On the authority of Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī, may Allah be pleased with him, a man came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and said:
“Oh Messenger of Allah, advise me and be concise”.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, replied:
“When you stand for ṣalāh, pray as if you are about to depart this world, do not say anything that you will have to apologise for tomorrow and do not hope for what is in the hands of others.”
Reported by Ahmad.
These three pieces of advice, how great they are, when a servant implements them then all that concerns him becomes complete and he becomes successful.
The first advice concerns perfecting ṣalāh and striving to perform it in the best way possible. A person does this by holding himself to account with every prayer and by perfecting all aspects of it whether it be an obligatory component or recommended. He makes sure that he attains the level of al-iḥsān, which is the highest of levels, by standing in prayer whilst being conscious of the fact that he is standing in front of his Lord, intimately conversing with him with all that he utters, be it recitation of the Qurʾān, remembrance or supplication. He humbles himself in his standing, his bowing, his prostration, and in his descending and ascending.
Habituating himself with these things without hesitation or reluctance will serve him as an aid to achieve this sublime goal, as will imagining every ṣalāh to be his last before he departs from this world. And there is no doubt that a person bidding farewell to this world will try his utmost and strive to be conscious of these beneficial thoughts, these strong triggers until they become easy and he becomes accustomed to them.
And such a ṣalāh averts a person from all lowly characteristics whilst fostering in him beautiful ones as a result of the increase in īmān it instills coupled with an enlightened heart full of joy with complete inclination to do good.
The second piece of advice is to guard the tongue and to watch over it closely. This is because everything revolves around guarding the tongue and it is the essence of a person’s affair. Whenever a person has control over his tongue he also has control over the rest of his limbs but whenever his tongue takes control of him, by him not keeping it from harmful speech, he will become deficient religiously as well as in his worldly life. So he should not say anything unless he knows it will bring about benefit with regards to his religion or his general welfare. He should avoid saying anything that carries a possibility of him being criticized or for which he may have to apologise. If he does not, his tongue would have gained control over him and he would have become captive to it. It may even cause further inescapable damage.
The third piece of advice is for a person to habituate himself to be attached to Allāh alone concerning both his life of this world and that of the hereafter. So he only asks Allāh and hopes only for His bounty. He makes it a habit to renounce what is in the hands of others as this will serve as a protection for him; this is because when you do not hope for attaining a thing you no longer need it.
Just as the person refrains from asking others besides Allāh he also only attaches his heart to Allāh; thereby remaining a true slave of Allāh, safe from being enslaved by any of the creation. He has gained his freedom from such a thing and has earned honor and dignity. A person enslaved by people, on the other hand, earns dishonor and baseness according to his level of attachment to them.
And Allāh knows best
al-Saʿdī, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Nāṣir (1421/2000), Bahjat Qulūb al-Abrār wa Qurrat ʿUyūn al-Akhbār fī Sharḥ Jawāmiʿ al-Akhbār, ed. Hishām b. Muḥammad Saʿīd Āl Barghush. NP: Dār al-Waṭan.