‘Umar asks Ubayy ibn Ka’b (radiyallahu ‘anhuma) regarding Taqwa

Question

What is the reference for the following narration?

سأل أمير المؤمنين عمر أبيّ ابن كعب فقال له: ما التقوى؟ فقال أبيّ: يا أمير المؤمنين أما سلكت طريقًا فيه شوك؟! فقال: نعم، قال: فماذا فعلت؟ قال عمر: أُشمّر عن ساقي وأنظر الى مواضع قدماي وأقدم قدمًا وأؤخر أخرى مخافة أن تصيبني شوكه، فقال أبيّ ابن كعب: تلك هي التقوى

It was reported that ‘Umar ibn Khattab (radiyallahu ‘anhu) asked Ubayy ibn Ka’b (radiyallahu ‘anhu) about Taqwa. In reply Ka’b (radiyallahu ‘anhu) asked ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu), “O Leader of the believers, what do you do when you have to pass through a thorny road?” ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) replied, “I lift my cloth up to my calves and watch my footsteps and take each step slowly from the fear of thorns lest they don’t prick me”. Ka’b (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said, “This is Taqwa”.

 

Answer

I have not come across these exact words.

Hafiz Ibn Kathir (rahimahullah) has cited a shorter version. The wording of this version is as follows:

وقد قيل إن عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه سأل أبي بن كعب عن التقوى فقال له: أما سلكت طريقا ذا شوك؟ قال بلى، قال: فما عملت؟ قال: شمرت واجتهدت ، قال: فذلك التقوى

It has been stated that ‘Umar ibnul Khattab (radiyallahu ‘anhu) once asked Ubayy ibn Ka’b (radiyallahu ‘anhu) regarding Taqwa. Ubayy (radiyallahu ‘anhu) asked, “Have you not traversed on a thorny path?” When ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) replied in the affirmative, Ubayy (radiyallahu ‘anhu) asked, “What do you do?” He replied, “I fold up my garment, and I [tread cautiously]. Ubayy (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said: “That is Taqwa.”

(Tafsir ibn Kathir, Surah Al Baqarah, Verse: 2, vol. 1 pg. 255)

 

‘Allamah Baghawi (rahimahullah) has also cited this narration in his Tafsir. His version states that Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) asked Ka’b Al Ahbar and not Ubayy ibn Ka’b (radiyallahu ‘anhu).

(Tafsir Baghawi; Ma’alimut Tanzil, Surah: Al Baqarah, Verse: 2)

 

Both these versions have been cited without a chain.

 

Imam Bayhaqi (rahimahullah) has recorded this narration (with his chain). However, in this version the question was posed to Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu ‘anhu). The wording of this version is as follows:

قال رجل لأبي هريرة: ما التقوى؟ قال: أخذت طريقا ذا شوك؟ قال: نعم قال: فكيف صنعت؟ قال: إذا رأيت الشوك عدلت عنه أو جاوزته أو قصرت عنه قال: ذاك التقوى

A man once asked Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu ‘anhu), “What is Taqwa?” He replied, “Have you walked on a thorny pathway?” He replied, “Yes.” Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu ‘anhu) asked, “How do you do so?” He replied, “When I see a thorn, I move away, cross over or avoid it.” Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu ‘anhu) replied, “That is Taqwa.”

(Az Zuhdul Kabir, Hadith: 978. Also see: Ad Durrul Manthur, Surah Al Baqarah, Verse: 2, vol. 1 pg. 131)

 

This version is suitable to quote.

 

And Allah Ta’ala Knows best.

 

Answered by: Moulana Suhail Motala

 

Approved by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar