The Humble "I"

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Archive for the category “prophetology”

Were it Not for You, I Would Not Have Created Creation

Medina-HDIn his catalogue of hadith forgeries, Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari cites a spurious report alleging that Allah informed His beloved Prophet, peace be upon him: ‘Were it not for you, I would not have created the universe (law laka lama khalaqtu’l-aflaka).’1

But having cited the hadith, al-Qari says that although the hadith is forged (mawdu‘), ‘its meaning is sound.’2 This end assertion, that the hadith has a sound meaning, has raised considerable objection from some people; anger, even! For they feel this claim amounts to exaggeration – ghuluw, to use the Quranic language – about the Prophet, peace be upon him. And surely, as some have been quick to point out, it contradicts the Quranic verse which proclaims in no uncertain terms: ‘I created jinn and men only that they may worship Me.’ [51:56] The reason behind creating creation, they highlight, is worship; not the Prophet!

Yet a browse through traditional scholarly attitudes reveals al-Qari’s claim to be fairly normative. That is, classical Islamic scholarship seems to have been comfortable with this assertion. For instance, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali reverently said about the Prophet: ‘he is the ultimate purpose behind creating the human race: its essence (‘aynuhu), its quintessence (khulasatuhu) and its very epitome (wasita ‘aqdihi).’3 Another even earlier Hanbali jurist, the highly critical Ibn al-Jawzi, stated: ‘The saints and the righteous are the very purpose of creation (al-awliya wa’l-salihun hum al-maqsud min al-kawn).’4 Of course, it hardly needs stating that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, is at the very head of such a purpose.

Yet for those who are resistant to the law laka – “were it not for you” – notion, or are over sensitive to what counts for exaggeration about the Prophet, peace be upon him, such quotations will have done little to abate their incredulity. The Arabs say: idha ‘arafa sabab, batala ‘ajab – “If the reason is appreciated, the astonishment departs.” Let me close this blog, therefore, with Ibn Taymiyyah’s analysis of the hadith, in the hope of lifting from such hearts their “disbelief”:

‘The excellence of our Prophet over the Angels was demonstrated on the Night of the Ascension (laylat al-mi‘raj) when he reached a station where he heard the “scratching of the pens.” He was now at a station higher than even that of the Angels. Now Allah manifests some of His tremendous power and astounding wisdom through righteous humans – via prophets and saints – in ways He does not do even via Angels. For He combined in the former, qualities that are dispersed throughout the other types of creation. So Allah created man’s physical body from the earth, whereas his spirit (ruh) was created from the Highest Assembly of Angels. This is why it has been said: “Man is a microcosm, but contains the macrocosm.”

‘Now Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the master of humanity, the best of creation and the noblest of them in Allah’s sight. Which is why it is said: “Allah created the universe because of him.” Or “But for him, He would not have created the Throne, Footstool, the heavens, the earth, sun or moon.” But this isn’t a hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him; whether authentic or weak. It has not been reported by any of those versed in the Hadith science on the authority of the Prophet; nor is it known to have come from any Companion. In fact, it is not known who uttered it.

‘Nonetheless, it is possible to explain it from a sound perspective, such as with Allah’s statement: He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and the earth. [45:13] Or by His words: He subjected the ships to you that they may run upon the sea at His command, and subjected the rivers to you. He subjected to you the sun and moon, constant in their courses, and subjected to you the night and the day. And gave you of all you ask Him; and if you count the favours of Allah, you will never number them. [14:32-4]

‘There are other verses similar to these, all of which clarify that Allah created creation for the sake of mankind: even though it is known that in doing so Allah had another wisdom alongside this and greater than this.

