On the authority of Umar (r) who said: One day while we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah (s), there came before us a man with extremely white clothing and extremely black hair. There were no signs of travel on him and none of us knew him. He [came and] sat next to the Prophet (s). He supported his knees up against the knees of the Prophet (s) and put his hand on his thighs. He said, ‘O Muhammad, tell me about Islam.’ The Messenger of Allah (s) said, ‘Islam is to testify that there is none worthy of worhsip except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish the prayers, to pay the zakat, to fast [the month of] Ramadan, and to make pilgrimage to the House if you have the means to do so.’ He said, ‘You have spoken truthfully [or correctly].’ We were amazed that he asks the question and then says that he had spoken truthfully. He said, ‘Tell me about Imaan (faith).’ He [the Messenger of Allah (s)] responded, ‘It is to believe in Allah, His angles, His books, His messengers, the Last Day and to believe in the divine decree, [both] the good and the evil thereof.’ He said, ‘You have spoken truthfully.’ He said, ‘Tell me about al-Ihsaan (goodness).’ He [the Prophet (s)] answered, ‘It is that you worship Allah as if you see Him. And even though you do not see Him, [you know] He sees you.’ He said, ‘Tell me about [the time of] the Hour,’ He [the Prophet (s)] answered, ‘The one being asked does not know more than the one asking.’ He said, ‘Tell me about it’s signs.’ He answered, ‘The slave-girl shall give birth to her master, and you will see the barefooted, scantily-clothed, destitiute shepards competing in constructing lofty buildings.’ Then he went away. I stayed for a long time. Then he [the Prophet (s)] said, ‘O Umar, do you know who the questioner was?’ I said, ‘Allah and His Mesanger know best.’ He said, ‘It was [the angel] Gabriel who came to teach you your religion.’ (Recorded in Muslim)
SubhanAllah. This is such a beautiful, expansive, comprehensive hadith. It touches upon almost every deed of Islam, and deals with inner and outer aspects of the worship of Allah.
As with the first hadith, I will explain the hadith of Jibreel one line at a time.
“One day while we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah (s), there came before us a man with extremely white clothing and extremely black hair.”
As we know from the end of this hadith, the man who is described here is actually the angel Jibreel appearing in the form of a bedouin Arab. The first thing that this tells us is that the angel Jibreel could take different forms, including that of a man.
In this case we can see that Allah sent the angel Jibreel to assist in teaching the people about the religion of Islam. According to some scholars his teaching comes not only from the questions he asked, but also from his appearance and behaviour.
What we learn here of his appearance is that he was clean, with no traces of dirt upon him. It is recommended for Muslims to have a good appearance and to remain clean as much as possible, especially when attending the mosque or seeking knowledge. White clothing is also preferred, especially for the people of knowledge.
There is another aspect to note here which is that Islam places an emphasis on both the inner and outer aspects of the human being. There is a strong relationship between these two things. In this respect, if one wants to attain knowledge, one must approach it in the proper manner, with the correct intention, and respect for the knowledge being gained. One must also be willing to sacrifice one’s time and wealth, and to show the outward signs of respect, such as sitting in the proper manner.
“There were no signs of travel on him and none of us knew him.”
He was not from the people of Madinah and yet there no signs of travel on him. His appearance was something special and that attracted people’s attention to him. Perhaps, and Allah knows best, this was a way to draw people to him and to watch and listen carefully to what he said so they could pass it on to others.
“He [came and] sat next to the Prophet (s). He supported his knees up against the knees of the Prophet (s) and put his hands on his thighs.”
This should be the attitude of those who are truly seeking knowledge, they should try to get close to the teacher so that they can understand and hear everything he or she says correctly. Unfortunately, this is no the attitude one finds amongst many Muslims today. People lean against the wall, slouch and put their feet out, text on their mobile phones etc etc, having no respect for the magnitude of what is being conveyed.
“He said, ‘O Muhammad, tell me about Islam.’ The Messenger of Allah (s) said, ‘Islam is to testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish the prayers, to pay the zakat, to fast [the month of] Ramadan, and to make pilgrimage to the House of you have the means to do so.’”
In this narration of the hadith, the Angel first asks about Islam. In other narrations, he first asks about Imaan. It is interesting to note here that there are some who argue that asking about Imaan should be first as that is more consistent with the Quranic presentation of such topics. We can see this in the following example from the Quran:
“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East or West [in prayer]. But righteousness is [the quality of] the one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Books and the Prophets. [Who] gives his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to the poor who beg, and to the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free. [And who] offers prayer perfectly and gives the Zakat. And who fulfill their covenant when they make it, and who are patient in extreeme poverty and ailment and at the time of fighting. Such are the people of truth and they are pious.” (al-Baqarah 177)
A similar approach is seen in the beginning verses of Surah al-Anfaal. And Allah knows best.
A discussion of the detailed meaning of the five pillars of Islam will be laid out in the narration of Hadith number 3, InshaAllah.
