Imam Muslim records the following hadith in his esteemed Sahih, no.2880: Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah narrates from al-Zuhri; from ‘Urwah; from Zaynab b. Umm Salamah; from Habibah; from Umm Habibah; from Zaynab b. Jahsh that the Prophet, peace be upon him, woke-up from his sleep and exclaimed: ‘La ilaha illa’Llah! Woe be to the Arabs for an evil that is fast approaching. Today, a gap has been made in the wall [that restrains] Gog and Magog like such;’ Sufyan formed a circle with his thumb and index finger [to demonstrate]. Zaynab asked: O Messenger of God, shall we be destroyed even though there are righteous people among us? He said: ‘Yes, if evil becomes widespread (na‘am idha kathura’l-khabath).’
Imam al-Nawawi wrote in his commentary to this hadith: ‘This chain (isnad) contains four female Companions (sahabiyyat) – two of the Messenger of God’s wives, and two of his step-daughters – narrating one from another. No other hadith is known to have four female Companions relating one from another, besides this one.’1
Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi relates a rare and unusual chain, consisting of nine forefathers reporting one from another. He says that Abu’l-Faraj ‘Abd al-Wahhab b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz b. al-Harith b. Asad b. al-Layth b. Sulayman b. al-Aswad b. Sufyan b. Zayd b. Ukaynah b. ‘Abd Allah al-Tamimi narrated to us from memory that I heard my father say; that I heard my father say; that I heard my father say; that I heard my father say; that I heard my father say; that I heard my father saying; that I heard my father say; that I heard my father say; that I heard ‘Ali b Abi Talib saying: ‘Knowledge calls for action; so either the call is responded to, or knowledge departs.’2
As part of his commentary to the following verse: Think not of those who are slain in the path of God as dead. No, they are alive with their Lord, well-provided for, [3:169] Ibn Kathir wrote:
‘We have narrated from Imam Ahmad’s Musnad a hadith that contains glad tidings for every believer in that his soul shall roam freely in Paradise and shall eat of its fruits. It shall see what it contains of joy and delight and witness the great honour that God has prepared for it. It is reported with an illustrious and splendid authentic chain (bi isnad sahih ‘aziz ‘azim), containing three of the Four Imams whose law-schools are followed, that Imam Ahmad, may God have mercy upon him, narrates from Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi‘i, may God’s mercy be upon him; from Malik b. Anas al-Asbahi, may God have mercy on him; from al-Zuhri; from ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Ka‘b b. Malik; from his father, may God be pleased with him, who related that God’s Messenger, peace be upon him, said: “The believer’s soul is a bird clinging to the trees of Paradise till God returns it to his body on the day of his resurrection.”‘3
1. Sharh Sahih Muslim (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1995), 18:3.
The 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.
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.