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Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (2)
Hadith & Sunnah
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)


Narratives on Modesty


1. Zayd ibn Talhah ibn Rukana relates this narrative from the Prophet (sws) that the Prophet (sws) said that every religion possesses a special quality, and for Islam that special quality is modesty.

 Explanation: Zayd ibn Talhah ibn Rukana’s status as a companion is doubtful: hence this narrative is mawquf. But if the point itself is based on the truth, it should be accepted. This narrative is also in such a category that it does appear to be a statement made by the Prophet (sws). The religion of all prophets, from Adam (sws) to Muhammad (sws) was the same: the religion of nature. It is therefore incomprehensible that a special quality be associated with every prophet. However, it is possible that one aspect of character may be highlighted in one religion, and another aspect in another. Examples of this are found in the history of religions. For example, retreat from the world and focus on piety was taken to such an extent in the times of Jesus (sws) that people later exaggerated this and the trends towards monkhood developed. It is not that other religions are devoid of teachings of restraint from worldly things or piety, but that these elements are stronger in Christianity. This is exactly the case of modesty which has been given the most significance in Islam and is a key feature of Muslim character.   

As far as Ahadith are concerned, they have particular instructions regarding modesty; for example, “modesty is one branch of faith.” Modesty plays a key role in developing several good deeds. A person should possess the most modesty and shame towards God. This gives rise to goodness of character. Several aspects of character come within its domain and I believe that if a person has no shame, there is no evil deed that he may not be capable of doing. 

It is also not true that modesty is particular to Islam only and that other religions are devoid of it. It occupies a position in all religions, but it is given special attention in Islam. In particular, the Prophet (sws) has demonstrated this through his actions. It is said about the Prophet (sws) in Ahadith that he was as shy as a maiden. Obviously, when the prophet’s character is such, then his speech and actions will transmit this character within his people. The fact is also that Arabs were especially coarse and to curb this trait, shyness was emphasized.

Another point related to “modesty is one branch of faith” must be kept in consideration. Sufis consider character to be composed of stages. For them, shyness is one stage or level to be reached, at which one stays for a while and then moves on to another stage and then to the next. This is totally wrong. It is not as if one can remain in the stage of shyness for some time, then move on to selflessness and then to existentialism etc.  Character is a holistic entity of all these and humankind is a collection of these qualities, while faith is their totality and the individual qualities are its extensions.


2. It is narrated from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (ra) that the Prophet (sws) chanced upon a man who was reproaching his brother on an issue of modesty. The Prophet (sws) said: “let him be; modesty is a part of faith.”

Explanation: The meaning is that modesty is a branch of the tree of faith. Although it is a very big branch, it is still a branch, not a place or stage where, if one stays for a while, one is a Muslim. 

There can be two meanings derived from the fact of the man censuring his brother. One could be that he was reprehending him on being useless, being shy as a woman, questioning his ability to survive in this world and calling upon him to be a brave man. The other could be that he was reprimanding him on being shameless. In my view, he was blaming him for his modesty, at which the Prophet (sws) asked to leave him be: modesty is one of the requirements of faith.


 Narratives about Anger

1. Hamid ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman narrates that a man came to the Prophet (sws) and said: “O’ Messenger of God! Please give me some simple instructions according to which I can lead my life: the instructions should be short so that I do not forget them.” The Prophet (sws) said: “Avoid anger.” 

Explanation: while reflecting upon this Hadith, I was faced with the difficulty that anger, like the emotions of love, hatred, bravery, is one of the traits of human nature. It is a requirement for honour and justice too. It is due to this emotion that man defends himself and takes revenge from his enemies. A man who does not get angry is a eunuch. Becoming angry is a normal reaction; so what is it that the Prophet (sws) has forbidden us from? I think that one may become angry, but one should not be so overwhelmed by anger that one commits a wrong act. Hence the restraint is not on getting angry but on crossing the boundaries of justice in a state of anger. There can be two parts to anger: words and actions. In the first case, if one gets angry, one could start shouting, hurling abuses and in the second case, one could throw a stone, beat with sticks. Both are wrong. One should control such demonstration of anger, and if one does commit such a mistake, one should ask forgiveness of the aggrieved party.

The fact is that in this advice, the Prophet (sws) has drawn attention to a major weakness of human beings. There are several factors that are responsible for anyone getting angry, but they should not be the reason to cross the stated boundaries. The Prophet (sws) has also guided us to the ways in which anger can be controlled. For example, if one is standing, one should sit down; if one is sitting, one should lie down. In any case, a Muslim should promise himself that he will not give in to anger, whatever happens. If he is successful in this, he is successful in training himself. But if one fails, one should ask forgiveness of the other person so that one’s soul is humbled. One should also ask forgiveness from God so that He, too, forgives these mistakes.

It has been known from the actions of the Prophet (sws) that whenever it was a matter of crimes committed against religion and the shari‘ah, his face would become red with anger, and his eyes too would become suffused with redness. He would not be lenient with criminals. Therefore, my opinion is that the case of people of evil character is different. They should be dealt with strictly and this is also a requirement of the honour of faith.


