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

 Narratives about Dreams


1.   Anas ibn Malik (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) said that if a pious man sees a good dream, it is one of the 46 parts of prophethood.


2.   The same is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (rta).


Explanation: Prophethood in this narrative means the knowledge possessed by prophets. As far as prophethood is concerned, no part of it remains anymore. However, only divine revelation from the knowledge base of prophethood has come to an end. This knowledge exists in the form of other sources, such as the Qur’an and the Prophet (sws)’s Sunnah, for example. One of its sources is dreams of prophets. Therefore, according to this narrative, the benefit of the knowledge of prophets is also present in the dreams of pious men.

Dreams are an established source of the knowledge of prophets. Especially, the matters which need to be shown practically to prophets are shown to them in their dreams so that the full picture becomes obvious to them. Among the more famous dreams are for example, the dream of Abraham (sws), which was related to the slaughter of Ishmael (sws). Similarly, the Prophet (sws) was shown the Battle of Badr before it took place. The incident of Isra’ is also explained as a dream in the Qur’an. The knowledge of prophets is like the sea: what portion of it is a pious man’s dream is described by the Prophet (sws) as being one forty sixth. We can only appreciate this point, but cannot comprehend the reality of the reference. Only God knows about this. We have no knowledge of what is hidden and it is never possible to interpret dreams with any accuracy. Prophets are specially bestowed with the knowledge of interpreting dreams. We can only receive some good tidings from good dreams, but cannot be certain about them because our dreams can also be disturbing for us.

When scholars see dreams, they should also think about glad tidings only and not become proud of them. We should also not depend upon dreams because we are unaware of the unknown.


2.   It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (rta) that after the morning prayer, the Prophet (sws) would ask if anyone had seen a dream. He would also say that after him, nothing within the knowledge of prophets had remained except good dreams.  

Explanation: Because dreams were a source of the knowledge of prophets, the Prophet (sws) would ask after the morning prayer if anyone had seen a dream. If anyone had, he would interpret it. Since interpretation is part of the knowledge portfolio of prophets, the Prophet (sws)’s explanation of the dreams would be correct. However, this has become very difficult now. There are differences in interpretations. We also know that the Companions resolved serious issues through interpretation of dreams. The issue of the adhan was also addressed through a dream. The words of the adhan are divine but they were heard in dreams by the Companions and have come to us from them.


3.   It is narrated from ‘Ata’ ibn Yasar (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that after him there will be left nothing from the knowledge of prophets except glad tidings. People asked him what these glad tidings would be. He answered that these would be good dreams which would be seen by pious men or seen by someone else about pious men. This is one of the 46 parts of prophethood.  

Explanation: A pious man who sees a good dream about himself or about someone else can deduce glad tidings from it for himself or for someone else. He can congratulate another and tell him that he had seen a good dream about him and that he can be happy on hearing it. But to claim something on the basis of belief in a dream is a wrong act. As far as the point about the knowledge of dreams being one forty sixth of that of prophethood is concerned, we can only recognize the disparity that exists between prophethood and the glad tidings received through a dream. We do not have the power to say anything more.


4.   Abu Salam ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman says that he heard from Qatadah ibn Ribi‘i (rta) that he had heard the Prophet (sws) say that good dreams come from God and nightmares come from Satan. So, if anyone sees a dream which disturbs him, he should, on waking up, seek refuge with God from the evil of Satan and blow upon his left side: the dream will not harm him, God willing. Abu Salamah says that until then, whenever he would see a bad dream, it would be as heavy upon his heart as a mountain but since he heard this hadith, he did not care about such dreams anymore.  

Explanation: This Hadith is included both in Bukhari and in Muslim. The best prayers to seek refuge with God are the last surahs of the Qur’an, but there are other words that are associated with the Prophet (sws) which can be said. Such prayers pierce Satan like arrows and he can never cause any harm. Abu Salamah’s own narrative is that even if he saw a dream as heavy as a mountain, he would do what the hadith asked and would be free of any fear.  

