What are the best righteous deeds after the obligatory duties?

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah was asked the following question:

I asked the Shaykh, who followed in the footsteps of the earlier generations and was the example for the later generations, the most knowledgeable man I have ever met in the east or the west, Taqiy al-Deen Abu’l-‘Abbaas Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah, to point out to me what is the best righteous deed after the obligatory duties.

He (may Allaah have mercy on him) replied as follows:

What you have asked about, the best deed after the obligatory duties, varies from one person to another, depending on what they are able to do and what is best at any given time. So it is not possible to give a comprehensive, detailed answer that suits everyone. But what those who have knowledge of Allaah and His commands are agreed upon is that constantly remembering Allaah (dhikr) is the best thing with which a person may occupy himself in general. Therefore the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah narrated by Muslim says: “ ‘The mufridoon have gone ahead.’ They said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, who are the mufridoon?’ He said, ‘Those men and women who remember Allaah much.’” And Abu Dawood narrated from Abu’l-Dardaa’ (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Shall I not tell you of the best of your deeds and that which is most pure in the sight of your Lord, that which raises you more in status and is better for you than giving gold and silver (in charity), and better than your meeting your enemy and striking their necks and they strike your necks?’ They said, ‘Yes, O Messenger of Allaah.’ He said, ‘Remembering Allaah (dhikr).’”

There is a great deal of Qur’aanic evidence to support this. The least that a person should do is to persist in reciting the adhkaar (pl. of dhikr) which have been narrated from the teacher of good and the leader of the pious (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), such as the adhkaar to be recited at certain times, at the beginning and end of the day, when going to bed and waking up from sleep and after the prescribed prayers; and the adhkaar to be recited on certain occasions, such as that to be said when eating and drinking, when getting dressed, when having intercourse, when entering or leaving the home, the mosque or the washroom, when it rains, when thunder is heard, and so on. Books have been compiled on this topic called ‘Aml al-Yawm wa’l-Laylah (Actions of the Day and Night). One of the best books written on this topic is the small book entitled Saheeh al-Kalim al-Tayyib, which is derived from the book by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah called al-Kalim al-Tayyib; this has been edited by al-‘Allaamah al-Albaani.

Then one should persist in remembering Allaah in general, the best of which is Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah.

There may be some situations where certain kinds of dhikr are preferable, such as saying Subhaana Allaah wa’l-hamdu-Lillaah wa Allaahu akbar wa laa hawla wa laa quwwata illa Billaah.

Moreover, one should realize that everything that the tongue utters or the heart imagines that may bring one closer to Allaah, such as seeking knowledge or teaching, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, is a kind of dhikr or remembering Allaah. Hence the one who occupies himself in the pursuit of beneficial knowledge after performing the obligatory duties, or who joins a gathering in order to learn or teach, which Allaah and His Messenger have called fiqh or understanding, is also doing something which is one of the best forms of remembering Allaah (dhikr).

If you think about it, you will not find much difference of opinion among the earliest generation concerning what is the best of deeds. Whenever a person is confused he should pray istikhaarah as prescribed in sharee’ah, for the one who prays to Allaah asking Him for that which is best (istikhaarah) will not have any regrets. He should do that a lot, and make a lot of du’aa’, for that is the key to all goodness. He should not be hasty and say “I prayed but I did not get an answer.” He should seek out the times of special virtue, such as the end of the night, the times immediately following the prescribed prayers, the time of the adhaan, when rain is falling, and so on.

Quoted from the essay al-Wasiyyah al-Jaami’ah li Khayr al-Dunya wa’l-Aakhirah, by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allaah have mercy on him), published by al-Maktabah al-Salafiyyah, Cairo.
Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid

Ibn Taymiyyah’s Daily Routine

al-Imam al-Bazzar wrote a long, first hand account of the life of Ibn Taymiyyah, who was his personal friend and companion. The book is called ‘al-A’lam al-’Aliyyah fi Manaqib Ibn Taymiyyah,’ and this is a very, very small glimpse from it:

“During the nights, he would separate himself from everybody, secluding himself with his Lord, strictly maintaining his recitation of the Mighty Qur’an, and repeating the various types of daily and nightly worship.