2. Sa‘id ibn Musayyab narrates from Abu Hurayrah that the winner in the ring is not one who brings his opponent down with his fists, but one who controls himself in a state of anger.  

Explanation: The Arabic term sara used is used for exaggeration. Here, it is used for a man who brings down his opponent through sheer boxing ability and does not give him a chance. This form of fighting is a sign of strength more than bravery. Bravery is when a person is given cause to be angry by hurting him, but he keeps his feelings under control and does not take any action that might be against the norms of justice. Only the Prophet (sws) could have given such a valuable comment.  


Narratives about Severing Relations after Taking Offence

1. Abu Ayyub Ansari said that the Prophet (sws) said that it was not legitimate for a Muslim to remain offended and estranged from his brother for more than three days, and if they met, they met in such a manner that their faces were turned away from each other. The better one out of them would be the one who greeted first.

Explanation: the narration states three nights but I have translated this as three days, because a day means night and day together and this meaning is also in use in our language.

The matter of taking three days to implement this instruction is based on practicality. When one gets offended, one takes some time to come to reconciliation and one must find a reason to remove any misunderstandings. This is the maximum time that has been given for this purpose so that the situation does not get beyond this period. When offense has been taken, one is ashamed about how to be the first one to greet the other. The Prophet (sws) has said that he who greets first in order to put right his relations and does not allow his ego to be a barrier is the winner.

A question arises in this that if there are differences related to faith, or sect or character of some people, what should one do? Scholars of Ahadith say that those who have made innovations in religion or strayed from the right path are not included here. It applies to true Muslims only.

In my view, in such matters, when one differs with people with respect to sectarian beliefs, opinions, faith, ideologies and attitudes towards life, then one can maintain these differences in principle, but when meeting these people, one should be warm and polite. One can say in ones heart: this is a bad man in society, but matters in the heart are different from those in interactions. One must deal with such a person according to acceptable norms within society. When he departs, one must go out with him to say good bye at the gate and one must also be hospitable towards him while saying to oneself how much of a devil he is. But with good Muslims, one must meet them with heartfelt warmth.

The matter of the duration of remaining offended is also related to the nature of the problem. The Prophet (sws) had cut off relations for three months with the Muslims who did not participate in the Battle of Tabuk despite having resources. Similarly, it has been narrated about ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar that he did not meet one of his sons for several months.


2. It is narrated from Anas ibn Malik (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said: “Do not hold animosity towards each other. Do not be jealous of each other and do not turn away from each other. O servants of God! Live as brothers do. It is not legitimate for a Muslim to keep away from his brother for more than three days.” 

Explanation: In this narrative, several instructions related to the mutual relations between Muslims in an Islamic society provide guidance. Animosity and hatred should be towards immorality, not towards other Muslims.  Jealousy is a moral disease. It is right to envy the superior knowledge and actions of another, but jealousy is a negative quality which all Muslims should avoid. Imam Malik has explained the meaning of the word tadabur and in my view it is correct. He says that he believes it means to oppose one’s Muslim brother and turn one’s face away from him. It should not be that whenever one meets another person, one turns one’s back on him. There should be mutual greetings and handshakes. This removes differences automatically.


3. It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (sws) said: “Do not doubt because doubt and suspicion are the greatest lies. Do not be always curious and spy on others. Do not struggle to compete with others. Do not be jealous of others. Do not entertain feelings of anger against each other. Do not turn your backs on each other. O Servants of God! Live like brothers do.”

Explanation:  the word dhan in the narrative means doubt and suspicion. A person who holds good opinions and expectations of others might be under some misunderstanding, suffer a setback or people might think him foolish, but there is no harm in this. If there are no serious consequences, this is acceptable. But the opposite of this, ie. doubting others is a great lie and also a sickness. One starts thinking that others are conspiring against one despite the fact that there might be nothing of the sort in their hearts. It means that one believes this lie and becomes agitated and worried. One has no right to doubt another without proof. One should think well of others and if one cannot do this, at least one must not doubt others. This is essential.

Tahassus and tajassus, both words mean to get after something and become curious. Essentially, both words are synonyms. The former means to listen in unseen on conversations and the latter to investigate. The prohibition is to seek information about the faults and facts of others with bad intent and to spy on them for wrong reasons. Some people think that all forms of curiosity are wrong and consider the department of investigation illegitimate on this basis. If this is accepted, then a pious man such as the Caliph ‘Umar (rta) would be proven to be a dangerous man.  Anyone can be curious for a good cause: for example, when the head of a house in one's neighborhood is away, one can find out if the family has eaten or not and how they are living their day to day lives. This is an obligation towards one’s neighbours. It is not prohibited to do so. However, if one finds out someone’s weakness and one is eager to delve deeper into it so that one may tell others or have it published in the papers to satisfy oneself: this is meanness. This is not allowed. If a person does not differentiate between these things, he will be in great difficulty.