5.   Hisham ibn ‘Urwah narrates from his father that he would say about the verse: “And there are glad tidings in this world and in the next for them (10:64),” that this was about good dreams, whether seen by anyone.  

Explanation: A good dream can be included in the meaning of this verse but its context is of an extremely high status. Therefore, this statement by ‘Urwah is not an explanation for the verse itself. Of the several great meanings of this verse is a small element which ‘Urwah has taken. If the verse 64 of Surah Yunus and the antecedent of the pronoun “hum” in verses 62 and 63 are looked at, the context of the verse becomes clear.  


Narratives about “Nard” 

1.   It is narrated from Abu Musa al-Asha‘ari (rta) that the Prophet [said] that people who play Nard disobey God and His Prophet.

 Explanation: Nard is a game used with dice or cowries which people throw and play on a table or board.

Winning or losing depends upon chance: hence it is a form of gambling. This game was invented by Ardashir, who was the King of Persia, and it came to Arabia from there. The Prophet (sws) has called it disobedience of God and himself.

When people have nothing to do, they invent such useless games to waste their time and this gives several passages for Satan. Many games like Nard are popular among people. It is a fact that Satan has not invented more effective ways to waste time than these. And if there is any game which is more nonsensical than this, it is cricket.

Time is a very precious possession for humans. Whoever wastes it has wasted a lot. All prophets have given this teaching. The Qur’an says that those believers will be successful who stay away from nonsensical activities. Frivolous occupations include all those that make a person forget his purpose in life. What can be more nonsensical than Nard, chess, cards and cricket?


2.   It is narrated with reference to ‘A’ishah (rta) that when she found out that one of the families residing in her house possessed Nard, she sent a message to them to get rid of the Satan of Nard; otherwise she would dislodge them from her house and this was resented by them.

Explanation: ‘A’ishah (rta) was aware of such frivolities being sins. She did not think that these activities should continue in her own house. Hence she sent the message to the dwellers to either throw out the Nard or be ready to vacate the house. According to current laws of renting homes, one cannot do anything; even if greater crimes are committed, nothing can be done. And today, chess, cards and cricket are not considered to be crimes. In fact, they are hobbies for many people. This is because we are not aware of the severity of such frivolities.


3.   Nafi‘ (rta) narrates about ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) that whenever he would see anyone from his family or friends playing Nard, he would beat them and also break up the Nard. Yahya says that it is Imam Malik’s decree that there is no good in chess; he would call it repulsive (makruh) and consider playing it or anything else a falsehood. He would recite the verse: “What is there after truth except perdition?”  

Explanation: These days, chess is justified by using the philosophy that because a battle is being fought on the chess board, and it requires planning and strategizing, the game develops intelligence. If intelligence is the name of wasting time, this is fine; otherwise it is stupidity. The reason is that while chess is being played, the players become forgetful of the greatest of loss or danger and do not make an effort to do the greatest of good. What can be more dangerous than this?

Imam Malik’s consideration of chess being makruh is close to being haram. This is because when Malikites praise something, they say “I like this” and when they are against something, they say “this seems unacceptable to me.” They do not declare piety or disbelief. The point which the Imam wants to make is also evident from the verse quoted by him. What doubt remains of such a game being perdition?  


Ways to greet People

 1.   It is narrated from Zayd ibn Aslam that the Prophet (sws) said that a rider should greet the one who is walking and if anyone person from a group greets, it will be considered as if everyone has greeted.

 Explanation: There are two parts to this narrative. The first is that if you are on a horse or in car, you should be the first to greet the other. You should not show arrogance, thinking that you should not greet someone who is walking. Also, the greeting should be in full, not just a raising of the hand. This is because people who are riding become obsessed with the idea that there is no one like them on earth. To remove this mad fancy, there can be nothing better than to greet others. This will develop generosity and humility and it will hurt one’s arrogance. Shyness should not be a barrier to this.

The second point which the Prophet (sws) mentioned was that one among a group could greet as a representative of the others and if one person answers on behalf of the other group, this should be sufficient. This is also a very good point that one person be made a leader to greet others. Life should not be spent without a leader. Similarly, if one person shakes hands, this should be sufficient for the group as a whole.

Although this narrative is mursal, but it is correct because only the Prophet (sws) could have said such a thing.


2.   It is narrated from Muhammad ibn ‘Ata’ that one day, he was seated with ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (rta) when a man from the people of Yemen came and said: “al-salam ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu.” He asked about him and was told that he was a Yemeni who had come to meet him. When he was introduced, Ibn ‘Abbas said that the last stage of a greeting is blessing. Yahya says that when Imam Malik was asked whether a woman should be greeted, he said that if an old woman is greeted, he did not consider it makruh but that he did not like to greet a young woman.

Explanation: Ibn ‘Abbas (rta) meant that when one has spoken the words al-salam ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu,” there could be no need to add anything to this because what else could be required after peace, mercy and blessings? In my view, al-salamu ‘alaykum is a complete prayer. God Almighty will use this greeting for the people of Paradise. The Prophet (sws) used the same words for Muslims. These days, if anyone writes only this or returns the greeting with wa ‘alaykum salam,” it is considered to be incomplete.

Imam Malik’s decree about greeting women is correct. However, in my view, there is no harm in greeting a young woman. The maximum that could happen is that she would not answer or answer through a sign. There is no harm in greeting elderly women. This would be like blessing someone.



About Greeting a Jew or a Christian


1.   It is narrated from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that when anyone from among the Jews says al-salam ‘alaykum, you should just answer: ‘alayk.

 Yahya says that when a decree was requested from Imam Malik on whether it was right that someone should greet a Jew or Christian, he said it was not.  

Explanation: The wicked Jews of Madinah used to greet Muslims apparently in the same manner as they did, but would not pronounce the letter “l” in al-salam but instead would say “al-sam” which meant death. Thus, instead of using the greeting as a prayer of peace, they would make it a curse for death. It was with reference to such wicked people that the Prophet (sws) advised to answer with just ‘alayk so that the curse is returned to the giver.

This narrative does not explain what the attitude about greeting non Muslims should be. Greetings of salam have various aspects. It is used to take permission; for expressing trust on another person, as if to say we are all one and it is also used for welcome. Both Muslims and non Muslims can be welcomed. The Qur’an says: “If anyone greets you with salam, do not say: ‘you are not a believer, (4:94)’” although it is possible that he might be one and you may not know. Whoever he may be, if he greeted one, he should be answered with a similar greeting. As far as answering the greeting is concerned, I believe that the advice of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (rta) is correct, which is that the greeting should be returned. The Qur’an has said that a salam should be answered and fully answered.

There will be non Muslims in a Muslim state whose responsibility lies upon the state and there will be those with whom agreements may have been signed. If they greet you, would you turn away your face? This is not civilized behaviour. Salam means that both the addressor and addressee are one, citizens of the same country, friends and not enemies. When you meet people from outside, would you tell them that you do not greet them; that you just scowl at them? You may say “Good morning” but what would be the use? That too would be a greeting. In salam, there is also the element of a blessing. Arabs too had the same greeting earlier that exists now in English. Islam added the aspect of blessings. In my view, you can say salam to anyone. This is a good introduction, an expression of confidence and assures a person that both are friends and not enemies.  


A Complete Chapter on Salam

 1.   Abu Waqid Laysi narrates that once the Prophet (sws) was seated in the mosque and people were surrounding him when three men came. Two of these came close to the Prophet (sws) and the third went back. When the two came near the gathering, both greeted the people. One of them found a place within the circle and sat down. The other sat behind the gathering. The third had gone away. When the Prophet (sws) finished talking, he explained their situation. One had sought God’s refuge and God gave it to him; the other was shy and God protected his shyness. The third turned away his face, so God too did not care for him.  