When the night was over, he would rejoin the people for the Fajr prayer, praying the optional prayer before meeting them. When he would begin the prayer, your heart would want to fly from its place just from the way in which he would make takbirat al-ihram. When he would begin the prayer, his limbs would shake, moving him left and right. When he would recite, he would elongate his recitation, just as was authentically reported in regards to the recitation of the Messenger of Allah. His bowing and prostration, as well as his coming up from them, are from the most complete of what has ever been reported in regards to the obligatory prayer. And he would severely lighten his sitting for the first tashahhud, and would say the first taslim out loud, to the point that everyone who was present would hear it…

…And I came to know that it was his habit that nobody would speak to him unless absolutely necessary after the morning prayer. He would remain in a state of dhikr of Allah, listening to himself. Sometimes, he would let those sitting next to him listen to his dhikr, all the while constantly turning his eyesight to the sky. He would remain in such a state until the Sun rose, and the time in which prayer is forbidden had passed.

During my stay in Damascus with him, I would spend some of the day and most of the night with him. He would draw me near to him, sitting me beside him. I would hear what he would recite and repeat, and I saw that he would repeat ‘al-Fatihah’ over and over again, and would spend all of his time between Fajr and sunrise doing this.

So, I kept thinking to myself, wondering: why would he recite this specific chapter of the Qur’an in exclusion to the others? Eventually, it became clear to me – and Allah Knows best – that his intention in doing so was to combine with his recitation between what was narrated in the ahadith and what was discussed by the scholars, in regards to whether the narrated adhkar should take precedence over recitation of the Qur’an, or vice versa. So, he saw that in repeating ‘al-Fatihah,’ he could combine between both opinions, and reap the benefits of both actions, and this was from his strength in logic and depth of insight.

After this, he would pray Duha, and if he wanted to hear Hadith in another place, he would rush to that place with whoever was with him at the time.

It was rare that any intelligent person would see him and not come and kiss his hands. Even the busiest of businessmen would walk from what they were doing to greet him and seek his blessings. With all of this, he would give everyone of them their share of time, greetings, etc.

If he saw any evil in the street, he would work to remove it, and if he heard of a funeral taking place, he would rush to pray in it, or would apologize for missing it. Sometimes, he would go to the grave of the deceased after he finished listening to Hadith and pray over it.

Afterwards, he would return to his mosque, where he would remain either giving fatawa to the people or fulfilling their needs, until it was time to pray Dhuhr in congregation. He would spend the rest of the day in such a manner.

His classes were general for the old, the young, the wealthy, the poor, the free, the slave, males, and females. He appealed to everyone that would pass by him of the people, and everyone of them would feel that Ibn Taymiyyah was treating them better than he was treating anyone else present.

He would then pray Maghrib, and would follow it up with as much optional prayer as Allah made possible. I, or someone else, would then read his writings to him, and he would benefit us with various points and notes. We would do this until we prayed ‘Isha’, after which we would continue as we were before, delving into the various fields of knowledge. We would do this until much of the night had passed. During this entire time – night and day – Ibn Taymiyyah would constantly remember Allah, mention His Oneness, and seek His forgiveness.

And he would constantly raise his eyesight to the sky, and would not stop doing this, as if he saw something there that kept his eyesight hooked. He would do this for as long as I was staying with him.

So, Subhan Allah! How short were these days! If only they were longer! By Allah, until this day, there has never been a time in my life that is more beloved to me than the time I spent with him, and I was never seen in a better state than I was at that time, and this was for no other reason than the barakah of the Shaykh, may Allah be Pleased with him.

Every week, he would visit the sick, especially those at the hospital.