‘Here, though, Allah explains to mankind the benefits the creation contains for them, and how they are immersed in His favours. So when it is said, “He did such and such [for this or that reason]”, it does not exclude the possibility that there could be other wisdoms behind the act. Likewise, the statement: “Were it not for so and so, such and such would not have been created”, does not negate the possibility of there being a higher wisdom behind the act. Instead, what it implies is that since the most pious of people is Muhammad, peace be upon him, creating him was a desirable end of deep-seated wisdom, more than in creating anyone else; and that the perfection of creation and the crown of its completion only occurred with [the Prophet] Muhammad …

‘Now since man is the the seal of creation; the last of creation; and its microcosm, their best will also be the best of all creation in absolute terms. Since Muhammad is the essence of humanity, the axis of creation, and the distributor of the collective, he is, so to say, the ultimate purpose behind creating creation. So an objection cannot be raised against the saying, “For him all was created” or “Were it not for him, creation would not have been created.” So if these, and similar words, are explained according to what the Book and the Sunnah indicate, they should be accepted.’5

To sum-up: since creation was created for mankind’s benefit; and since mankind was created to worship Allah; and since the perfection of such worship was manifested in, and by, the Prophet, peace be upon him, it may hence be said that he is the purpose behind creation being brought into existence. This, I hope, should help soothe those hearts that may have harboured undue opposition to the law laka reality, and deepen our connection to the Master of all Messengers.

O Allah, shower abundant blessings and peace upon our master,
Muhammad; the paragon of human perfection,
best of all creation.
Amin!

1. Those who cite the hadith in their catalogues of weak and forged hadiths include: Ibn al-Jawzi, Kitab al-Mawdu‘at (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1995), 1:214; ‘Ali al-Qari, al-Asrar al-Marfu‘ah fi’l-Akhbar al-Mawdu‘ah, no.385; Suyuti al-La’ali al-Masnu‘ah (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Tijariyyah, 1964), 1:272; al-Albani, Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Sahihah (Riyadh: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1992), no.282.

2. Al-Asrar al-Marfu‘ah, 288.

3. Lata’if al-Ma‘arif (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm & Mu’assasah al-Rayyan, 1996), 21.

4. Sifat al-Safwa (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Arabi, 2008), 31.

5. Majmu‘ Fatawa (Riyadh: Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 1991), 11:96-98.

The Prophet’s Character ﷺ

Madina (1)This is a short piece translated from Ibn Qudamah’s Mukhtasar Minhaj al-Qasidin. It distills a picture the Quran and hadiths build up of the Prophet’s virtues and character, peace be upon him: integrity, honesty, steadfastness, courage, kindness, compassion, courtesy, and other qualities too numerous to list. To say the Prophet’s is a life well documented is an understatement. There is hardly an aspect of his life which did not come under the scrutiny of his close companions, who left for posterity all that they saw him do or hear him say. The reason: to know what the Prophet, peace be upon him, did is to know what we all should do. The Qur’an describes him as a beautiful example [33:21], and so the Prophet’s sunnah, Qur’an aside, is the very notion of Islam itself – emulation of which becomes the life work of a believer in his or her journey to God and the Afterlife.

‘God’s Messenger, peace be upon him, was the mildest of people and also the warmest and most generous of them. He would mend his own sandals, patch his own clothes and help his family with the daily errands. He was very shy; shyer than a virgin in her chamber.

He would respond to the invitation of slaves, visit the sick, walk alone [without guards or fanfair], allow others to saddle-up with him on his mount, accept gifts, eat food that was sent as a gift; though he never consumed anything that had been given as charity. He did not have enough dates with which to be sated, nor was he sated with barley-bread for more than three consecutive days. He would eat whatever food was readily available and he never criticised food. He never ate reclining, and ate from what was nearest to him.

He loved perfumes and disliked foul odours. He honoured people of virtue, and kept affectionate ties with nobles and dignitaries. He never snubbed anyone and would accept the excuse of those who presented excuses.

He would joke, but never would he utter anything untrue. He laughed, but not loudly. He would not let any time pass without being in the service of God, exalted is He, or being engaged in whatever was essential for his own self-development.

He never cursed women, nor abused servants. Nor did he strike anyone, except for in jihad in God’s cause. He did not exact revenge for his own sake, but did so when God’s limits had been transgressed. If he was presented with two options he took the easier of the two, unless it entailed disobedience or the severing of ties – in which case he would be the furthest away from it.

