On the authority of Abu Najeeh al-Irbaad ibn Saariyah (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) delivered an admonition that made our hearts fearful and our eyes tearful. We said, “O Messenger of Allah, it is as if it were a farewell admonition, so advise us.” He said, “I advise you to have taqwa of Allah and to listen and obey even if a slave is a leader over you. Certainly, the one who will live among you will see lots of differences. So stick to my sunnah and the sunnah of the right-principled and rightly-guided successors. Bite onto that with your molar teeth. And avoid newly-introduced matters. Verily, ever heresy is a going astray.” (Recorded in Abu Daawood and al-Tirmidhi)
The narrator of this hadith, Al-Irbaad, may Allah be pleased with him, was one of earliest people to embrace Islam. He, like Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, was one of the ahl al-Sufah, the poor people who lived in the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah. He is one of the people described in the Qur’an and crying when he realized that he did not have the means to participate in battle. In his later life he lived in greater Syria and he passed away in 75th year after the Hijrah.
“The Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) delivered an admonition that made our hearts fearful and our eyes tearful.”
SubhaanAllah, this hadith contains some beautiful and profound words of wisdom for all Muslims. In the narration in Sunan Abu Daawood, it mentions that the Prophet, peace be upon him, delivered this speech after the Fajr Prayer. It was the regular practice of the Prophet, peace be upon him, to deliver sermons during the Friday Prayers, Eid Prayers and so forth. The fact that he, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, delivered this reminder at an unusual time demonstrates that the regular occasions may not be enough and that those teaching the religion to others should strive to give reminders at other times also.
This hadith mentions specifically that the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him, gave his followers mauidhah, translated as ‘admonition’. Admonition involves reminding a person of the consequences of their actions, warning them, exhorting them, giving them good advice, and reminding them in a way that will soften their hearts. This is how a reminder should be. As Allah, glorified and exalted be He, states in the Qur’an:
“Admonish them and speak to them an effective word to reach their inner selves.” (Surah al-Nisaa:63)
To make our reminders effective, we should follow the excellent example of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and keep or advice short and to the point, believing in the message we are delivering, and following up our words with deeds, putting the advice we are giving into practice ourselves.
The narrator of this hadith mentions that the Prophet’s words “made our hearts fearful and our eyes tearful“. This shows that those who listened were affected by what they heard. Teaching others about Islam is not therefore simply a matter of conveying rules and regulations, a teacher needs to affect the hearts of the listeners in order to convey their message. One key to having this effect is to quote from Allah’s revelation, as these most beautiful of words speak directly to the hearts.
Allah, glorified and exalted be He, describes the believers thus:
“The believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts and when His verses are recited to them, they increase them in their faith, and they put their trust in their Lord (alone), who perform prayers and spend out of that which We have bestowed on them. It is they who are truly believers. For them are grades of dignity and a generous provision.” (Surah al-Anfaal:2-4)
Every believer should try and examine themselves in the light of these verses. Does the Qur’an have an effect like this on our hearts? Do we fear Allah when we hear these verses? Do our eyes weep thinking of how we will meet Allah in the Hereafter? These are the signs of the true believer, and if we do not have them, we should look to the state of our hearts.
We said, “O Messenger of Allah, it is as if it were a farewell admonition, so advise us.”
It is clear that the Companions listening to the admonition of the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, felt that he was delivering his teaching with such passion that they feared it may his last time to give them advice. Because of this, they wanted him, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, to give them some concise meaningful advice that they could apply to their lives after the Prophet had gone. Although this was not actually the farewell advice of the Prophet, it is, none the less, profound and has far-reaching consequences for all who hear it. It is an advice that will help a person stay on the Straight Path without straying.
He said, “I advise you to have taqwa of Allah…”
The first words of advise that the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him, gave the people was to “have taqwa of Allah”. Taqwa or fear of Allah, is one of the most important concepts found in the Qur’an andsunnah. It could be described as the foundation of the religion. In fact it is the same advice that all the Prophets have given to all of mankind – fear Allah. Allah, praised and glorified be He, says in the glorious Qur’an:
“To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. We have advised the people of the Scripture before you and you also [O Muslims] to have taqwa of Allah [fear Allah and keep your duty to him].” (Surah al-Nisaa:131)
When we realise that Allah (swt) sees us at all times and knows what we do, think and say, then the obvious implication is that we should fear Allah’s anger and punishment at all times. That includes when we are accompanied and when we are alone, and when we are receiving blessings and trials.
The minimum aspect of taqwa is to obey Allah and not disobey Him (swt). To achieve a higher level, one must put some distance between oneself and anything that could anger Allah. The people of taqwa, will leave even permissible deeds out of fear that there might be something harmful in them. Leaving these doubtful or permissible deeds then acts as a barrier between the believer and any acts of disobedience.
When a believer performs all the obligatory deeds that they are capable of and stays away from all the forbidden and doubtful matters, and when they further perform the recommended acts and stay away from the disapproved ones, they are truly deserving of the title muttaqeen “the people possessing taqwa“. The reward for these type of people the highest of rewards. Allah (swt) says:
“And the good end [Paradise] is for the [people of] taqwa” (Surah Taha:132)
Taqwa of Allah is therefore the key to staying on the Straight Path in this life, and also, more importantly, the key to one’s well-being in the Hereafter. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, therefore began his advice by reminding the people of what is the most essential characteristic for them to attain in order to have success in this life and the next – have taqwa of Allah, all praise and glory be to Him.
Let’s make dua to Allah make us of those people who fear Allah (swt) wherever we are and earn His (swt) highest reward. Ameen.
“… listen and obey even if a slave is a leader over you.”
Part of the taqwa that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, advised people to have, was to listen to and obey the Muslim leaders, even if they had previously been slaves. Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, says in the Qur’an:
“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you” (Surah al-Nisaa:59)
This shows us the importance of obedience to the Muslim leader in Islam. It is one of the key aspects to well-being and social harmony in this world.
There are two kinds of ‘leaders’ amongst the Muslims, the first are the religious leaders or scholars, and the second are the worldly leaders or rulers. One should listen to and obey both these types of leaders, whether they like what is being ordered or not, as long as it is in obedience to Allah, praise and glorified be He. This is because without obedience there will be anarchy, chaos and civil strife.
It is important to note that this listening and obedience is not due just to a pious and just ruler. Even if the ruler is not the best of people, he must still be obeyed. One cannot use the fact that he is not pious as a reason not to obey him, except in the case where he commands you to sin. As the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:
“It is the duty of every Muslim to hear and obey whether he likes it or not, except when he is asked to do something sinful, In that case there is no listening or obedience.”(Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim)
It might be difficult to think that we should obey a leader even if they are not pious in themselves. Some of the scholars have explained the wisdom behind this position is that the evil that will result from revolting against them, will be many times more than the evil of their injustice. By patiently bearing injustice, we atone for our own sins, because Allah, praise and glory be to Him, has only inflicted them upon us because of our own misdeeds. Allah, praised and glorified be He says:
“Whatever misfortune happens to you is because of the things your hands have wrought, and for many of them He grants forgiveness.” (Surah al-Shoora:30)
This does not mean that we need to sit quietly and do nothing when injustice is occurring. It is our duty to give naseehah to the Muslim rulers, and advise them to what is better, but it is also our duty in this situation to repent, seek forgiveness and to rectify our own behaviour.
Finally, obedience to the ruler in Islam is not absolute. There is always an authority that is above the ruler. That authority is Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, the ultimate ruler, and we should only obey the worldly ruler if he does not ask us to be disobedient to Allah.
“Certainly, the one who will live among you will see lots of differences.”
One of the miracles given to the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, is foreknowledge of events to come. In this hadith the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, used the term fasayara, which implies something that will be seen in the near future. This is exactly what happened when the Muslim community began to face their first trials and differences with the assassination of Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him.
Ibn Uthaimeen points out that the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said there would be a lot of differences. He says the differences apply to rule, opinions, beliefs, the general and specific situation of the people and so forth. Those problems began in the lifetime of the people to whom the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, was speaking.
There is no doubt though, that this statement of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is applicable to all Muslims at all times. The differences began at that time and became greater and greater. Muslims started fighting with one another and declaring other Muslims to be out of the fold of Islam, which led to further conflicts. Now we see so many differences amongst the Muslim community that it is hard to believe that we are united Ummah.
What should we do when we are faced with all these differences?
The mercy of Allah, praised and glorified be He, is such that He did not leave us without a guide and clear path. The sunnah of the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and the example of the rightly-guided successors, gives us a clear path that will lead us to the truth, as will be discussed in the next portion of this hadith, inshaAllah.
“So stick to my sunnah…”
The word ‘sunnah‘ means “way of life, pattern of behaviour, path”, and it also means “the clear path”. It is an all-encompassing term that includes beliefs, manners, deeds, manner of worship and statements. We can only be considered to be following the ‘sunnah‘ if we follow the example of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in all of these aspects.
In the face of all the different views, opinions and groups, we must turn to the sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, if we want to find a way out from all the confusion and differences that exist. If we stick to the way of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and his rightly-guided successors, we will not go astray.
Yet we see many Muslims, performing different types of practices, and they all say they are ‘following the sunnah‘. How can we understand this? We should ALWAYS ask ourselves, first and foremost, ‘What is the evidence for this practice?’ If we can read the evidence for it in the sahih recorded hadith containing the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, then we know the action is sound and acceptable to Allah, all praises and glory be to Him.
Sometimes you will hear Muslims say that an act, like celebrating the Prophet’s birthday, is a ‘biddah hasanah’ or a good innovation. There is no evidence that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, ever celebrated his birthday. And yet, we know that the religion of Islam is complete. As Allah, praised and glorified be He, says:
“This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you, and chosen for you Islam as your religion” (Surah al-Maidah:3)
Are we telling Allah, praised and glorified be He, that actually the Deen wasn’t complete? That He, praised and glorified be He, left out a significant celebration? We seek refuge in Allah from that.
Shaitan loves the biddah or innovation more than anything else, even adultery. With adultery, the person knows it to be wrong and may seek forgiveness. With biddah, the person committing it believes it to be good, and they therefore stick to until they die.
We must always clarify that all our actions have a basis in the sunnah of the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who is the best example that ever lived, and will be until the end of time. If it is not from the sunnah, then it is not acceptable to Allah, praised and glorified be He.
Let’s ask ourselves about our beliefs, actions and our acts of worship. Do we know that they are supported by evidence from the sunnah of the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him? We have the ability to read and to find out. On Judgement Day, there will be no excuse.
“… and the sunnah of the right-principled and rightly-guided successors.”
In this hadith, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, mentioned his ownsunnah, and the sunnah of his rightly-guided successors. The term ‘rightly-principled and rightly-guided successors’ is understood by the majority of scholars to be a reference to Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthmaan and Ali, may Allah be pleased with them all. They were the leaders of the Muslim community after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him.
These rightly-guided successors are also called raashideen because they know the truth and they judge or act in accordance with it. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, also described them as mahdiyeen, meaning that Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, guided them to the truth and did not let them stray from it. It is for these reasons that they are worthy of being followed.
We should follow them in their strict adherence to the sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in all matters, large and small, and in their refusal to stray from his way. We should also follow them in refusal to introduce new matters into or beliefs into the religion of Islam.
So, when faced with the differences that occur amongst the Muslim Ummah, we should turn firstly to the example of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and see how he lived his life. If this does not provide enough answers we can look to the example of his rightly-guided successors, and see how they dealt with situations of differences arising. If they did not encounter the problem, we can look to the example of the Companions that came after them, and so forth. If the situation was not dealt with amongst the Companions at all, we can then look to the scholars who adhered to thesunnah of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his successors, and take their judgement based on their reasoning or ijtihaad.
If we follow this advice and cling dearly to their ways, we will be safe from misguidance and innovations, InshaAllah. And Allah knows best.
“Bite onto that with your molar teeth.”
After referring to his own sunnah, and that of the rightly-guided successors, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, advised us to bite onto ‘that’. It is interesting to note that he referred to these things as one entity rather than two separate things, indicating to us how close they are. Following both these things is considered to be following one path, illustrating how the path of Islam is one, and not many. Anyone who claims anything else has fallen into misguidance.
The fact the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, advised us to ‘bite onto’ this path with our ‘molar teeth’ showing us how closely we should be adhering to this path. To bite onto something with your molar teeth is to practically take that thing inside your body. It implies holding on, and holding on tight and refusing to let go. If anyone tried to pull this thing away from you, it would be difficult to let go.
Similarly, the believer should cling to the path through and example set by the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his Companions. They way that they lived their lives, may Allah be pleased with them, shows us the best example of dedication Allah and His Deen, and willingness to strive, sacrifice, bear suffering, poverty, hunger and hardship, all in the path of Allah, all glory and praises be to him. These people did not live their lives for this world, they lived it for the Hereafter. ‘Life’ to them was the eternal one to come. Their only priority was pleasing Allah and securing a place in His Jennah.
In reality, we need great patience and dedication to stick to the path of Islam. This dunyaoffers many temptations and distractions. But when we remember what is at stake, no less than eternal Paradise, it should make all the sacrifices worthwhile.
What this portion of the hadith shows us is that if we want to be certain that our beliefs and actions are pleasing to Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, we must be certain that they are the same as the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and his Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all. If we are not certain of this, we may find that our actions unwittingly fall into the category of biddah or innovation, and will therefore not be acceptable to Allah. More about this will be discussed in the next post InshaAllah.
Let’s strive to purify our beliefs and actions by ensuring that we are sticking to thesunnah of the Prophet and his rightly-guided Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all.
“And avoid newly-introduced matters.”
Allah, praised and glorified be He, says in the Qur’an:
“This day I have perfected for you your religion and have completed my blessings upon you and have chosen for you Islam as a religion” (Surah al-Maaidah:3)
This means that the guidance provided to us is complete. Islam as it was lived and taught by the Prophet, peace be upon him, contains everything we need for happiness and fulfillment in this life and in the hereafter. It is therefore in no need of additions, alternations or deletions. The Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said:
“I have not left anything that Allah has ordered of you except that I have ordered you to do it. And I have not left anything which He has prohibited except that I have prohibited it for you.” (Recorded in al-Baihaqi)
When the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, advised us to avoid ’newly-introduced matters’, he meant things that would be introduced into the religion after his time. These acts are also called bidah or heresies.
A bidah is any act that falls into the following categories:
(1) any ritual act that is not based in the Qur’an or sunnah that is done as an act of worship of Allah
(2) any worldly act that a person performs claiming it in itself is pleasing to Allah while there is nothing in the Quran or sunnah to support that claim.
There are many ahadith that prove that it is forbidden to follow innovations in the religion, including:
“Whoever introduced anything into this matter of ours that is not from it shall have it rejected.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The path of Allah is only one path, and those that follow innovations are clearly not following this path. There is only one way to guidance and that is found in the Qur’an andsunnah. This was the path of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his rightly-guided successors, and this should be our path too.
Let’s ask ourselves if we are sure that the acts of worhsip we are performing are supported by evidence from the Qur’an and sunnah. Have we used our reading ability to find out? Straying from the path may be a subtle action as this profound hadith narrated by Abdullah ibn Masood illustrates:
” The Prophet, peace be upon him, drew a line for us and then said, ‘This is the path of Allah’. Then he drew some lines on the right and on the left of the first one and said, ‘These are paths upon each of which is a devil calling to it.’ The he recited the verse, ‘This is My Straight Path, so follow it. Follow not other ways, as you will then stray from His way.’” (Recorded in ibn Majah)
“Verily, ever heresy is a going astray.”
It is reported that many times, when the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, delivered a sermon he would say in the introduction, “The worst actions are the invented ones. And every innovation is misguidance.”
But many Muslims do not realize the serious nature of innovations, heresy, or bidah. Allah, praised and glorified be He, uses the term dhalaalah, translated as going astray or misguidance, specifically when talking about innovations, and not other sins. This is because the one who commits sins is different from the innovator in that the sinner still accepts the shareeah as the supreme law, but the innovator takes their own whims and desires as supreme. This is a very serious matter. Following doubtful proof or blindly following what another person does, without being sure that the act is from the shareeah, is like giving a person precedence over Allah in deciding what type of actions are best.
We must realize this fundamental point – the religion of Islam was completed by Allah and his Messenger, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and it has no room for additions or deletions.
Anyone who claims to be worshipping Allah with an action that is not based on evidence from the Qur’an and sunnah, is simply following an innovation or a heresy, and every heresy is going astray. No innovation is pleasing to Allah, and nothing other that what the Prophet, peace be upon him, practiced, will get us closer to Allah. Indeed, as this hadith shows us, it will actually take them further away, and may even take them to the Hell-fire. We seek refuge in Allah from that.
Extracted from Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi (Vol 2) by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo Pages 1043-1084