It is related on the authority of Awf ibn Malik al-Asjai that he said, “We were in the company of the Messenger of Allah, nine, eight, or seven of us, when he & said, ‘Will you not pledge your allegiance to the Messenger of Allah?’
As we had only recently pledged our allegiance to him, we said, ‘We have already pledged ourselves to you, O Messenger." Yet again he asked us, ‘Will you not pledge yourselves to the Messenger of Allah?’ So we extended our hands and said, ‘To what are we to pledge ourselves, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, ‘That you worship Allah and not associate anything with Him. That you perform the ﬁve daily prayers. And that you hear and obey.’ Then he whispered something to us. He said, And do not ask anyone for anything.’ Since then, I have seen people of that group drop their whips [while mounted] and not ask anyone to hand it up to them.” This hadith was related by Muslim, Abu Dawud, and al-Nasai. 1
Lessons from the Hadith: Exaggeration in carrying out the directives
The natural disposition of most people who sincerely strive to carry out the orders of the hadith is to go to such lengths that they pay as much attention to the letter of the hadith as they do to their meaning. This condition is described in the latter part of the hadith. Obviously, the intended meaning here was to prohibit the Companions from asking for anything that belonged to others, and not to prohibit them from asking for their own things. Nonetheless, as the words of the prohibition admitted of a literal meaning, even though the context clearly indicated that the literal meaning was not the intended meaning, the Companions chose not to ask even for their own possessions.
In another hadith, it is related that while the Messenger was giving the Friday khutba, a man came and stood at the doorway of the mosque. When the Messenger told the man to sit down, he immediately complied by sitting in the doorway.
Of course, what the Messenger meant was that the man should come inside, ﬁnd a place, and then sit down and listen, not that he should sit right then and there, blocking the entrance to the mosque.
Spiritual teachers and their students draw lessons from the kind of obedience and respect illustrated here to maintain a balance in the directives of the teacher and its application.
1. Muslim: 1043, Abu Dawud: 1642, Nasai: 461, Ibn Majah: 2867
Adapted from "A Sufi Study of Hadith" by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi. Translated by Shaykh Yusuf Talal Delorenzo