Chasing a Sneeze
ONE DAY Imam Abu Dawud, Allah have mercy on him, was traveling to a distant land. His journey would be across water, and this day he boarded the ship to start his journey. The ship was leaving shore when he faintly, but clearly, heard someone sneeze on land and follow it up by saying, “All praise and gratitude belongs to God.” [Alhamdu lillah (1)]
The Imam sprang into action! He quickly called a smaller boat and asked the rower to take him back to shore, just for one minute. Back on land, the Imam found the man who had just sneezed and told him, “God have mercy on you!” [yar hamukallah (2)]
The sneezer replied, “God guide you, and set aright your affairs!” [yahdi kumullahu wa yuslihu balakum (3)]
The Imam returned to his ship after comepleting his task. He paid the rower one silver coin [dirham] for this short ferry from the boat to the shore, and back. The curiously waiting passengers asked Imam Abu Dawud what he had just been doing.
He explained that by replying to the man who sneezed, the Imam was able to get his prayers as well. He wanted the sneezer to pray for him—perhaps he was someone whose prayers [du’a] are easily accepted.
Everyone was amused by how much trouble he took for such a small affair. As the ship began its journey, they all quickly forgot about this incident and returned to their own business.
But that night, they heard a voice during their sleep:
“O people of the ship! Abu Dawud has purchased Paradise from God—for one silver coin!”
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This story is part of the Stories of the Righteous project, which aims to share stories that inspire reform, faith and piety in all who read them—trying to fulfill our need of righteous company in a time when it’s hard to find