The Prophet’s Smile: “Are you making fun of me, my Lord?”

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud narrates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ once described the last person to leave the Fire and enter Paradise. This man moves away from the Fire, at times staggering, at times walking, at times crawling, with the Fire still burning his face. When he reaches safety, he breathes a sigh of relief, looks back at it and praises Allah for saving him from it, which he sees as the greatest blessing imaginable. Then he catches sight of a tree next to a pool of water and asks Allah to be brought to it in order to rest in its shade and to drink from the water.

Allah says to him: “Perhaps if I answer your request, you will ask for something else.”

The man promises not to ask for anything else, but once he has drunk the water and sat in the shade, he catches sight of another tree that is more beautiful than the tree which he is under. So he asks to be able to go to it. Allah reminds him of his promise not to ask for anything else and says that if He answers the man’s request, perhaps he will ask for something else. The man promises once again not to ask for anything else and his request is granted. But then he catches sight of a third tree at the gates of Paradise which is more splendid than the first two. Once again, he promises this will be the last thing he asks for. Allah grants his request, knowing that it will not be the last.

When he is in the shade of the third tree, he begins to hear the voices of people enjoying the pleasures of Paradise and cannot resist asking permission to enter.

Allah asks him: “What will stop you from asking Me repeatedly? Would you be content if I gave you everything the world contains twice over?”

The man says, somewhere between incredulity and intense joy: “Are you making fun of me, and You are the Lord of All Creation?”

At this point, the Prophet laughed in amusement at the man’s statement. Ibn Mas’ud would also laugh when he narrated the hadith.

Allah replies: “I am not making fun of you. I have the power to do whatever I wish.”

In another narration of the hadith, Allah allows the man to keep asking and asking until He gives him everything the world contains ten times over. (Narrated by Muslim)

An element of the Messenger of Allah’s prophecy was his being shown specific events that will unfold in the next life. He describes these events as though he is watching them unfold in front of him.

We believe that anyone who has even an atom’s weight of faith will enter Paradise. Unfortunately some believers who have committed grave acts of disobedience will experience punishment in Hell before entering Paradise. This person will be the last believer to leave the Fire. He must have committed some pretty terrible crimes to warrant such a lengthy punishment and to be the lowest in rank of all the believers. But he “does his time” and eventually comes out and experiences the unimaginable relief of salvation.

He is happy just to be safe from the Fire, but when he sees the beauty of Allah’s gifts in the form of a tree and a pool of water, he cannot help himself asking. Don’t forget that he has spent a long time seeing nothing but fire and brimstone. The more he sees, the more he asks for, until he finally enters Paradise. There is a lesson in this that as believers we would set our sights high and ask for the greatest of things, not because we deserve them, but because our Lord’s generosity knows no bounds. Allah is as we perceive him to be and if we have high hopes in Him, He will not dash those hopes. If this is what is awaiting the person who has the lowest rank of all the believers, what will those who lived a life of obedience receive? What will those who attained higher stations be given? We cannot begin to imagine: no soul knows what joy is kept hidden in store for them as a reward for what they have done (32:17).

A further thing we notice is that Allah does not abandon anyone who does not abandon Him. However bad this person was, he still had some faith and Allah recognises that and does not deny him his eventual reward. Furthermore, He tells this man’s story to the Prophet ﷺ who then tells it to his nation so that we can learn about how Allah treats His servants.

The Prophet ﷺ does not forget a single member of his Ummah, regardless of how far they stray from the path. On the Day of Judgement, he does not rest until he has interceded for as many people as he is able. He is a gift of mercy to all creation but he has a special concern for those who believe in him and he is aware of their plight. There is always room for one more person at the Prophet’s banquet, regardless of how late they arrive.

Finally, we see how the Prophet ﷺ laughed at the ridiculousness of the man’s statement. He found humour in the exchange between Allah and His servant. Allah’s generosity and bounty defies belief.