“He said, ‘You have spoken truthfully [or correctly].’ We were amazed that he asks the question and then he says that he had spoken truthfully.”
We can see that the behaviour of the Angel was something very strange to the people who were gathered around the Prophet (s). First he had asked some questions, implying that he did not know the answers, and then, he had commented that the answers given were correct. More importantly, this was information known only from the Prophet’s (s)teachings, and this man was a stanger amongst the people. This made it seem all the more surprising that he had the boldness to state that the Prophet’s (s) replies were correct.
“He said, ‘Tell me about Imaan.”
The next thing the Angel Jibreel asked the Prophet Muhammad (s) about was Imaan.
What is Imaan or faith? Who is a believer? What is disbelief? Who is a disbeliever? These questions appeared very early in the history of Islam, and with them came divisions amongst the Muslims. Without going into the details of the sects that resulted from these divisions, one important point emerges that we should learn from.
When it comes to any concept from the Qur’an and Sunnah, historically speaking, there have been two approaches to determine its meaning.
The first approach is to discover the meaning of that concept from the Prophet (s) and how he (s) passed on the understanding of this knowledge to his Companions (r), and them to their followers.
The second approach is to go directly to the word itself (eg a Quranic term) and try to discover its meaning from a linguistic or logical viewpoint, without first studying how Allah (swt) and His Prophet (s) explained those terms. This approach has led to many misunderstandings about the concept of Imaan and the advent of heretical groups.
If we firmly believe that the Prophet Muhammad (s) explained the entire religion in a clear manner to his (s) Companions (r), and that he (s) explained everything that needs to be known about the meaning of the Qur’an and how to apply its teachings in our daily life, then we should have no need to look elsewhere for guidance.
It is clear from evidence contained in the Qur’an and Sunnah that Imaan comprises of belief, statement and action. Concerning belief in the heart, Allah says in surah al-Maaidah, verse 41:
“O Messenger, let not those who hurry to fall into disbelief grieve you, those who say, ‘We believe’, with their mouths but their hearts have no faith.”
If what is contained in the heart is not sound and proper, then nothing else will be sound and proper. Belief in the heart is the foundation and driving force behind all the other components of Imaan. Next, one needs to state one’s belief with the tongue. This plays a two fold role of being a statement of fact while also being a statement of commitment to that fact. The Prophet (s) stated:
“Imaan is composed of [approximately] seventy branches. The greatest is the statement ‘There is none worthy of worship except Allah’ and the lowest aspect is removing something harmful from the road. And modesty is a branch of faith.” (Recorded in Muslim)
Here we can see that Imaan incorporates both statement and action. When one is committed to belief in Allah (swt) and His Messanger (s) then naturally one shows one’s belief by following this with actions of obedience to what Allah (swt) has commanded.
Imaan can increase and decrease, this is the case with both the level of belief in the heart as well as the commitment to carrying out acts of obedience. We all feel these levels of fluctuation in our daily lives, but if we sincerely turn to Allah (swt) and ask for His (swt) guidance, there are greater levels of Imaan waiting for us InshaAllah. Doing good deeds with the right intention increases Imaan, and doing sinful deeds decreasesImaan.
Committing sins does not make you a disbeliever or take you out of the fold of Islam unless they are shirk (making partners with Allah) or kufr (disbelief in Allah and His Messenger). The sinner may be punished in the Hellfire, but those with even the slightest amount of Imaan in their hearts will eventually enter Paradise. This is the belief that was passed on from the Prophet (s) to his Companions and it is the only view that takes into account all the relevant pieces of evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
“And give glad tidings to those who believe and do good deeds that for them will be gardens through which rivers flow…” (surah al-Baqarah:25)
He [the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)] said, ‘It is to believe in Allah’”
Belief in Allah (swt) is the cornerstone of the Islamic faith, and all of the other Islamic beliefs revolve around this. If our understanding of Allah (swt) and His attributes is incorrect, then the basis of our own faith may be jepordised. This is a matter of such fundamental importance that many Muslim scholars have described the correct belief in Allah, called Tauheed, in great detail.
Tauheed means ‘making something one’. It is not a term found in the Qur’an or thesunnah, it became the main term used to cover the aspects of belief in Allah from the time of ibn Abbas (r). Although there are some variations, the scholars have traditionally divided Tauheed into three distinct categories:
Tauheed al-Ruboobiyah – The belief in the Oneness of Allah concerning His Lordship. He alone is the Lord (al-Rabb), He is One, without partner, and He is the sole Creator and the only One who nourishes and Sustains the creation.
Tauheed al-Uloohiyah – This is the Oneness of Allah with respect to Him being the only One worthy of worship. All acts of worship must be directed toward Allah alone. We should not offer prayers or make supplications to anyone else such as saints, pirrs or sheikhs. By doing this, people show that they are putting their trust in a person to help deliver what they want, they are not putting their trust in Allah alone.
