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Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (4)
Hadith & Sunnah
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)


Narratives about the Sunnah of Nature (fitrah) 


1.    It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (rta) that five things are part of human nature: cutting nails, shaving the moustache, removing hair from underarms, shaving pubic hair and circumcision.

Explanation: This narrative has been deferred but has also been narrated through a trail of narrators. Human nature means the requirements that are based on the innate knowledge of good and evil that is resident within human beings. The instructions of nature should be from ancient times and should remain valid forever. Thus, these acts would have been carried out by Adam (sws) and shall continue to be carried out by his progeny. The first point stated in the narrative is cutting of nails. Good human nature demands that nails be cut, as letting nails grow is an attribute of animals.

In the view of Malikites, the right way of shaving of the moustache is to shave it from above the lips. It is known about ‘Umar (rta) that whenever he was faced with a mission, he would curl his moustache while pondering. I feel that ‘Umar (rta) would have done so. The reason is when a problem arises, a person tends to become weak; his face loses colour. But a man of determination thinks of ways to resolve the problem and curls his moustache. ‘Umar (rta) is a worthy example of a man of determination and a complete demonstration of Islamic culture. If he had a moustache, then having whiskers means that the lips should be seen; the moustache can be grown above the lips. The view of the Malikites is correct in my opinion and the Ahl-i Hadith carry an extremist point of view in this matter.

Shaving of the hair of the underarms and pubic area is also a need of nature. One feels repulsed if this hair grows. Circumcision is also a sunnah of nature. There is a strange narrative about Abraham (sws) that he was circumcised at the age of 80. In reality, if this instruction belongs to those related to nature, then it would have been acted upon by people from the beginning. Christians do not practice it because they have given up their shari‘ah in following Paul. The same is the situation with Hindus.


2.    It is narrated from Sa‘id ibn Musayyab that Abraham (sws) was the first human to be a host to others; to undergo circumcision; to trim his moustache and to see his own white hair in old age. He enquired of God: what was this and God replied that this was dignity. Whereupon he prayed: O Lord, make my dignity abundant.

Explanation: this is a saying of a Muslim who was in the company of one of the Prophet’s Companions. Some people have traced it to Abu Hurayrah (rta) but in any case, it is not a Hadith. This is the reason why its content clashes with the previous narrative. In this saying, it has been claimed that Abraham (sws) was the first man to implement some practices. This has prompted some people to add to the list of practices which Abraham (sws) may have taken the lead in.

One of the actions attributed to Abraham (sws) as a first is playing host. The question arises that there were so many great prophets before Abraham (sws): did they not host guests and teach their followers to do the same? Similarly, circumcising and trimming of the moustache fall within the category of natural acts, so did the noble souls who preceded Abraham (sws) not follow these practices? And if Abraham (sws) was the first man to see old age, did Noah (sws) not grow old and remain young despite living to be a thousand years old? It is obvious that there is no practice in this list which can be said to be nonexistent before Abraham (sws).

It is possible that the real meaning of Ibn Musayyab was that these pure practices did not exist within the nation and family of Abraham (sws) and he was the first one to adopt them. For example, several prophets before him had been preaching monotheism but the manner in which he announced it within the house of idols is unparalleled. If explained thus, Ibn Musayyab’s narrative can be understood somewhat, otherwise it negates the previous narrative.


3.    Yayha said that he heard from Imam Malik that moustaches should be trimmed so that the corners of the mouth are visible. This is also called “atar.” The shaving should not be so intense that a man mutilates his own body.  

Explanation: This is Imam Malik’s decree which is acted upon by the Malikites. They believe that a man’s moustache should be at least such that he may take refuge in them when faced with difficulties and, like ‘Umar (rta), twirl them when needed.



Narratives about Prohibition to eat with the Left Hand


1.    It is narrated from Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) prohibited anyone from eating with the left hand, wearing the shoe in only one foot or wear a single cloth in ishtimal or ihtaba’ which could expose his private parts.  

