Not just to believe in him
The Obligation to Believe in the Messenger, Obey Him and Follow His Sunnah
From Ash-Shifa’ of Qadhi Iyyad,
The Obligation to Believe in Him
The previous pages provide conclusive evidence of his Prophethood and the soundness of his message. It is, therefore, necessary to believe in him and confirm what he brought.
Allah says, “Believe in Allah and His Messenger and the light which He sent down.” [Al-Qur’an 64:8] He says, “We sent you as a witness and a bringer of good news and a warner so that they might believe in Allah and His Messenger.” [Al-Qur’an 48:8-9] He says, “Believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet.” [Al-Qur’an 7:158] Belief in the Prophet Muhammad is therefore a necessary obligation for every individual. Belief is not complete without it and Islam is only valid with it.
Allah says: “Whoever does not believe in Allah and His Messenger, We have prepared a blaze for the unbelievers.” Al-Qur’an 48:13
Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said:”I was commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and believe in me and what I have brought. When they do that, their blood and their property are protected from me except for a right (they owe). Their reckoning is with Allah.” Muslim and Al-Bukhari
To believe in the Prophet is to confirm his Prophethood and Allah’s message to him and to support him in all that he brought and said. Corresponding to the confirmation of the heart is testimony with the tongue – that he is the Messenger of Allah. The combination of confirmation in the heart with articulation of that testimony on the tongue constitutes belief in him and confirmation of him as has been related in a version of the hadith above from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, “I was commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” [Muslim and Al-Bukhari]
It is clearer in another hadith in which Jibril is reported as saying, “Tell me about Islam.” The Prophet said, “It is that you testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,” and he went on to mention the pillars of Islam. Then he asked him about belief and he said, “It is that you believe in Allah, His angels, His Books and His Messengers.” [Muslim]
He confirmed that belief in the Prophet implies acceptance in the heart while Islam demands articulation by the tongue. Together they lead to the complete praiseworthy state. The blameworthy state consists testimony on the tongue without confirmation by the heart. That is hypocrisy.
Allah says, “When the hypocrites come to you, they say, ‘We testify that you are the Messenger of Allah,’ and Allah knows that you are His Messenger and Allah testifies that the hypocrites are liars.” [Al-Qur’an 63:1] i.e. they lie in respect of what they say regarding what they believe and confirm. They do not really believe it. It their consciousness does not confirm their words, it will not benefit them to say with their tongues what is not in their hearts. They fall short of belief. They will not benefit by its jurisdiction in the Next World since they do not possess faith. They will join the unbelievers in the lowest level of the Fire. However, because they give verbal testimony, they are still judged as Muslims as far as the jurisdiction of this world is concerned, by Muslim Imams and judges who can only give judgement according to people’s outward display of Islam since there is no way one human being can uncover the secrets of another. They are not commanded to investigate such people and the Prophet forbade passing judgement on them as unbelievers and censured doing so, saying, “Why did you not split open his heart?” [Muslim and al-Bukhari] The difference between what is affirmed with the tongue and true belief is clarified by the hadith of Jibril – verbal testimony is part of Islam and confirmation with the tongue is part of belief.
There are other states which lie between these two. One such state is when some confirms with his heart and then dies before he has had time to testify with his tongue. There is some disagreement about the states of such a person. Some make it a precondition that he should have completed his faith by verbal testimony. Others think that he is a believer who will necessarily go to the Garden according to the words of the Prophet, “Whoever has an atom’s weight of belief in his heart my come out of the Fire.” [Muslim and Al-Bukhari] The Prophet only mentioned what was in the heart. A person who believes in his heart is neither a rebel nor negligent by not pronouncing it. This is the sound opinion regarding this matter.
The second case concerns someone who believes in his heart and then waits a long time to testify to it even though he knows that it is necessary to do. He does not speak of it or testify to it even once in his entire life. There are similar disagreements about such a person. It is said that he is a believer because he confirmed it inwardly. However because testimony is part of required action, he is a rebel for not doing so but will not be in the Fire forever. It is also said that he is not really a believer until he accompanies his belief with verbal testimony since testimony is entering into a contract and a requirement of belief. It is directly connected to belief. Delayed confirmation is only completed by verbal testimony. This is the sounder opinion.
This is a small matter which, however, has been the source of extensive discussion on the nature of Islam and belief and related subjects, and increase and decrease in them. Is the reward for simple conformation denied when there is not valid statement? Is it dependant on having action added to it? Or might it appear solely through its different qualities and various states – strong certainty, resolute belief, clear recognition, a constant state and the presence of the heart?
To say more on this is beyond the goal of this book. We have said enough for our purposes here, Allah willing.
The Obligation to Obey Him
As for the obligation to obey the Prophet, belief in him demands it. Confirmation of what he brought requires obedience to him because this is part of what he brought. Allah says, “O you who believe, obey Allah and His Messenger … ” [Al-Qur’an 8:20] “Say: obey Allah and obey the Messenger … ” [Al-Qur’an 24:54] He says, “Obey Allah and the Messenger and perhaps you will be shown mercy.” [Al-Qur’an 3:132] “If you obey him, you will be guided … ” [Al-Qur’an 24:54] “Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah … ” [Al-Qur’an 4:79] “That what the Messenger brings you and leave what he forbids you … ” [Al-Qur’an 59:7] “Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger is with those whom Allah has blessed.” [Al-Qur’an 4:68] “We did not send any Messenger but for him to be obeyed by the permission of Allah.” [Al-Qur’an 4:63]
He made obeying His Messenger tantamount to obeying Himself, and He placed obedience to Himself alongside obedience to His Messenger. Allah promises that doing this will result in an abundant reward and threatens a severe punishment for opposing it. He made it obligatory to obey the things that the Prophet commanded and to avoid those he prohibited.
The commentators and Imams have said that obeying the Messenger means to cling to his Sunnah and submit to what he brought. They said that Allah did not send a Messenger without obliging those to whom he was sent to obey him and that obeying the Messenger in his Sunnah is equivalent to obeying Allah in His obligations. Sahl at-Tustari was asked about the Shari’ah of Islam and he quoted, “Take what the Messenger brings you.” [Al-Qur’an 59:7]
As-Samarqandi said that it was said: obey Allah in His obligations and the Messenger in his Sunnah. It is also said: obey Allah regarding what He makes forbidden for you and obey the Messenger regarding what he conveys to you. It is said that it means to obey Allah by testifying that He is the Lord and to obey the Prophet by testifying to his prophethood.
Abu Salamah ibn ‘Abdur-Rahman heard Abu Hurayrah say that the Messenger of Allah said:
“Whoever obeys me has obeyed Allah. Whoever rebels against me has rebelled against Allah. Whoever obeys my Amir has obeyed me. Whoever rebels against my Amir has disobeyed me.”
Muslim and Al-Bukhari
Obeying the Messenger is part of obeying Allah since Allah commands that he be obeyed. True obedience is obedience to Allah’s command and therefore obedience to His Prophet.
Allah talks about the unbelievers in the depths of the Fire saying, “On the day when their faces are turned over in the Fire, they will say, ‘Would that we had obeyed Allah and that we had obeyed the Messenger.’ ” [Al-Qur’an 33:66] They will wish they had obeyed when the wish will not profit them.
The Prophet said: “When I forbid you to do something, avoid it. When I command you to do something, then do it as much as you are able.” Muslim and Al-Bukhari
In the hadith of Abu Hurayrah we find that the Prophet said, “All of my community will enter the Garden except for those who refuse to.” They asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who will refuse?” He replied, “Whoever obeys me will enter the Garden. Whoever rebels against me has refused.” [Al-Hakim]
In another sound hadith the Prophet said: “My likeness and the likeness of what Allah has sent me with is like a man who comes to a people and says, ‘O people, I have seen the army with my own eyes and I am a sincere warner, so save yourselves!’ One group of his people obey him and they travel at the beginning of the night, go at their leisure and are saved. Another group reject him and remain where they are and the army arrives in the morning and wipes them out. Such is the likeness of those who obey me and follow what I bring and the likeness of those who rebel against me and deny what I bring.” Al-Bukhari
In a similar hadith we find: “It is like someone who builds a house and lays out a fine feast in it and sends out a summoner. Whoever does not answer the summoner does not enter the house and eat from the feast.” Muslim and Al-Bukhari
The house is the Gardens and the summoner is Muhammad, may Allah bless and grant him peace. Whoever obeys Muhammad has obeyed Allah. Whoever rebels against the Messenger of Allah has rebelled against Allah. Muhammad distinguishes between people.
