The hadeeth of Rabi'a bin Ka'b and Istigatha

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The hadith

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said to Sayyidna Rabi bin Ka'b (RA): Ask for something (O Ka'b). Ka'b (ra) said: I ask for your companionship in Jannah. The Prophet said: Do you want something else? He replied: Just this, the Prophet (saw) then said: help me by doing more prostrations – Taken from (Sahih) Muslim [Mishqat ul Misabih, Volume No. 1 Page No. 156, Published by Maktaba al Mishkaat] 

Because of this hadith some people say we can ask help from Prophet peace be upon him after his blessed death. Let us understand this hadith from Scholars.

Response

See the longer version of this hadith

عن ربيعة بن كعب قال كنت أخدم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وأقوم له في حوائجه نهاري أجمع حتى يصلي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم العشاء الآخرة فأجلس ببابه إذا دخل بيته أقول لعلها أن تحدث لرسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم حاجة فما أزال أسمعه يقول رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم سبحان الله سبحان الله سبحان الله وبحمده حتى أمل فأرجع أو تغلبني عيني فأرقد قال فقال لي يوما لما يرى من خفتي له وخدمتي إياه سلني يا ربيعة أعطك قال فقلت أنظر في أمري يا رسول الله ثم أعلمك ذلك قال ففكرت في نفسي فعرفت أن الدنيا منقطعة زائلة وأن لي فيها رزقا سيكفيني ويأتيني قال فقلت أسأل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لآخرتي فإنه من الله عز وجل بالمنزل الذي هو به قال فجئت فقال ما فعلت يا ربيعة قال فقلت نعم يا رسول الله أسألك أن تشفع لي إلى ربك فيعتقني من النار قال فقال من أمرك بهذا يا ربيعة قال فقلت لا والله الذي بعثك بالحق ما أمرني به أحد ولكنك لما قلت سلني أعطك وكنت من الله بالمنزل الذي أنت به نظرت في أمري وعرفت أن الدنيا منقطعة وزائلة وأن لي فيها رزقا سيأتيني فقلت أسأل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لآخرتي قال فصمت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم طويلا ثم قال لي إني فاعل فأعني على نفسك بكثرة السجود

Rabee'a relates: ‘I used to serve the Messenger of Allah and spend all day aiding him and fulfilling his requests until he prayed I'shaa. After he finished his Salah and entered his house, I would sit before his door fearing that he may need something [so I was prepared and ready to serve him]. However, I would only continue to  hear him say ‘Subhana Allah, Subhana Allah, Subhana Allahi wa bihamdih’ until I became weary so I would return to my home or fall asleep while sitting there. He once said to me after he saw that I was always there ready to serve him and help him with whatever he needed: ‘O Rab'eea ask me for anything you like and I will give it to you.’
 
So, I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, give me some time to think about what I would like to have and then I will let you know.’ I first thought of worldly matters that I could benefit from then I realized that this life is short and evanescent and that Allah has decreed for me a provision that will suffice me for my entire lifetime. Upon that I decided to ask for a matter related to my hereafter, for indeed he enjoys a very high rank in the sight of Allah, Most High.
I then came to the Prophet and he asked me: ‘O Rabee'ah, what have you decided?’ I replied: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I would like you to intercede for me with your Lord so that He saves me from the hellfire.’ He asked me: ‘O Rabee'ah, who told you to ask for this?’ I replied: ‘By Allah, the one who sent you with the truth, no one told me to ask for this however when you told me to ask you for something and that you will give me whatever I ask for and knowing that you have special high rank with Allah, I looked into my affairs then realized that this life is evanescent and shall vanish and that my provision has already been set for me and I will receive it, so I said to myself: ‘Then I should ask the Messenger of Allah for something that will benefit me in the hereafter.’ The Prophet remained silent for a considerable amount of time then said to me: ‘I shall intercede for you, so assist my by making sujood in abundance [Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal no. 16143]
 
