, Hijr print
7: Sūrah Maryam, Ayah: 85
8: Sūrah al-Ancām, Ayah: 31

Author: Yusuf Yasin

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