The Obligation to Follow Him and Obey His Sunnah
As for the obligation to follow him and obey his Sunnah and follow his guidance, Allah says, “Say: if you love Allah, follow me and He will love you and forgive you your wrong actions.” [Al-Qur’an 3:31] “Believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet who believes in Allah and His words. Follow him, perhaps you will be guided.” [Al-Qur’an 7:157] “No, by your Lord, they will not believe until they ask you to judge between them in what they disagree about and then they shall find in themselves no impediment touching your verdict, but shall surrender in full submission.” [Al-Qur’an 4:64] i.e. obey your judgement.
Allah also says, “You have a good model in the Messenger of Allah for one who hopes for Allah and the Last Day.” [Al-Qur’an 33:21] Muhammad ibn ‘Ali at-Tirmidhi said, “To take the Messenger as a model means to emulate him, follow his sunnah and abandon opposition to him in either word or action.” Several commentators said words to that effect.
It is said that this was intended as a criticism of those who fail to follow him. Sahl said that the ayat from the Fatihah (Surah 1), “The path of those whom You have blessed,” means to follow the sunnah. Allah commands this and promises they will be guided by following him by reason of the fact that Allah has sent him with the guidance and the Din of the truth to purify them, teach them the Book and the Wisdom, and to guide them to the straight path.
In the first ayat mentioned, Allah promises His love and forgiveness to those who follow the Prophet and prefer him to their own passions and inclinations. Soundness of belief is based on submission to the Prophet and satisfaction with his judgement and abandoning opposition to him.
It is related from al-Hasan al-Basri that some people said, “Messenger of Allah, we love Allah,” so Allah revealed, “Say: if you love Allah, follow me and Allah will love you.” [Al-Qur’an 3:31] It is related that this verse was revealed about Ka’b ibn Ashraf and others. They said, “We are the sons of Allah and His beloveds,” [Al-Qur’an 5:20] and “We are stronger in love for Allah,” [Al-Qur’an 2:165] so Allah revealed this ayat.
Az-Zajjaj says that the meaning of, “Say: if you love Allah”, is if you desire to obey Him, then do what He had commanded you to do since the love of the slave of Allah and the Messenger lies in obeying both of them and being happy with what they command. Allah’s love for them is His pardon to them and His blessing them with His mercy. It is said that love from Allah manifests itself in protection and success. Love on the part of the slaves manifests and in obedience.
A poet (Al-Mahmud ibn Al-Hasan al-Warraq):
Do you rebel against God when you claim to love Him?
By my life, this is an extraordinary example!
If your love had been true, then you would have obeyed Him.
The lover obeys the one he loves.
It is said that the slave’s love for Allah is to exalt Him and be in awe of Him, and the love of Allah for him is His mercy to him and His beautiful concern for him. It can also mean praise. Al-Qushayri said, “When love means mercy, desire and praise, it is one of the attributes of Allah’s essence.” More will be said concerning the slave loving something else by the power of Allah.
Al-‘Irbad ibn Sarriyah relayed the warning of the Prophet, “You must follow my sunnah and the sunnah of the Rightly-Guided Khaliphs. Cling to it fiercely and beware of new things. These new things are innovations, and every innovation is misguidance.” Jabir added, “Every misguidance is in the fire.” [Muslim]
Abu Rafi’ reported that the Prophet said: “Do not let any of you be found reclining on his bed when he hears an injunction from me which is from among those things which I myself commanded or forbade so that he says, ‘I do not know. We only follow what we find in the Book of Allah.’ ”
Ash-Shafi’i in Al-Umm, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah. A sound hadith
‘A’isha said: “The Messenger of Allah did something as an example in order to make things easier for people but some people still refrained from doing it. When the Prophet heard about that, he praised Allah and said, ‘What do you think of people who refrain from anything that I myself do? By Allah, I am the greatest of them in knowledge of Allah and the strongest of them in fear of Allah.’ ” Muslim and Al-Bukhari
It is related that the Prophet said: “The Qur’an is hard and difficult for anyone who hates it. It is judgement. Whoever clings to what I say and understands it and retains it, then it will be like the Qur’an for him. Whoever considers the Qur’an and what I say unimportant and neglects it loses this world and the Next. My community is commanded to take my words and obey my commands and follow my sunnah. Whoever is pleased with my words is pleased with the Qur’an. Allah says, ‘Take what the Messenger brings you.’ ”
Abu’sh-Shaykh, Ad-Daylami and Abu Nu’aym from Al-Hakam ibn ‘Umayr. The ayat is Al-Qur’an 59:7
The Prophet said:”Whoever follows me is of me and whoever wants to abandon my sunnah is not of me.”
