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Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (6)
Hadith & Sunnah
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)


Narratives about Wearing a Ring 

1. It is narrated from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) that the Prophet (sws) used to wear a gold ring. Then he got up and threw it away, saying that he will never wear it again. At this, all those present also threw away their rings.  

Explanation: Throwing away does not mean that it was thrown in a ditch, but that it was removed from the finger. Perhaps he gave it away to one of his wives or someone else. Similarly other people too removed their gold rings. They gave them away to their women or had them melted for some other use.


2. Sadaqah ibn Yasar says that when he asked Sa‘id ibn Musayyab about wearing a ring, he asked him to wear it and to tell people that he had given him a decree about it.  

Explanation: This gives an indication of the situation. When the Prophet (sws) removed his gold ring, people went a step forward and claimed that wearing a ring was haram. Whereas, wearing a ring of gold was haram for men, not wearing a silver ring Sa‘id ibn Musayyab must have known this, so he gave a decree about a metal ring other than gold. Obviously, he could not have given a decree in favour of a gold ring. The narrator has not mentioned the particular context. Without determining the context, explanation of Ahadith has become very difficult and huge problems have been created in religion.



About Removing Collars and Bells to get Rid of Magic Spells 

1. ‘Abbad ibn Tamim says that Abu Bashir Ansari told him that once he was with the Prophet (sws) on a journey. The Prophet (sws) sent a man (and ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr says that he thought that ‘Abbad said that people were resting after a meal), and told him not to leave any camel without having his collar cut. Yahya says that he heard from Imam Malik that he thought this instruction was related to the collars which people placed to protect their animals from the evil eye.  

Explanation: It is customary to hang collars and bells around the necks of animals in every country. When farmers come out with their livestock in the early morning, nothing is visible. It is likely that unaware people may bang into the animals. Bells caution people who are around. Thus, this arrangement is done under a necessity. Some people do this to decorate their animals and others to demonstrate their pride and glory. Another group is one which is superstitious and which believes that someone may cast an evil spell upon their animals and they hang these collars or ta’awidh around their necks. Imam Malik thinks that the Prophet (sws) was referring to the latter type of animals. This was his perception and it seems to be correct.



The Instruction for Ablution to Protect Oneself from the Evil Eye 

1. It is narrated from Abu Uthamah that his father, Sahal ibn Hunayf was taking a bath in Kharar. He was wearing a gown which he took off. ‘Amir ibn Rabi‘ah was watching him. Sahal ibn Hunayf was a very fair and handsome man. ‘Amir ibn Rabi‘ah said that he had never seen such a body, not even that of a virgin. Sahal immediately developed high fever. A man came to the Prophet (sws) and told him that Sahal was very feverish and unable to travel with him. When the Prophet (sws) came to see Sahal, the latter told him about what ‘Amir ibn Rabi‘ah had said, at which the Prophet (sws) said: “Why does any of you kill your brother without any reason? Why did you not bless him? An evil eye will produce similar results. Now, carry out ablutions.” ‘Amir then did ablutions and Sahal recovered immediately, leaving with the Prophet (sws) as if he had never been ill.

2. Abu Uthamah ibn Sahal says that when ‘Amir ibn Rabi‘ah saw his father, Sahal ibn Hunayf taking a bath, he said that he had never seen as beautiful a body as this, even that of one who keeps herself veiled. At this, Sahal fell down. Someone came to the Prophet (sws) and said to him: “O’ Prophet of God, do you know of Sahal’s condition? He is not even lifting his head.” The Prophet (sws) asked him if he blamed anyone for this and the man replied that he blamed ‘Amir ibn Rabi‘ah. The Prophet (sws) was angry with ‘Amir ibn Rabi‘ah and said: “Why does any of you kill your brother without any reason? Why did you not bless him? Now, take a bath for him.” Then Amir washed his face, both arms, elbows, both knees, around his feet and the inside of his sarong in a basin. Then he poured this water over Sahal who became well and went out with people as if he had never been ill.  

Explanation: Both narrations relate to the same event. When ‘Amir ibn Rabi‘ah saw Sahal ibn Hunayf bathing, he cast such an eye over his fair skin that, under the influence of evil, he fell down and developed high fever. Casting an evil eye is an act of Satan. The Satan inside a human being is the source for this and it influences others. An evil eye is similar to satanic acts and has the same power as that of black magic. Magic affects the mind but not to the extent that the person may die or become insane. Its effect is temporary.

The question that arises here is whether what the Prophet (sws) said about anyone killing his brother without a reason can cause someone to be killed?  This is why, based on deduction from this narration, questions have been raised on whether, if as a consequence of an evil eye, someone dies, would the one who cast the evil eye be killed as qisas? One group of jurists believes that such a person should be killed, while another believes that there is a given procedure in the shari‘ah about investigations for a murder. Evidence is taken from people, the murder weapon is analyzed, the killer is assessed and then the judge delivers his verdict. In cases of spells caused by an evil eye, it is not possible to implement these procedures. According to the point of view of Imam Nawawi, no one shall be killed as qisas in such a case.

On the other hand, the Qur’an tells us that Satan has not been given full control of any evil action to the extent that he could take the life of a human being. At the most, he can create doubts and misgivings within a person’s mind, entice him towards sin and get him into trouble temporarily.  In the light of this, the killing to which the Prophet (sws) referred to above cannot mean actual killing.

Although both narrations present the same event, the main difference between them in my view is that the first has been narrated by Muhammad ibn Uthamah, whereas the second is attributed to the narration of Muhammad ibn Shihab al-Zuhri. According to the first one, the Prophet (sws) ordered ‘Amir ibn Rabi‘ah to do ablutions and to place blessings upon Sahal, at which the latter recovered. This is reasonable and matches the spirit of the shari‘ah. The second one has been presented by Ibn Shihab as a magical spell. According to him, if the person who has cast an evil eye is bathed fully, including his private parts, the water in which he washes is collected in a basin and this water is poured over the person who has become ill due to the evil eye, the effect of the evil eye shall disappear and the ill person shall recover. All of this is superstition and there is no connection to reality. Al-Zuhri’s objectives included the inclusion of satanic acts from Judaism into Islam and faith in superstition and satanic acts has been a characteristic of Jews. Magic spells are all part of satanic superstitions.

Shah Waliullah has also written about the manner of bathing in the narration that this was Ibn Shihab’s own addition and that this is not related to rational thought. Spells are to be believed through the heart. In my opinion, this is against the Qur’an and is a left over from Jewish beliefs. They have been propagated through Sufis.   


Incantation to Expel the Evil Eye 

1. Hmayd ibn Qays al-Makki says that two sons of Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib were brought to the presence of the Prophet (sws). He asked the women who nursed them as to why they there looking so weak, at which they answered: “O Prophet of God, they are easily susceptible to the evil eye and we do not exorcise them for fear that you may not approve.” The Prophet (sws) answered that incantations be conducted because if there was anything more powerful than destiny, it would be an evil eye. 

Explanation: Dari‘ means weak and the word istirqa’ is used for incantation to drive away evil spirits. The Hadith is clear in its meaning. Women of our times too are not ready to accept any responsibility in bringing up their children. If anyone queries about a weak child, they say that an evil eye has cast its spell on it.

In this narration, we do not understand why the Prophet (sws) asked the children to be exorcised. He could have prayed for the health of the children himself and whose prayer could be more pure than his? Whose children other than the nephews of ‘Ali (rta) could be more beloved? He could have said that he would pray for the children. Instead, he asked for them to be exorcised. This was a recipe for getting rid of the influence of the evil eye. I cannot understand this. Did he believe in the influence of traditional incantation? This is absolutely impossible. His meaning would have been prayer, which is a legitimate thing. The word istirqa’ in the narration should be taken to mean prayer.  


2. ‘Urwah ibn Zubayr (rta) narrated that when the Prophet (sws) entered the house of his wife, Umm Salamah (rta), he found a child crying. He was told that the child had been affected by an evil eye. ‘Urwah (rta) said that the Prophet (sws) asked why the child was not exorcised.  

Explanation: This narration has the same issue as the previous one. Both in the Qur’an and in the practice of the Prophet (sw), we find prayer, not exorcism. Pure words are essential for prayer and no idolatrous words should be present. If pure words are spoken and blown upon the affected person, this action would be good. If it has been called istirqa’, there is no problem.  


About Rewards for the Sick

 1. It is narrated from ‘Ata’ ibn Yasar that the Prophet (sws) said that when anyone falls sick, God sends two angels to him and asks them to see what he says to those who have come to ask after his health. If he is grateful to God, gives Him praise, both angels take this news back to God, although He knows it well. Then God says that it is His responsibility now, that if He gives him death, He will give him entry to Paradise and if He gives him recovery, He will replace his flesh with better flesh and his blood with better blood and also forgive his sins.  

Explanation: God is very gracious towards His servants who are patient. If they are afflicted even by the prick of a thorn, He converts it into penance for their sins. If this were not so, how could the sins we commit at every step be forgiven?


