“When a person dies, all their deeds end except three: a continuing charity, beneficial knowledge, and a child who prays for them.” (Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ, narrated by Muslim)
Now bearing in mind this is a reality for us all, it is very important for us to consider how do we ensure that we have coverage of the three exceptions, so our deeds do not stop when our life does? The opportunity to continue to do good and win the pleasure of the All Mighty after death should be something that inspires and motivates every believer.
This tradition of our beloved, ﷺ, makes mention of three key actions/ activities which are dependent on us making certain decisions in life. Through this short article, I intend to reflect on each, sharing some practical thoughts and considerations for each method of securing a level of perpetuity for those concerned with good works.
A Child Who Prays for Them
Ultimately it is God, who guides whom he wishes, as he himself says in his final revelation, “Verily! You (O Muhammad SAW) guide not whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who are the guided.” (Quran, 28:56)
However, it is important that as a parent you make every effort to ensure that your child understands the value of prayer and seeks to make a place for it in their lives. Consider any other thing in your life, if it is not a priority for you, if it is something easily deprioritised, how realistic is it for your children to put a greater value to it than yourself? If we are happy to forgo prayers, or just do a catchup session after work, is it realistic that the impressionable young souls in our custody are to prioritise it more than us?
Therefore, in the pursuit of this channel for long-standing reward, one needs to make an effort to pray well themselves and facilitate a journey for their children to understand and value prayer. There needs to be a concern to incentivise rather than chastise and as their cognition matures, work with them to see the prayer as something that they need, not their lord. Ultimately the prayer is the solace for the believer, where one finds rest, and enables a five times daily oasis to emerge from the toils and challenges of daily life.
God, The Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, reminds us, “Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” (Quran, 13:28).
With this reality, I would go so far as to say, that every parent has a duty of care to their children to not just teach them to pray but help them to genuinely make prayer. It’s the apex of parental responsibility as you are gifting your child the ability to find peace in their heart, to find contentment in their lives and the ability to deal with the challenges life will throw at them.
This is a wonderful reminder to believers. As man has always understood that knowledge is power and in the right hands represents, mercy, dignity, compassion, and progress for all. The inclusion of knowledge here is a beautiful thing, as it calls not only for the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of discovery, but also the teaching and spreading of knowledge. It calls for knowledge to be made ‘open-source’ as it were, so that all people are better off from the learnings, reflections, and wisdom of the thinking mind.
Knowledge in our time is also more accessible than ever before in history. In the past, the pursuit and access to knowledge was highly resource-intensive. It needed a genuine ‘jihad’ of travelling long distances, spending vast sums of money and making major sacrifices, and today you can walk the street with one million books in your cell phone and access to the world’s finest minds with the touch of an app.
Western societies have understood this for centuries, and it comes as no surprise then that the finest universities are actually in the most powerful and economically robust economies. There is a clear link between the pursuit and prioritisation of knowledge and the economic depth and progress of a nation. Just a few years ago, it was wonderful to see the Qatar Foundation’s campaign, ‘knowledge is the new oil’ in their bid to improve the intellectual capital of the oil and gas-rich state, as it showed intent to build the nation, not just the nation’s leaders.
Continuing Charity, or as you may know it, Sadaqah Jaariyah
This is something that has a long and wonderful tradition in Islam. When the Prophet’s son in law, Uthman Ibn Affan, arrived in Madinah he purchased a well and endowed it to serve Islam and the Muslims. This brought life to the land around the well and much corresponding wealth. This set about a wonderful practise of the purchase and then surrender of profit-making assets to Islam in service of its faithful.
Many of the companions of the Prophet ﷺ followed this Sunnah, with unsurprisingly Umar Ibn Khattab surrendering his garden to serve a similar means and then many a people seeking God’s favour have followed since. It is this wonderful practice that has delivered so much of the skyline of Istanbul and many a large city in Muslim majority countries owe their finest architecture to believers wanting to fulfil the hadith we opened with through ‘Sadaqah Jaariyah’. Hospitals, universities even hotels have for centuries been the basis of sadaqah jaariyah through which the graves of believers have been filled with light.
This tradition was unfortunately lost in many countries that faced the exploitation of European colonisers, as there was a habit to usurp endowments. However, the basis of endowing wealth is unchanged. Its position in the Prophetic tradition ensures it is something we should all seek to do, at whatever level we can. We have a firm knowledge that ‘ongoing charity’ will serve us in our graves and thus it is important we all make an effort to participate in any professional and robust effort to establish Sadaqah Jaariyah programs.