Muhammad Ibn Nasr Al Marwazi mentioned in the chapter of the “Night Vigil” on the authority of al-Ahnaf Ibn Qays that he was sitting one day, when this verse was presented to him, “Verily we sent down to you a book, in it is your mention, will you then not comprehend?” (21:10), so he pondered for a while. He said, “Bring me a copy of the Qur’an, today I shall find what is mentioned about me, I will find out who I am and who I resemble”. Meaning that since he knew that the Qur’an has mentioned all the attributes of mankind and has explained their characteristics and ranks, he intended to identify which rank he belonged to.
He opened the Qur’an and he came across a group, “They used to sleep little at night, and at pre-dawn they (were found) praying for forgiveness; and in their wealth was a set portion for the (needy) who asked, and he who was deprived (from asking)” (51:17-19).
He then came across a group of people, “They spend the night for the sake of their Lord prostrating and standing” (25:64). Then, he came across another group, “The ones who spend (for Allah’s sake) in prosperity and adversity, and those who control anger and forgive people. And Allah loves those who are good in their deeds” (3:134). Then he came across a group of people who “give preference (to others) over themselves, even though they are in poverty. And those who are saved from the greed of their hearts are the successful” (59:9). Thereafter he noticed a group of people, “who abstain from the major sins and from shameful acts; and (for those who) when they get angry, they forgive, and those who have responded to their Lord (in submission to Him), and have established Salah, and whose affairs are (settled) with mutual consultation between them, and who spend out of what We have given to them” (42:37-38).
Then al-Ahnaf stopped and said, “O Allah, I do not recognise myself to be amongst these;” meaning he didn’t find these characteristics in himself so that he can consider himself of this rank.
Then al-Ahnaf turned his attention to another group of people in the Qur’an, “When it is said to them there is no Deity except Allah, they are haughty, saying, “Are we to leave our gods for a mad poet?” (37:35-36). Thereafter, he saw the mention of a group of people, regarding whom Allah said, “When Allah is mentioned alone, the hearts of those who do not believe in the hereafter are filled with disgust, and when those (whom they worship) other than Him are mentioned, they become happy forthwith” (39:45). Then he came upon the mention of a people to whom it will be said, “What has brought you to the Fire?”, they will say, “We were not among those who offered Salah, and we did not give food to the needy, and we indulged (in mocking at the truth) along with those who indulged, and we used to deny the Day of Requital, until we were overtaken by that The Certainty (i.e. death)” (74:42-47).
Thereupon al-Ahnaf stopped and said, “O Allah I absolve myself from these people”. Thereafter, al-Ahnaf kept turning the pages of the Qur’an searching for the group that he belonged to until he came across this verse, “And there are others who admitted their sins who had mixed a good action with another that is evil. It is likely that Allah will relent towards them. Surely, Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful” (9:102). Thereupon, Al-Ahnaf said “I am of these people”.
By: Ustadh Sadique Ahmed