In one hadith that is so incredibly relevant to our times and our plight – which pinpoints the causes for why Muslims shall suffer collective humiliation and weakness, and what the cure for such socio-political degradation is – we read: ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, narrates; that he heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying:
إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ بِالْعِينَةِ ، وَأَخَذْتُمْ أَذْنَابَ الْبَقَرِ ، وَرَضِيتُمْ بِالزَّرْعِ ، وَتَرَكْتُمْ الْجِهَادَ ، سَلَّطَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ ذُلًّا لَا يَنْزِعُهُ حَتَّى تَرْجِعُوا إِلَى دِينِكُمْ
‘When you deal in ‘inah transactions, hold on to the tails of cows, are content with farming, and abandon jihad, Allah shall permit your humiliation and He will not lift it from you, until you return back to your religion.’1
Let’s unpack the hadith and break it down into bite size chunks, so to speak, in order to better deliberate over the lessons and implications embedded in it:
إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ بِالْعِينَةِ – ‘WHEN YOU DEAL IN ‘INAH TRANSACTIONS’:
‘Inah is a form of a sale which, on the face of it seems completely legitimate as far as Islamic law is concerned, but in reality it is merely a cunning legal ‘trick’ (hiylah) to make money through usury/interest (riba). It is to sell something at a price to be paid at a later date (i.e. deferred payment), but to then buy it back at a lower price for cash on the spot. The upshot is that the initial buyer walks away with cash, but must pay back a higher amount at a later date.
So, as an example, Bilal needs to borrow £500 for one year from Zayd, but Zayd wants £600 back; which, of course, Bilal cannot agree to because that would be riba – interest! So Zayd suggests the following: Zayd sells Bilal a laptop for £600 to be paid for at the end of twelve months. That done, Zayd then buys the laptop back from Bilal, there and then, for £500 cash on the spot. The end result is that Bilal walks away with £500 cash; however, at the end of one year, he owes Zayd £600. Whilst the two transactions, taken separately, are each lawful and sound, combined together, they amount to Zayd lending Bilal £500, but Bilal having to pay Zayd back £600 a year later – the extra £100 being riba. Such a legal ‘trick’, with the aim of skirting around the Islamic rules concerning the prohibition of interest, is considered forbidden (haram) by most jurists.
Although the person may consider themselves shrewd or clever at having found a loophole in the law, or at having evaded the shari‘ah ban on riba; in reality, all they have achieved is combining a sinful act with trying to cheat or deceive God! How clever is that?! The attitude is worse than the actual deed. When such an action; or indeed, such an attitude, becomes widespread in society, it doesn’t take the religious imagination much to realise the possible consequences.
As a side point: Classical Muslim jurists recognised two types of hiylah – legal ‘tricks’ or ‘stratagems’. One used to circumvent a divine order or divine aim, the other for ta‘lim al-makhraj: providing an exit for one in difficulty, all the while keeping Allah’s commands and the purpose of the law uppermost in mind. For most legalists, the first is the forbidden type of hiylah; the second, the lawful type. Ibn al-Qayyim explains: ‘If the aim is good then the hiylah is also good, if it is bad then the hiylah is also bad. If the aim is obedience and worship then the hiylah is likewise: if the aim is disobedience or iniquity so is the hiylah.‘2 In other words, the legality of a hiylah is tied to the individual purpose it serves.
وَأَخَذْتُمْ أَذْنَابَ الْبَقَرِ – ‘HOLD ON TO THE TAILS OF COWS’
This is a figurative expression, referring to how – in pre-modern societies – a farmer who ploughed the land would walk behind the cow or ox, driving it on. Hence it is like holding on to the tail of a cow. And as we shall soon see below, this isn’t a censure or blame of farming or ploughing the land, per se. But it is a censure of becoming so preoccupied with one’s job or vocation, that it becomes of greater concern than works of faith and preparing for the afterlife.
وَرَضِيتُمْ بِالزَّرْعِ – ‘CONTENT WITH FARMING’
This is similar to the above, in that it is a rebuke of becoming so engrossed with farming and tilling the land, to the extent that this worldly matter is of greater concern, or greater priority, than Allah and the afterlife. This is particularly so when we prefer devoting our time and energy to our jobs or other worldly goals, over and above jihad – striving and sacrificing – for the sake of Allah. We read in the Qur’an: يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَا لَكُمْ إِذَا قِيلَ لَكُمْ انفِرُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ اثَّاقَلْتُمْ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ – O you who believe! What is it with you that when you are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah you cling heavily to the earth [Q.9:38]; that is, you show a reluctance; an aversion, even, clutching instead to a life of ease, comfort and materialism. The Prophet ﷺ stated: ‘Whoever dies without partaking in a military expedition, or even desiring to do so, dies upon a branch of hypocrisy.’3
The verse continues by asking: أَرَضِيتُمْ بِالْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا مِنْ الْآخِرَةِ – Do you prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? [Q.9:38]; i.e., as one scholar wrote in explanation to this part of the verse: ‘The reaction is like that of someone who is pleased with the world and strives his utmost in it, having no care for the Afterlife. It is like he doesn’t really believe in it.’4
The verse concludes: فَمَا مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا فِي الْآخِرَةِ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ – But little is the comfort of this life as compared with the Hereafter. [Q.9:38] Unto that, the believer holds.
وَتَرَكْتُمْ الْجِهَادَ – ‘ABANDON JIHAD’
That is, forsaking the duty of jihad wherein lies the strength, honour and glory of the religion. Thus one does not wage jihad (or even desire to do so) for Allah’s sake: neither with one’s wealth, one’s physical self, or one’s tongue in defence of revealed truths – not a military jihad against the enemies of Al-Rahman, nor a spiritual jihad against one’s hawa, nafs or shaytan.5
سَلَّطَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ ذُلًّ – ‘ALLAH SHALL PERMIT YOUR HUMILIATION.’
Which is to say that when people engage in acts of disobedience and ignominy, Allah will afflict them with humiliation, dishonour and disgrace, since: al-jaza’ min jins al-‘aml – ‘The recompense is proportional to the deed.’ Indeed, every time we disobey the command of the Prophet ﷺ, we expose ourselves to some share of humiliation. The Prophet ﷺ cautioned: ‘Humiliation and ignominy is for one who opposes my command.’6 This echoes the Holy Qur’an, which warns us in no uncertain terms: Let those who oppose his order beware lest an affliction befall them or lest there visits them a painful punishment. [Q.24:63]
So when people try to evade the prohibition of riba through legal trickery and, by extension, evade other commands or prohibitions of the religion; and when they are so absorbed in worldly pursuits, giving them precedence over religious obligations or working for the afterlife; and when they give up jihad for Allah’s sake, then Allah will allow lowliness and humiliation to be inflicted upon them at the hands of other nations – a sad reality that has already occurred.
In fact, whenever a believing community or nation begin to change themselves from putting their religious duties above all else, to making them play second fiddle to worldly goals and consumerist ambitions, then this is only unleashing the genie from the bottle, and a change in fortunes from good to bad is the only inevitable outcome. The Qur’an speaks to this reality, declaring: That is because Allah never changes the blessings He has bestowed on a people until they change that which is in themselves. [Q.8:53]
Likewise, whenever wrongdoing and disobedience to Allah become endemic in society, despite the presence of some saintly souls and godly worshippers in it, the Holy Qur’an tells us that this is inviting tyrants and wrongdoers to be given the reigns of political authority, as a consequence of the sinful behaviour of the masses: Thus We let some of the unjust have power over others because of their misdeeds. [Q.6:129]
In 28H (649CE), the first Muslim naval expedition was launched against Cyprus, which was under the Byzantine empire’s rule; now in the twilight of its years. The Muslim army quickly overran the small Byzantine garrison and its people were soon paying tribute to the Muslim victors. On seeing the ease with which this once powerful empire lay defeated, Abu’l-Darda began to cry. When asked why he wept on the day Allah had given victory to Islam and the Muslims, he said: ‘Woe to you, O Jubayr! How insignificant a people become to Allah when they neglect His commands. Here is a nation which was once mighty, powerful and had dominion. Then they neglected Allah’s commands, now look what has become of them.’7
And this ummah will never escape its humiliation or its fall from grace … hatta tarji‘u ila dinikum: until you return back to your religion.
حَتَّى تَرْجِعُوا إِلَى دِينِكُمْ – ‘UNTIL YOU RETURN BACK TO YOUR RELIGION.’
Lessons of history may, in many cases, require interpretation. In this case the lesson here is spelt out in simple words, for all to read: That this humiliation will continue to plague us until we return back to establishing our religion and fulfilling our religious duties – as Allah intended, in the way He intended. And no amount of secularising, liberalising or compromising on Islamic norms will change this servile reality. In fact, it will only make it worse.
What is required is nothing less than courage and a prophetic uprising in order to return back to the religion. This entails that we first and foremost honour Allah by revering His orders and prohibitions; work for the Hereafter and give it priority over earthly aims or acquisitions; and wisely and courageously engage the various types of jihad that Allah has obligated us with. In fact, the matter is more dire than most people realise. For the upshot of doing those things spoken of in the above hadith is so grave that the Prophet ﷺ: ‘likened it to apostatising and leaving the religion.’8 The Holy Qur’an says: Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your tribe, the wealth you have gained, the trade you fear may slacken, and the homes you love – if they are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah brings about His command. Allah guides not the corrupt. [Q.9:24]
The truth of the matter is that when we become too comfy in the consumerist world; when we allow the dunya to distract us from our religious obligations, which includes the duty of jihad; and as we get more and more entangled in the monoculture’s deceptive mind control in a way that makes us servile and numbs our soul, then this is the destruction that is meant in the verse: And do not cast yourselves into destruction by your own hands. [Q.2:195] Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, may Allah be pleased with him, said: ‘This verse was revealed about us, a group of the Ansar. When Allah gave victory to His Prophet and made Islam dominant, we said: “Come, let us stay with our wealth and properties in order to improve it.” It was then that Allah, mighty and majestic is He, sent down the verse: Spend in the cause of Allah, and do not cast yourselves into destruction by your own hands. [Q. 2:195] To cast ourselves into destruction by our own hands meant we stayed with our wealth and properties, and neglected jihad.’9
Let’s close with this thought. Given the confusion and intra-Muslim squabbling over the best way out of our subjugation and socio-political malaise, it could be that there are only two questions which really need asking. Despite us Muslims having tried the various isms and ideologies which others have demanded we follow – nationalism, Marxism, capitalism, and now liberalism – are we as an ummah still humiliated? And does the above hadith offer us a clear-cut answer and method of how to reverse our fortunes? The answer to both questions is in the affirmative. That being so, isn’t it high time we buck the trend, put all of the political philosophising to bed, and earnestly pursue the ways of the Lord?
Wa’Llahu wali al-tawfiq.
1. Ahmad, no.4987; Abu Dawud, no.3462. Ibn Taymiyyah declared its chains to be excellent (jayyid) in Majmu‘ Fatawa (Riyadh: Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 1991), 29:30; al-Albani analysed the hadith and its many chains, giving it a grading of sahih, in Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Sahihah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma‘arif, 1995), 1:1:42; no.11.
2. Ighathat al-Lahfan (Saudi Arabia: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 1999), 659.
3. Muslim, no.1910.
4. Al-Sa‘di, Taysir Karim al-Rahman (Saudi Arabia: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 2012), 374.
5. See: al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 2010), 1:514, no.514; also consult my article on this blog: Jihad & Martyrdom, War & Peace.
6. Abu Dawud, no.4031. Ibn Taymiyyah said, Iqtida al-Sirat al-Mustaqim (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, 2003), 163: ‘Its chain is excellent (jayyid).
7. Cited in Ahmad, al-Zuhd (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1999), 117; no.763.
8. Al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, 1:514.
9. Abu Dawud, no.2512; al-Tirmidhi, no.2972, stating: ‘The hadith is hasan sahih gharib.’