Hadith 23: Purification is Half of Faith

On the authority of Abu Maalik al-Haarith ibn Aasim al-Ashari, (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ‘Purification is half of the faith. The phrase al-hamdullilah (‘All praises be to Allah’) fills the scale. The phrases sub-haanallaah (‘High is Allah above every imperfection and need; He is pure and perfect’) and al-hamdullilah (‘All praise be to Allah’) fill together – or each fill – what is between the heavens and earth. Prayer is a light. Charity is a proof. Patience is a brightness. The Qur’an is either an argument for you or against you. And everyone goes out in the morning and sells himself either freeing or destroying himself.” (Recorded in Muslim)

The Narrator

Al-Haarith ibn Aasim al-Ashari (r) was born in Yemen. He came in the delegation of the Ashari tribe that came to visit the Prophet (s).  He lived in greater Syria and died there in 18 A.H. Twenty-seven hadith have been recorded on his authority.

“Purification is half of the faith.”

There is a great deal of difference of opinion amongst the scholars as to what the Prophet (s) actually meant by this statement. I will outline here briefly the different opinions as they all have important reminders to offer us InshaAllah.

1) This means that the reward for purification is up to half the reward for faith. In other words, the reward for cleanliness and purification is so great that it could reach a level in reward equal to half of that for having faith.

2) Faith wipes away all of the previous sins that were committed before it. Similarly abolution or wudhu wipes away previous minor sins. Abolution is not sound without faith, therefore it is dependent upon it as its ‘other half’.

3) The meaning of imaan or faith in this phrase is the prayer. Since purification is a condition for prayer it is like half of the prayer.

4) Faith is made up of affirmation of the heart and outward submission in deeds. These are the two parts of faith. Purity, or taharah, implies the prayer which is the greatest form of outward submission. That is why it is referred to as half of faith.

5) To have pure faith one must be free from certain things such as associating partners with Allah (swt). Hence the purification refered to here is the purification of belief.

6) The purification refered to in this hadith is the ritual abolution performed with water. Some scholars are of the opinion that this type of purification is half of faith because it purifies the outside of the body, whilst the other half of faith is to purify the inside, that is, one’s beliefs.

7) Other scholars say that it is purification of the heart that is refered to in this hadith.

And Allah knows best.

“The phrase al-hamdulillah (‘All praises be to Allah’) fills the scale.”

The Prophet (s) advised us that saying al-hamdulillah, or ‘All praises be to Allah’, fills the scale. Al-hamdulillah is an expression of both praise and gratitude to Allah (swt). It is something that can only be understood or realised when one thinks of the bounties that Allah (swt) has bestowed on us. This includes the bounty of knowing Allah (swt) and knowing that He (swt) should be thanked. It also comes about as a result of reflecting on Allah (swt) and His attributes of perfection. It is important to note that al-hamdulillahmust be uttered with due respect and reverence to its meaning in order to receive this high reward.

The Prophet (s) then went on to describe the reward for this realisation and utterance ofal-hamdulillah, by saying that it ’fills the scale’. Belief in the Scale or Balance that we will see on the Day of Judgement, forms part of a Muslim’s complete belief. 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. Allah (swt) will give mass to our deeds before they are weighed. Therefore it can be understood that the physical manifestation that Allah (swt) will give to the sincere utterance of the statemental-hamdulillah, will fill the scale of good deeds on the Day of Judgement.

Fill the scale! SubhanAllah the mercy of Allah (swt). He (swt) provides us with the ability to realise His (swt) blessings and thank Him (swt) for them. Then He (swt) rewards us for that with the most valuable thing we could imagine, weight in our scale of good deeds, which could in turn allow us entry into Jennah by the mercy of Allah (swt). So simple, and yet the magnitude of it is so large.

Busy your lips with dhikr of Allah, every spare moment you have: waking up; washing the dishes; walking, waiting in a queue, after prayer, before sleep, between mouthfuls of you meal – al-hamdulillah – every spare moment you have. Keep your tongue wet with the sincere dhikr of Allah (swt) and reap this most magnificent of rewards.

“The phrases sub-haanallaah (‘High is Allah above every imperfection and need; He is pure and perfect’) and al-hamdullilah (‘All praise be to Allah’) fill together – or each fill – what is between the heavens and earth.”

Sub-haanallaah – this beautiful phrase encapsulates the complete perfection of Allah (swt). He (swt) is pure and He (swt) is perfect. He (swt) is free from any blemish or shortcoming or defect whatsoever. This perfection refers to His (swt) names and attributes, His (swt) deeds, His (swt) commands and His creation.

The narrator of this hadith could not recall if each of the two statements – sub-haanallah and al-hamdulillah – fills what is between the heavens and the earth, or if the two of them said together do so. In either case, this illustrates the importance of these two phrases. When we remember that the stars are billions of miles away from the earth, this shows us the magnitude of the reward for these statements uttered with sincerity.

This hadith shows us the importance of dhikr of Allah and its great reward. Ibn al-Qayyim called dhikr the food of the hearts, the weapon by which one fights, the cure for the diseases and the connection between the servant and his Lord. The Messenger of Allah (s) described the importance of dhikr when he (s) said:

“Shall I inform you of the best of your deeds, the one that raises you most in rank, most purifying to your Lord, which is better for you than giving gold and silver and better for you than meeting your enemy and striking their necks and them striking your necks?” They said, “Certainly, [tell us].” He said, “It is the remembrance of Allah, the Exalted.”(Recorded in Ahmad)

Dhikr increases one’s love for Allah (swt) which is the essence of the religion of Islam. The more we remember Allah (swt) and His names and attributes and the blessings He (swt) has bestowed on us, the more we will love Allah (swt). Dhikr can also lead one to increased levels of Ihsaan, where one realises that Allah (swt) is watching them all the time and remembers His (swt) presence. We should therefore try to increase our remembrance of Allah (swt) at all times.

The Prophet (s), further illustrated the importance of the concept of sub-haanallah in another hadith. He (s) said:

“There are two statements that are light on the tongue but heavy in the scale and beloved to the Most Merciful [Allah]: Subhaanallaahi-i-Adheem (‘High is Allah above any imperfection or want, the Great, from every imperfection’) and Subhaanallaahi wa bihamdihi (‘Far above is Allah from every imperfection and I glorify His praises’).”(Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Dhikr of Allah (swt) is light on the tongue but heavy on the scale, let’s sieze every moment we can to remember Allah (swt) and praise Him (swt).

“Prayer is a light.”

We should note firstly that there are three different ways of understanding an expression of this nature in Arabic. The first way is to understand it as a way of expressing a likeness between two things, so prayer is not actually a light but very similar to it. The second is that prayer is full of light and the third is that it gives light. All of these are possible meanings from the way this statement ‘Prayer is a light’ is expressed here.

As a result, the scholars have differed in their interpretations of this statement. Some have said that the meaning of ‘light’ in this statement is spiritual and not physical. Prayer is therefore like a guiding light along the Straight Path that keeps one away from sins and transgression. This interpretation is supported by the Quranic ayah:

“Verily, the prayer prevents one from great sins and wicked deeds.” (Surah al-Ankaboot:45)

A second interpretation is that ‘light’ is meant here in a physical sense. On the Day of Judgment, the prayers will be transformed into a physical light for the one who performed them. Allah (swt) tells us in the Qu’ran:

“On the day you shall see the believing men and the believing women: their light running forward before them and by their right hands.” (Surah al-Hadeed:12)

A third interpretation is that ‘light’ means a physical light, but in this life rather than in the Hereafter. The faces or physical beings of people who pray will have a light about them. This interpretation is based on the Quranic ayah:

“Their mark [of faith] is on their faces from the traces of prostration (during their prayers)” (Surah al-Fath:29)

The Prophet Muhammad (s) stated that the prayer is a ‘light’, but he (s) did not confine this to any particular type of light, he (s) left the statement open. Hence it is possible that all three of these interpretations of the meaning for this statement are correct. Prayer may be understood to incorporate both physical and spiritual light, in this life and in the Hereafter. This demonstrates the importance and profound nature of the prayer and its virtues. Illuminating the Path to Paradise.