Explanation: When coming to such a blessed gathering, one should not show so much pride that if there is no place to sit, one should just turn away and go back. If one cannot find a place to sit within the people, one should sit behind, or even stand and listen. The attitude of each of the three men coming inside the mosque was different. At this the Prophet (sws) explained that one tried to find a way and God helped him in doing so; the second was shy and sat behind the others, so God gave him cover for his shyness. The third went back in his pride and God rejected him. This is great guidance for behaviour within gatherings. It is a fact that when a collective way of life is practiced, one should not show off one’s individual status. Sometimes it becomes necessary to be humble. There is grandeur in humility too. Islam wants to create this thinking within Muslims.


2.   Anas ibn Malik (rta) says that he heard ‘Umar ibn Khattab (rta) return the greetings of a man. Then ‘Umar (rta) asked him how he was. He answered that he was grateful to his Lord as he stands in front of him at which ‘Umar (rta) said that he had expected this of him.

Explanation: “I expected this of you” may mean that he expected him to be well but a more subtle point could be that he expected him to give this answer. This is because this answer is both spiritual and scholarly; that he was well and he thanked God because of this. In my view this explanation is correct. One should not complain about one’s problems to others.


3.   Tufayl ibn Abi Ka‘b narrates that when he would come to visit ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta), he would take him and go to the market. Tufayl says that when they walked towards the market, whichever shopkeeper ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) met, whichever seller he saw, whichever poor man was walking by and whichever man he met, he would greet him. Tufayl says that once he came to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) and he again wanted him to go to the market with him. He said to him: “Why do you go to the market when you do not stop to buy anything; you do not ask for any price; you do not sell anything and you do not sit anywhere in the market gatherings?” He said to him to sit so that they could talk to each other. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta), (rta) answered: “O Mr. Belly (Tufayl had a huge stomach), listen! I go to the market to greet anyone whom I can meet.”

Explanation: This was ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar’s (rta) special habit that he would take off to the market to win the merit of good deeds. You may not go for this purpose but whenever you do, you should greet the people you meet. This act is no longer practiced these days. Greetings are exchanged only upon introduction. The rest of the Muslims do not greet each other with a salam. We know about ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) that his nature was very simple in such matters. He was very fond of doing good.


4.   It is narrated from Yahya ibn Sa‘id that one person greeted ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) by saying: “May peace be upon you; may God shower His mercies and blessings upon you and may you receive all the favours that come during the morning and all the favours that come during the night.” ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) answered: “May you have thousands and thousands of these.” It seems that he showed his displeasure for this.

 Explanation: It might have been expected from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) that he would have been happy but he did not tolerate such exaggeration with the words of salam. Thus, the words al-salamu ‘alaykum are sufficient. If more words are to be added, one can add rahmatullah wa barakatuhu” only.  

5.   It is narrated from Imam Malik (rta) that it reached him that even if one enters a place where the house is empty, one should say: “salam upon us and all pious people.”

Explanation: salam is a prayer and no opportunity to pray should be wasted. Remembering God and seeking His mercy is a deed which is full of blessing.



About taking Permission 

1.   It is narrated from ‘Ata’ ibn Yasar (rta) that a man asked the Prophet (sws) if he should enter his house after taking permission from even his mother. The Prophet (sws) answered in the affirmative. The man said that he lived with his mother in the same house. The Prophet (sws) answered that even then he should seek her permission. The man said that he was his mother’s servant. The Prophet (sws) answered that that was true and that he should take her permission. Did he want to see her undressed ever? The man said: “never.” The Prophet (sws) said that he should seek her permission.  

Explanation: It has been clarified by the man asking his question repeatedly that the reason would have to be given. The Prophet (sws) explained the reason which was that perhaps the mother may need to take off her clothes and he might enter the house just then. No man would like to see his parents undressed. Seeking permission is one of the most significant etiquette of entering a house. Even if there is only one woman and even if she is the mother, great care should be taken. She may be in a condition in which it is not appropriate for anyone to enter the house.


2.   Abu Musa al-‘Ash‘ari narrates that the Prophet (sws) said that one should ask permission to enter a house thrice. If permission is not granted, one should leave.  

