“By the night when it covers,
And by the day when it appears,
And by He who created the male and the female,
Indeed, your efforts are diverse.
As for he who gives and fears Allah,
And believes in the best (reward),
We will ease him towards ease,
But as for he who withholds and considers himself free of need,
And denies the best reward,
We will ease him towards difficulty.
And what will his wealth avail him when he falls?
Indeed, (incumbent) upon Us is guidance,
And indeed, to Us belongs the Hereafter and the first (life).
So I have warned you of a blazing Fire,
None will burn therein except the most wretched one,
Who had denied and turned away.
But the righteous one will avoid it:
He who gives from his wealth to purify himself,
And not giving for anyone who has done him a favour to be returned,
But only seeking the Countenance of his Lord, Most High.
And soon he is surely going to be well-satisfied.”
(Surah Al-Lail, Quran 92:1-21)
This Surah (chapter) of the Quran was revealed in relation to a simple but wonderful incident that happened during the lifetime of the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) and was recorded by Ibn Abi Hatim on the authority of Ibn Abbas (radhiallaahu anhu):
There was a Muslim man who owned an orchard full of date palm trees. The branches of one of these trees would overhang into the premises of a poor man and his family. The farmer would frequently come to the poor man’s house in order to gather the dates from this tree but in doing so, a few dates would inadvertently fall onto the floor and be picked up by the children of the poor man. Whenever this would happen, the farmer would quickly descend from the tree and grab the dates from the hands of the poor children. Furthermore, if he caught one of the children having already put a date into his or her mouth, then he would forcefully insert his fingers into their mouths and wrench out the dates.
When this continued for a number of days, the poor man complained to the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) about it. The Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) met the farmer and offered him a deal. He (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) said: “Give me your date palm tree whose branches overhang into the courtyard of so-and-so and in return I will guarantee you a date palm tree in Paradise.”
However the farmer replied to the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam)): “I would have given it to you but the thing is that out of all the many date palm trees that I have, none produces dates as good as this one.” He then went away.
Immediately after, the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) was approached by a man who had overheard his (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) conversation with the farmer. He asked the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam): “Would you offer me the same deal as you offered that man, O Messenger of Allah?”
“Yes” replied the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam).
Therefore the man, who owned many date palms of his own, went to the farmer and said to him: “The Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) has offered me a date palm in Paradise in return for the date-palm of yours that overhangs into the courtyard of so-and-so.”
The farmer replied, “I would have given it to him (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) but the thing is that out of all the many date palms that I have, none produces dates as good as this tree.”
“Are you willing to sell it?” the man asked.
“No, except if I receive for it whatever price I ask, but I do not think that anyone will pay that much for it,” replied the farmer.
“So how much do you want for it?” asked the man.
“40 date palm trees,” the farmer replied.
“40 date palms just for this one tree? You are asking for a huge price!” the man exclaimed. He then fell silent for a few moments after which he added, “Ok. I will pay you 40 date palms, so sign a contract with me if you mean what you say.” The farmer called some witnesses and they concluded the sale, so the man then went to the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) and said, “O Messenger of Allah! I have purchased that date palm from the farmer and now it is all yours.”
The Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) in turn went to the poor man and said to him:
"That date palm now belongs to you and your family!...” Then Allah the Exalted sent down from above the Seven Heavens, “By the night when it covers,” to the end of the Surah.
Allah is Great!
How deprived was the wretched farmer to refuse the guarantee of a place in Paradise (you cannot be guaranteed a tree in Paradise without actually being there yourself to enjoy it) in exchange for a paltry date palm tree? And how blessed was the other man who bought himself a place in Paradise by paying only 41 date palm trees? This man saw an opportunity to do a good deed that would admit him to Paradise, so he immediately seized the moment. Had he hesitated, or delayed the matter to think about it, he might have missed the opportunity and someone else could have seized it instead.
Abu Bakr (radhiallaahu anhu) encountered many such opportunities and he grabbed every single one of them. When he saw Bilal (radhiallaahu anhu), the black slave, being tortured by Umayyah bin Khalaf, he immediately bought him from Umayyah and freed him. Abu Bakr (radhiallaahu anhu) did this with many Muslim slaves who were being oppressed in Makkah because they had no tribe or family to protect them: he bought them and freed them. When Abu Bakr’s father saw him doing this, he said: “My son, why are you buying these weak slaves then freeing them? Why don’t you at least keep them so that you can make use out of them?”
Abu Bakr replied to his father:
“My father, I am only doing this to seek the Countenance (Face) of Allah.”
Allah The Almighty brings as many opportunities every day but how many of us seize them and how many of us belittle and ignore them? How do we not know that perhaps it is one of those opportunities for doing good deeds that will admit us into Paradise?
Indeed, the Prophet (salallaahu 'alayhi wa salam) told us that a man was admitted into Paradise for merely removing a thorny branch from the path of the people; and a prostitute was forgiven for simply giving a thirsty dog some water to drink. And how many people have been admitted to Paradise for freeing a slave or ransoming a captive prisoner?
Never belittle or ignore any good deed, however small or insignificant. Never belittle or ignore any good deed whether it is bringing water to your brother or saying the remembrance supplications after each Salah or helping someone to carry their luggage or smiling in the face of your brother. Or if it is helping to ransom a captive prisoner.
Never belittle or ignore any good deed because that could be the deed that brings you salvation and admits you into Paradise. Scholars said that there should be no hesitation in deeds concerning the Hereafter. Seize the moment today. Before it is too late...