Another hadith states
 
Ma'dan b. Talha reported:
حَدَّثَنِي زُهَيْرُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا الْوَلِيدُ بْنُ مُسْلِمٍ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ الأَوْزَاعِيَّ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي الْوَلِيدُ بْنُ هِشَامٍ الْمُعَيْطِيُّ، حَدَّثَنِي مَعْدَانُ بْنُ أَبِي طَلْحَةَ الْيَعْمَرِيُّ، قَالَ لَقِيتُ ثَوْبَانَ مَوْلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقُلْتُ أَخْبِرْنِي بِعَمَلٍ أَعْمَلُهُ يُدْخِلُنِي اللَّهُ بِهِ الْجَنَّةَ ‏.‏ أَوْ قَالَ قُلْتُ بِأَحَبِّ الأَعْمَالِ إِلَى اللَّهِ ‏.‏ فَسَكَتَ ثُمَّ سَأَلْتُهُ فَسَكَتَ ثُمَّ سَأَلْتُهُ الثَّالِثَةَ فَقَالَ سَأَلْتُ عَنْ ذَلِكَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ ‏ "‏ عَلَيْكَ بِكَثْرَةِ السُّجُودِ لِلَّهِ فَإِنَّكَ لاَ تَسْجُدُ لِلَّهِ سَجْدَةً إِلاَّ رَفَعَكَ اللَّهُ بِهَا دَرَجَةً وَحَطَّ عَنْكَ بِهَا خَطِيئَةً ‏"‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ مَعْدَانُ ثُمَّ لَقِيتُ أَبَا الدَّرْدَاءِ فَسَأَلْتُهُ فَقَالَ لِي مِثْلَ مَا قَالَ لِي ثَوْبَانُ ‏.‏
I met Thauban, the freed slave. of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ), and asked him to tell me about an act for which, if I do it, Allah will admit me to Paradise, or I asked about the act which was loved most by Allah. He gave no reply. I again asked and he gave no reply. I asked him for the third time, and he said: I asked Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) about that and he said: Make frequent prostrations before Allah, for you will not make one prostration without raising you a degree because of it, and removing a sin from you, because of it. Ma'dan said that then lie met Abu al-Darda' and when he asked him, he received a reply similar to that given by Thauban. [Sahih Muslim 488]

 

Commentaries:

a) In Sahih Muslim this hadeeth is under the chapter of "Chapter: The Virtue Of Prostration And Encouragement To Do So"

b) Allama Manawi said:
«وفيه أنَّ مرافقة المصطفى صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم في الجنَّة من الدرجات العالية التي لا مطمع في الوصول إليها إلاَّ بحضور الزلفى عند الله في الدنيا بكثرة السجود، انظر أيُّها المتأمِّل في هذه الشريطة وارتباط القرينتين لتقف على سرٍّ دقيقٍ، فإنَّ من أراد مرافقة الرسول صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم لا يناله إلاَّ بالقرب من الله، ومن رام قرب الله لم ينله إلاَّ بقرب حبيبه، ﴿قُلْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ﴾ [آل عمران: ٣١] فأوقع متابعة الرسول صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم بين المحبَّتين، وذلك أنَّ محبَّة العبد منوطةٌ بمتابعته، ومحبَّة الله العبدَ متوقِّفةٌ على متابعة رسوله صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم»
It is evident from this Hadith that the fellowship of  The Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) is one of those highest degrees in Paradise, the achieving of which is impossible without getting closer to Allah through excessive prostrations. O you! Who ponders, may you know the complex secret through this condition and the connection between these ways of worship. Whoever desires for the fellowship of Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), he cannot get it without getting close to Allah, and whosoever wants to get close to Allah, he cannot achieve it without getting close to Prophet Peace Be Upon Him.[Faydh al Qadir 4/440 hadith no. 5502 the quote is translated by brother Syed Mashwanee]

c) Imam an-Nawawi said:
فيه الحث على كثرة السجود ، والترغيب ، والمراد به السجود في الصلاة ،
There is encouragement and indication to make many Prostrations in this hadith, and the meaning is prostrations in salah. [Sharah an-Nawawi under the hadith no. 488]

d) Its mentioned in Haashiya as-Sindhee 

The word “مرافقتک” is mansoob (i.e it is to be read with “Zabar”). The implicit and virtual phrase is “ أسالك مرافقتک “ ( I ask you for your fellowship). There are several probabilities  in “اوغیر ذلک “. If you read the letter “و” with zabar, then it means that you are claiming only this or something else with it too? And if you read the letter “و” with “Jazm/sukoon” then it would mean that “Ask this or something else”.  "هو ذلك " means that “I demand only this and nothing else”.