2. It is narrated from Yazid ibn Khusayfah that ‘Urwah ibn Zubayr narrated that he heard from ‘A’ishah (rta), wife of the Prophet (sws) that he said that the believer does not suffer even if pricked by a thorn, but that he is given compensation or it becomes a payment for his sins. Yazid did not know which of these two points were stated by ‘Urwah.  

Explanation: This narrative is also given by Imam Muslim. The same has been stated in the previous narrative through another source.


3. It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that when God wishes the betterment of any of His servants, He sends trials to him.  

Explanation: It is the law of God and has also been clarified in the Qur’an that God tests human beings through blessings or troubles. Blessings test his gratitude and trials test his perseverance. This process continues throughout his life. If God places someone in trial, it is for his own good. The reason is that God can hold no enmity towards any of us. It is possible that he wants to awaken us from a state of complacence. If we are not awake, and if He shakes us up and focuses our attention by putting us into some trial, this is a great blessing.


4. It is narrated from Yahya ibn Sa‘id that the time for death of a man came in front of the Prophet (sws) and a person commented that he was very blessed that he had died and not been afflicted by any illness. The Prophet (sws) said: “May you be ruined! What do you know that if God had given him sickness, this could have dusted off his sins?” 

Explanation: This means that we should not desire never to fall ill, but to pray that when God gives us death, it should be an easy one. I always make this prayer. Sickness is a trial and God’s wisdom is behind it. One should not be worried by sickness.



Praying for Deliverance from Sickness and Exorcising Illnesses 

1. It is narrated from ‘Uthman ibn al-‘As that he came to the Prophet (sws). He was in such great pain that he thought he would die.  The Prophet (sws) asked him to rub the place lightly with his right hand seven times and pray that he wished for God’s glory and His protection from the evil and illness which had befallen him. He said that when he did this, God Almighty took away his pain. After this, he always advised his family and friends to offer this prayer in such circumstances.  

Explanation: This prayer has been taught by the Prophet (sws). These are his words. It is very simple and short and everyone should learn it. This is the way of the Prophet (sws) for istirqa’. Using this procedure and then offering a prayer and giving water to drink or blowing upon the affected area also have a psychological effect. There is no harm in using these methods. Harm is caused when the uttered words are impure. One should adopt all the known and well used prayers stated by the Prophet (sws). The number seven has come up in several narrations and it is known that numbers hold some significance in religion.  There are many things which have a given number. Prayers are five; some rak‘at are two, three or four. All of this is not without any wisdom. They are important in religion. If any matter has been proven through the Qur’an or Hadith, even if its wisdom is not understood, it should be obeyed. It cannot be said that it has no wisdom. However, if anything has been stated by any Tom, Dick or Harry, it should be ignored.


2. ‘Urwah ibn Zubayr narrates that ‘A’ishah (rta) used to say that whenever the Prophet (sws) fell sick, he would recite the last two surahs of the Qur’an and blow upon himself. She said that if his pain increased, she herself would recite the surahs and blow upon him and rub his arm.  

Explanation: Mu‘awwidhat mean the last two surahs: al-Falaq and al-Nas. These surahs are prayers for deliverance from all sorts of evil, troubles and attacks by Satan and protection of God. Reciting these thrice in any pain is the same as calling upon God’s support. Blowing on the patient or rubbing his hand is neither against wisdom nor religion. This also has a psychological effect.


3. It is narrated from ‘Amrah bint ‘Abd al-Rahman that Abu Bakr Siddiq (rta) came to ‘A’ishah (rta). She was ill and a Jewish woman was reciting incantations. Abu Bakr Siddiq (rta)  asked her to use the Book of God for the incantation.

Explanation: It is likely that this happened during the early days after hijrah, not after ‘A’ishah’s (rta). marriage. After marriage, there was no one who could pray more effectively than the Prophet (sws) himself. At that time, there may not have been Muslims who would treat the sick and it may have been an old tradition of using exorcists who were considered mystics or had the reputation of being people whose prayers were heard by God. This woman must have been such a person. Abu Bakr Siddiq (rta) asked her to use the Book of God to recite her incantations. It seems that the Book of God meant the Torah because the Jewish woman could not have been familiar with the Qur’an. We infer, therefore, that Islam brought revision in the knowledge related to exorcism: that it should not be done using any words, but only the word of God, even if they were from the earlier Books.  


