“A prostitute entered Paradise because of a dog.”
Thus begins one of the most beautiful and shocking, but hope-inspiring, hadiths (sayings) ever said by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Shocking because of the magnitude of the first line of the hadith, and hope-inspiring because of what it implies.
“Allah forgave a prostitute (from the Children of Israel) because she saw a dog panting near a well.
Seeing that thirst had nearly killed him, she took off her shoe, tied it to her scarf, and drew up some water (for the dog). Allah forgave her for that.” [Al-Bukhari, Muslim]
When I recently reflected on this hadith, three thoughts came to mind.
1.It is not the action but the intention behind the action that counts
What the woman did was not remarkable in itself. She drew water for herself and then, seeing a thirsty dog, she drew water a second time to give to the dog.
Perhaps many others would have done the same.
But there was something great about this action, something that we do not know about, which led Allah not just to forgive this woman for a lifetime of sin, but to preserve this incident in the history of mankind until the Day of Judgement.
No-one else was present when this incident took place. Only the woman and the dog.
We don’t even know where it took place but we assume it was somewhere in the middle of a hot desert.
But there was something great in the intention of this woman. Perhaps she knew that she was a sinner, that there was no way her account of deeds was taking her to Paradise?
Perhaps she hoped that by her giving water to this dog, in an act that no-one would have seen except Allah, that Allah might, just might, forgive her?
And by her feeling this way, she performed this one small act with such love, humility and sincerity, that Allah forgave her for a lifetime of sin.
Abdullah bin Al-Mubarak is reported to have said:
“Perhaps a small deed is made great by the intention behind it, and a great deed is made small by the intention behind it.”
What this means that perhaps a person does a small deed, thinking nothing of it, but because it is done sincerely, the small deed becomes a great deed by the time it reaches Allah.
And a person does a great action but after he shows off about it, the action becomes small by the time it reaches Allah.
2. Never lose hope no matter how far you are from Allah
Hope. This is the one common theme we see in The Quran and in the life and all the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh).
“O My Servants who have transgressed upon their ownselves [by sinning], do not despair of the Mercy of Allah. Indeed Allah forgives all sins. Indeed He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Merciful.” [Quran 39:53]
The key word in this verse is “all”. Allah forgives ALL sins, no matter who did them, why, when, and how many times.
Jundub reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) once said:
A man once said: “By Allah, Allah will never forgive this person!” So Allah replied, “Who is he who swore by Me that I will never forgive someone?! I have forgiven him and nullified your own good deeds [because of what you said].”
In this is a lesson for us all not to judge anyone as being unworthy of Allah’s guidance. Anyone. Even a prostitute.
Another hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) describes how Allah forgave a man who murdered a hundred people. Yes, one hundred people.
Simply because he made an effort to return to Allah.
Most people who wish to reform their lives and return to God are not prostitutes or have not murdered a hundred people.
So if there was forgiveness for that prostitute and that murderer, then there is forgiveness for those who have sinned much less than this.
The only thing we have to do is to make that first step to return to Allah. And He will do the rest.
3. We need to do more of those small, sincere good deeds that might admit us to Paradise
None of us know which of our deeds have been accepted by Allah and which have been rejected by Allah.
None of us know which one deed might admit us into Paradise.
Perhaps every act of worship that we might have done in our life is rejected by Allah, but one small deed that we did in private, is the cause of our salvation.
Every night before we go to sleep we must ask ourselves, “Which deed did I do today, a secret between only Allah and me, which is equal to the deed of the prostitute giving water to the dog?”
It is these small, private, deeds, that no-one except Allah knows about, that must do more of to give us more of a chance of Allah accepting one of these deeds from us.
Perhaps it is visiting a sick person in hospital. Or releasing a trapped bird. Or removing a harmful object from a pathway. Or a meal that we feed to a poor person.
Whatever it is, the more of these secret deeds that we do, that even our own families do not know about, the more likely it is that one of them will please Allah and He will admit us into Paradise because of it.
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