Explanation: The three calls are for repetition and are enough for every day needs. It is not mentioned in this but in another narrative, it is mentioned that one should say salam thrice and then seek permission. If no answer is received the first time, one should say it a second time and then a third time. It is possible that there may be no one in the house or people might be busy, in which case one should go back.


3.   Rabi‘ah ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman narrates from various scholars that Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari came to the house of ‘Umar (rta) and after seeking permission thrice, went back. ‘Umar (rta) sent a man after him and asked why he had not entered the house. Abu Musa said that he had heard that the Prophet (sws) had said that permission should be sought thrice and if it is not granted, one should go back. ‘Umar (rta) asked if anyone else was aware of this, other than him and that if he did not bring anyone else who was aware of this, he would be very tough with him. Abu Musa came out and there was a gathering of the Ansars. He told them that he had informed ‘Umar (rta) that he had heard from the Prophet (sws) that permission should be sought thrice and if unanswered, he should go back. And ‘Umar (rta) has said to him that if he did not bring to him anyone else who knew about this, he would be angry with him. He asked the people if anyone knew about this and if so, could he accompany him to meet ‘Umar (rta). The people asked Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri, who was the youngest among them, to go with him. They went to ‘Umar (rta) and he told the latter that the statement was true. ‘Umar (rta) said to Abu Musa that he had not considered him to be a liar but he was concerned about people attributing false statements to the Prophet (sws).  

Explanation: Given this narrative, what legitimacy does the claim of the Shafites that khabar wahid (information through individuals) is enough evidence have? If khabar wahid was valid, why did ‘Umar (rta) say that he would be tough if another person who knew about the statement was not brought? Therefore, many uncertainties exist within khabar wahid too. Here, the narrator is strong, but ‘Umar (rta) did not believe it and later clarified that he was concerned that people may attribute wrong statements to the Prophet (sws). Thus, there is great danger in khabar wahid, but Imam Shafi‘i places so much emphasis upon it that one is surprised. It is a fact that there are many doubts about this and the arguments of Imam Shafi‘i too are very weak.  


About giving Blessings when Someone Sneezes 

1.   ‘Abdullah narrates from his father Abu Bakr (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that if anyone sneezes, the listener should do tashmit; if he sneezes again, one should again do tashmit and if he does it again, one should tell him that he has a cold. ‘Abdullah said that it is not known whether one should say this at the third or fourth sneeze.

 Explanation: Tashmit means saying words of prayer which mean that God keep the person being addressed safe from all pain. An established form of Tashmit is when the one sneezing says al-hamdulillah, the listener should say yarhamukullah (may God have mercy upon you). Saying this is the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws). I think that even if the one who sneezes does not say al-hamdulillah, there would be no harm if one says yarhamukullah so that he     may remember. But some people do not accept this. They say that one should say yarhamukullah only when the other person says al-hamdulillah. Otherwise one should remain quiet.

According to the narrative, the listener should say yarhamukullah only up to the third sneeze, and if the sneezing continues, this is a symptom of a cold. It is a fact that sneezing is continuous in a cold. In such a situation, attention should be brought to the need for treatment. Under ordinary conditions, sneezing removes mental heaviness. The vapours that collect in the sinus are removed through sneezing. Sneezing once or twice is a sign of health and following the Sunnah, one should say al-hamdulillah. Thus, he should thank God that the load upon the mind has been removed. The instruction for the person who is near the one who is sneezing is that he should say yarhamukullah for his brother, i.e. may God have mercy upon you and keep you in His shelter.


2.   Nafi‘ narrates that whenever ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (rta) sneezed, and others would say yarhamukullah, he would, in return say: “May God have mercy upon us and you also and may He forgive us and forgive you also.”

 Explanation: My belief is validated from this that even if someone has not said al-hamdulillah but if the other says yarhamukullah and the first person says yarhamukullah, both deeds will be done. However, the Sunnah is the way as described earlier.



