Those of you who have been following this column during the past year or so must have realized that a sincere attempt is being made to “sanitize” hadith literature. This honest-to-goodness effort finds itself caught between two extremes: one overstates the Prophet’s hadiths in a way that unintentionally marginalizes the Qur’an – even though they would never admit it. Such Islamic celebrants will quote a dozen hadiths many times out of context or Qur’anically-irrelevant—in one presentation—without couching those hadiths within the ambiance of the Qur’an.
The other extreme discovers that there are some hadiths that are contradictory to the Qur’an, so for them hadith literature should be understated and from there on they take it upon themselves to annul all of the Prophet’s hadiths: be they false or true. We state for the record that we do not belong to any of these two baseless extremes.
In the middle of all this, Mohammad ibn Salman (MbS) the de facto ruler of the family fiefdom of “Saudi Arabia” makes his debut a few weeks ago and says that neither he nor his kingdom are obliged to honor hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) that are unreliable. The key word here is unreliable. Since when was this princeling a qualified Islamic scholar to tell his people and the rest of the Muslims that Bin Salman’s Arabia is no longer to abide by certain hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) subject to his personal judgment or royal decree? We have to set the record straight and enlighten you, our dear readers, to this trouble-making prince who is using this delicate and long overdue subject of hadiths to “break loose” from the authentic hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) and then turn Arabia that identifies with Muhammad (pbuh) to an Arabia beholden to his handlers in Washington and Tel Aviv. We want to make it clear that we are bound to and obligated by the Prophet’s authentic hadiths to the same degree that we are disappointed by and dissatisfied by false hadiths that have been attributed to him and are still ascribed to him.
So let us move on and may the mischief makers skulking behind MbS stew in their satanic schemes. The political pilgrimages and propaganda of the Feltmans and the Freidmans, the Kushners and the Kissingers, the Spencers, Gellers, and Jassers, throughout the years are beginning to pay off, it would seem! But little do they know that time is not on their side. By plucking out the “Isra’iliyat” from hadith literature we will be pulling the plug on all their intrusion into our past and present.
Here we will address ourselves to the “madh-hab centrics” and sectarian zealots who consider any Muslim to be a lesser Muslim or even a non-Muslim if such a Muslim does not accept the details of their particular madh-hab (school of thought). There are plenty of examples to present in this regard. We shall, though, advance one demonstration of the legitimate variations that should never be considered an issue of discrimination or division among the followers of our everyday educator (pbuh). At the end of our salat before the taslim we have what is called التشهد [acknowledgment and tribute] to our providential Prophet (pbuh). Let it be known, even though most Muslims are blissfully ignorant of it, that there are nine different expressions or phrases for this تشهد [acknowledgment and tribute]. Just quoting the nine would extend this article into twice its scope. Suffice it to mention the nine persons/companions who differed from each other in expressing their تشهد [acknowledgment and tribute]. They are, in no particular order:
1- Ibn Mas‘ud
2- Ibn ‘Abbas
3- ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab
4- Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri
7- Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari
8- Samurah ibn Jandab
9- Ibn ‘Umar
All of the above expressed their tashahhud in a different combination of words basically delivering the same general meaning. So why would any Muslim feel ill at ease with another Muslim who is expressing the same praise and honor of the Prophet (pbuh) using different words? This type of narrow-mindedness must come to an end. We can’t go on drawing artificial lines of separation among us because of fiqhi variances.
Here I will draw on an incident conveyed by the late Shaikh Muhammad al-Ghazali [1917-1996]. When he was on assignment teaching at one of the universities in Algeria a student asked him: Is it true that [Prophet] Musa (as) poked/gouged the eye of the angel of death when the angel came to extricate his spirit as his lifetime came to an end? Al-Sheikh al-Ghazali uncomfortably answered: And how would this hadith be of any benefit to you? This hadith has nothing to do with Islamic guidelines, and is practically irrelevant! Besides, the Islamic ummah is under stress and duress; its enemies are sharpening their knives to finish it off. You would be better off paying attention to things that are more serious and beneficial. The student answered: but I just want to know whether the hadith is authentic or not. I (feeling perturbed) answered him saying: the hadith is narrated by Abu Hureyrah and some (scholars) have questioned its authenticity.
