The Good Things that Last:
The Most Beloved Words to Allāh
The Good Things that Last
The Qur’ān says:
المَالُ وَالْبَنُونَ زِينَةُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَالْبَاقِيَاتُ الصَّالِحَاتُ خَيْرٌ عِندَ رَبِّكَ ثَوَابًا وَخَيْرٌ أَمَلًا
“The good things that last” are also mentioned in Sūrah Maryam, 19:76.
The material benefits of this world are short-lived and temporary. They don’t give us much and nor can we expect much from them. On the other hand, the “good things that last” will remain and endure forever. That is, their rewards will continue into the hereafter, and the hereafter is “far better and far more lasting” (Sūrat al-A‘lā, 87:17) than this life.
What are the “good things that last”?
The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) told us what they are in the following ḥadīth:
عن أبي سعيد الخدري عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: استكثروا من الباقيات الصالحات، قيل: وما هي يا رسول الله؟ قال: التكبير والتهليل والتحميد والتسبيح ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله
Abū Sa‘id al-Khudrī (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu) reported from the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) that he said:
It was said: “And what are they, O Messenger of Allāh?”
Ḥāfiẓ Nūr al-Dīn al-Haythamī (d. 807) said: “Aḥmad and Abū Ya‘lā narrated it…and their chain of transmission is ḥasan.” (Majma‘ al-Zawā’id, 10:99) Imām al-Ḥākim also narrated it in his Mustadrak (Dār al-Ta’ṣīl, no. 1913, 2011) and al-Dhahabī graded it saḥīḥ (Mustadrak, Dār al-Ma‘rifa, 1:513).
This interpretation of “the good things that last” has also been reported from major authorities of the Saḥābah and Tābi‘in, including ‘Uthmān, Ibn ‘Abbās, Sa‘īd ibn al-Musayyib, Mujāhid, al-Ḥasan al-Baṣri and Qatādah, may Allah be pleased with them all. (Tafsir al-Ṭabari, 15:275-9)
The Most Beloved Words to Allāh
The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:
أحب الكلام إلى الله أربع: سبحن الله، والحمد لله، ولا إله إلا الله، والله أكبر
The Four Dhikrs Encapsulate our Beliefs about Allāh
The meanings of each of these dhikrs, both individually and collectively, are very powerful. Together, they encapsulate our entire belief about Allāh: that He is pure of any faults or imperfections; that He possesses all perfections and qualities of excellence; that He is far beyond our comprehension and understanding; and that He is unlike anything besides Him.
This means: “Pure is Allāh, transcendent is He, beyond all imperfections and deficiencies.” Allāh is free from all flaws, defects, deficiencies, weaknesses & inabilities. For example, Allāh is free from the need to eat or drink, He is free from the limitations of place & time, He is free from needing instruments and tools, helpers or partners, He is free from having a beginning or coming to an end, and so on. This declaration incorporates the Beautiful Names of al-Salām, al-Quddūs, al-Awwal, al-Ākhir, al-Ghanī, al-Ṣamad, al-Qayyūm etc.
This means: “All praise belongs exclusively to Allāh.” A being is deserving of praise when it has some perfection or quality of excellence. Allāh possesses all perfections whether of His Being or His Acts, hence He alone is entitled to all praise. He is All-Powerful (Qādir, Qadīr, Muqtadir, Qawī), Ever-Living (Ḥayy), Sustaining (Khāliq, Rāziq, Rabb), Merciful and Loving (Raḥmān, Raḥīm, Ra’ūf, Wadūd), Just (‘Adl), All-Knowing (‘Alīm, Khabīr), All-Hearing (Samī‘), All-Seeing (Baṣīr), and so on.
This means: “Allah is far greater.” Allāh is far greater than what we conceive; and even what we can possibly conceive. With the first two phrases, we negate anything unbefitting the Divine Being and affirm every perfection for the Divine Being according to what we know. But beyond that, there is an immense reality, which we do not know. Hence, we say: “Allāhu akbar.” The Names A‘lā (Most High), ‘Alī (The Elevated), ‘Aẓīm (Great), Muta‘ālī (Exalted), Kabīr (Immense) etc. convey this reality. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “I cannot encompass Your praise. You are as You have praised Yourself.”
Lā ilāha illallāh
This means: “There is none to be worshipped but Allāh.” Worship – absolute and utter surrender and devotion to a Being of Authority – is limited only to the One endowed with the Divine Attributes like those mentioned above. Since no one shares in Allāh’s attributes, He alone is entitled to our worship. Hence, by this phrase, we negate that there could be anything like Him. Thus, Allāh is referred to as “the One” (Wāḥid) and “the Unique” (Aḥad).
This explanation of the comprehensiveness of the bāqiyāt ṣālihāt, and why they hold such great virtue, can be found in a statement written by Sulṭān al-‘Ulamā ‘Izz al-Dīn ibn ‘Abd al-Salām (578 – 660 H), may Allāh have mercy on him. (See: Ṭabaqāt al-Shāfi‘iyyah al-Kubrā, 8:220-221; Juz’ fī Tafsīr al-Bāqiyāt al-Ṣāliḥāt, 57-8)
Keep Your Tongue Moist in the Dhikr of Allāh
These four dhikrs are very powerful and are also easy on the tongue. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) advised that we recite them aplenty. If we are not doing this, we are deprived of immense and easily obtainable reward – reward that will go on forever. Hence, one should make it a daily habit to recite these dhikrs. In one ḥadīth, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) advised that these four dhikrs are each recited one hundred times daily. (Musnad Aḥmad, 44:479, no. 26911; Sunan Ibn Mājah, 4:717, no. 3810)
Imam Aḥmad narrated in his Musnad:
:حدثنا علي بن عياش، حدثنا حسان بن نوح، عن عمرو بن قيس، عن عبد الله بن بسر قال
أتى النبي صلى الله عليه عليه وسلم أعرابيان، فقال أحدهما: من خير الرجال يا محمد؟ قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: من طال عمره وحسن عمله. قال الآخر: إن الشرائع قد كثرت علينا، فباب نتمسك به جامع؟ قال: لا يزال لسانك رطبا من ذكر الله
‘Alī ibn ‘Ayyāsh narrated to us: Ḥassān ibn Nūḥ narrated to us from ‘Amr ibn Qays from ‘Abdullāh ibn Busr, he said:
The editors of the Musnad commented: “Its isnād is ṣaḥīḥ.” (ibid.) Ibn Mājah, al-Tirmidhī and Ibn Ḥibbān also narrated the second part of this ḥadīth, and it is the fiftieth and final ḥadīth that Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī wrote a commentary on in his famous Jāmi‘ al-‘Ulūm wa l-Ḥikam.