Anas remarked: “I served him for ten years and he never once rebuked me in the least; nor did he say about anything I had done, ‘Why did you do it?’ or anything I had not done, ‘Why did you not do it?’”

His description in the Torah is: “Muhammad, the Messenger of God and My Chosen Servant. He is neither harsh nor severe. He does not shout in the market places, nor repay evil with evil, but instead he pardons and forgives” …

He would sit in an assembly wherever it was convenient and would mingle among his Companions as one of them, such that when strangers came they couldn’t distinguish him from others, save after inquiring as to who he was. He would take to long periods of silence, but when he did speak he did so measuredly and clearly, repeating himself so that he would be understood. He used to pardon, even when he was in a position to punish, and he would not confront anyone with what they did not like.

He was the most truthful of men; one who most fulfilled his trusts, pledges and commitments; the easiest going of people; the most affable; and the most generous in friendship. Whoever gazed on him unexpectedly, was awe-stricken by him; whoever knew him, loved him. His Companions, whenever they spoke about worldly affairs, he would join in with them; and when, in recollecting their pre-Islamic days, they would laughed, he would simply smile. He was also the bravest of men. One of his Companions recounts: When the fighting grew intense, we would seek shelter behind God’s Messenger, peace be upon him.’1

1. Mukhtasar Minhaj al-Qasidin (Damascus: Maktabah Dar al-Bayan, 1999), 157-8.

What Are the Seven Rights of the Prophet ﷺ

imageTo travel through any Muslim land is to see tall, graceful towers – minarets – studded across the landscape from which, five times a day, the muezzin punctuates communal life by calling believers to prayer (salat). This stark, yet simple call serves to remind the community that in their day to day life – with its joys and its pains, its hopes and its disappointments – there runs a thread leading them to their ultimate purpose and end goal: Allah, and that it is time now – for a short while, at least – to put aside the world and restore to the soul a fuller and more natural awareness of Him. It is a call which helps put life into perspective.

The muezzin starts his call by first extolling Allah’s greatness (takbir, allahu akbar) and then follows it by proclaiming the Declaration of Faith, or shahadah. The first half of this Declaration is to testify to: la ilaha illa’Llah – ‘There is no god worthy of worship but Allah’. The second half bears witness to: muhammadun rasulu’Llah – ‘Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.’ The first half affirms the doctrine of tawhid; the second, the method by which to live out and implement this doctrine.

Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah obliges on each believer certain rights or huquq, all of which have been mentioned in the Qur’an. Scholars explain that these rights are seven in number:

1. To Believe in Him: This does not mean to merely believe he was a true, historical figure of seventh century Arabia, but to believe in his prophethood (nubuwwah) and in Allah’s message (risalah) to him too. The Qur’an says: Believe, therefore, in Allah and His Messenger, and the light which We have sent down. [64:8] One hadith says: ‘I have been ordered to fight mankind till they testify that there is no god but Allah and until they believe in me and what I was sent with.’ [Muslim, no.34]

2. To Obey Him: It is not enough to believe in him, peace be upon him. Instead, true faith necessitates that we be guided by his message and obey its demands: O you who believe! Obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not turn away from him when you hear him speak. [8:20] He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah. [4:80] One hadith declares: ‘All my nation will enter Paradise save those who refuse.’ They asked: O Messenger of Allah, who would refuse? He replied: ‘Whoever obeys me will enter Paradise, whoever disobeys me has in fact refused.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.7280]

3. To Emulate His Example: Given that Allah says about His beloved Prophet, peace be upon him: Yours is indeed a tremendous character, [68:4] it should come as no surprise to enlightened minds that imitation of the Prophet, peace be upon him, is also a right we owe him. The Qur’an states: Say: “If you love Allah, then follow me.” [3:31] Elsewhere it tells us: You have in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful example. [33:21] One celebrated hadith says: ‘Whoever turns away from my Sunnah is not of me.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.5063; Muslim, no.1401]

No doubt, within the overall obligation of ittiba‘ – to “follow” or “emulate” him – there are certain matters where emulation is mandatory, and other places where it is highly encouraged and urged, but not obligated (there are even some matters recorded about his life that are just descriptive, not prescriptive). A sound knowledge of fiqh should help distinguish between these levels of imitation and emulation. With that being so, believers try their best to conform to the prophetic example, and mould their lives in the light of his Sunnah, as far as possible. For it is in him that the Adamic perfection is found and the beauty of behaviour made manifest.

4. To Love Him: We find in the Qur’an: Say: “If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your tribe, the wealth you have gained, the trade you fear my slacken, and the home you delight in are more loved by you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His cause, then wait till Allah brings about His command. Allah guides not the corrupt. [9:24] Indeed, love of the Prophet is what distinguishes believers in their perfection of faith, as one hadith says: ‘None of you believes until he loves me more than his father, his children and the whole of mankind.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.15; Muslim, no.44]

An essential part of loving the Prophet, peace be upon him, is to love his Family. The Prophet, peace be upon him, once urged: udhakkirukumu’Llaha fi ahli bayti – ‘I advise you concerning my family.’ [Muslim, no.2408] Once, Zayd b. Thabit was once praying the funeral prayer for his mother, after which he brought his mule near in order to mount it, upon which Ibn ‘Abbas came and took hold of the stirrup. Zayd said: ‘Let it be, O nephew of Allah’s Messenger.’ Ibn ‘Abbas said: ‘This is how we were taught to treat the scholars.’ So Zayd took hold of Ibn ‘Abbas’ hand and, upon kissing it, said: ‘This is how we were taught to treat the family of our Prophet.’ [Al-Tabarani, Mu‘jam al-Kabir, no.4746]

5. To Honour and Revere Him: True faith (iman) not only demands that he be loved, but that he be honoured and revered too. The Qur’an insists: Those who believe in him, honour him, support him, and follow the light that was sent down with him: those are the successful. [7:157] That you may honour him and revere him. [48:9] Al-Qazwini contrasts honour, reverence and veneration (described by terms such as tabjil, tawqir and ta‘zim) with that of love and cites Imam al-Bayhaqi saying: ‘This is a higher degree than that of love; for not all who love revere. A father loves his child, or a master his slave, but does not revere him. Whereas all who revere also love.’1

6. To Believe that Prophethood Ended With Him: The Qur’an declares: Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah has knowledge of all things. [33:40] Needless to say, when a thing is “sealed”, it is complete and so there can be no further addition to it. In a like manner, the Prophet Muhammad sealed the cycle of prophethood and brought it to a close: he is the last Prophet, after whom there will be no prophet. Henceforth, revealed truths shall be revived and reanimated by scholars, saints and renewers; but never again by prophets. That our Prophet, upon whom be peace, is khatim al-nabiyyin – “the Seal of the Prophets” – is also confirmed in many hadiths; one of which says: ‘There will arise among my nation thirty liars, all of them claiming to be a prophet. But I am the final Prophet; there will be no prophet after me.’ [Muslim, no.2889; Abu Dawud, no.4252]

7. To Send Blessings (Salat) and Salutations of Peace (Salam) Upon Him: When telling us that Allah and His angels are constantly raising the rank, status and honour of the Prophet, peace be upon him, the Qur’an states the following: Allah and His angels send blessings upon the Prophet. O you who believe! Send blessings upon him and salute him with a worthy salutation. [33:56] The hadith literature records: ‘Whosoever invokes one blessing upon me, Allah will send ten blessings on him.’ [Muslim, no.384] And: ‘Those closest to me on the Day of Resurrection are those who invoke most blessings upon me.’ [Al-Tirmidhi, no.484] And: ‘The miser is he who, whenever I am mentioned in his presence, does not invoke blessings upon me.’ [Al-Tirmidhi, no.3546]

As for what it means for Allah to “bless” or “send salat” on the Prophet, Abu’l-‘Aliyah, a famous tabi‘i, explained: ‘Allah’s salat is His extolling him to the angels; the angels’ salat is their supplication [for him].’2 The majoritarian view seems to be the one al-Tirmidhi records: ‘It is related from Sufyan al-Thawri and others from the people of knowledge that salåt of the Lord is His mercy, and salat of the angels is their seeking forgiveness for him.’3

Hence Allah blesses the Prophet by the constant effusion of mercy descending upon him; such divine mercy referring to: light, knowledge, revelation, support, protection, swift response to prayers, exalting in rank and nearness to Him, honourable mention of him, as well as other things that only Allah and His Beloved know. The angels bless the Prophet by praying for him and supporting him. The believers, by invoking Allah’s blessings upon him. As for salutations (salam), it is praying for protection, safety and peace upon him.

In conclusion: May Allah send blessings and peace upon our Prophet whenever his name is mentioned by those who may remember him, or neglected by those who are heedless of him. May Allah bless him among the first and the last of generations with the most favourable, most abundant and purest blessings that He has bestowed upon any of His creation. For, as the venerable Imam al-Shafi‘i has written, ‘no blessing, be it seen or unseen, has ever descended on us by which we gained spiritual or temporal gain, or by which spiritual or temporal harm was repelled, except that Muhammad, upon whom be peace, was the reason for it; the leader to its goodness; director to its guidance; protector from its destruction and evil that oppose righteousness; warner against what brings ruin; ever ready with sincere advice for guidance and warning. So may Allah’s blessings be upon him and his family, as His blessings are upon Abraham and his family. Indeed You [Allah] are Praiseworthy, Majestic.’4

1. Mukhtasar Shu‘ab al-Iman (Cairo: Maktabah al-Turath al-Islami, n.d.), 29.

2. Related by al-Bukhari as a Chapter Heading (bab) to hadith no.4797.

3. Al-Tirmidhi, as a gloss to hadith no.485.

4. Al-Risalah (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, n.d.), 16-17.

The Prophet ﷺ and His Lovers

DoorBelieving men and women down the centuries have not just affirmed the Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood and teachings, they experienced him as an intimate and intensely beloved presence in their lives too. ‘None of you truly has faith,’ said the Prophet, peace be upon him, ‘until I become more beloved to him than his father, son and all of mankind.’1

The above hadith echoes the Qur’an in its following demand: Say: ‘If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your tribes, the wealth you have acquired, the trade you fear may slacken, and the homes you love are dearer to you than God and His Messenger and the struggle in His cause, then wait until God brings about His decision. God does not guide the corrupt.’ [9:24]

This deep sense of love and personal connection to the Prophet, peace be upon him, is generated and nurtured in many ways – the most obvious of these ways being through faithful and devoted emulation of him. The respected historian, acclaimed traditionist and authoritative Shafi‘i jurist, Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi (d.748H/1348CE) wrote about another of those ritual activities that nurtures a deep and abiding love for the Prophet. He wrote:

‘Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Mun‘im related to us … that Ibn ‘Umar disliked touching the grave of the Prophet, peace be upon  him.

I [al-Dhahabi] say: he disliked it, for he thought it disrespectful. Ahmad b. Hanbal was once asked about touching the Prophet’s grave, peace be upon him, and about kissing it, and he saw nothing wrong in them: his son, ‘Abd Allah, related this from him.2

If it is said, ‘Why did the Companions not do this?’ We reply: Because they beheld him with their very eyes when he was alive; they delighted in his actual presence; they kissed his very hand; they almost fought each other over the remnants of his ablution water; they shared his blessed hair on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage; and even if he spat, it would virtually not fall except in somebody’s hand so that he could wipe it over his face.

Since we haven’t had the immense fortune of partaking in this, we throw ourselves on his grave as a mark of commitment, reverence and acceptance – even to kiss it. Don’t you see what Thabit al-Bunani did as he kissed the hand of Anas b. Malik and placed it on his face, saying: “This is the hand that touched the hand of God’s Messenger; peace be upon him”? Muslims are not moved to such acts except by an overwhelming love for the Prophet, peace be upon him. For they are called upon to love God and His Prophet, upon whom be peace, more than their ownselves, their children, humanity, their wealth, and even Paradise and its maidens. There are certain believers who even love Abu Bakr and ‘Umar more than their ownselves …

Don’t you see that the Companions, in their irrepressible love for the Prophet, peace be upon him, asked him: ‘Should we not prostrate to you?’ He replied: “No!” Yet if he had allowed them, they would have done so as a mark of reverence and respect, not as an act of worship – like how the brothers of Joseph prostrated to him. Likewise, some Muslims prostrating to the grave of the Prophet, peace be upon him, is with the intention of honour and reverence. One is not to be accused of disbelief at all because of it; although he is being disobedient. So let him be told that doing so is forbidden; as is the case of praying towards the actual grave.’3

So a true believer’s love for the Prophet, peace be upon him, as deep and profound as it is, should never manifest itself in a way contrary to the rulings of the shari‘ah, or to its adab; its etiquettes and courtesies. Object we may to quantifying love as excessive, for how can one ever love God’s Beloved enough or too much? But object we must if such love is expressed incorrectly or inappropriately. Imam al-Dhahabi takes up the matter elsewhere:

‘One who visits the Prophet’s grave, may God shower him with peace, and oversteps the adab in his visitation, or prostrates to the grave, or does something else that is not prescribed by the shari‘ah, then such a person has done good and bad. He must thus be gently taught; and God is indeed Forgiving, Merciful. By God! A Muslim is not brought to this state of sorrow and lamentation, to kissing the walls [of the chamber], or to weeping profusely, except that he loves God and His Messenger – love of him being a distinctive hallmark between the dwellers of Paradise and those of Hell.’4

1. Al-Bukhari, no.15; Muslim, no.70.

2. For a fuller account of Imam Ahmad’s position on the issue, see my previous posting on this blog: Yearning for the Prophet, footnote no.5.

3. Mu‘jam al-Shuyukh (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1990), no.58.

4. Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risalah, 1998), 18:105.

Yearning for the Prophet ﷺ

Madina596x1024The Prophet said, peace be upon him: ‘Among those of my nation (ummah) that most fervently love me will be a people who shall come after me, and who would give up their family and property in exchange for being able to see me.’1

The lady ‘A’ishah related: A man came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, saying: “O God’s Messenger, I love you more than myself, my wife and children. When I am at home and remember you, I cannot wait to come and gaze at you. Though when I remember my death and your death, I know that when you enter Paradise, you will be raised-up with the Prophets. But even if I enter Paradise, I am afraid I will never see you.’ The Prophet, peace be upon him, did not answer him until the following was sent down to him: Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, they are with those whom Allah has favoured, of the Prophets, the highest saints, the martyrs and the righteous. They are the best of company. [4:69]’2

Less than half a century later, the successor (tabi‘i), ‘Abidah al-Salmani, was once told that: We have in our possession a strand of hair of the Prophet, peace be upon him, by way of Anas b. Malik. To this he said: ‘That I possess a lock of his hair is more beloved to me than all the gold and silver on the face of the earth.’3

To this lover’s sigh, Imam al-Dhahabi went on to passionately say: ‘This utterance of ‘Abidah is a benchmark for perfect love, which is his preferring a strand of prophetic hair to all the gold and silver that people may possess. This statement from this Imam was said fifty years after the Prophet, upon whom be peace. So what should we say in our time if we were to ever find a lock of his hair reliably confirmed, or a thong from his sandal, or some of his nail clippings, or shards of a cup from whence he drank? If a wealthy person were to spend the greater part of his wealth in acquiring any of these things, would you think him a spendthrift or foolish? Never! So spend what you have in visiting his Mosque which he built with his own hands; and send salutations on him at his Chamber in his City; and cherish the sight of Uhud, and love it as your Prophet, peace be upon him, loved it; and revive yourself by spending time in his Garden where he sat. For you shall not be a true believer until this master becomes more beloved to you than even yourself, your children, your wealth, and the whole of humanity.’4

In his extensive biographical notice on Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Dhahabi feels the need to take-up the subject matter again; but this time with a degree of what may be described as “a lover’s ire”. He writes:

‘‘Abd Allah b. Ahmad said: “I saw my father take a strand of hair of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and put it to his lips and kiss it. I believe I saw him place it over his eyes too. He also dipped it into some water and drank the water, seeking a cure thereby. I saw him take the Prophet’s bowl, peace be upon him, rinse it in water and then drink from it. I saw him drinking Zamzam water seeking a cure thereby, wiping his hands and his face with it.” I say: Where is the extremist critic of Imam Ahmad now? For it is authentically confirmed from ‘Abd Allah that he once asked his father about those that touch the pommel of the Prophet’s pulpit, peace be upon him, and touch the Prophet’s chamber. He said: “I see no problem in it.” So may God protect us and you from the views of the Khawarij and from innovations.’5

Nor is it just human souls that yearn for the Prophet, upon whom be peace. In a well-known and mass-transmitted (mutawatir) hadith, we are told that the Prophet, peace be upon him, initially delivered his Friday sermons while leaning against the stump of a date-palm tree. When a pulpit was made for him, however, he addressed the people from that. It was during the first sermon from the pulpit that the tree stump wept at being seperated from the Prophet, peace be upon. ‘So the Prophet, peace be upon him, came to it and put his hand on it, whereupon it calmed down.’6 In other version, the Prophet, peace be upon him, remarked: ‘It weeps at the rememberance of what it has lost.’7 Another wording states: ‘Had he not put his arms around it and embraced it, it would have continued to grieve until the Day of Resurrection.’8

Let us end with a remark made by a peerless scholar and leading pietist of early Islam: al-Hasan al-Basri. Whenever he related the hadith about the tree stump, he too would weep and would say: ‘O servants of God! The stump of the date-palm tree wept for the Messenger of God, out of a longing to be with him. You should have a greater yearning to meet him.’9

So for this, let lovers pine and yearners weep!

1. Muslim, no.2832.

2. Abu Nu‘aym, Hilyat al-Awliya’, 8:125;. Shaykh Ahmad Shakir declared it to be sahih in ‘Umdat al-Tafsir ‘ani’l-Hafiz Ibn Kathir (Mansurah: Dar al-Wafa, 2005), 1:537.

3. Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risalah, 1998), 4:42.

4. ibid., 4:42.

5. ibid., 11:212. Touching or kissing the Prophet’s blessed grave is not the authoritative (mu‘tamad) view in the Hanbali madhhab. The relied upon view is that it is preferred not to do so. Al-Mardawi, whose significance will not be lost on those familiar with the Hanbali school and its authoritative references, quotes Imam Ahmad as saying: ‘The people of knowledge never used to touch it.’ He then states: ‘It is preferred not to touch the grave according to the soundest view of the school.’ Al-Insaf fi Ma‘rifat al-Rajihi min al-Khilaf (Beirut: Dar al-Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1957), 4:53. Ibn Qudamah, al-Mughni (Riyadh: Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 1998), 5:468, stipulated: ‘It is preferred not to touch the walls of the Prophet’s grave, peace be upon him, nor to kiss it. Ahmad said: I do not know this.’ As for the view that permits touching the grave, it is recorded in Ibn Muflih, al-Mubdi‘ (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1980), 2:281; and Mar‘i b. Yusuf, Ghayat al-Muntaha (Riyadh: al-Mu’assasah al-Sa‘idiyyah, n.d.), 1:259.

6. Ibn Majah, no.1414; al-Tirmidhi, no.3627, who said it is hasan sahih.

7. Al-Bukhari, no.917.

8. Ibn Majah, no.1415, and it is sahih. Consult: al-Albani, Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Sahihah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma‘arif, 1991), no.2174.

9. Cited in Qadi ‘Iyad, al-Shifa’ (Damascus: Maktabah al-Ghazali, 2000), 371; Dhahabi, Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala, 4:570.

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