“Charity is a proof.”

‘Charity’ or sadaqah, is the giving of one’s wealth to others for the sake of Allah (swt). It includes giving to the poor and needy as well as other types of charity such as the building of mosques. In the Qur’an there are many verses that relate true faith and spending together. In fact Allah (swt) says in the beginning of the Qur’an:

“This is the Book, whereof there is no doubt, a guidance for those who fear Allah; those who believe in the Unseen, establish the prayers and spend out of that which We have provided for them” (Surah al-Baqarah:2-3)

In this part of the hadith the Prophet (s) described charity as a burhaan, which literally means ‘rays that are emitted by the sun’. Part of their significance is that they clearly point to the existence fo their source, the sun. That is why a ‘proof’ or definitive argument is called a burhaan, it points to the truth of what it is being used to prove.

So why has the Prophet (s) called charity a ‘proof’? One explanation for this is that the Prophet (s) was indicating that sadaqah is a sign or proof of one’s belief in Allah (swt). Wealth is something beloved to the human being, the only way that they would part with it is for something that is more beloved to them, in this case, the pleasure Allah (swt).

Another explanation is that a person’s sadaqah will be proof for them on the Day of Judgement. We will be asked about our wealth and how we used it, and at this time what we gave in sadaqah will have more value to us than all the wealth that was not spent for the sake of Allah (swt). The Prophet (s) said:

“A person’s foot will not move of the Day of Resurrection until he is asked about his life and how he spent it, about his knowledge and how he acted upon it, about his wealth and how he earned it and spent it, and about his body and how he used it.” (Recorded in al-Tirmidhi)

We should remember that spending in charity for the sake of Allah (swt) will not decrease our wealth. Allah (swt) promises to replace it. If one’s faith is weak they will only see wealth leaving them, but those who have faith in Allah (swt) have hope in the higher reward and trust in the words of Allah (swt):

“Say: Truly my Lord enlarges the provision for whom He wills of His slaves, and [also] restricts it for him. And whatsoever you spend of anything [for Allah’s cause], He will replace it. And He is the best of Providers” (Surah Saba:39)

“Patience is a brightness.”

The Prophet (s) described patience as a dhiyaa which is an intense source of light. Allah (swt) has used this word in the Qur’an to describe the sun. Patience is like a bright shining splendor that can that can assist a person in their time of need.

Patience is not always easy. By definition it involves restraining oneself and controlling one’s actions. But even if things appear very difficult, with patience, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This light and guidance come from Allah (swt), because He is with those who are patient. Allah (swt) says:

“Have patience. Verily, Allah is with those who are patient.” (Surah al-Anfaal)

Remembrance of Allah (swt) can help us to overcome any trials or tribulations that we face with patience, knowing that there will be a higher reward. When we remember Allah (swt) our hearts find comfort and satisfaction and our we our reminded of our true purpose in life. This can be a light for us showing us the Straight Path back to Allah (swt).

It often happens that when people are faced with a trial, they forget Allah (swt) and turn to other sources for help and assistance, some of them even forbidden. Some Muslims will ask ‘pious men’ such as ‘Saints’ or ‘Pirs’ for help in worldly or religious matters, thinking that they are ‘closer to Allah’. We do not need intermediaries to ask Allah (swt). In fact asking a human to help you in something that only Allah (swt) has power over isShirk, associating partners with Allah (swt).  When we face trials we should use them as a time to turn to Allah (swt) and draw closer to Him (swt), and then our patience will be a source of reward for us.

We also need patience to perform our Islamic obligations of prayer, pilgrimage, fasting and so forth. Allah (swt) has actually given patience precedence over prayer in the following ayah, perhaps for that reason:

“Seek help in patience and prayer. And truly this is hard except upon the true believers who humble themselves [to Allah].” (Surah al-Baqarah:45)

We also require patience to stay away from forbidden things. When we are faced with such things we should remember Allah (swt) and the Day of Judgement and makedua to Allah (swt) to make us patient and steadfast.

So let’s ask Allah (swt) to grant us patience in times of hardship and times of ease; patience to perform our obligatory duties; patience to deal with others in a goodly manner; patience to stay away from forbidden things; patience in the face of trials and tribulations; and patience in turning to Him (swt) only for assistance in our times of need. With this type of patience, the Straight Path will be illuminated for us and Allah (swt) will guide us to what is best. Allah (swt) is with those who are patient, and there is no better companion than Allah (swt).

“The Qur’an is either an argument for you or against you.”

This statement of the Prophet (s) makes it clear that the Qur’an is either a proof for someone, or against them, there is no neutral position. This is similar to Allah’s (swt) statement:

“And We send down of the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe. And it increases the wrongdoers nothing but  loss.” (Surah al-Israa:82)

If a person turns to the Qur’an with belief, and seeking guidance, it is a healing and a mercy for them. If they ignore the Qur’an and refuse to follow it, the Qur’an will come as a witness against that person on the Day of Judgement.

Whenever we listen to or read the Qur’an it will either increase our faith, or cause us harm due to our neglect of its guidance. The one who reads Qur’an and does not act according to its guidance is one of the wrongdoers, who is in loss. However if we keep the Qur’an in front of us a s a guide, it will lead us to Paradise.

The Qur’an is first and foremost a book of guidance. Allah (swt) states in the opening Surah al-Baqarah:

“This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah”(Surah al-Baqarah:2)

The purpose of the Qur’an is to guide mankind on the Straight Path. Although this may seem obvious, people often turn to the Qur’an for things other than guidance on how to live their lives. People read it for barakah (blessings) or to cure illnesses, or for metaphysical purposes, or to learn about the past. When this happens, the true blessing and teaching of the Qur’an is lost, even though people are reading it. The Qur’an provides fundamental guiding principles for social, political and financial life as well as for relations between ourselves and our Lord, and the rest of humanity. If a person sincerely turns to the Qur’an for guidance in these matters it will be a proof for them on the Day of Judgement.

Do we make the Qur’an our primary source of guidance for how to live the best type of life? Do we turn to it daily and recite it with understanding? Do we feel that it is a Book written for us personally, a source of guidance to all that is good? The Qur’an is the ‘How To’ book for how to live our lives in order to earn the maximum reward. It is, most of all the WORDS of ALLAH (swt). SubhaanAllah the actual words of Allah, contained in a book that we can pick up and read. What an amazing, extraordinary wonderous thing! A jewel on our bookshelves. Let’s take it off and gaze at it, and let it reveal its wonders to us.

“And everyone goes out in the morning and sells himself either freeing or destroying himself.”

Every day, every human being is faced with new situations. Every morning, we get up and do things, either obeying or disobeying Allah (swt). Each of our daily actions therefore, either leads us towards the freedom of Paradise, or the destruction of Hellfire. Like our relationship with the Qur’an, there is either obedience or disobedience, there is no in between. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

“Certainly your efforts and deeds are diverse (different in aims and purposes); as for him who gives and keeps his duty to Allah and fears Him; and believes in a reward [from Allah], We will make smooth for him the path of ease [goodness]. But he who is greedy and thinks himself self-sufficient, and belies the good reward, We will make smooth for him the path for evil.” (Surah al-Lail:4-10)

Those who disbelieve in the Hereafter, sell themselves to this wordly life and their own desires such as money, power and lust. It is the equivalent of selling their own selves to destruction, because this path leads to nowhere but the Hellfire.  Allah (swt) says:

“And how bad indeed was that for which they sold their own souls, if they but knew.”(Surah al-Baqarah: 102)

The one who is successful is the one who sells themselves to Allah (swt), and in return buys eternal freedom. For our belief and obedience Allah (swt) promises us nothing short of Paradise. Allah (swt) says:

“Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their wealth for [the price] that theirs will be Paradise.” (Surah al-Taubah:111)

Every morning therefore brings us a new opportunity to follow the path to destruction, or the path to freedom. Our souls are more valuable than anything this world has to offer.  Let’s not lose eternal bliss for short term pleasures.

Extracted from Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi (Vol 2) by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo Pages 861-898


1 Response to Hadith 23: Purification is Half of Faith

  1. Khalil Yousfi says:

    thank you this was very useful


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