I have been informed by more than one person – whose trustworthiness I do not doubt – that the entire life of the Shaykh was spent in the way that I witnessed (and described above). So, what worship, and what jihad is better than this

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Issues Regarding Supplicating In the Prayer

“…and what is commonly narrated from Ahmad is that one should not supplicate in the prayer except with those supplications that are specifically legislated and narrated from the Prophet, as al-Athram said:

“I asked Ahmad: “With what should I supplicate after the tashahhud?” So, Ahmad said: “With what is narrated.” So, I said to him: “Did the Messenger of Allah not say: “…then let him choose from the supplications whatever he wishes…”?” Ahmad said: “He chooses from the narrated supplications whatever he wishes,”” – and this is the meaning of the words of Ahmad.

And I have previously clarified some of the principles regarding this, because of His Saying: {“Verily, Allah does not love the transgressors…”} [al-A’raf; 55], and because not all forms supplication are allowed. Rather, from the supplications are those that constitute excessiveness and transgression, and are forbidden, and the supplications which are legislated contain no transgression. Transgression in supplication can sometimes be in the form of excessive wording, and can sometimes be in regards to the meaning, just as one of the Companions explained to his son when some said: ‘O Allah! I ask You for a white palace in the right section of Paradise if I enter it,’ and another said: ‘I ask You for the Paradise, its palaces, and its rivers, and I seek refuge with You from the Fire, its chains, and its shackles.’ So, the man said to his son: “My son! Just ask Allah for Paradise, and seek refuge with Him from the Fire, as I heard the Messenger of Allah say: “There will be in this nation those who are excessive in supplication and purification.”“

And transgression can occur in regards to worship and zuhd, and the statement of Ahmad regarding limiting oneself to the narrated supplications is a good one, as the point is to make a supplication that is loved by Allah, not just supplicating for the sake of supplicating, as from the supplications are those that are forbidden.

So, if it is said that the supplications that are allowed outside of prayer are also allowed during the prayer – such as one asking for a house, or a beautiful slave girl – it is then asked: who even said that such types of supplications are legislated outside of the prayer, and that such wordings do not constitute transgression and excessiveness? Here, it should be said that the supplication that is mustahabb is that which is legislated, as istihbab of a particular act is determined by the Legislator. So, whatever He has not specifically legislated is not mustahabb. Rather, it constitutes legislating in the Religion that which Allah did not allow, and supplication is the greatest aspect of this religion.

However, if one supplicates with something that he does not know is mustahabb, or knows that it is allowed without being mustahabb, his prayer is not invalidated due to this, as prayer is invalidated due to the speech of the people, and supplication is not from the speech of the people. Rather, it is just as if one were to praise Allah in a wording that was not specifically legislated, and this was reported from some of the Companions during the time of the Prophet, and he did not reprimand them for praising Allah in a manner that was not legislated at that time. Rather, one would only be deprived of the reward if they were to supplicate like this.

And from the supplication is that which is makruh without invalidating the prayer, as well as that which would invalidate the prayer, and supplications can be divided into five types:

– those that are legislated, and these include the wajib and mustahabb;
– those that are mubah (allowed) and are not mustahabb, and these do not invalidate the prayer;
– those that are makruh, and these do not invalidate the prayer, and are like if one were to turn his face in the prayer, say the tashahhud during the standing, or recite the Qur’an during the sitting;
– those that are forbidden, and these invalidate the prayer, as they are considered to be human speech;

So, this is an analysis of the statement of Ahmad, as the prayer is not invalidated by making a supplication that is not narrated from the Prophet. However, it is not mustahabb to do so, as nothing can be mustahabb that is not legislated. He also clarified that the choice given is from those supplications that are legislated, and that the legislated supplications can be in the form of the exact wording, or they can be in the form of the general meaning, provided that the Prophet did not restrict the supplication to just one wording, as in the case of the Qur’an.”

[‘Majmu’ al-Fatawa’; 22/231-232]


Al-Istighfaar (Asking Forgiveness)


Sheikh-ul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah rahimahullaah

Majmoo al-Fataawaa 10/88-90

The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam, said:

{{The master of invocations for forgiveness is that the servant says:

O’ my ‘ilâh You are my Lord, there is no ‘ilâh but You. You created me, and I am your bondservant, and I will stick to my covenant and promise [of faith and sincere obedience] to You, as to my ability. I seek refuge in You from the evil of what I have done, I acknowledge, to You, your bounties upon me, and I acknowledge, to You, my sin. Thus forgive me, for none forgives sins except You.

Whoever says this as he enters upon evening, then, dies that night, he would enter Paradise; and if one says this as he enters upon morning, then, dies that day, he would enter Paradise.}} (Al-Bukhari)

The servant is always in the blessings of Allah, which necessitate thankfulness, and in sinfulness, which requires seeking forgiveness. Both of these matters are required and essential for the servant at all times, as the servant does not cease to alternate between Allah’s (various) favours and blessings, and does not cease to be in need of repentance and seeking forgiveness.

This is why the Master of the Children of Adam, and the Leader of the Pious, Muhammad, (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) sought forgiveness in all circumstances. He said in an authentic Hadith reported by al-Bukhari:

{{O people repent to your Lord, for verily I seek forgiveness from Allah and repent to him more than seventy times in a day.}} (Bukhari)

It is reported in Saheeh Muslim that he said: {{I seek forgiveness one hundred times in a day.}} (Muslim)

`Abdullah ibn `Umar said: We counted in a single sitting the Messenger of Allah, (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam), saying one hundred times:

{{My Lord, forgive me and accept my repentance, verily you are Acceptor of Repentance, Oft-Forgiving.}} (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah)

This is why seeking forgiveness was legislated at the end of actions. Allah the Exalted said:

{{Those who seek forgiveness before dawn (at late night).}} (Quran, 3:17)

Some of them said: “Give life to your nights by performing Prayer, and when the time of late night comes, concern yourself with seeking forgiveness.”

It is related in the Saheeh that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam), when he finished his Prayer, he would seek forgiveness three times and say:

{{O’ my ‘ilãh You are ‘As-Salãm [One free from flaws], and from You comes Salãm [peace, or safety], blessed are Thee O’ haver of glory and kindness.}} (Muslim)

Allah says:

{{And seek forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.}} (Quran, 73:20)

(Even) After the Prophet conveyed the Message, fought in the path of Allah with true jihad, and performed what Allah ordered more than anyone else, Allah commanded his Prophet (to perform Istighfaar), as He the Exalted said:

{{When the victory of Allah has come and the conquest, and you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes, then exalt [Him] with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of repentance.}} (Quran, 110:1-3)

This is why the religion (Deen) is established with Tawheed and Istighfaar, as Allah the Exalted said:

{{Alif Lam Ra. [This is] a Book whose verses are perfected and then presented in detail from [one who is] Wise and Acquainted. [Through a messenger, saying], “Do not worship except Allah. Indeed, I am to you from Him a warner and a bringer of good tidings,” and [saying], “Seek forgiveness of your Lord and repent to Him, [and] He will let you enjoy a good provision.}} (Quran, 11:1-3)

And Allah says:

{{So take a straight course to Him and seek His forgiveness.}} (Quran, 41:6)

And He says:

{{So know [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women.}} (Quran, 47:19)

This is why it was it came in a narration: {{The Shaytan said: People are destroyed with sins, and they destroy me with ‘Laa ilaha ill Allah’ and seeking forgiveness.}} (Reported by Ibn Abi Asim and Abu Ya`la, but its chain is a fabrication).

Yonus, `alayhis salam, said:

{{There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.}} (Quran, 21:87)

The Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam), when he would ride his mount, he would praise Allah, then say Allahu Akbar three times, then say:

{{I testify that there is no ‘ilah except You, Glorified are You, I have transgressed upon myself, so forgive me}} (Abu Dawood and at-Tirmidhi, who said it is Hasan Sahih)

Expiation of a gathering with which the gathering is completed is (the supplication):

{{Glorified are You O’ my ‘ilãh and I am in Your praise, I testify that there is no ‘ilah except You, I ask Your forgiveness and repent unto You.}} (Abu Dawood and At-Tirmidhi, who said it is Hasan Sahih)

Allah knows best, and may His blessings and peace be upon [the Prophet] Muhammad.

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