The connection between sincerity and the best of people – the story of Ka’b bin Malik

The connection between sincerity and the best of people - the story of Ka’b bin Malik

Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that in Rajab, in the year of Tabouk, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) addressed the people, while leaning against his mount, said:

عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ، قَالَ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَامَ تَبُوكَ يَخْطُبُ النَّاسَ وَهُوَ مُسْنِدٌ ظَهْرَهُ إِلَى رَاحِلَتِهِ فَقَالَ ‏ “‏ أَلاَ أُخْبِرُكُمْ بِخَيْرِ النَّاسِ وَشَرِّ النَّاسِ؟

 إِنَّ مِنْ خَيْرِ النَّاسِ رَجُلاً عَمِلَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ عَلَى ظَهْرِ فَرَسِهِ، أَوْ عَلَى ظَهْرِ بَعِيرِهِ، أَوْ عَلَى قَدَمِهِ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَهُ الْمَوْتُ،

وَإِنَّ مِنْ شَرِّ النَّاسِ رَجُلاً فَاجِرًا يَقْرَأُ كِتَابَ اللَّهِ لاَ يَرْعَوِي إِلَى شَىْءٍ مِنْهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ النسائي وأحمد.

لا يرعوي: أي لا ينكف ولا ينزجر إلى شيء من مواعظه وزواجره ووعده ووعيده.

‘Shall I not tell you of the best of the people and the worst of the people? Among the best of the people is a man who strives in the cause of Allah on the back of his horse, or on the back of his camel, or on his own two feet, until death comes to him.

And among the worst of the people, is an immoral man (Fajir) who reads the Book of Allah but he does not refrain from doing anything bad because of it.’ [Nasa’i and Ahmad]

This narration evokes nostalgia due to the context of the hadith – the Prophet (peace be upon him) led 30,000 men to the Battle of Tabouk, which was his last battle and a larger campaign than any previous battle.

The details are very interesting – this expedition was known as the Jayshul Usra, the army of hardship, due the conditions in which they marched off, including scorching heat. Raising the funds for this expedition proved very challenging. Abu Bakr offered everything he had for the preparation, Umar gave half of his wealth and Abu Khaythamah, who had nothing, gave a few dates. The hypocrites mocked his paltry donation, but the Prophet (peace be upon him) was pleased with that. He said that we should not sneer at any act of goodness, thus confirming the importance of the purity of intention – doing things for Allah’s sake.

Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

‏ “‏ لا تحقرن من المعروف شيئاً ولو أن تلقى أخاك بوجهٍ طليق‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

“Do not belittle any good deed, even meeting your brother (Muslim) with a cheerful face”. [Muslim]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned that it did not matter if the one who strived for Allah rode on camel, or on a horse or was walking, because many of the soldiers marching to Tabouk were taking turns to ride the animals, as they were short of funds, so up to ten people were sharing a camel.

There were five kinds of people – those who went to battle without hesitation, (even though no battle actually took place), and then two kinds from the believers and two from the hypocrites .

Believers – 3 groups:

1- They went with the prophet with no hesitation
2- One wanted to go but they had no means to go
3- Those who stayed behind although they wanted to go.

Hypocrites – 2 groups:

1- They gave excuses to stay behind before the expedition.

2- They did not go and gave excuses after the return of the expedition

Out of the hypocrites, those who gave excuses after the Prophet (peace be upon him) returned, was five men, including Abu Lubabah and 5-9 men.

After ten days, the Prophet (peace be upon him) accepted the repentance of the men who had been given permission to stay behind, even though they were shirking.

Out of the hypocrites who did not go was Ka’b bin Malik and two others. Ka’b bin Malik, Hilal bin Umayyah, Marar bin Al-Rabi’

The story of Ka’b is very moving – he was an Ansari who used to accompany the Prophet (peace be upon him) on his travels and was very intelligent.

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) arrived at Tabouk, he asked for Ka’b and the others responded that he had not come because he was busy with his new dress – in our terms, gadgets.

Another responded to defend him and said they did not know that was the case and he was a good and sincere man who loved the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Ka’b had bought two camels and prepared them for the journey and he had no shortage of funds, so he had planned to come. But he kept procrastinating and missed the departure of the troops.

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) returned Ka’b said he had no excuse for not accompanying him, as he had all the means. Unlike those who had wanted to go but had been unable to Beauce they lacked the means.

Ka’b’a friends told him he should make up an excuse and sought forgiveness from the Prophet (peace be upon him).

However Ka’b did not lie about his reason for staying home as he was worried that if he were to do this Allah would reveal the truth and he would be humiliated further, so he told the straightforward truth.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was upset and told him to wait for Allah’s judgement. The other two men who had done the same said the same thing.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded the other companions not to speak to them and even ask their wives to leave them. Ka’b kept going to the mosque and saying salam, but the Prophet (peace be upon him) would not reply out loud. Ka’b would pray next to him and whenever he noticed the Prophet (peace be upon him) look at him, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would turn away. He was ignored by everyone for about 40-50 days.

Ka’b was miserable – he felt as if the whole earth had shrunk for them. He and the two other Companions felt suffocated by the heaviness was their sin and disobedience. They knew there was no refuge from Allah, except Allah.

Eventually, Allah accepted their repentance. When this ayah was revealed, the a Prophet (peace be upon him) recited it to the Companions:

لَّقَد تَّابَ اللَّهُ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ وَالْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالْأَنصَارِ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُ فِي سَاعَةِ الْعُسْرَةِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا كَادَ يَزِيغُ قُلُوبُ فَرِيقٍ مِّنْهُمْ ثُمَّ تَابَ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِهِمْ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ

God has redeemed the Prophet, and the Emigrants, and the Supporters—those who followed him in the hour of difficulty—after the hearts of some of them almost swerved. Then He pardoned them. He is Kind towards them, Compassionate. [9:117]

وَعَلَى الثَّلَاثَةِ الَّذِينَ خُلِّفُوا حَتَّىٰ إِذَا ضَاقَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الْأَرْضُ بِمَا رَحُبَتْ وَضَاقَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ أَنفُسُهُمْ وَظَنُّوا أَن لَّا مَلْجَأَ مِنَ اللَّهِ إِلَّا إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ تَابَ عَلَيْهِمْ لِيَتُوبُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ

Also towards the three who were left behind. Then, when the earth, as vast as it is, closed in on them, and their very souls closed in on them, and they realized that there was no refuge from God, except in Him, He redeemed them, so that they may repent. God is the Redeemer, the Merciful. [9:118]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) told him this was the best day in his life. And Ka’b replied the truth had saved him. This is a very moving story which is full of deep lessons.

The conclusion is that we need to have purity in our intentions when do things for Allah’s sake. If we make mistakes, we should come clean, confess and ask for forgiveness. Then we will be classified among the best of people.

We ask Allah to accept our actions and intentions purely for HIs sake.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Khutbah 3rd Feb 2023


Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.