فأعني على نفسك أي على تحصيل حاجة نفسك التي هي المرافقة والمراد تعظيم تلك الحاجة وأنها تحتاج إلى معاونة منك ومجرد السؤال مني لا يكفي فيها أو المعنى فوافقني بكثرة السجود قاهرا بها على نفسك وقيل أعني على قهر نفسك بكثرة السجود كأنه أشار إلى أن ما ذكرت لا يحصل الا بقهر نفسك التي هي أعدى عدوك فلا بد لك من قهر نفسك بصرفها عن الشهوات ولا بد لك أن تعاونني فيه وقيل معناه كن لي عونا في إصلاح نفسك واجعلها طاهرة مستحقة لما تطلب فإني أطلب إصلاح نفسك من الله تعالى وأطلب منك أيضا اصلاحها بكثرة السجود لله فإن السجود كاسر للنفس ومذل لها وأي نفس انكسرت وذلت استحقت الرحمة والله تعالى أعلم

“فأعني على نفسك “ means that “ help me in getting  my fellowship”.
The purpose here was to state the greatness of the this particular request, moreover such a request needs your support; mere my prayer to Allah will not suffice it or it means to force yourself to accept what i ask you for. According to one opinion  it means that; help me by forcing yourself through excessive number of prostrations, so the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) has pointed out that the request the person has made would not be fulfilled without overcoming your biggest enemy i.e Nafs. So to help me in fulfilling your request you should refrain your Nafs from evil desires. Another opinion is that;  help me in reforming your nafs and making  it worth of achieving your demand. I ask Allah to purify your nafs and I also want you to purify your nafs through excessive prostrations. Prostration controls Nafs and the nafs which becomes humble and obedient, becomes entitled to the mercy of Allah. Wallah-u-Alam [Haashiya as-Sindhee al an- Nasaee 2/328 hadeeth 1139 the quote is translated by brother Syed Mashwanee]
 
e) Taqi ud din as-Subki said:
 النوع الثالث من التوسل: أن يطلب منه ذلك الأمر المقصود بمعنى أنه صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم قادر على التسبب فيه بسؤاله ربه وشفاعته إليه.
فيعود إلى النوع الثاني في المعنى وإن كانت العبارة مختلفة.
ومن هذا قول القائل للنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: أسألك مرافقتك في الجنة، قال: (أعني على نفسك بكثرة السجود).
والآثار في ذلك كثيرة أيضا.
ولا يقصد الناس بسؤالهم ذلك إلا كون النبي صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم سببا وشافعا، وكذلك جواب النبي صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم وإن ورد على حسب السؤال.
The third type of Tawassul: that is to ask from the Prophet an intended matter , what  is meant is that Prophet is able to do it as He is means to it , by asking Allah and seeking his intercession to Allah , therefore this also returns to the second form of Tawassul  in its meaning , even if the words used were different ,and from the saying  of the questioner to the Prophet , I ask for your companionship in Paradise , He told : "So Help me by yourself by increasing prostrations."
And there are plenty of reports also , and the people do not intend  by asking this except that the Prophet is a means and he is an intercessor (he makes Dua to Allah) , and likewise similar was the Answer by the Prophet (by asking the companion to help him to achieve this task , which is impossible except by his own deeds) [Shifa as-Siqam page 313]
 
Prophet peace be upon him himself said help me by doing more prostrations. This is a proof against those people who ask help from the dead. 
 

↓↓↓Prophet(saw) said: Convey (knowledge) from me even if it is just one ayah[Bukhari 3461]. Share↓↓↓

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