Tauheed al-Asmaa wa al-Sifaat – This is believing in all the names and attributes of Allah as mentioned in the Qur’an and authentic hadith. We must believe that they are unique to Him, without negating them, stripping them of any meaning, or distorting their meaning by interpreting them figuritavely. The more we know about Allah the more we love Him and turn to Him, understanding that He alone had power over all things.
Do we really know Allah (swt)? Could we list what has been revealed of His names and attributes? Let’s try and draw closer to Allah by reading about His names and attributes and calling on Him (swt) by them.
Continuing with the Hadith of Jibreel, which you can find posted in full below, we find that the Prophet Muhammad (s) listed belief in Allah’s Angels as one of the parts ofImaan.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“All the praises be to Allah, the Only Creator of the heavens and the earth, Who made the angels messengers with wings – two, three and four. He increases in creation what He wills. Verily, Allah is Able to do all things.” (Surah Faatir:1)
SubhanAllah the Angels, such an extraordinary creation that is rarely seen by man. Allah (swt) created them from light, but they do have forms and bodies. They can also metamorphisise, as we have seen at the beginning of this hadith, when the angel Jibreel came to the Prophet (s) in the form of a man. The Prophet (s) also saw Jibreel in other forms, including the original angelic form he was created in. Jibreel was so magnificent that his form filled the space between the horizon and the sky and he had 600 wings. SubhanAllah. This shows what a magnificent creation the Angels are.
We know of other Angels by name as they were mentioned in the Qur’an andSunnah. Mikaaeel is responsible for the rain and vegetation and Israafeel is responsible for blowing the trumpet that will resurrect the bodies on the Day of Judgement. The tradition says that his lips are already pursed and he is just waiting for the signal to blow. That’s how close the Day of Judgement is subhanAllah.
There is Malik, the Keeper of Hell and Ridwan the Keeper of Paradise. And there are Angels that are appointed specifically for you. They are with you right now as you read this. Allah (swt) says:
“But verily over you (are appointed angels in charge of mankind) to watch over you, honourable (in Allah’s sight), writing down (your deeds): they know all that you do.” (Surah Al-Infitaar:10-12)
“For each (person), there are angels in succession, before and behind him. They guard him by the Command of Allah.” (Surah Ar-Ra’d:11)
This means that there are four Angels surrounding you, one in front, one behind, one on the right recording your good deeds and one on the left recording your bad deeds.
How busy have the Angels with you been today?
The second part of Imaan mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad (s) in the Hadith of Jibreel (which you can find in full posted below), is belief in Allah’s books.
Allah’s books are the revelations that were sent down to His (swt) messengers as a mercy and guidance to mankind. These include the Qur’an revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (s), the Taurah revealed to the Prophet Moses (s), the Injeel revealed to the Prophet Jesus (s) and the Zaboor revealed to the Prophet David (s). There is also reference in the Qur’an to the “pages” of Abraham and Moses.
It should be remembered though that while the books that the Jews and Christians possess today, which they call the Torah, Gospel and Psalms, may contain some of the original revelations, there is no question that they have been distorted and no longer exist in their original form. They have been mixed with commentaries, historical narrative, biographies of the prophets and their apostles and inferences from religious scholars. Hence, to believe in the Taurah of Moses (s) for example does not mean that a Muslim believes in what is contained in the five books of the Old Testament. Rather it is to believe the Taurah was originally revealed to Moses (s) although it no longer remains on earth in its original form.
All of the previous revelations have been abrogated by the Qur’an. Previous scriptures were revealed for particular groups of people at particular points in time, but the Qur’an is Allah’s final revelation and it is for all of mankind. In this respect, as Muslims we must believe in all that it contains. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“And to you We have revealed the Scripture in truth, confirming whatever Scripture that came before it. So judge among them according to what Allah has revealed.” (Surah al-Maaidah:48)
The Qur’an in the uncreated speech of Allah, and it remains recorded in the original form in which it was revealed more than 1400 years ago. Since the Qur’an is meant to be a guidance for all mankind until the Day of Judgement, Allah has promised to protect it from any changes, mistakes or tampering. Allah says:
“Verily, it is We who have sent down the Reminder [the Qur’an] and surely We will guard it [from corruption].” (Surah al-Hijr:9)
When I first learnt about Islam this was one of the facts that was most amazing to me – a book that remain unchanged for 1400 years and claimed to the word of God – I wanted to find out what was in that book! The idea that you could pick up the word of God and read it seemed both astonishing and intiguing to me. When I began to read I realised very quickly that these words were too amazing to have been created by an illiterate sheperd in the desert of Arabia. These words came from another place and they spoke directly to my heart.
What place does the book of Allah hold in our lives today? Do we feel it to be personal to us, our very own book of guidance, written by the One who knows us best? Or does it get dusty on the top shelf, to be recited during Ramadan without reading the translation? How can this book be our source of guidance if we don’t read it regularily with understanding? Let’s make time to discover what wonder the glorious Qur’an holds, and allow the space to feel the words of Allah nourishing out hearts.
The next article of faith mentioned by the Prophet (s) in the Hadith Jibreel (posted in full below) is belief in His (swt) messengers.
A messenger is a human who was chosen by Allah (swt) to receive revelation from Him, and who was commanded to pass that revelation on to the people. A person cannot, by himself, through spiritual exercises or otherwise, reach the level of being a messenger or prophet. It is Allah alone Who choses His messengers and He (swt) knows best whom to choose.
Adam (s) was the first Prophet but he was not a messenger because he did not convey revelation to his people. The first messenger was Noah (s). There are a total of 25 prophets and messengers mentioned in the Qur’an. They are Adam, Noah, Idris, Salih, Abraham, Hud, Lot, Jonah, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Shu’ayb, Moses, Aaron, Elysha, Dhul Kfli, David, Zakariyya, Solomon, Elyas, John, Jesus and Muhammad – may Allah’s peace and blessings be on them all.
Every group of people were sent messengers, and these messengers came with the same fundamental teaching, as Allah (s) says in the Qur’an:
“And verily, We have sent among every nation a Messenger proclaiming, ‘Worship Allah [alone] and avoid all false deities’” (Surah Al-Nahl:36)
This is one aspect that distinguishes Muslims from earlier people – we must believe in all the prophets and messengers and the truth of what they sent.
It is important to understand that the messengers were human being and did not possess divine attributes of any kind. They ate, drank, walked in the market place, suffered illness and death. The had no knowledge of the unseen except for what Allah (swt) had bestowed upon them. They were the most knowledgeable of Allah (swt) and the best worshippers and servants of Allah. The messengers also had perfect characters and were also prevented from lying, falling into major sins, judging by their own desires or adding or diminshing anything from the religion. Allah (swt) also gave the messengers miracles as clear proofs to support the truth of their message to mankind.
Allah’s final messenger, Muhammad (s) is the seal of the Prophets, and the last to bring revelation to mankind. As Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messeneger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets” (Surah Al-Ahzaab:40)
Therefore, we must put our love for the messenger and what he guides us to, above our love for our selves, our parents and our offspring. One of the companions of the Prophet (s) Anas (r) reported that the Prophet (s) said:
“None of you is a true believer unless I become more dear to him that his own father, his son and all the people.” (recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
Take a moment to reflect on whether the Prophet Muhammad (s) and the example he set is more important to you than your own desires or the opinions of your friends and family.
“the Last Day”
Belief in ‘the Last Day’ was the next article of faith mentioned by the Prophet (s) in the Hadith of Jibreel, posted in full below. It is named ‘the Last Day’ because there will be no new day after it. It is also known as ‘The Day of Resurrection’, ‘The Reality’, ‘The Overwhelming’, ‘The Event’ and ‘The Day of Judgement’. This is the both the greatest and the gravest day that mankind shall ever pass through. It will mark a new beginning for each and every soul. One that may be eternal bliss or eternal suffering.
It is recorded in a hadith in Sahih Muslim, that before the Day of Judgement and the destruction of the earth, Allah (swt) will send a wind softer than silk, coming from Yemen, that will take the souls of every indiviual who has even the slightest amount of faith in his heart. The traumatic events of the ending of the earth will be experienced only by the worst of people, who had no faith in their hearts whatsoever. The sun will rise from the West, and people will declare their faith but it will be of no avail to them. Then the Horn shall be blown and all on the earth will die.
After a period of fourty – hours, days or years is not known – a second Horn will be blown and the people will be resurrected. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“And the Trumpet will be blown [the second blowing] and, behold, from the graves they will come out quickly to their Lord. They will say, ‘Woe to us! Who raised us up from our place of sleep?’ [It will be said to them,] ‘This is what the Most Beneficient [Allah] has promised, and the Messengers spoke the truth.” (Surah Ya-Seen:51-52)
The people will be resurrected in the body they lived in on this earth, and they shall be naked, barefoot and uncircumcised. Allah (swt) will then command the angels to drive all of humanity to a predetermined place where they will be gathered to await their judgements. Allah’s Messenger (s) said of this time:
“On the Day of Resurrection, the sun would draw so close to the people that there would be left only the distance of one mile. The people would be submerged in perspiration according to their deeds, some up to their knees, some up to their waist and some would have the bridle of perspiration and, while saying this, the Prophet then pointed his hand towards his mouth.” (Recorded in Muslim)
Some people, however will be protected from the sun in the shade of Allah (swt). Abu Hurayrah (r) reported that the Messenger of Allah (s) said:
“Allah will give to shade to seven (types of people) on the Day when there is no shade but His: (These seven types are) 1) A just ruler; 2) A youth who has been brought up in the worship of Allah; 3) One whose heart is attached to the mosques [prays prayer in congregation]; 4) Two people who love each other only for Allah’s sake and they meet and part in Allah’s cause; 5) One who refuses the call of a charming woman of noble birth for illicit intercourse with her and says: I am afraid of Allah; 6) One who gives charitable gifts so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given [nobody knows what he has given in charity]; 7) One who remembers Allah in seclusion and his eyes are then flooded with tears.” (Recorded in Bukhari)
Then will come the presentation and reckoning of deeds. Each person will be presented with a record of their deeds in their hands and will read them. If they are of those people to be saved they will receive their record in their right hand and Allah (swt) will forgive their sins and allow them to enter Paradise. As for those whose transgressions were many, they will recieve their records from behind their backs and they will brought to account and questioned for every great and small action. The Prophet (s) has said, as is recorded in Sahih Bukhari, that those who are questioned about their accounts will be punished.
It is recorded in a hadith in Sahih Muslim, that the believers will gather to drink from The Fount of the Messenger of Allah (s) after he (s) has first drunk from it himself, but those who have committed major sins or made innovations in the religion will be barred from drinking from it. This Fount is so large that it would take a month’s journey to cross it. It is filled with water from the river Kawthar in Paradise which is whiter than milk, colder than ice, sweeter than honey and has a scent more pleasant than musk. Whoever drinks from it will never feel thirst again.
Allah (swt) and His Messenger (s) have told us that people’s good and bad deeds will be weighed in a scale on the Day of Judgement, as a demonstration of the Justice of Allah (swt). This aspect is mentioned in numerous verses in the Qur’an including:
“And We shall set up the balances of justice on the Day of Resurrection, then none will be dealt with unjustly in anything. And if there be the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it. And sufficient are We as those who reckon.” (Surah al-Anbiyaa:47)
Many Ahaadeeth tell us that the weighing takes place on a real scale, with two plates, and that good deeds will be weighed on one side and evil deeds on the other. The weighing takes place after the reckoning, and illustrates the value of the deeds performed and decides their commensurate recompense. It is important to note that the reward that Allah (swt) gives to His servants is an act of His mercy, however His (swt) punishment is out of His justice and He does not punish anyone more than he deserves.
All the people will then pass over a bridge known as as-Sirat, set across the Hellfire. The ease with which people will cross this bridge will depend on their deeds in this life. Some will pass like meteorites, others like the wind, or as fast as the blink of an eye, others will pass as though wading through sand, and some will take one step, and stumble, and then fall into the Fire.
Once the believers have passed over the Hellfire, they will be held on a small bridge between it and Paradise. There will be a final settling of personal accounts and retaliation for injustices between the believers for what passed between them in this life. Then they will be allowed to enter Paradise.
SubhanAllah… the magnitude of it… it quickens the heart… brings a lump to the throat… and tears to the eyes. May Allah save us from the Hellfire and make us of those who enter His Paradise. Ameen.
“…and to believe in the divine decree (al-Qadar), [both] the good and the evil thereof”
The belief in divine decree, or al-Qadar, both the good and the evil thereof, is the final article of faith mentioned by the Prophet (s) in the Hadith of Jibreel, posted in full below.
The doctrine of al-Qadar is based on the belief in Allah’s (swt) Attributes and beautiful Names: Knowledge, Ability and Will. Allah (swt) says:
“He is the All-Knower [Al-Alim] of everything“(Surah Al-Baqarah:29)
“And He is Able to do all things” (Surah Al-Hadeed:2)
“He does what He intends (or Wills).” (Surah Al-Buruj:16)
Allah (swt) has knowledge of everything, and everything happens according to His (swt) decree and Will. He (swt) knows about the universals and particulars of all His (swt) different types of creation. This is true for what is sometimes referred to as the actions of Allah – producing rain, giving life and so forth – as well as the actions of the human beings.
He knows what our actions will be before we perform them. Indeed we can only perform them by His Will, but this does not negate our free will to act. This can be a difficult concept to grasp. A similitude is the example of a teacher, who knows the ability of a student. He can predict before a test what the outcome will be, without influencing the student freely carrying out the test. This concept of the ‘free will’ of the human being is central to our test of the life on this earth. Our choosing freely to believe in Allah (swt) and worship and obey Him (swt), is what raises us in our ranks above the rest of creation.
It is also important to understand that Allah (swt) knew everything about the creation, before it came into existence. Allah (swt) says in one of the most beautiful verses in the Qur’an:
“And with Him are the keys of the Unseen. None knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is on the earth and in the sea; Not a leaf falls, but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, [green or withered], but is written in a Clear Record.” (Surah al-Anaam:59)
We can see here the reference to a ‘Clear Record’. We should understand that not only did Allah (swt) have foreknowledge of the creation, He (swt) also recorded this information in the Preserved Tablet (al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh). Allah (swt) says:
“No calamity occurs on the earth or among yourselves but it is inscribed in the Book [of Decrees] before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah. In order that you may not be sad over matters that you fail to achieve, nor rejoice because of that which has been given to you.” (Surah al-Hadeed:22)
It is here that we see the beauty of belief in al-Qadar and how it liberates the believer. If we experience a calamity, or trial, we should know that it was already written that it would happen and there was nothing we could have done to avoid it. There should be no bitterness or regrets because everything that comes to us from Allah (swt) is for the best. The test is how we deal with what comes. Every event can be seen as a blessing for the believer. If it is good, then they are grateful to Allah (swt) and are rewarded for that, and if it is a trial, then they are patient and they are rewarded for that also. The Prophet (s) said:
“Strange are the ways of a believer for there is good in every affair of his. This is not the case of anyone except a believer. If he has an occasion to feel delight, he thanks (Allah), and there is a good for him in it. If he gets into trouble and shown resignation (and endures it patiently), there is a good for him in it.” (Recorded in Muslim)
This part of the Hadith also mentions the ‘good and the evil thereof’ of al-Qadar. It is important to note that what is ‘evil’ is with respect to the human beings and not with respect to Allah (swt). ‘Evil’ results from the human’s act of ignorance, wrong, oppression or sin. However, it is allowed and brought into being by Allah (swt). In reality, there is wisdom and good in everything that occurs in Allah’s (swt) creation. Allah (swt) says:
“Evil has appeared on the land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned, that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return [by repenting].” (Surah al-Room:41)
Evil occurs, but the ultimate goal of it is good – that Allah (swt) may make people taste a part of that which they have done in order that they may return to Him repenting. Allah’s (swt) wisdom and nature precludes the existence of acts which are purely evil, without having any benefit or positive results related to them.
When a person realises that all things are under the control and decree of Allah, they should be freed from any associating of partners with Allah (shirk). There is only One Creator and Master of this creation, and nothing occurs except with His permission. This should make us realise that there is no use in turning to anyone except Allah (swt) when we are in need of something.
A correct belief in al-Qadar also shows us the trivialities of our daily worries – money, food, clothes, houses, cars etc. What will come to us is already written, indeed it was written before we were even created. We should therefore be careful not to let these things distract us from matters of true importance – like the prayer, seeking knowledge of His (swt) Deen and striving to put it into practice.
“He said, ‘Tell me about al-Ihsaan (goodness).’”
After asking about Islam and Imaan, the angel Jibreel asked the Prophet Muhammad (s) to tell him about Ihsaan. Ihsaan is mentioned in a number of places in the Qur’an including:
“On those who believe and do righteous good deeds, there is no sin for what they ate [in the past], if they fear Allah and believe and do righteous deeds, and again fear Allah and believe, and once again fear Allah and did good deeds with ihsaan (perfection). And Allah loves the good-doers (muhsineen).” (Surah al-Maaidah:93)
Ihsaan is a very comprehensive term that can be translated as ‘perfection’ or ‘goodness’, and implies doing something well, or in the best way, and perfecting something. It also incorporates in its meaning all types of goodness, including using one’s wealth, knowledge, position or physical capacities for the benefit of others.
If one gives part of one’s wealth in charity, this is Ihsaan with respect to wealth. If one spreads their knowledge and never misses an opportunity to guide others, this is Ihsaanwith respect to knowledge. If one uses one’s position and influence to help those that are deserving and in need of help, this is also considered Ihsaan. If you help someone to get into their car or carry something for them, this is Ihsaan with respect to the body. So we can see that Ihsaan incorporates using all our faculties in the best possible way for the best possible purpose.
In the Hadith of Jibreel, the focus is not on what Ihsaan is, but rather on the correct motivation for it. That is, the awareness that Allah (swt) is watching one’s actions, and seeking to please Him (swt), as we shall see when we look at the next part of the hadith. It is only this type of awareness that will bring about the requisite purity of intention, to ensure that an act is truly for the sake of Allah (swt) alone.
The result of a deeper understanding of Ihsaan is that we will be concerned about the quality of our deeds, and not simply their quantity or outward execution.
Reflect on the deeds that your did today and ask yourself how many of them did you perform with the conscious intention of pleasing Allah (alone) and how many of them did you perform to the very best of your ability?
“He [the Prophet] answered, “It is that you worship Allah as if you see Him. And even though you do not see Him, [you know] He sees you.”
When the angel Jibreel asked the Prophet Muhammad (s) to tell him about Ihsaan, in the Hadith of Jibreel posted in full below, the Prophet (s) replied by explaining this particular aspect of Ihsaan, which is to worship Allah (swt) as if you see Him (swt), or if you can not do that, to at least be aware that He (swt) sees you.
Firstly it is important to note that ‘worship’ as mentioned in this part of the hadith, is not just referring to the prayer. Rather it relates to all the acts that a person performs, both inward and outward, which should all be carried out with complete servitude to Allah (swt).
Some of the scholars, including ibn Rajab and ibn Hajar, are of the opinion that this hadith describes two different levels of awareness at which the believer may be, one being loftier than the other.
The loftier position is known as al-mushaahadah or ‘personal witnessing’, which comprises of a very strong feeling in the heart, where the realisation of Allah’s presence, by His (swt) knowledge and mercy, is so great that a person becomes completely attuned to the act of worship that they are performing. They therefore crave worship and delight in performing it. The effect on the person’s worship is that they would perform every act of obedience in the best possible way, as we can see from the following example recorded in Bukhari:
“Allah has some angels who look for those who celebrate the Praises of Allah on the roads and paths. And when they find some people celebrating the praises of Allah, they call each other, saying, ‘Come to the object of your pursuit.’ The angels then encircle them with their wings up to the sky of the world. Then their Lords asks them, although He is most knowledgeable of them, ‘What do My slaves do?’ The angels reply, ‘They say, subhaanallaah, allaahu akbar and al-hamdullilah.’ Allah then says, ‘Did they see Me?’ The angels reply, ‘No, by Allah, they didn’t see You.’ Allah says, ‘How would it have been if they saw Me?’ The angels reply, ‘If they saw You, they would worship You more devoutly, and celebrate Your Glory more deeply, and more often declare Your freedom from any resemblance to anything…”
The person who reaches this higher level of Ihsaan will be full of pleasure when being alone with his Lord and when he remembers Allah (swt). This is the level that the Prophet (s) himself reached, as we can see from his (s) statement,
“The sweetness of my eye has been made the prayer.” (Recorded in al-Nasaai)
If a person is not able to reach this level of Ihsaan, they are positioned on the next level which is al-muraaqabah ‘the level of the one who is being observed and watched’, This level of Ihsaan is still beneficial as the awareness that Allah (swt) is watching every act that a person performs can drive a Muslim to perfect and excel in their acts of worship. Perfecting and excelling in acts of worship can lead a person to the higher level of Ihsaan, InshaAllah.
The presence of either level of Ihsaan places a believer far ahead of those who believe in Allah and theoretically know that He (swt) sees all things, but do not allow this knowledge to have any real effect on their worship. A person who just prays mechanically without really allowing contemplation of Allah to reach their hearts, is not deserving of the title ‘Muhsin’, or one who has the quality of Ihsaan. And as we learnt in the last post,
“Allah loves the muhsineen” (Surah al-Maaidah:93)
The muhsin will receive a special reward for this attitude to worship, as Allah (swt) has stated in the Qur’an:
“For those who have done good is the best and even more.” (Surah Yunus:26)
It is recorded in Sahih Muslim that the Prophet (s) explained ‘even more’ in this verse to mean seeing Allah in the Hereafter. Hence the one who worships Allah (swt) as if they are seeing Him (swt) in this life, will be rewarded with seeing Him (swt) in the Hereafter.
With eternity in Paradise and seeing Allah (swt) in the Hereafter as the rewards on offer, isn’t it time we made a conscious effort to draw closer to Allah and to strive to perfect our acts of worship? Let’s start with the dua that Prophet (s) used to make after each prayer,
“O Allah help me to remember You, and to thank You, and to perfect my worship for You.”
“He [Angel Jibreel] said, ‘Tell me about [the time of] the Hour.’ He [the Prophet (s)] answered, ‘The one being asked does not know more than the one asking.’”
After asking about Islam, Imaan and Ihsaan, the Angel Jibreel asked the Prophet Muhammad (s) about the Hour and its signs, in the hadith of Jibreel posted in full below. In other narrations of this hadith it is noted that the Prophet (s) lowered his head when asked about the time of the Hour and did not respond. The Angel Jibreel then asked the question three times before the Messenger (s) finally responded.
The Prophet’s (s) response that the one being asked did not know more than the one asking, was not meant to imply that the two of them had equal knowledge of something concerning the occurence of the Last Day. Remember that at this time the Prophet (s) did not yet know that it was Angel Jibreel who was asking the question. Rather, it was meant to imply that this knowledge is something that Allah kept to Himself (swt) and has not conveyed to anyone.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“Verily, Allah, with Him [alone], is the knowledge of the Hour. He [alone] sends down the rain, and knows that which is in the wombs. No person knows what he will earn tomorrow, and no person knows in what land he will die. Verily, Allah is All-Knower, All-Aware.” (Surah Luqmaan:34)
The important lesson here for us is that we should focus more on the occurence of our own individual Hour, that is our death, than on the occurence of the final Hour. Our Hour will definitely come, our deeds will cease and there will be only the Reckoning. This should be our main concern.
The Prophet (s) was once asked by a bedouin about the time of the Hour and the Prophet (s) pointed to the youngest boy among them and said,
“If this [boy] should live, he will not become old and decrepit until your Hour has already been established for you.” (Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
Let’s take a moment to reflect on how we spend our lives. Is it in preparation for this coming of our own Hour? We live with the naive assumption that we will reach old age, that we still have much of our lives left to live, but this may not be true, Allah (swt) knows best. How many things with respect to your Deen are you putting off until ‘later’? If the angel of death came to you tonight, bringing with him the coming of your Hour, would you be ready?
“He [the Angel Jibreel] said, ‘Tell me about its [the Hour’s] signs.’”
No one can know when the Day of Judgement will occur. Allah (swt) has, however taught His messengers (s) some of the signs that will show people that the Hour is approaching. Reflecting upon these signs, and seeing evidence of them occurring, can help us to reflect on the approach of the Day of Judgement, and remind us that our time is limited. This type of reflection can in turn have a direct impact on our level of Ihsaan.
The signs of the Hour can be divided into two types. First, there are those signs that occur as part of the changes of everyday life. The examples mentioned in this hadith are of this type. Second, there are those signs that deal with supernatural events that will occur just before the Hour. There are many other hadith that deal with the signs in this category.
It is important to remember that it is difficult to explain many of the signs of the Hour that the Messeneger of Allah (s) talked about with any certainty, and this may not be possible until the time when the people actually live through them. But I will briefly outline some of the scholarly opinions of the explanation of the two signs mentioned in this hadith, as summarised by Jamal al-Din Zarabozo in his commentary of the Forty Hadith of Imam Al-Nawawi.
“He [the Prophet (s)] answered, ‘The slave-girl shall give birth to her master. ‘”
Opinion 1: Islam will be widespread and will dominate the lands of the disbelievers and take their inhabitants as slaves. Then a man will have a child through his slave-girl and that child will be like her master because she is the daughter of her master. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars in Islam.
Opinion 2: The slave-girls who have given birth to their owners children will be sold by their owners. There will be so much selling of women that a woman’s son will later buy her and not realise it is his mother. The one she gave birth to will become her master.
Opinion 3: A woman gives birth to a child that is the result of illegal sexual intercourse and the mother is sold as a slave until she is bought by her own child.
Opinion 4: Children will disobey their mothers, and the child will end up treating his own mother like a slave girl, showing her disdain. In this case ‘her master’ is figurative and it is evidence of the norms of society changing so much that things are no longer as they should be. This view is the most general in application.
And Allah knows best.
“And you will see the barefooted, scantily-clothed, destitute shepherds competing in constructing lofty buildings.’”
This sign is a further illustration that the norms of society will be turned upside down near the approach of the Hour. Barefooted shepherds will be in control of wealth and their only concern will be boasting about the construction of tall buildings. In general, this sign means that those not qualified to be in charge, will be running the affairs, and as a result they will squander wealth with extravagance. The Prophet (s) said in a hadith recorded in Bukhari:
“When the affairs are in the hands of those who are not qualified for it, then expect the Hour.”
Reflecting upon the interpretation of these signs as explained here, you could be forgiven for thinking that we may in fact be witnessing some of the signs of the Hour approaching. Allah knows best.
But what is important, is that we use this knowledge of the certainty of the approach of the Hour to strengthen our practice of the Deen, to raise our level of Ihsaan, and to remind ourselves that our time on this earth is limited. Another day has passed and what have we done?
“Then he [the Angel Jibreel] went away. I stayed for a long time. Then he [the Prophet (s)] said, ‘O Umar, do you know who the questioner was?’ I said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He (s) said, ‘It was [the Angel] Gabriel who came to teach you about your religion [Deen].’”
We come now to the last part of the Hadith of Jibreel, which you will find posted in fullhere. After having asked the Messenger of Allah (s) to explain the meaning of Islam,Imaan, Ihsaan and some of the signs of the Hour [the Last Day], the Angel Jibreel then left the gathering. The people, including the Prophet (s), were still unaware at that time that it was the Angel Jibreel who had been asking the questions, because he had come to them in the form of a man. Shortly afterwards, the Prophet (s) told those people who were still sitting with him (s) that it had been revealed to him (s) that it was the Angel Jibreel who had come to them, in order to teach them about their deen or religion.
What we can see from this example is that the religion of Islam is actually the religion of Allah (swt). Allah (swt) in His mercy provided us with two sources of guidance: the Qur’an the revelation of Allah’s word, and the Sunnah the life example of his Prophet Muhammad (s). If anybody wants to learn about the religion of Allah (swt), they can learn about it directly from these two sources. It is in Allah’s infinite wisdom that He (swt) sent the Angel Jibreel to ask these questions about such important topics, so that the answers could be clarified to those people sitting with the Prophet (s). In doing so, it also ensured that these topics would be clarified to us, generations later, who read this hadith as it was recorded, and can learn from it so succinctly about the important aspects of our religion, SubhaAllah.
The Prophet (s) described what the Angel Jibreel taught as being the deen, or religion, of Islam. This is clearly then comprised of three aspects – Islam, Imaan and Ihsaan.
Ihsaan, which can be translated as perfection or goodness, is the striving that comes fromworshipping Allah (swt) as if you see Him (swt), or if you can not do that, then at least being aware that He (swt) sees you. The result of this is that we become concerned about the quality of our deeds, and not simply their quantity or outward execution.
In order to perfect our worship of Allah (swt) we need to deepen our understanding and practice of these important topics. Further the signs of the Hour, remind us not only of the coming the Day of Judgement, but also the coming of our own Hour, that is our death. We need to ask ourselves what we are doing to make ourselves ready for this momentous event. Are we striving to be of those who will be in the highest station of the Paradise, or are putting things off until tomorrow, when tomorrow may never come?
Extracted from Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi (Vol 1) by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo Pages 179-332