Chapter 44: Revering the Scholars and Elders, Preferring them to others and raising their Status
allah, the exalted, says:
"say: `are those who know equal to those who know not?' it is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e., get a lesson from allah's signs and verses).'' (39:9)
348. abu mas`ud `uqbah bin `amr al-badri al-ansari (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "the person who is best versed in the recitation of the book of allah, should lead the prayer; but if all those present are equally versed in it, then the one who has most knowledge of the sunnah; if they are equal in that respect too, then the one who has emigrated (to al-madinah) first, if they are equal in this respect also, then the oldest of them. no man should lead another in prayer where the latter has authority, or sit in his house, without his permission".
in another narration in muslim: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "one who is senior most in accepting islam, should lead the salat (prayer)".
yet another narration is: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "a man who is well versed in the book of allah and can recite it better, should lead the salat (prayer); if (all those present) are equal in this respect, then the man who is senior most in respect of emigration, if they are equal in that respect too, then the oldest of them should lead the prayer".
commentary: this hadith highlights the following three points:
1. the order of priority for the appointment of imam [one who leads as-salat (the prayers) should be as follows:
first, preference should go to a good qari (reciter of the noble qur'an) who is also an expert in it, provided he is pious and acts upon the teachings of the noble qur'an faithfully. he should not be a non-practising muslim. nowadays, we have an abundance of imam but many of them are neither pious nor faithfully act upon religious teachings. in any case, where we can find a qari who fulfills the requirements just mentioned, he deserves first preference for appointment as imam. even a religious scholar will come next to him. it must be borne in mind that nice recitation of the noble qur'an does not mean its recitation with great skill, but its essentials are elegant voice, acquaintance with the `ilm-ut-tajwid (or science of reciting the qur'an), clear and distinct recitation.
2. the ruler of a territory, its highest officer and governor should work as imam in their respective areas. in the early ages of islam, these authorities used to administer their areas, dispense justice and lead congregational prayers (salat).
3. when one goes to somebody's house, he should not occupy the place reserved for the master of the house unless he himself asks him to sit there.
349. abu mas`ud al-ansari (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) would place his hands upon our shoulders when we would form rows for as-salat (the prayer) and say, "stand in straight rows and do not differ among yourselves, or else your hearts will differ due to disaccord. let those be nearest to me who are mature and endowed with understanding (of the religion), then those who are nearest to them in these respects and then those who are nearest to them".
350. `abdullah bin mas`ud (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "let those be nearest to me in salat (prayer) who are mature and possess (religious) knowledge, then those who are nearest to them in these respects". he repeated this three times and then added, "beware of indulging in the loose talks of the markets (when you are in the mosque)".
commentary: the meaning of the last sentence of this hadith seems to be that one should not quarrel, make noise or engage in loose talk in or near a mosque to disturb the people in the mosque because such activities are severely condemned by islim.
351. sahl bin abu hathmah al-ansari (may allah be pleased with him) reported: `abdullah bin sahl and muhaiyisah bin mas`ud ¨(may allah be pleased with them) went to khaibar during the period of the truce (after its conquest) and they separated to perform their duties. when muhaiyisah returned to `abdullah bin sahl, he found him murdered, drenched in his blood. so he buried him and returned to al-madinah. then `abdur-rahman bin sahl, huwaiyisah and muhaiyisah, the two sons of mas`ud went to messenger of allah (pbuh) and spoke about the case of their (murdered) friend. `abdur-rahman, who was the youngest of them all, started talking. messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "let those older than you speak first.'' so he stopped talking and the (other two) spoke about the case of their (murdered) friend. messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "will you take an oath whereby you will have the right to receive the blood money of your murdered man?'' and mentioned the rest of the hadith.''
[al-bukhari and muslim].
commentary: the author of this book, imam nawawi, has reproduced only that portion of hadith which is related to this chapter. this hadith makes out the following points:
1. the eldest person has the first right to speak in a gathering. but this principle is to be followed when all the persons present there are equal in virtue and intelligence; otherwise, one who is superior to others in these qualities will have a prior right to speak.
2. the hadith explains the issue of qasamah which was in vogue in the pre-islamic period and was maintained by islam. qasamah was a mode of settling cases of undetected murders. in such situations, fifty persons from the heirs of the victim were asked to take an oath that murder was committed by some person of that locality (or some persons from the heirs were required to take oath for fifty times to this effect); after this oath, the people of that area were liable to pay diyah (blood money) to the heirs of the victim. if the persons blamed for the murder said on the similar oath that none of them had committed that offense, they were absolved from the payment of diyah and the payment of blood money was made to the heirs of the victim from the bait-ul-mal (state exchequer). in the incident referred in this hadith when the prophet (pbuh) asked the brothers of the victim to take the required oath, they refused to do so as they were not sure as to who had committed the crime. the prophet (pbuh) did not ask the inhabitants of khaibar for the oath because they were jews and the heirs of the victim did not have faith in them. thus, the prophet (pbuh) himself made the payment of the blood money to the heirs of the victim.
352. jabir (may allah be pleased with him) reported: after the battle of uhud, the prophet (pbuh) arranged the burial of two of the martyrs in one grave. in each case he would ask, "which one of them had learnt more qur'an by heart?'' whichever was thus pointed out to him, was placed by him first in the lahd.
commentary: lahd is a type of grave in which a niche is made on the left side of it to place the corpse. the grave which is straight, a common type, is called darih. this hadith tells about the distinction of the hafiz and his superiority over others. similarly, the learned, the pious and men of outstanding virtues should have preference over others. the hadith also indicates the permissibility to bury two or three persons in a single grave in time of need or necessity.
353. `abdullah bin `umar (may allah be pleased with tehm) reported: the prophet (pbuh) said, "it was shown to me in my dream that i was cleaning my teeth with a miswak and two men came to me, one being older than the other. i gave the miswak to the younger one, but i was asked to give it to the older, which i did".
[al-bukhari and muslim].
commentary: a musnad hadith is one in which the full chain of its narrators is mentioned while the mu`allaq hadith is that in which the first one or two or more or all its narrators are omitted. this hadith has been mentioned in al-bukhari without any authority.
we learn two things from this hadith. first, one can use miswak of another person with his permission. second, the eldest people should have precedence over others in every matter, except in cases where a younger one excels them in some merit.
354. abu musa (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "it is out of reverence to allah in respecting an aged muslim, and the one who commits the qur'an to memory and does not exaggerate pronouncing its letters nor forgets it after memorizing, and to respect the just ruler".
commentary: an aged muslim here means one who lives a pious life till his old age. the word "hamil-ul-qur'an'' translated here as `the one who commits the qur'an to memory,' who have memorized the complete qur'an. that is to say he is not aggressive in putting it into practice and does not take shelter of far-fetched interpretations to justify his own intellectual and religious perversion. this hadith stresses that a pious old man, a hamil-ul-qur'an and a just head of a muslim government should be respected. since their respect has been ordained by allah, respecting them is in fact revering allah.
355. `amr bin shu`aib (may allah be pleased with him)on the authority of his father who heard it from his father reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) said: "he is not one of us who shows no mercy to younger ones and does not acknowledge the honour due to our elders".
[at-tirmidhi and abu dawud].
commentary: the words "he is not one of us'' here mean that he is not following the way of the prophet (pbuh). to show compassion to youngster means showing kindness and generosity to them. on the same principle, it is essential for the young that they respect the elders, the learned and the pious.
356. maimun bin abu shabib (may allah had mercy upon him) reported: a begger asked `aishah (may allah be pleased with her) for charity and she gave him a piece of bread. thereafter, one well-dressed person asked her for charity and she invited him to sit down and served him food. when she was asked about the reason for the difference in treatment, she said: "messenger of allah (pbuh) instructed us: `treat people according to their status".
commentary: this hadith stresses that:
1. one should neither belittle a respectable person nor should one elevate a mean one. everyone should be treated according to his real status.
2. it is unbecoming to take support from the qur'an and hadith and twist it to substantiate one's own views.
3. the hadith, however, is classified as da`if (weak) as there is no link in the chain of its narrators between `aishah and maimun.
357. ibn abbas (may allah be pleased with them) reported: `uyainah bin hisn came to al-madinah and stayed with his nephew al-hurr bin qais who was among those who were close to `umar (may allah be pleased with him) and had access to his council. the scholarly persons, whether they were old or young, had the privilege of joining his council and he used to consult them. `uyainah said to al-hurr: "my dear nephew, you have an access to the leader of the believers. will you obtain permission for me to sit with him?'' al-hurr asked `umar and he accorded permission. when `uyainah came into the presence of `umar, he addressed him thus: "o son of al-khattab, you neither bestow much on us nor deal with us justly.'' `umar (may allah be pleased with him) got angry and was about to beat him when al-hurr said: "o leader of the believers, allah has said to his prophet (pbuh): `show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish (i.e., don't punish them), [i.e., `uyainah] (7:199). this is one of the ignorant ones.'' by allah! when al-hurr recited this, `umar became quite motionless in his seat. he always adhered strictly to the book of allah.
commentary: this incident has been cited in this chapter for the reason it tells us that many `ulama' and qurra' were members of the special advisory council of `umar (may allah be pleased with him). therefore, men in authority should appoint their advisors from men who are known for their knowledge, intelligence and piety so that they have the benefit of their sincere and sagacious advice regardless of the flimsy and temporary worldly interests. besides this, the rulers should also be rich in patience and perseverance.
358. abu sa`id samurah bin jundub (may allah be pleased with him) reported: i was a boy during the lifetime of messenger of allah (pbuh), and used to commit to my memory what he said, but i do not narrate what i preserved because there were among us people who were older than me.
[al-bukhari and muslim].
commentary: ibn `allan has stated that scholars of hadith have disliked it that in the presence of an eminent and a pious scholar of hadith in a city, a man inferior to him narrates a hadith.
we learn from this hadith the following:
1. it is improper to talk about the sunnah of the prophet (pbuh) in the presence of someone who is older and knows better in this respect.
2. it is permissible for young children to attend the gathering of the aged and the learned.
3. honouring and respecting the olderly.
359. anas bin malik (may allah be pleased with him) reported: messenger of allah (pbuh) said, "if a young man honours an older person on account of his age, allah appoints someone to show reverence to him in his old age"
commentary: the reward of the noble behaviour mentioned in this hadith is confirmed by other authentic texts.
the hadith is classified as da`if (weak).