Chapter 16: Observing the Sunnah and the manners of its obedience
allah, the exalted, says:
"and whatsoever the messenger (muhammad (pbuh)) gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it)". (59:7)
"nor does he speak of (his own) desire. it is only a revelation that is revealed.'' (53:3,4)
"say (o muhammad (pbuh) to mankind): `if you (really) love allah then follow me (i.e., accept islamic monotheism, follow the qur'an and the sunnah), allah will love you and forgive you of your sins". (3:31)
"indeed in the messenger of allah (muhammad (pbuh)) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the meeting with) allah and the last day...'' (33:21)
"but no, by your rubb, they can have no faith, until they make you (o muhammad (pbuh)) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission". (4:65)
"(and) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to allah and his messenger (pbuh)". (4:59)
"he who obeys the messenger (muhammad (pbuh)), has indeed obeyed allah.'' (4:80)
"and verily, you (o muhammad (pbuh)) are indeed guiding (mankind) to the straight path (i.e., allah's deen of islamic monotheism):. (42:52)
"and let those who oppose the messenger's (muhammad (pbuh)) commandment (i.e., his sunnah -- legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements) (among the sects), beware, lest some fitnah (disbelief, trials, afflictions, earthquakes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant) should befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them.'' (24:63)
"and remember (o you the members of the prophet's family, the graces of your rubb), that which is recited in your houses of the verses of allah and al-hikmah (i.e., prophet's sunnah -- legal ways, so give your thanks to allah and glorify his praises for this qur'an and the sunnah).'' (33:34)
156. abu hurairah (may allah be pleased with him) reported: the prophet (pbuh) said, "do not ask me unnecessarily about the details of the things which i do not mention to you. verily, the people before you were doomed because they were used to putting many questions to their prophets and had differences about their prophets. refrain from what i forbid you and do what i command you to the best of your ability and capacity".
[al-bukhari and muslim]
commentary: to be unnecessarily inquisitive and create differences and confusion in the injunctions of allah and his prophet (pbuh) leads to destruction. the safest course lies only in following the orders of allah and his prophet (pbuh) without `ifs' and `buts.' hairsplitting in religious issues falls in this category. it opens the door for chaos and conflict and paves the way for disunity and separation. may allah give sense to the muslim ummah to abandon this road and take the right path which ensures peace and security. let it be absolutely clear that the right path is one and one alone. there cannot be multiple right paths, it is one and singular. once a community leaves the straight path, it is sure to go astray.
157. `irbad bin sariyah (may allah be pleased with him) reported: one day messenger of allah (pbuh) delivered us a very eloquent khutbah on account of which eyes shed tears and hearts were full of tears. a man said: "o prophet of allah, this is as if it were a parting advice. so advise us". he (pbuh) said, "i admonish you to fear allah, to listen and obey even if an abyssinian slave is appointed as your leader. because whosoever among you shall live after me, will see much discord. so hold fast to my sunnah and the examples of the rightly-guided caliphs who will come after me. adhere to them and hold to it fast. beware of new things (in deen) because every bid`ah is a misguidance".
[abu dawud and at-tirmidhi].
commentary: this hadith stresses piety, obedience to the leader, following in the footsteps of the prophet (pbuh) and the first four noble caliphs. it strictly forbids innovation in deen.
this hadith also reveals the prediction of the prophet (pbuh) that the muslim ummah will become a victim of dissension. he also prescribed the right means to counteract it. the remedy that he has proposed for this problem is that muslims should never deviate from the path laid for them by him and his righteous successors. this is the touchstone for discovering the truth from the mess of different views. all the troubles of muslims would come to an end if they accept this as the one singular criterion of right and wrong.
158. abu hurairah (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "everyone of my ummah will enter jannah except those who refuse". he was asked: "who will refuse?'' he (pbuh) said, "whoever obeys me, shall enter jannah, and whosoever disobeys me, refuses to (enter jannah)".
commentary: the word ummah here stands for the community which accepted the invitation of the prophet (pbuh), that is to say, the people who on his call embraced islam. out of this community who follow him faithfully will go to jannah.
159. salamah bin al-akwa` (may allah be pleased with him) reported: my father said that a person ate in the presence of messenger of allah (pbuh) with his left hand. he (pbuh) said, "eat with your right hand". he said, "i cannot do that.'' thereupon he (the prophet) said, "may you never do that.'' it was pride that prevented him from doing it. and he could not raise it (the right hand) up to his mouth afterwards.
1. to eat with the left hand without a valid reason, is a repulsive act. besides eating, every other good action was done by the prophet (pbuh) with his right hand.
2. to ignore the injunctions of allah and the practice of the prophet (pbuh) out of pride is a serious offense and can endanger even the faith of a muslim.
160. nu`man bin bashir (may allah be pleased with them) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "straighten your rows (during salat) or allah would create dissension amongst you".
[al-bukhari and muslim].
in another narration reported by muslim, nu`man bin bashir (may allah be pleased with them) narrated: messenger of allah (pbuh) used to straighten our rows (in salat), as if he was straightening an arrow with their help until he saw that we had learnt it from him. one day he came out, stood up (for salat) and was about to say: allahu akbar (allah is the greatest), (marking the beginning of the prayer) when he saw a man, whose chest was bulging out from the row. he said, "slaves of allah, you must straighten your rows or allah would create dissension amongst you.''
commentary: the real meaning of this saying is that allah will create dissension and conflict among you. in any case, this hadith makes abundantly clear the importance of setting the rows in congregational salat to which the present-day muslims do not pay much attention. because of the lack of understanding of islamic principles, no one pays heed to the proper formation of rows in mosques in congregational salat.
161. abu musa (may allah be pleased with him) reported: a house in al-madinah caught fire at night and the roof and walls
fell down upon the occupants. when this was reported to messenger of allah (pbuh) he said, "fire is your enemy; so put it out before you go to bed".
[al-bukhari and muslim].
commentary: the order of the prophet (pbuh) in this hadith relates to the lamps which produced light by means of oil and wick which can cause fire. such lamps were used in the time of the prophet (pbuh). there is no such risk in electric bulbs which are being used in the present age.
162. abu musa (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "the similitude of guidance and knowledge with which allah has sent me is like a rain which has fallen on some ground. a fertile part of earth has absorbed water and brought forth much grass and herbs. another part, which is solid, held the water and allah benefits men thereby, who drank and gave others to drink, and used it for irrigation. but some of it has fallen on a portion of sandy land which neither retains the water nor produces herbage. such is the likeness of the man who understands the religion of allah and who gets benefit of what allah has sent me with; he learns and teaches others. it is also the likeness of the man who neither raises his head on that account (meaning he does not benefit from what the prophet (pbuh) was sent with) nor accepts allah's guidance with which i am sent".
[al-bukhari and muslim].
commentary: in this hadith the guidance and knowledge which was sent to mankind through the prophet (pbuh) is compared to the rain which is beneficial, because this knowledge resuscitates the dead hearts as does the rain to a barren land. one who makes use of this knowledge is likened to a good soil, and one who acquires this knowledge and imparts it to others but does not put it into practice is considered akin to a hard land which holds water and other people utilize it. a person who neither learns it nor acts upon it is like a desolate land which neither holds water nor produces anything. such a person is the worst of all because he neither himself benefits from it nor lets others make use of it. this hadith induces one to acquire knowledge, impart it to others, put it into actual practice and warns people from neglecting this duty.
163. jabir (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "my parable and that of yours is like a man who kindled a fire. when it has illuminated all around him, the moths and grasshoppers began to fall therein. he tried to push them away, but they overcame him and jumped into it. i am catching hold of your waists ties (to save you) from fire, but you slip away from my hands".
commentary: this hadith mentions the extreme kindness which the prophet (pbuh) had for the welfare of his followers. it also mentions the misfortune of those who would become the fuel of hell for not accepting islam in spite of the utmost affection and ardour of the prophet (pbuh) to bring them in the fold of islam. people who fail to accept islam would fall in the hell-fire in the same way moths fall in the fire.
164. jabir (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) commanded the licking of fingers (after eating) and the cleaning of the dish, saying: "you do not know in what portion the blessing (of allah) lies".
in another narration, jabir said: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "when a morsel of any of you falls down, you should pick it up and remove any dirt or dust on it and then eat it; and don't leave it for satan; and do not wipe your hand with the towel until you have licked your fingers, for you do not know in what portion of the food the barakah* (of allah) lies".
* barakah is the abundance of goodness and its continuity.
commentary: this hadith enjoins muslims to lick their fingers after meals, wipe off the food left in the utensils and eat morsels which fall down in the course of eating. all these things have many advantages:
1. may be that is the blessed portion of the food which sticks to the fingers or utensils.
2. this practice is a sign of humility and aversion from the style of proud and haughty people.
3. it saves one from being ungrateful to allah.
4. by these means one defeats satan.
in the light of these islamic injunctions one can very well judge violation of islamic teachings and ungratefulness to allah which is evident from the large quantity of food which is thrown on the garbage.
165. ibn `abbas (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "on the day of resurrection you will be assembled barefooted, naked and uncircumcised". he then recited: "as we began the first creation, we shall repeat it. (it is) a promise binding upon us. truly, we shall do it,'' and continued: "the first to be clothed on the day of resurrection will be (prophet) ibrahim. then some of my companions will be taken to the left, (i.e., towards hell-fire) and when i will say, 'they belong to my ummah, o my rubb!' it would be said: 'you do not know what they invented after you had left them.' i shall then say as the righteous slave [i.e., `isa (jesus (pbuh)] said: 'and i was a witness over them while i was amongst them, when you took me up, you were the watcher over them and you are a witness to all things. if you punish them, they are your slaves, and if you forgive them, verily, you, only you are the all-mighty, the all-wise.' i shall be told: 'they continued to turn on their heels since you parted from them".
[al-bukhari and muslim].
1. we learn from this hadith that the punishment of apostasy is hell. for this reason, this crime is punishable by death in islam.
2. we also learn from this hadith that the prophet (pbuh) had neither knowledge of the unseen nor is he omnipresent and omniscient, as is falsely believed by deviated people. if he had the knowledge of the unseen, or had he been omnipresent and omniscient, he would not have accepted such persons as his companions and followers who were in fact apostates. this is the reason when he was informed of their real conduct through wahy (revelation), he disowned them in the same way as prophet `isa (jesus) had disowned the people who had started worshipping him and his mother as god.
166. `abdullah bin mughaffal (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) prohibited flicking pebbles by the index finger and the thumb; and he said, "it does not kill a game animal nor does it inflict wound on the enemy, but breaks the tooth and gorges the eye".
[al-bukhari and muslim].
in another narration it is said: a close relative of `abdullah bin mughaffal (may allah be pleased with him) was hitting with pebbles using the index finger and the thumb; he said: "messenger of allah (pbuh) has forbidden it saying that it does not kill the game". he repeated the act and ibn mughaffal said to him: "i told you that the prophet (pbuh) had prohibited it but you repeated it. i shall never talk to you.''
1. this hadith exhorts us not to do anything which is likely to harm others.
2. it also tells us that it is permissible to sever connections and speech with the people who disobey the injunctions of allah and his prophet (pbuh).
167. `abis bin rabi`ah (may allah be pleased with him) reported: i saw `umar bin al-khattab(may allah be pleased with him) kissing the black stone (al-hajar al-aswad) and saying: "i know that you are just a stone and that you can neither do any harm nor give benefit. had i not seen messenger of allah (pbuh) kissing you, i would not have kissed you".
[al-bukhari and muslim].
1. the statement of `umar (may allah be pleased with him) quoted in this hadith is highly significant in the sense that he wanted to make it absolutely clear to the illiterate and ignorant that al-hajar al-aswad (black stone of the ka`bah) is not kissed for because stones are venerated in islam, as was the practice in pre-islamic period. what he wanted to emphasize was that kissing the black stone was in accordance with the sunnah of the prophet (pbuh).
2. obedience of the prophet (pbuh) in every affair is a must, whether one understands the wisdom behind it or not. by analogy, kissing of the black stone, some people think it is permissible to kiss and show respect to the tombs of saints. but this is not valid reason because kissing the black stone is an `ibadah (act of worship), or a part of it, and every `ibadah is tauqifiyah (prescribed by allah and the prophet (pbuh)) and it can neither be increased nor diminished, nor can it be graded as something else.