About Treatment of Patients

 1. Zayd ibn Aslam narrates that a person was wounded during the times of the Prophet (sws) and blood gathered in his wound. The Prophet (sws) called two men from the tribe of Banu Anmar to look at him. Zayd said that he thinks that the Prophet (sws) asked the two men as to which one among them was the better in curing. They said: “O’ Prophet, is there any comparison in cures?” Zayd thinks that the Prophet (sws) said that He Who has sent down illnesses has also sent down their remedies.  

Explanation: This narrative is mursal and it seems that the narrator has not narrated it with confidence. The matter was related to the collection of blood in a person’s wound. When two people were called to treat him, the Prophet (sws) inquired about the better of the two in treatment. It seems that they were taken aback that he has asked their opinion about treatment, at which the Prophet (sws) explained that He who has given illnesses has also given their cures.

Treatment is legitimate. This is not a matter of any doubt. Some people believe that treatment for illness is against perseverance and trust in God and that if God has given illness, it should be borne with patience. But the Prophet (sws) has taught us that if God has given sickness, He has also given their cures. Thus, a sick person should be treated. However, it must be clear that recovery is in God’s hands. This clarification was necessary; otherwise people would become superstitious in matters of medicinal treatment. 


2. Yayha ibn Sa‘id said that he had heard that during the times of the Prophet (sws), Sa‘d ibn Zurarah (rta) had his throat cauterized due to a disease of the throat and died.

 Explanation: Dhabhah is a disease of the throat which causes a pustule inside the throat. The throat becomes constricted and problems are created that become extremely painful, with the affected person finding it difficult even to breathe. In those days, the treatment for this disease was to cauterize the throat with some hot thing. Even in our times, some wounds are burned through this method. There is disagreement on whether the Prophet (sws) had this method used. But the fact remains that this method was common in those days and such cures too, were commonly used in the nomadic life of the Bedouins.  It seems that Sa‘d ibn Zurarah (rta) did not recover from this illness and passed away.


3. It is narrated by Nafi ‘ that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) was affected by lockjaw and he was cauterized and when a scorpion bit him, he was treated through incantation.  

Explanation: It seems that when ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) fell ill due to lockjaw, he treated it by using the method of cauterization. Also, when he was bit by a scorpion, he used incantation. Thus, he did not think that these methods were against the shari‘ah.  


About Bathing when Ill with Fever 

1. Hisham ibn ‘Urwah narrates from Fatimah bint Mundhir that whenever a woman suffering from fever as brought to Asma’ bint Abi Bakr (rta) for her to pray for, she would drink water and sprinkle it over the women and her neck. She would say that the Prophet (sws) taught them to cool fever with water.  

Explanation: Hakims have ridiculed this action because they believe that the patient might die. But this is not so. The fact is that when hot winds blow, and they often do in Arabia, people reduce its effect through water. Even in these times, in case of high fever, doctors use ice to bring it down.  Hence, this is not something which is extra ordinary. However, some misunderstandings about such narratives should be clarified. For example, if the Prophet (sws) gave such instructions, it is not necessary that they would be based on wahi, or be a part of the shari‘ah. He might have given this advice based on his experience. It was common for people to be affected by heat strokes in hot countries and such a treatment is beneficial. People make the mistake that they generalize a situation meant for a specific situation. The Prophet (sws) proposed a cure for a particular type of fever, and people thought that whatever the type of fever, the patient should be bathed. Then, the narrative mentions merely sprinkling water; however, people do not confine themselves to this, but go and bathe in the river! Obviously, the patient would die because some fevers are such that water is lethal for them. 

The surprising thing is that people do not understand the simple point that all that the comments which Prophet (sws) made were not based on wahi. For example, he inquired as to why people sprinkled the blossoms of the tree of ta’bir over the date tree and commented that if they did not, it may cause no harm. When people stopped doing this, the trees gave less fruit then before. Then people complained to the Prophet (sws) that they had acted upon his advice and the result was that the fruit production had dropped.  The he answered: “You know better about matters of the world. You are more knowledgeable about matters of agriculture. I only saw this as a matter of taste and mentioned it. It was not an instruction of the shari‘ah.” For as many diseases as possible, people have gathered narratives about their treatment and compiled these as “medicine of the Prophet (sws).” Obviously, in presence of such material, why should a pious person seek other treatment? He would view this as opposed to piety. But it must be remembered that these narratives should also be considered on the same lines as the case of the above mentioned tree. The Prophet (sws) came not to cure physical ailments, but to cure only spiritual illness. There should be no possibility of connecting him to any medicine other than that related to medicine for the soul. Therefore, consideration should be given to context in such matters. It is true that water is very beneficial in certain types of fever, but it is also a fact that in some, it is very harmful. Hence, the type of fever needs to be considered always.

