The Fear of Fame: A Lost Characteristic

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

The scholars and the righteous of this Ummah always feared fame and becoming well-known amongst the people. They would dislike for their name to be mentioned much and you can see one of them fleeing from the people as if they were a fitnah (trial), whilst at other times you can see one get up and leave the circle of knowledge which he was conducting because the numbers became too many.

Below here are some amazing statements from our predecessors that allude to just how much they held onto sincerity and how much they fled from fame and from being spoken about.

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Ibn Mas’ood (radhiallahu `anhu): ‘(O people!) Be the springs of knowledge and the lamps of guidance! Stick to your homes and be like a light in the night, revivers of hearts, wearing worn-out clothes, you will then be known by the people of the heavens and be hidden among the people of the earth.’

A man said to Bishr: ‘Advice me.’ So he said, ‘Let your mention be unknown…’ And Hushib would be found crying saying, ‘My name has reached the Masjid!’

Both Ibrahim al-Nakha’i and al-Hasan used to say, ‘It is enough of an evil that a man should be pointed at in matters of Deen or Dunya (i.e. out of fame), except him whom Allah has protected. Righteousness lies here’ and he’d point to his chest three times.

 Ibrahim ibn Adham: ‘A slave who loves fame has not been truthful to Allah.’

‘Aasim: ‘If more than four people came and sat around Abul-‘Aaliyah, he would get up and leave.’

Dawud al-Ta’i used to say: ‘Flee from people just like you would flee from a lion.’

Imam Ahmad: ‘Glad tidings be to the one whose mention has been hidden by Allah!’ And he would say, ‘I wish for something that will never be… I wish to be in a place devoid of other people.’

Dhul-Nun: ‘Being pleased with being around people is from the signs of bankruptcy’

Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyyadh: ‘If you can get by without being known, then do so. What does it bother you that people will not praise you, and what does it bother you that you may be blameworthy in the sight of people if in the Sight of Allah you are praiseworthy?’

Muhammad ibn al-‘Alaa ibn Musayyib from Basra wrote to Muhammad Yusuf al-Asbahani saying, ‘O my brother, whoever loves Allah loves that he remain unknown (to the people).’

Bishr ibn al-Harith: ‘I do not know a single man who loves fame except that he loses his religion and becomes disgraced. No-one who has fear of Allah, loves to be known amongst the people.’

He (rahimahullah) also said: ‘A man who loves that everyone should know him, will never find the sweetness of the Hereafter.’

Yazid ibn Abi Habib: ‘Indeed from the fitnah of a scholar is that speech should become more pleasing to him than silence and listening.’

Abu Huraira (radhiallahu `anhu) used to say: ‘Were it not for an ayah in the Book of Allah, I would not have narrated to you people (ayah below):

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالْهُدَى مِن بَعْدِ مَا بَيَّنَّاهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِي الْكِتَابِ أُولَـئِكَ يَلعَنُهُمُ اللّهُ وَيَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّاعِنُونَ

‘Verily, those who conceal the clear proofs, evidences and the guidance, which We have sent down, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, they are the ones cursed by Allah and cursed by the cursers.’ [al-Baqarah: 158]

Al-Sha’bi: ‘We tried incredibly hard to get Ibrahim al-Taymi to sit down in the masjid and narrate to the people but he refused.’

Ibn Abi Layla: ‘I met a hundred and twenty Companions of the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam), and none of them would narrate except that he loved his brother to suffice him of that. And none of them gave fatawa except that he wished his brother would suffice him of that.’

‘Abdullah ibn Abbas: ‘Indeed Allah has slaves who have been silenced by the fear of Allah although they are eloquent in speech.’

Sufyan al-Thawri: ‘If you can become a scholar without being known, then do so. For indeed the people, if they knew what was in you, they would eat your flesh.’

^ He (rahimahullah) wouldn’t allow more than three people to sit in his gathering. One day, more than three came and he saw his gathering had increased so he stood up in fear and said, ‘By Allah, we have been taken and we do not even feel it! By Allah, if the leader of the faithful, ‘Umar (radhiallahu `anhu) were to see someone like me sitting in this gathering he would make me stand up and say ‘The like of you is not worthy of this!’