Abu Hurayrah said that the Prophet said: “The best is the Book of Allah and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The word matters are innovations.”
It is related from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-‘As that the Prophet said:
“There are three types of knowledge – any other knowledge is superfluous – a precise ayat, an established sunnah or a just share (of inheritance).” Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah
Al-Hasan ibn Al-Hasan said that the Prophet said:”Doing a little of something which is a sunnah is better than doing a lot of something which is an innovation.” Ad-Darimi
The Prophet said: “Allah will bring a man into the Garden by the fact that he clings to my sunnah.”
Abu Hurayrah said that the Prophet said: “The one who clings to my sunnah when the community is corrupt will have the reward of a hundred martyrs.” At-Tabarani
The Prophet said: “The Banu Isra’il split into about seventy-two sects. My community will split into seventy-three. All of them will be in the Fire except for one.” They asked, “Who are they, Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Those who base themselves on what I and my Companions are doing today.” At-Tirmidhi
‘Anas reported that the Prophet said: “Whoever brings the sunnah to life has brought me to life. Whoever brings me to life will be with me in the Garden.”
‘Amr ibn ‘Awf al-Muzani said the Prophet told Bilal ibn Al-Harith: “Whoever brings to life any of my sunnah which has died after me will have the reward of all those who act by it without decreasing their reward in any way. Whoever introduces a misguiding innovation which does not please Allah and His Messenger will have the like of all those who act by it without that decreasing their burden.” At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah considers it hasan
What is Related from the Salaf and the Imams About Following His Sunnah, Taking His Guidance and the Sirah
A man from Khalid ibn Asid’s family asked ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, “Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman! We find the fear prayer and the prayer at home in the Qur’an, but we do not find the travelling prayer.” Ibn ‘Umar said:
“My nephew, Allah sent Muhammad to us when we did not know anything. We do as we saw him doing.”
‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul-Aziz said: “The Messenger of Allah made a Sunnah and the people in command after him made other Sunnah. To adopt them is to confirm the Book of Allah and to act on them is to obey Allah and strengthen the Din of Allah. It is not for anyone to change the Sunnah or alter it or to look into the opinion of those who oppose it. Whoever follows it is guided. Whoever seeks help by it will have victory. Whoever opposes it and follows other than the path of the believers, Allah will entrust him to what he turns to and will roast him in Jahannam, which is a bad ending.”
See Al-Qur’an 4:115
Al-Hasan ibn Abi’l-Hasan said: “A little action following a sunnah is better than a lot of action following an innovation.”
Ibn Shibab said: “It has reached us that some of the people of knowledge said, ‘Holding fast to the sunnah is salvation.’ ”
‘Umar ibn al-Khattab wrote to his governors telling to learn the Sunnah, the shares of inheritance and the dialects, saying:
“People will try to argue with you (i.e. by using the Qur’an), so overcome them with the Sunnah. The people of the Sunnah have the greatest knowledge of the Book of Allah.”
When ‘Umar prayed two ra’kat at Dhu’l-Hulayfah (the miqat for the people of Madinah on their way to Hajj), he said:
“I do as I saw the Messenger of Allah doing.”
When ‘Ali joined the Hajj and ‘Umrah together, ‘Uthman said to him, “Why do you do this when you know that I have forbidden the people to do it?” He replied, “I don’t abandon a sunnah of the Messenger of Allah for the statement of anyone.”
‘Ali said: “I am not a Prophet nor have I received revelation, but I act according to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad as much as I can.”
Ibn Mas’ud used to say:”Doing a little of the Sunnah is better than striving hard in innovation.”
Ibn ‘Umar said:”The travelling prayer is of two ra’kat. Whoever opposes the Sunnah is an unbeliever.”
