Sahl Ibne Sa’ad narrated that once a person (who, perhaps, came from the class of the rich and the distinguished) passed in front of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam. On seeing him the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam asked one of those who were sitting with him at that time what he thought of him. He replied, “Sir, he is one of the most respectable men, such is his eminence that if he makes an offer of marriage to the daughter of any family, it will be accepted and she will be married to him, and if he makes a recommendation in any matter, it will be granted.” At this reply, the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam kept quiet and did not say anything.
After some time, another bondsman of the Lord passed by and the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam asked the same person again, “What do you think of him?” He replied, “O Apostle of Allah! He is one of the weak and indigent Muslims. He is such a man that if he makes an offer of marriage anywhere, it will be rejected and if he makes a recommendation in any matter, it will be turned down and if he wants to say anything, it will not be heard.”
The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam, thereupon, said, “If people like the one who passed by earlier (are so numerous as to) fill the earth, this weak and poor bondsman is still better than (all of) them.”
Generally, material prosperity and worldly eminence are considered to be the criterion of greatness and people are impressed by them while those who are not rich and influential are looked upon as lowly, however good and noble they may be from the moral and spiritual point of view. The above saying is aimed at removing the folly.
It is quite possible that the person who was sitting with the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam, and with whom he was talking to at that time, was also a victim of it and the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam had spoken to him like that for his correction.
Commentators have opined and the words of the Tradition also show that both the persons who passed by were Muslims, but with the difference that the first one to go past was superior in wealth and position and the second inferior financially and in social rank.
It was because of this that the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam remarked that if the likes of the first mentioned were so numerous that the earth was filled with them, the poor and the needy bondsman who passed by later would by himself be better and nobler than all of them.
It is related by Abu Hurairah radhiyallahu anhu that the Apostle of Allah sallallahu alayhi wasallam said: “Many among those whose hair are dishevelled and bodies covered with dust and who are pushed away from the door (due to their apparent wretchedness) occupy such a lofty place in the sight of the Lord, that if they vow in the name of Allah: Allah will surely fulfil their vow.”
It shows that no one should be scorned at or rejected as inferior because of his unkempt and untidy condition. Some of them attain a position of such nearness and preference with the Lord, by effacing themselves for His sake, that if, relying upon Him they swear about a thing that it will or will not be that way, Allah does not put them to shame and makes it happen accordingly.
It is worth remembering that the object of the above Tradition is not to encourage squalor and untidiness, as some people imagine. From the Prophet’s sallallahu alayhi wasallam sayings and other biographical accounts it is clear that he, generally liked to be neat and clean and advised others also not to be dirty and ill-clad. When he saw anyone going to the extreme of self-denial and wearing dirty and tattered clothes and caring nothing for their appearance, he reproved them sternly. This Tradition is intended merely to give a warning advice to those who regard the poor and destitute bondsmen of the Lord as despicable and do not want to mix with them due to self-conceit.