Riyad al-Salihin - The Gardens of the Virtuous

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Title: Riyad al-Salihîn – The Gardens of the Virtuous

Publisher: Al Bayyinah

Pages: 1007

Author: An-Nawawi


“The gardens of the virtuous” (riyad al-sálibin) is undoubtedly the greatest literary success of Islamic publishing, if we obviously exclude the Koran. Several factors explain such success. We will emphasize here the one that seems to us the most decisive: the sincere intention that animated Imam al-Nawawi and that he himself described in the introduction to his book where he writes: "I have the firm hope, if I complete this book, that it will lead whoever gives it all the attention it deserves towards good and will divert him from all forms of evil and vice."

He further explains his approach with this prophetic hadith: "Whoever encourages others to perform a good deed will obtain the same reward as those who respond to his call." It is therefore not surprising that the first chapter of this book bears the title: “The sincerity of intention” (ikhlâs), that among the first verses mentioned appear these words of the Most High: (Only those works that you do for the purpose of pleasing Him reach Him) and that the first hadith quoted is: “Deeds are only valid by their intentions.”

To please the Lord and to be useful to men, these are the intentions that guided Imam al-Nawawì in writing his collection. The second explanation for this success is found in the very content of the book: traditions - nearly two thousand encouraging the Muslim to adorn himself with the finest qualities, to flee from sin, to perfect his character and to fear his Lord, in a word to follow the path of His Messenger by turning away from ephemeral earthly pleasures. Imam al-Nawawî himself put these hadiths into practice, because whoever encourages others to virtue must be the first to practice it. Al-Dhahabì thus explains that al-Nawawì was a model of virtue, given as an example for his piety and his renunciation of this low world. He writes: "His subsistence was limited to the bare necessities, having renounced the pleasures of this world, and he was filled with the fear of his Lord."

Let us recall that Imam al-Nawawî died relatively young, at the age of forty-five, and that he did not know of marriage. Praising the merits of those who renounce this world, he mentioned in the introduction to his work these words of the Most High: (This life is as ephemeral as these plants on which men and cattle feed, which become entangled and gorge themselves with water in a field watered by the rain We send down from the sky. or by night: We make it a mown field, as if it had never been cultivated. Thus We offer parables to men capable of meditating on them." (10: 24)

Medina, 7 Jumâdâ II 1442, corresponding to January 21, 2021

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