Explanation: Eating with the left hand is allowed in case of two compulsions. One may have only one hand or the there could be something wrong with the right one. Other than this, all clean acts should be done with the right hand and others with the left one.

The same holds for the situation of wearing the shoe on one foot only. If one has one foot and one walks on crutches, there would be no objection, but if one does it because of a fashion statement, this is mere buffoonery. Ishtimal and ihtaba’ have been explained above so there can be no question of their prohibition in our case because a shalwar or pyjama does not expose the body. But for a villager, who wears a sarong or a single sheet of cloth, there is the possibility of its opening and care must be taken in that case.


2.    It is narrated from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that if anyone eats, he should eat with his right hand and if anyone drinks, he should do so with his right hand because it is the devil that eats and drinks with his left hand.  

Explanation: It seems from Ahadith that the devil is the source of all evil, whether big or small. Here, the Prophet (sws) has related eating with the left hand to the way of the devil. Since the originator is always the devil, this act too falls within this category. Civilized people should not act in this manner.


Narratives about the Needy 

1.    It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that a needy person is not one who circles around people, when someone gives him one bite, another gives him two, a third gives him one date and another gives him two dates. People asked the Prophet (sws) who would be a needy person then and he answered that it would be he who is deprived of goods that would make him free of want, but because of his apparent lack of visibly being in a state of want, people do not understand that he is needy and do not give to him. He, himself, does not ask of others that they may understand.  

Explanation: This means that despite being in need, he does not extend his hand in front of others and remains in a state such that people are unable to understand whether he is in need that he may be given something. He himself has self respect and would not like to suffer the pain of being refused.  

2.    It is narrated from Ibn Bujayd Ansari’s grandmother that the Prophet (sws) said: return a needy person from your door, but with a bone even if it is burnt.

 Explanation: This means the bone that was put in the pan on fire and it was burnt. In other words, if a needy person comes to one’s door, one should give him something, even if it is an insignificant thing. The needy should not be returned from the door without getting something.



Narratives about the Intestines of Disbelievers


1. It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that a Muslim eats in one intestine and a disbeliever eats from seven.


Explanation: this narrative is against the obvious. Therefore, it should be explained in the light of the subsequent narrative. It seems that the narrator has taken a piece of this narrative and shown it as a stand lone Hadith. The result is that it has been cut off from its origin and source, creating several questions.


2. It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (rta) that a disbeliever came to the Prophet (sws)’s house as a guest. The Prophet (sws) instructed the milking of a goat for him. He drank this milk. A second goat was milked and he drank its milk too. Then a third was milked and he drank that too, until he drank the milk of seven goats. In the morning, this man accepted Islam. The Prophet (sws) asked for a goat to be milked for him and he drank this milk. When the Prophet (sws) had a second goat milked, he took a few gulps only and said that he was satiated. At this, the Prophet (sws) said that a believer drinks from one intestine and a disbeliever from seven.


Explanation: This is a special incident in which the difference between the greed, desire and want of a disbeliever and believer has been made explicit. A believer has patience, satisfaction and freedom from want. A disbeliever feels that he may not get another chance. So he must take all that he can get at one time. This feeling affects his character too. A believer’s faith affects his character in such a way that he is satisfied and has trust in God that He who has given him now shall give again. A disbeliever does not think in this manner.

This narrative does not determine that all disbelievers behave thus. It is only an example that has been given. There are many disbelievers who eat little and many Muslims who eat the share of the disbelievers too. But it is clear about the attitude a person of faith should possess in matters of eating and drinking. This narrative also clarifies the issue with the previous one, which was only one piece of the whole narrative shown as a complete one. The narrator of both is Abu Hurayrah (rta) but the companion is different for both. When the last piece was removed from its origin, the narrative went against the obvious but when explained with full context, the point is clear.      


(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)


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