It is reported that when he sat to narrate hadeeth, he would sit in fear and terror. If a cloud passed over him, he would become silent until it passed then he’d say, ‘I feared that it contained stones with which we would be struck with.’

When Bishr al-Hafi abandoned narrating hadeeth in a gathering, the people said to him: ‘What are you going to say to your Lord when He asks you ‘Why did you abandon narrating to the people the statements of My Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam)?!’ He (rahimahullah) said, ‘I will say, O my Lord. You have commanded me to do it with sincerity but I did not find that in me.’

It was said to Sufyan Ibn ‘Uyaynah once, ‘Won’t you sit and narrate to us?’ He (rahimahullah) said: ‘By Allah, I don’t see you worthy of being narrated to nor do I see myself worthy of being listened to.’

Ibrahim Ibn Adham;-

Ibrahim ibn Adham: ‘I never found delight in living except in al-Sham (greater Syria). I would flee with my religion from heights to heights and from mountain to mountain. Whoever saw me said ‘He’s delusional’ and whoever saw me said ‘He’s a porter.’

He (rahimahullah) would also say: ‘The scholars! When they taught they would act (righteous deeds) and when they acted, they would become busy in that, and when they became busy they would be missed by the people and when they were missed, they would be sought out by the people, and when they were sought, they would flee.’

One day he passed by the gathering of al-Awza’i (rahimahullah) and saw that a large number of people had gathered. So he said, ‘If all this crowding was around Abu Huraira, he would have departed from it.’ This reached al-Awza’i who got up and abandoned the gathering from that day on.

Ibrahim ibn Adham was an amazing personality masha’Allah; he tried hard to keep away from the people in fear of them mentioning him too much. But his fame shot up and his name became so widespread to the point that it was said one time ‘He is in the garden’ (where he worked tending to crops), so the people entered it, encircling it, saying ‘Where is Ibrahim ibn Adham?’ So he began to encircle along with them saying, ‘Where is Ibrahim ibn Adham?!’ [Point being here that his name, character and reputation was known but he himself was hardly seen so they didn’t recognise him!]

He (rahimahullah) said: ‘My eye never found solace and delight in a day of this world except once. I spent the night in a mosque in one of the villages in al-Sham whilst I had a stomach sickness. The mu’adhin then grabbed me by my leg and dragged me out of the mosque!’ – He found solace in this because the man did not recognise him and he did not leave the mosque as he was ill and illness had made him remain in the mosque.

____________________

Quotes taken from the book: Ta’tir al-Anfas min Hadith al-Ikhlas by Dr. Sayyid al-’Affani (original sources include Tahdhib al-Hilyah, Siyar A’lam al-Nubalaa, Tanbih al-Mughtarin and Sifat al-Safwah to name but a few)

23 thoughts on “The Fear of Fame: A Lost Characteristic

  1. AA

    SubhanAllah!!!

    Wow! This post has just blown me away.

    Compare the actions of these Awliyah Allah, to our actions today.

    Alhamdullilah. JazaakiAllahu khairan sister, i have taken alot from this post.

    May Allah enable me and all of us to follow in their footsteps and to take on board the guidance, wisdom and advice they imparted. Ameen

    Wassalam

  2. Subhanallah.

    It really gives you a whole new perspective about spreading knowledge.

    Barakallahu feeki for this post Fajr.
    reminds me the statement of Abdulla Ibn Mas’od to a certain man about the state the Sahaba were in and the staty that we are now:

    “You are in a time when men of understanding (fuqaha) are many and Qur’an reciters are few, when the limits of behaviour defined in the Qur’an are guarded and its letters are lost, when few people ask and many give, when they make the prayer long and the khutba short, and put their actions before their desires.

