There was once a monk in the Banu Israaeel who remained (devoted to the worship of Allah Ta‘ala) in a monastery for sixty years. One day, he saw a dream in which he was told, “So-and-so shoemaker is better than you.”
On awakening, he (dismissed what he had heard and) said to himself, “It was just a dream.” However, when he had a nap that afternoon, he saw the dream once again, and continued to see this very same dream multiple times thereafter.
Eventually, he descended from his monastery and went to the shoemaker. As the shoemaker saw him approaching, he immediately ceased his work, stood, and began to rub his hand over him (in order to derive blessings). He then asked the monk, “What has prompted you to descend and emerge from your monastery today?” The monk replied, “You are the one who has caused me to descend. Tell me, what good actions do you carry out?”
Initially, the shoemaker was reluctant to divulge the details of his good deeds, but thereafter (relented and) said, “I work throughout the day, earning a livelihood. At the end of the day, I take the money that Allah Ta‘ala has given me as sustenance, and spend half of it in charity, while my family and I use the other half to see to our needs. I also fast during the day.”
After hearing this, the monk turned and left. However, subsequent to this, he was told (in a dream), “Ask him what has caused the yellowness in his face.” He thus returned to the shoemaker and enquired, “What has caused your face to turn yellow?” The shoemaker replied, “I am a person who is such that if I see anyone, I always think to myself that he is destined for Jannah while I am destined for Jahannam (and thus the fear of Jahannam has caused my face to turn yellow).”
Hence, the shoemaker had surpassed the monk on account of him considering himself to be insignificant and worthless.
(‘Uyoonul Hikaayaat pg. 103)
1. One of the good deeds of the shoemaker was that of charity. He kept only the amount of wealth that he and his family required for their needs and then spent the remaining amount on the poor. He did not amass abundant wealth nor was he obsessed with accumulating riches.
2. The action which caused the shoemaker to surpass the monk was his humility. The shoemaker not only thought nothing of himself – he regarded himself to be the worst person. It was this level of humility that elevated him beyond even the rank of the monk who worshipped Allah Ta‘ala for sixty years.
3. The shoemaker never looked down at others, despite their faults and sins. Rather, he focused on his own weakness and considered others to be better than him.
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