Criterion of Superiority
Abu Zarr (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that the Apostle of Allah (once) said to him: ‘You as a person, enjoy no superiority over a white-skinned or a black-skinned man. You can, of course, be superior through piety and fear of Allah.’
It shows that honour and superiority does not rest with wealth, nationality, birth, language or face and figure. it is determined by piety (i.e., fear of Allah and the way of life stemming from it). Thus, with Allah, he is greater in honour who is more pious. As the Qur’aan says:
‘Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.’
(Al Qur’aan 49:13)
It is related by Mu’aaz ibn Jabal (radhiyallahu anhu) that the Apostle of Allah sent him to Yemen as the governor (and when he was leaving for that place) the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam went with him (for some distance by way of a send-off), giving him (necessary) instructions and advice. At that time, Mu’aaz ibn Jabal (at the bidding of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was riding on his mount while the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam was walking on foot beside him.
The last thing the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam said, after he had given the necessary instructions was: ‘We may not meet again after this year (i.e., it is the last year of my life and I am about to depart from the world). It is possible that (when you return from Yemen) you may visit this mosque and my grave.’ On hearing it, Mu’aaz ibn Jabal began to cry. Turning his face away from him and in the direction of Madinah, the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam remarked, ‘Much closer and dearer to me are the bondmen who fear Allah (and observe piety), whoever they are and wherever they may be.’
The concluding part of the above Hadeeth denotes that spiritual nearness and attachment is the main thing, and, in the sight of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam, it is dependent on piety. Hence, however distant a man may be from the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam physically, he may be in Yemen or in any part of the world, if he possesses the virtue of piety and has the fear of Allah, he is close to him, or, rather, with him. On the other hand, if a person is near him, in the physical sense, but his heart is devoid of piety, he is removed from the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam and the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam is removed from him, all the seeming nearness not withstanding.
The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam has, in this way, consoled Mu’aaz ibn Jabal. He has advised him not to grieve over the apparent separation for with piety and the fear of Allah in his heart he will not be far from him even if he lived in Yemen. Moreover, the present existence is transitory, and the permanent dwelling place is the future world where all the righteous bondmen of Allah will live with the Prophet forever and there will be no question of separation.
The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam had turned his face away while speaking these words, probably because he too had been moved to tears at the weeping of Mu’aaz ibn Jabal and wanted to conceal it from him. It could also be that the spectacle of a true friend weeping was unbearable for the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam, therefore, he looked away.
The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam ordered Mu’aaz ibn Jabal to ride on his mount while, for himself, he preferred to walk on foot by his side. What a great lesson and good example does it contain for those who are regarded to be the religious and spiritual deputies of the Apostle.