    A time will come upon men when their fuqaha are few but their Qur’an reciters are many, when the letters of the Qur’an are guarded carefully but its limits are lost, when many ask but few give, when they make the khutba long but the prayer short, and put their desires before their actions.”

    Subhanallah, this is exactly us.

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  6. Unbelievable! wow! Are there any words for me to say?no! except that this took my breath away. I thank Allah for allowing me to come across this article.
    Jazakullah kyaire.

  7. Asslaamu alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

    Another really beneficial article ma sha Allaah.

    Jazaaki Allaahu khayran.

    Al Riyaa – May Allaah protect us all from it. Ameen.

    Assalaamu alaykum

  8. This post about Fame really touched me.May Allah swt protect us from being arrogant, proud .Jazakumallahu khairaa for a great reminder.

  9. as-salamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah,

    barakillahu feeki.

    I wanted to know if you do use Tahdhib al Hilyah – you use the maktabah al islami publisher – Salih al-Shami one?

    and Sifat al-Safwah – Dar Al Ma’rifah publishers?

    Also just any books like Ta’tir al-Anfas min Hadith al-Ikhlas, and the Mawa’idh series by Maktabah al Islami – recommend anything else?

    You should check out the book Fann at-Tadabbur and others – it’s a series of books, Mafhum at-Tadabbur

    also 10 Mafatih li-tadabbur al Qur’an

    Recommendations?

  10. Wa `alaykumusalam wa rahmatullah

    I have the complete version of al-Hilyah (10 volume) but not the Tahdhib (publishers: Maktabat al-Iman). Sifat al-Safwah is by Dar al-Hadith Cairo and I think I got the Ta’tir al-Anfas treasure chest from Dar al-’Affani (he has his own publishing house).

    Yes, you’re right; Mafatih Tadabbur al-Qur’an is an amazing book right there. I managed to get both books by Shaykh al-Lahim – the other one being a similar work but on the Sunnah (tadabbur)… both are great gems.

    In terms of recommendations, I find it a little difficult searching for titles in specific publishing houses, so what I just do is select good places known for their high standards and see if they do the titles I’m after. Dar Ibn al-Jawzi is really good as are the Lebanese printing houses. Dar al-’Aqidah in Egypt is also one of the best in Alexandria and Cairo.

  11. Assalamaleikum Wa Rahmatulah

    Dar al-Salam publish (free) two catalogues annually, one is their own publications – the other is much more useful.

    It is a list of all the publishers they import from and their catalogues, so you have
    a list of the major publishers in the arab world, with their catalogues.

    It can make life a little easier when searching for things – I normally ask for a copy
    of the other catalogue when you go to their shop (not warehouse) in Madinat Nasr.

    WS

  12. Wa `alaykumusalam wa rahmatullah

    Excellent, jazakallahu khayran akhi! I remember picking up a list of new books from 1 or 2 publishing houses but I had no idea that Darusalam produced lists for all publishers around the world. Top stuff, will keep a look out for it next time insha’Allah.

  13. MashAllah Sister,

    The post is amazing.

    However, I have a question that I do hope you or someone else will answer.

    How do we understand these sayings of these wise people with the fact a productive muslim must help his community and one needs to be an active part of his community to do that? I mean, how can one help the ummah and look forward to being a great means of benefit to this ummah without being known? How can one combine sincerity with the want to benefit and help the people? Do you understand my question?

  14. The issue I believe is about striking a balance. Fame is inevitable if your efforts become successful and fruitful. But the matter is where your heart lies. If you see riya’, or love of praise entering into your heart, or you fear for that happening, then it’s best to employ a means of remaining unknown.

    You can be a very productive Muslim, active in society etc without going to extents to make your name known to all. It’ll mostly be said that ‘a brother/sister’ did this and that, without you being mentioned by name – and that helps to maintain your sincerity.

    In any case, the best advice is for one to just focus on Allah `azza wa jall, the Hereafter, the deed, the sincerity, the intention, efforts and results… and thereafter, ignore the people and their words (both praise and criticism which will result), and leave matters to Allah. Wallahu a’lam bi-sawab.

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