Al-Shaikh al-Ghazali goes on to say: I gave it a second thought and said to myself: the hadith has a line of transmitters that is above reproach but its content is dubious. The hadith implies that Prophet Musa (as) detests death and he does not choose to meet Allah (swt) at the time of death. And this meaning is in contrast to people belonging to Allah and people of divine inspiration as stated in the Prophet’s hadith: Whoever is in love of meeting Allah, Allah is in love of meeting him. This is more so with Allah’s Prophets (as), not to speak about a Prophet who is ranked among the Prophets “beyond the call of duty” (أولي العزم). For someone to say that Musa (as) expresses his dislike for dying upon the appearance of the angel of death doesn’t make sense. And then, are angels subject to injuries in the way humans are injured? Can any human blind the vision of, or handicap an angel?
Al-Ghazali said the hadith’s wording may be corrupted and whatever the case may be, I have no interest in pursuing it further.
And it does not end here. Al-Shaikh al-Ghazali said that he checked the “hadith” in a [hadith] reference book and the author of the book considered anyone who takes issue with the hadith to be an unbeliever.
At this point we will quote the “hadith”
عن أبي هريرة عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال:
جاء ملك الموت الى موسى – عليه السلام – فقال له: أجب ربك. قال: فلطم موسى – عليه السلام – عين ملك الموت ففقأها. قال: فرجع الملك الى الله تعالى فقال: انك أرسلتني الى عبد لك لا يريد الموت وقد فقأ عيني. قال: فرد الله اليه عينه وقال: ارجع الى عبدي فقل: ألحياة تريد؟ فان كنت تريد الحياة فضع يدك على متن ثور فما وارث يدك من شعرة فانك تعيش بها سنة. قال: ثم مه؟ قال: ثم تموت. قال: فالآن من قريب رب أمتني من الأرض المقدسة رمية بحجر
قال رسول الله –صلى الله عليه وسلم – "والله لو أني عنده لأريتكم قبره الى جانب الطريق عند الكثيب الأحمر
The rough and ready translation of the above is:
On the authority of Abu Hureyrah that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
The angel of death came to [Prophet] Musa (as) and said to him: Rejoin your Sustainer! He [the Prophet] said: Then Musa (as) jabbed the eye of the angel of death and perforated it. He said: the angel then returned to Allah, most exalted, and said: You in truth sent me to a subject of Yours who does not want to die and he actually pierced my eye. He said: Accordingly, Allah restored his eye and said to him: return to My subject and say: Is it life that you desire? And if it is life that you desire, then place your hand on the back of a bull (ox) and whatever [number of] hairs your hand plucks out that is the number of years you shall live-on [for every hair a year]. He said: then what, [more life or is it death]? He replied: then you die. He answered: From this moment on the approaching instant [of death] is near. O my Sustainer! Have me die in the holy land [or] within [the distance of] a stone fling.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: By Allah! If I were there, I would show you his burial site on the side of a path adjacent to a mound of sand.
The unthinking and injudicious apologists for this “hadith” explain and excuse its malarkey by saying:
1- Allah (swt) may have used Musa (as) to strike the angel and therefore test the angel…
2- Musa (as) did not physically punch and puncture the angel’s eye. This is a metaphorical hadith. Any reference to what is physical is really a reference to a deficiency in the intended character.
3- Musa (as) did not know that this was the angel of death. Musa (as) thought he was a person intending to kill him. The struggle that ensued was one of self-defense. And any resultant injury was not intended by Musa (as).
All of these argumentations do not stand the test of sound reasoning. And we are not here to break with the rational common grounds among the learned fuqaha’ who did discard senseless hadith content even though the thread of narration or the narrators were unsullied.
The above “hadith” is just scratching the surface of scores of other “hadiths” that have to be pulled out of hadith books and hadith literature. And may Allah’s mercy be upon al-Shaikh al-Ghazali and all the other Islamic scholars who honor what the Prophet (pbuh) actually said, and cast off what he did not say.
…and those who convey Allah’s messages [to the world], and stand in awe of Him, and hold none in awe but Allah… al-Ahzab, 39