Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Principles of Life | Al Risala, July 1988

In his Tarikh as-Saghir, Imam Bukhari relates how Umar ibn Khattab once asked some companions what their greatest wish was. One of them said that he would like to have a house full of dirhams. “Then I would spend them for the cause of God.” Umar asked them to think of another wish, whereupon another of their member said, “I wish that I could have this house full of gold, so that I could spend it in God’s path.” Umar asked them for yet another wish, and one of them ventured to say, “I should like to have this house full of diamonds. Which I could spend for the cause of God.” Umar again asked them to suggest some other wish, but beyond the first three wishes, they were unable to think of anything further. Umar then said to them: “My greatest wish, on the contrary, would be to have this house full of men like Abu Ubaydah ibn Jarrah, Muadh ibn Jabal and Hudhayfah ibn al-­Yaman. Men such as these I would put to the service of God.” (Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra by Ibn Sa’d, Vol. 3, p. 413)

There is no more valuable asset in this world than a conscientious human being of the type who has his opinions without becoming ob­durate, and who can listen to criticism of himself dispassionately, and with the same objectivity with which he weighs up praise. Such a balanced person does not waver from his principles. He recognizes the importance of being able to disagree, without however allowing his difference of opinion to bring about disunity. It was men of such charac­ter that Umar had in mind when he mentioned the above three names.