4. It is narrated from ‘Abdullah Khurasani that the Prophet (sws) said: “Shake hands because this removes grudges, and continue to give gifts because this will create feelings of love and remove hatred and malice between yourselves.”

Explanation: This guidance, too, is one that creates beauty in social life. There is great blessing in shaking hands. Many misunderstandings are removed and grudges are swept aside. Similarly, exchanging gifts also removes malice and develops good relations. Sending a gift, shaking hands and being the first to greet; they are all great deeds to increase blessings.  


Narratives about Wearing Clothes for Beautification

 1. Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah Ansari (ra) said that once they went to Ghazwah Bani Anma#r in the company of the Prophet (sws). Jabir (rta) said that he was standing in the shade of a tree and the Prophet (sws) came there. He asked him to come into the shade and he stepped down there. Then, as Jabir (rta) looked in his tiffin, he found a small cucumber which he broke into two and presented one piece to the Prophet (sws). The Prophet (sws) asked him where he had obtained it from. Jabir (rta) said that they had brought it from Madi#nah. He explained that they had a man who was deployed for the purpose of taking their riding animals for grazing. Jabir (rta) asked him to get ready and Jabir (rta) saw that he was wearing two shawls that had become worn out. The Prophet (sws) asked: “Did he not have clothes other than the two shawls?” to which Jabir (rta) replied in the affirmative, saying that he had two additional clothes which he kept in his bundle. The Prophet (sws) asked Jabir (rta) to call the man and ask him to wear the fresh clothes. Jabir (ra) asked him to do this and when he turned after donning the new clothes, the Prophet (sws) said: “May God strike down his neck: is he not in a better condition than before?” The man heard this comment by the Prophet (sws) and said: “O Prophet of God, may He strike my neck in His way.” The Prophet (sws) agreed, saying that may God do so in His way. Later, this man was martyred while fighting in the way of God.

 Explanation: The worker was wearing two worn out sheets. When the Prophet (sws) was told that he also possessed good clothes, he asked him to be called and ordered him to wear those instead. When he looked good in his new clothes, the Prophet (sws) spoke some beautiful words to him: did he not look better? From this it is clear that to be polite, well mannered and well turned out in clean dress is not against piety: in fact, it is a requirement of Islam. A person looks good if he dresses well. Even poor people should take care of their appearance. In our society, numerous people are so bedraggled that even to just look at them scares others. But their masters still do not realize that they should help them to keep themselves clean or advise them to do so. Thus, we know that God and His Prophet (sws) like us to be clean and well mannered. People who are in positions of authority should make efforts to create a civic sense amongst their people and also allocate resources for the same.

“May God strike at his neck” is a comment made lovingly in Arabic: it is not a curse. In our language too, when people say “may your mother die”, this is said in love. It is not meant to be taken in the meaning of a curse. The Prophet (sws) too used the sentence to praise the man as if to say: “See, how nice he is looking now.” The man was wise: he took the words literally and requested the Prophet to pray for his neck to be struck by God in His way. Behold! how blessed was the moment when the Prophet (sws) made that comment and God made it a reality. The Prophet (sws) said that his neck be struck in the way of God and thus he participated in jihad and received the status of a martyr.


2. Ibn Sirin said that ‘Umar bin al-Khattab (rta) said that when God blesses one with abundance, on should be generous with oneself. One man had patches on his clothes.

 Explanation: It is known about ‘Umar (rta) that his clothes had as many as six patches although he was the caliph in those times. He was not poor in his personal capacity. How could a man of such extraordinary capabilities be so poor in any case? But when he was a caliph, why did he keep himself in such a bedraggled condition if he believed that if God was generous to one, one should be generous to oneself? This is another matter altogether. When a person must be a model to others, he should have standards that can be emulated by the poorest of the poor. Therefore, ‘Umar’s (rta) behaviour was that of a leader of people. Our own actions should be different. We should wear clean clothes so that we do not appear to be lowly. One’s dress should leave a good impression on others. People should not be repulsed by him and want to be with him. 


3. Imam Malik said that he had heard that ‘Umar (rta) used to say that he likes to see religious scholars dressed in white.

Explanation: The word qari in Arabic is used for scholars of Islam, similar to the word mawlvi in our language. This particular word is used for scholars of the Qur’an because in those days, the Qur’an was the sum total of all forms of knowledge and a person’s knowledge was assessed on that basis. Hence ‘Umar (rta) meant that the Qur’an scholar should wear good clothes in white: ie., he should dress seriously and refrain from flaunting any fashion.

We come to know from this narrative that the ruler of any time is aware of the behaviour of his people and keeps an eye on all related aspects. He continues to guide every group in society. This is why the Persian commander Rustam used to say that ‘Umar (rta) had consumed his liver: he was teaching manners to dogs. It is true that the efforts made most to prepare Arabs to lead the world was by ‘Umar (rta), second only to the Prophet (sws).


(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)




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