Narratives about Pictures and Statues 

1.   Rafi‘ ibn Ishaq who was the freed slave of Shifa gave the news that when he and ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Talhah went to see Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri to ask him about his health, Abu Sa‘id said that the Prophet (sws) had told them that angels do not enter a house where pictures and statues are placed. Ishaq was doubtful which of the two things had been mentioned by Abu Sa‘id. 

2.   ‘Ubaydullah ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Utbah said that he went to Abu Talhah Ansari’s house to ask after his health. Sahal ibn Hanif was already present there. Abu Talhah called a man who pulled a carpet from underneath him. Sahal asked him why he was doing this at which he answered that it had some pictures and that he knew what the Prophet (sws) had said about pictures. Sahal asked if the Prophet (sws) had not said that those pictures which were enmeshed into the design were excluded. Abu Talhah said that he was correct but he preferred not to have pictures for himself.  

3.   Qasim ibn Muhammad narrates from ‘A’ishah (rta) that she purchased a carpet which had pictures. When the Prophet (sws) saw this, he stood at the door and did not go inside. ‘A’ishah (rta), sensing his displeasure, said that she referred to God and His Prophet: what had she done wrong? The Prophet (sws) asked about the carpet. She said that she had bought it so that he would sit on it and rest against it. The Prophet (sws) answered that those who had such pictures would be punished on the Day of Judgement. They would be asked to give life to that which they had created. Then he said that angels do not enter the house which contains pictures.  

Explanation: It should be known that photographs did not exist in those times. There were only two things: people made statues from mud, copper, brass, silver or stone or they made sketches or pictures. All these were related with those which these people worshipped. They kept these inside their homes for idol worship and held them very dear. They made pictures and statues of the same idols. The same pictures were made on utensils, cushions and carpets. It had also been a tradition to carve pictures of angels and forefathers on the walls and roofs of buildings. There is no doubt about such statues and pictures being haram because of the element of idolatry.

As far as other pictures are concerned, Islam also prohibits such things that may pave the way for committing a haram act or be a cause for it. For example, the Prophet (sws) had stopped a tribe from using a specific type of utensil: dubba, mazaffat, hantum etc. These utensils were used to make a pleasant drink called nabidh, but by closing the pores of these utensils, the nabidh could be converted into wine. Because these utensils were made to ferment wine, the Prophet (sws) banned the making of these utensils. When the issue was clear to people and they stopped making wine altogether, the ban on the utensils was also removed. There are several other cases in which the Prophet (sws) had first prohibited, and then given permission. The reason for this was in the old days, because of ancient beliefs, people were more likely to be influenced by these evil practices. But when religious understanding had become established in their minds, there was no danger left that they might again get involved in them.

My belief about statues and pictures is that those that are related to idol worship should not be made. However, the instruction has been generalized for all through sadd dhari‘ah (prohibition of things that lead to a sin). Other than using sadd dhari‘ah, prohibitions are accepted because of piety. As for example, when Abu Talhah (rta) said that he did not like pictures even when woven within the carpet design, it was because he was being careful. The things that are prohibited through sadd dhari‘ah, are not haram in reality, but piety makes some demands which prevent a person from using those things. One of my devotees brought a cap for me which was very high. I said to him what I would look like if I were to go out wearing it, at which he said that it had been purchased specially for me. I excused myself and said that he would require a lot of time to understand me. There are several things in which even if piety is not the issue, it is a matter of personal dignity and refinement.

In my view, the decree of Egyptians that a photograph is only an image is nonsense. Anything being an image makes no difference and something does not become legitimate because it is an image. Legitimacy will come only because of two things. Either it will be so because of some specific need, such as making a passport or identity card for which a photograph is essential; or, because it may be necessary for some benefit that may accrue to the nation. The photographs of actors and actresses that are placed on the front pages of newspapers, may God protect us from them. If you hang these in your room, no decent person would like to enter it, let alone an angel. The pictures of such people are “haram” because they are licentious. Looking at pictures of immoral people is in itself immorality.



(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)



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