In my view, the same point must be taken into account when considering the verse of the Qur’an which says that there is cure in honey. It would be unfair to the Qur’an if one were to assume that this means that honey is the cure for all illnesses. Certainly, it is beneficial for many illnesses, but it is not the remedy for every sickness, that one would try to give honey to every patient for every ailment. The Qur’an itself does not say that it is suggesting honey as the cure. It has mentioned honey as a blessing in the same manner in which other blessings are used by humans for their benefit.  


2. Hisham ibn ‘Urwah narrates from his father that the Prophet (sws) said that fever is from the winds of Hell; cool it with water. He narrates from Nafi‘ who reports from Ibn ‘Umar (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that fever is from the winds of hell; extinguish it with water.  

Explanation: it is true that whatever is beneficial is sourced from Paradise and whatever is harmful has Hell as its source. These are the stocks of good and evil. The Hadith has stated the origin of fever: which family it is associated with. In other words, this illness has harm as its source, so cool it with water. The narrative does not clarify the context in which the Prophet (sws) gave this advice.  It is possible that it was a specific type of fever or someone’s fever was mentioned and he found that the man was suffering from a heatstroke and gave this suggestion. People have found it difficult to understand several narratives because the narrators have not assessed the context to which it was related. The result is that so many problems are created.  


About Inquiring after the Sick and Omens 

1. The narration reached Imam Malik (rta) from Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that when anyone goes to inquire about someone’s health, he is immersed in God’s mercy, and when he sits down with the sick person, the mercy stays with him, and other similar words.  

Explanation: Asking about the health of a sick person is an honour. Sympathy creates kindness and goodness in a society and mutual love increases. It is one Muslim’s right over another to be inquired after. Even if one just goes and asks after someone without staying there, this is also a pious act. And if one sits down, puts one’s hand over the head of the ill person, looks at his body and says a few words of reassurance, nothing can be better. God’s mercy surrounds such a person.  


2. It is narrated from Ibn Attiyah that the Prophet (sws) said that there is no concept of ‘adwa, ham and safar in Islam. It is also not right that someone should take his sick animals to where the healthy ones are. However, the healthy ones can be taken anywhere. People asked him: “O Prophet! What does this mean?” He replied: “It would cause pain to do this.”  

Explanation: The Hadith includes three words: ‘adwa, ham and safar. There were many superstitions among the Arabs about these concepts. The Prophet (sws) said that Islam has no place for such superstitions. The word ‘adwa means that the illness is contagious. Arabs thought that a sick camel causes other camels to fall sick too; they would, therefore separate the one from the herd.

There were different traditions about ham among them. For example, if a man was killed and no revenge was taken, his spirit took the form of a bird which called out: “isquni isquni” (give me water, I am thirsty), until he was avenged. Or, if a certain type of bird sat on the roof of a house, a dead body would emerge from it. Superstitious societies are ripe with such omens.

There is much controversy about superstitions about the month of safar. Some people considered it to be the home of illnesses. Similarly, they would consider it a bad omen for marriages to take place during this month. According to the rule of nasi, they would declare the month of Muharram to be halal and that of safar to be haram. Even in our society, it is considered a bad omen to conduct marriages during Muharram. In those days, safar was disreputable; now safar has fallen into disrepute. In my view, there is no problem in this. It is the same type of superstition which Islam had eliminated.

Islam does not consider that anything has an effect in and of itself. Everything happens by the will of God and happens in the way that has been ordained. In contagion too, the decisive factor is not the consequence of the disease being contagious but the order of God that is supreme. This is the reason why people nursing the sick who are affected by contagious diseases may remain healthy, but the infection may spread in areas where there were no signs of the disease. In one narrative, it is stated that once when mention was made in front of the Prophet (sws) about an itch becoming contagious among camels, he asked about whom the first affected camel got it from.

In these days propaganda about Aids will make it difficult for people to understand this concept. In any case, Islam also does not say that one should jump into a place which has been affected by an epidemic without any reason. It is best to avoid these places. But if it is a requirement of one’s responsibilities, then just a superstition that one could become infected should not be a reason for not going to the affected places.

When the Prophet (sws) gave the instruction that one should not take sick animals among the healthy ones, people were surprised: what was the cause for this prohibition when there was no concept of contagion? The Prophet (sws) explained that the owner of the healthy animals would take offence. This is the same as the situation of a leper who is not allowed to go inside a mosque, not because of the contagious disease, but because if people avoid such a person, he would get depressed.    



(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)


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