It is Twice as Hard to Crush a Half-truth Compared to a Complete Lie

Developing Just Leadership

Abu Dharr

Jumada' al-Ula' 17, 1442 2021-01-01

Opinion

by Abu Dharr (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 11, Jumada' al-Ula', 1442)

In previous articles we mentioned the fact that our memorable Prophet (pbuh) made it clear that his hadiths were not to be recorded. From what we know all his companions consented to that. We don’t know of any companion who actually wrote the Prophet’s hadiths.

Furthermore, the companions of Allah’s Prophet (pbuh) themselves advised and instructed that the Prophet’s hadiths not be written down. In addition to that, they were very strict and meticulous concerning anyone who would quote the Prophet (pbuh).

The following testimonial is found in al-Dhahabi’s book Tadhkirat al-Huffaz on the authority of Ibn Abi Malikah whose full name is ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Ubaid-Illah ibn Abi Malikah al-Qurashi al-Tamimi al-Makki who was the judge in Makkah during the time of Ibn al-Zubair. He was, in his own right, an Imam, a faqih and an eloquent one at that. There is consensus concerning his reliability and trustworthiness. One of the major faqihs who narrated hadiths on the authority of Ibn Abi Malikah was the eminent Egyptian faqih al-Layth ibn Sa‘d (d. 117 AH). His testimonial is:

Al-Siddiq (meaning Abu Bakr) summoned people to hear what he had to say. This was after the Prophet (pbuh) passed on. He said: You relate incongruous [inconsistent] hadiths attributing them to the Messenger of Allah; this will result in future generations becoming more conflicted [concerning such hadiths]. Therefore, do not quote the Messenger of Allah. And whoever queries you [about this matter] say: Between us and you is the Book of Allah; sanction its halal and forbid its haram.

From the same source above we have another entry telling us that the second Khalifah ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab restricted the movements (virtual house arrest) of Ibn Mas‘ud, Abu al-Darda’ and Abu Mas‘ud al-Ansari saying (to them): you have exceeded the limits in quoting the Messenger of Allah. They were confined to al-Madinah, and then ‘Uthman released them after ‘Umar passed away.

Ibn ‘Asakir with al-Sa’ib ibn Yazid as his source said: I heard ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab say to Abu Hureirah: You either stop quoting the hadiths of Allah’s Messenger or I will relocate you to the land of Daws (in Yemen from where Abu Hureirah originated). ‘Umar also said to Ka‘b al-Ahbar: You shall most certainly quit relaying hadith from the foremost [among us, meaning the Prophet (pbuh)] or I will relocate you to the land of the monkeys. ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan had the same approach.

Ibn Sa‘d and Ibn ‘Asakir relay the following words to ‘Uthman: Indeed, I heard him [the Messenger of Allah] say: Whoever attributes words to me that I did not say, should be seated in the fire.

There are other references to ‘Umar in which he discourages or disallows anyone quoting the Prophet (pbuh). One of his instructions was: Be meager in narrating [the Prophet’s hadith] except those [hadiths] having a practical application [or serving a useful purpose].

There is more information about other companions of the Prophet (pbuh) who were reserved or restrained when it comes to quoting the Prophet (pbuh); among them is Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud, Abu Qatadah, Talhah ibn ‘Ubaid-Illah, al-Miqdad ibn al-Aswad, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf… Some of the Prophet’s companions when asked to relate hadiths from the Prophet (pbuh) would decline by saying that they are afraid of adding something the Prophet (pbuh) did not say or omit something that he said. Some companions did quote the Prophet (pbuh) but they did so succinctly – in a few words.

Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah who is known as أمين هذه الأمة [the trustee of this Ummah] if you were to review Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim you will not find one hadith quoted by him. There is not one hadith relayed by ‘Utbah ibn Ghazwan or Abu Kabshah the mawla of the Prophet (pbuh).

It behooves us now to quote Ibn al-Qayyim in his A‘lam al-Muwaqqi‘in [أعلام الموقعين]: Certainly, the companions dreaded [and worried about] narrating hadiths of Allah’s Messenger. They stood in reverential awe of doing so, fearing they may add on or take away from what the Prophet (pbuh) actually said. They would, though, speak about what they understood him to have said, many times. They would do so in a manner that eschewed quoting him verbatim. They would never say: “The Messenger of Allah said.”

This generation of committed Muslims (al-Muhajiroon wa al-Ansar) was living in the moral sphere of their beloved Prophet (pbuh). They knew they had to be careful about attributing statements to the Prophet (pbuh). They were thoughtful and considerate, perceptive and plausible enough to be very cautious when it comes to what the Prophet of Allah said. They were mature enough to know that they were mortal beings with all the imperfections and insufficiencies that are part of human nature. What the Prophet (pbuh) said was said in context; what he said was also addressed to particular individuals or conditions. If someone quotes the Prophet (pbuh) accurately, he would have to reconstruct the condition(s), circumstance(s), peculiarities, and facts within which a particular Prophetic statement or hadith is enunciated. They knew their Arabic language very well – well enough to realize that a vowel can change or even reverse the meaning of a word. There was an air of skepticism among that generation of devout Muslims even pertaining to their own selves – one of them would not automatically accept what another one would say is a hadith from the Prophet (pbuh). Abu Bakr would not accept a hadith from anyone unless there was a witness to verify the validity of what was being attributed to the Prophet (pbuh). He thus anchored into the science of hadith its first foundation: the correct Isnad. Abu Bakr was the first to have reservation and reluctance in accepting hadith.

An incident demonstrates Abu Bakr’s hesitation and unwillingness to accept someone’s hadith attribution to Rasul-Allah. A grandmother approached Abu Bakr asking for inheritance rights. He replied to her saying I find nothing in the Book of Allah that grants you inheritance, and I have no recollection that the Messenger of Allah mentioned any such rights [for grandmothers]. Then Abu Bakr solicited information from the public, after which al-Mughirah stood up and said: The Messenger of Allah used to allocate one sixth for her [the grandmother]. Abu Bakr asked him: is there anyone with you who can verify that? Then, Muhammad ibn Muslimah testified and corroborated that; after which Abu Bakr fulfilled such inheritance allocation.

‘Umar was very strict when it came to hadith validation. He wanted anyone and everyone to be sure of what they were attributing to Allah’s Prophet (pbuh). He suspected a hadith when there was only one individual citing it.

A piece of information that is absent from the Muslim public mind is the fact that hadiths by Abu Hureirah proliferated after ‘Umar passed away.

Compare and contrast this moral behavior of that principled class of people around the Prophet (pbuh) – his household members and his social supporters with the motor-mouths of today who quote the Prophet (pbuh) when such quotations contradict the Qur’an, or quote the Prophet (pbuh) when one quotation of his contradicts another, or quote the Prophet (pbuh) when the quotation is irrational or unreasonable, or quote the Prophet (pbuh) to satisfy their bosses, or quote the Prophet (pbuh) to justify a zionist peace deal or an imperialist deal of the century!

And do not dress up truth and justice with fabrications and falsehood, and do not knowingly hold back [expressing] truth and justice… (Al-Baqarah, 42)

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