Ubayy ibn Ka’b said: “You must follow the path of Allah and the Sunnah. There is no slave who is on the path of Allah and the Sunnah, remembering Allah, his eyes overflowing out of fear of his Lord, but that Allah will never punish him. There is no slave on the earth who is on the path of Allah and the Sunnah, remembering Allah, his skin trembling out of fear of Allah, but that he is like a tree whose leaves are dry. In the same way that a tree loses its leaves when a strong wind hits it, his errors fall from him as the leaves are shaken from the tree. A minimal course in the path of Allah and the Sunnah is better than striving hard in a path contrary to the path of Allah and the Sunnah and consenting to innovation. See that your actions – whether they are striving or minimal – are on the path of the Prophets and their sunnah.”
One of the governors of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul-Aziz wrote to him about the bad conditions and the great number of thieves in his territory. Should he arrest them on mere suspicion or only with clear proof in accordance with the Sunnah? ‘Umar wrote to him, “Arrest them only with clear proof in accordance with the Sunnah. It the truth does not put them right, Allah will not put them right.”
‘Ata’ said that the words of Allah, “If you quarrel over something, then refer it back to Allah and His Messenger,” [Al-Qur’an 4:58] means that you should consult the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah in cases of disagreement.
Ash-Shafi’i said: “The Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah consists only in following it.”
When ‘Umar looked back at the Black Stone, he said, “You are a stone and can neither help nor harm. If I had not seen the Messenger of Allah kiss you, I would not have kissed you.” Then he kissed it.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar was seen making his she-camel turn round in a particular place and was asked why. He said, “I don’t know. I once saw the Messenger of Allah doing it, so I do it.”
Abu ‘Uthman al-Hiri said: “Whoever gives the Sunnah authority over himself in word and deed speaks with wisdom. Whoever gives passion authority over himself speaks by innovation.”
Sahl at-Tustari said: “The bases of our school are three: following the Prophet in character and actions, eating from what is lawful, and making our intention sincere in all actions.”
It has come that Allah’s words, “The right action, He raises it up, ” [Al-Qur’an 35:10] refer to following the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
It is related that Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: “One day I was with a group who stripped off all their clothes and went into the water. I applied the hadith, ‘Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should only enter the baths with a wrapper.’ I did not strip. That night I dreamt that someone said to me, ‘O Ahmad, Allah has forgiven you because of your application of the Sunnah and He had made you an Imam who will be followed.’ I said, ‘Who are you?’ He replied, ‘Jibril.’ ”
The Danger of Opposing His Command
Opposing his command and changing his Sunnah is misguidance and innovation. It is threatened by Allah with utter bereftness and punishment.
Allah says, “Let those who oppose his command beware of a trial that might strike them or a painful punishment that might befall them.” [Al-Qur’an 24:63] and “Whoever splits from the Messenger of Allah after the guidance is clear to him and follows other than the path of the believers, We shall entrust him to what he has turned to.” [Al-Qur’an 4:114]
Abu Hurayrah said that once the Messenger of Allah went to visit some graves and, while there, described his community, saying:
“Some men will be driven away from my Fountain as a stray camel is driven off. I will call to them, ‘Come here! Come here!’ It will be said, ‘They made changes after you.’ Then I will say, ‘Get away! Get away!’ ” Muslim, Malik, Abu Dawud and An-Nasa’i
‘Anas related that the Prophet said: “Anyone who dislikes my sunnah is not of me.” Muslim and Al-Bukhari
The Prophet said: “Anyone who adds something to my commands which is not part of them is a renegade.” Muslim and Al-Bukhari
Ibn Abi Rafi’ related from his father that the Prophet said: “Do not let any of you be found reclining on his bed when he hears an injunction from me which is from among those things which I myself have commanded or forbidden so that he says, ‘I do not know. We only follow what we find in the Book of Allah.’ ” He added a version of the hadith from Al-Miqdam, “What the Messenger of Allah makes unlawful is like what Allah makes unlawful.” Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah
Once when some writing on a shoulder-blade was brought to him, the Prophet said, “People are stupid enough to dislike what their Prophet has brought them, preferring someone else to their own Prophet or another book to their book.” So it was revealed, “Or is it not enough for them that We sent down the Book on them which is recited to them?” [Al-Qur’an 29:51] [Abu Dawud, ad-Darimi, Ibn Jarir and others]
The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said: “Those who go to extremes in speech will be destroyed.” Muslim via Ibn Mas’ud
Abu Bakr as-Siddiq said: “I have not omitted doing anything that the Messenger of Allah used to do. If feared that I would deviate if I left out any of his commands.”
From Ash-Shifa’ of Qadhi Iyyad, Madinah Press (1991). Translation by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley.