UNIT SIX – IMAN, ISLAM, IHSAN

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Umar ibn al-Khattab reports: “We were sitting with Allah’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, when there appeared a man before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white, whose hair was exceedingly black, upon whom traces of travelling could not be seen, and whom none of us knew. He sat down close to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, so that he rested his knees upon his knees and placed his two hands upon his thighs and said: ‘Muhammad! Tell me about Islam.’ Allah’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said: ‘Islam is that you witness that there is no deity but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, and you establish the Prayer, and you give the zakah (prescribed annual alms), and you fast (during the month of) Ramadan, and you perform the hajj (pilgrimage) to the House if you are able to find a way to it.’ He said, ‘You have told the truth,’ and we were amazed at him asking him and [then] telling him that he told the truth. He said, ‘Tell me about belief (iman).’ He (the Messenger of Allah) said: ‘That you affirm Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day, and that you affirm the Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.’ He said, ‘You have told the truth.’ He said, ‘Tell me about ihsan (perfect goodness).’ He said: ‘That you worship Allah as if you see Him, for although you cannot see Him, truly He sees you.’ He said, ‘Tell me about the Hour.’ He said: ‘The one asked about it knows no more than the one asking.’ He said, ‘Then tell me about its signs.’ He said, ‘That the female slave should give birth to her mistress, and you see poor, naked, barefoot shepherds of sheep and goats competing in raising tall buildings.’ He went away, and I remained some time. Then he (Allah’s Messenger) asked: Umar, do you know who the questioner was?’ I said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said: ‘He was Jabrail. He came to you to teach you your religion.’” (Sahih Muslim, Iman, 1).

Note: Refer to Unit Five for further information on Umar ibn al-Kattab, the narrator of this hadith.

 

EXPLANATION OF THE HADITH

a. Archangel Jabrail’s appearing before the Messenger of Allah and asking questions was for the purpose of teaching the Companions their religion.

b. This hadith came to pass near the time of the Prophet’s demise, as the Pilgrimage became obligatory after the conquest of Mecca and the Pilgrimage has been listed among the pillars of Islam mentioned herein.

c. The questions directed to the Prophet in the hadiths have been asked rather methodologically. Due to its externals, Islam has been inquired about first, followed by beliefwhich pertains to the inner world or heart entirelyand later perfect goodness, or ihsan, the highest degree of belief.

To the question concerning the Last Day, the Messenger of Allah replied that he did not know. However, it was Archangel Jabrail who had previously communicated to the Prophet, via Divine revelation, that he ought to reply in such a way to this question, and he knew that Allah’s Messenger would reply in this way. In that case, why did he ask?

His reasons for asking this question are the following:

• To demonstrate to all others that this matter was among the Divine secrets and that even the Prophet himself could not acquire knowledge in this regard, without the permission of Allah.

• Through this response, the Messenger of Allah illustrated before all those Companions, despite being a Prophet, just how connected he was to truth; at the same time, he demonstrated that a person cannot know everything and that it was not shameful or damaging to one’s pride to admit that one does not know something.

 

IMAN AND ISLAM

1) Iman: Verbal profession and confirmation with the heart. This signifies the heart’s affirming what the tongue utters. Accordingly, if the heart fails to affirm what the tongue declares, a person cannot be considered to have believed in the complete sense, even if they perform their worship outwardly. In any case, such people are referred to as hypocrites (munafiqun) in Islam.

2) In this hadith, the Messenger of Allah has referred to the aspects of religion pertaining to the heart as iman and those concerning practice, or deeds, as Islam.

3) Imam Zuhri states: “Islam is word, while iman is deed.” In other words, Islam must be understood in the literal sense. Belief, however, is praxis and implementation.

 

IHSAN

1. The literal meaning of ihsan is twofold: The word denotes doing something well and to perfection; it also comes to mean doing what is beautiful and good to others. The aspect of perfect goodness in this sense, which looks to human beings, is represented in the principle, “Wish for others what you wish for yourself.” The universal dimension which encompasses all creatures is explained in the hadith, “Verily Allah has prescribed ihsan (excellence, perfection) in all things. So if you kill then kill well and if you slaughter, then slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.” The Qur’anic verse, “Is the recompense of excellence (in obedience to Allah) other than excellence?” (ar-Rahman 55:60) evokes this meaning. On one occasion, the Prophet had recited this verse and asked his Companions: “Do you know what your Lord wills to reveal through this verse?” Upon their replying, “Allah and His Messenger know best,” he said that Allah said, “Can the reward for one whom I favored (in their worldly life) with belief in Divine Unity, be other than Paradise?”

2. Allah has decreed the following in relation to perfect goodness: Allah enjoins justice (and right judgment in all matters), and devotion to doing good, and generosity towards relatives, and He forbids you indecency, wickedness and vile conduct (all offenses against religion, life, personal property, chastity, and health of mind and body). He exhorts you (repeatedly) so that you may reflect and be mindful! (an-Nahl 16:90)

 

 

SIGNS OF THE LAST DAY

1. That the female slave should give birth to her mistress: Implied here is that there will come such a time, towards the Last Day, in which children will be undutiful, disrespectful and unloving towards their parents. They will not show them the required love and benevolence and will not observe the rights of parents. They will perpetrate unimaginable evil towards their parents, to whom Allah prohibited even the saying of “Ugh!” (as an indication of complaint or impatience). Another noteworthy point in the text of the hadith is the Messenger’s use of the feminine rabbata (mistress). This illustrates that the child being born is female. So confused will everything become that even daughters, who normally have a closer relationship of reciprocal love and compassion with their mothers, will mistreat their mothers. Allah and His Messenger know best.

2. …and you see poor, naked, barefoot shepherds of sheep and goats competing in raising tall buildings: There will come such a time when people who are unqualified and incompetent will reach high positions with their money. They will become police officers, ministers, doctors, and the like. They will, as such, violate the rights of others and misdirect and mismanage government, and corruption, theft, and deception will increase.

 

LESSONS FROM THE HADITH

1. Angels can appear in human form. They can speak, and human beings can hear their speech. 2. Iman constitutes accepting the essentials of belief, while Islam is putting the rules prescribed by the religion into practice in one’s life. 3. A person’s openly declaring the Declaration of Faith is necessary in way of their being accepted as Muslim. 4. The question-and-answer method is an effective technique in education and teaching. 5. Respect to scholars and assemblies of learning is elemental. 6. Knowledge of the Last day rests only with Allah. 7. Affairs being placed in the hands of those unqualified to undertake them, the increase of disobedience, and the disintegration of the family institution are signs of the Last Day. 8. A Muslim must always act in the consciousness of responsibility. 9. Perfect goodness and self-supervision (muraqaba) are of two degrees: The servant’s living their life “as if seeing Allah,” is the first degree. “Knowing that He sees them though they do not see Him” constitutes the second degree.

 

EVALUATION

1. How did the Messenger of Allah describe perfect goodness when asked by Archangel Jabrail?

2. What could be the wisdom behind Jabrail’s addressing the Prophet by name, as did some of the unlettered Arabs of the time?

3. Why did Jabrail ask the Prophet the question regarding the Hour, despite knowing what his answer would be?

4. What is the meaning of iman?

5. What is the generally accepted view concerning iman and Islam being either synonymous or not? Who espoused this view?

6. What is the literal meaning of ihsan?

7. What are the dimensions of ihsan which look to human beings and all creation?

8. What will be the recompense for ihsan?

9. Allah enjoins ………, and devotion to doing good, and generosity towards ………, and He ……… you ………, wickedness and vile conduct. He exhorts you (repeatedly) so that you may reflect and be mindful!

10. What was Prophet Joseph’s response to Zulaykha as to why he had escaped her?

11. What are the signs of the Last Day mentioned in the hadith?

12. What does a slave’s giving birth to her mistress imply?

13. What is the meaning of “poor, naked, barefoot shepherds of sheep and goats competing in raising tall buildings”?

 

 

Tekines, Ayhan. “An Introduction to Hadith” Tughra Books Press. January 2013.