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New Muslims Qur'an & Sunnah

Hadith: Its Meaning and Significance

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If one is to understand the meanings of Qur’an, they must consider what the Prophet said or did regarding it.

The Arabic word hadith basically means ‘an item of news, conversation, a tale, a story or a report,’ whether historical or legendary, true or false, relating to the present or the past. Its secondary meaning as an adjective is ‘new’ as opposed to qadeem, ‘old’.

However, like other Arabic words (e.g. salah, zakah), its meaning changed in Islam. From the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), his stories and communications dominated all other forms of communication. Consequently, the term hadith began to be used almost exclusively for reports that spoke of his actions and sayings.

Usage of the Word Hadith

The term hadith has been used in both the Qur’an-where it is mentioned 23 times- and the prophetic traditions according to all of its linguistic meanings. The following three categories are the most notable usages. It has been used to mean:

a- The Qur’an itself:

Then leave Me alone with those who reject this communication. (Al-Qalam 68:44)

“Indeed, the best form of communication is the Book of Allah…” (Muslims and Ahmad)

b- A historical story:

Has the story of Moses reached you? (Taha 20:9)

“You may speak about the Children of Israel without …” (Al-Bukhari)

c- A general conversation:

When the Prophet confided in one of his wives… (At-Tahrim 66:3)

“Molten copper will be poured in the ear of whoever eavesdrops on the conversation of people who dislike him doing so or flee from him.” (Al-Bukhari)

Among the hadith scholars the term hadith means ‘whatever is transmitted from the Prophet of his actions, sayings, tacit approvals, or physical characteristics. Scholars of Islamic Law do not include the physical appearance of the Prophet in their definition.

Importance of Hadith

1- Revelation

The Prophet’s sayings and actions were primarily based on revelation from Allah and, as such, must be considered a fundamental source of guidance second only to the Qur’an. Allah in the Qur’an said concerning the Prophet:

(Muhammad) does not speak from his desires; indeed, what he says is revelation. (An-Najm 53:3-4)

Therefore, the hadith represents a personal source of divine guidance which Allah granted His Prophet which was similar in its nature to the Qur’an itself. The Prophet reiterated this point in one of his recorded statements, “Indeed, I was given the Qur’an and something similar to it along with it.” (Abu Dawud)

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

Allah also protected its essential meanings from change by entrusting the explanation of the meanings of Qur’an to the Prophet himself.

2- Tafseer

The preservation of the Qur’an was not restricted to protecting its wording from change. Were that the case, its meanings could be manipulated according to human desires, while maintaining its wording.

However, Allah also protected its essential meanings from change by entrusting the explanation of the meanings of Qur’an to the Prophet himself. Allah states the following in the Qur’an regarding its interpretation:

 And I revealed to you the Reminder (Qur’an) in order that you explain to the people what was revealed to them.” (An-Nahl 16:44)

Therefore, if one is to understand the meanings of Qur’an, he or she must consider what the Prophet said or did regarding it. E.g. in the Qur’an, Allah instructs the believers to offer salah (formal prayers) and pay zakah (obligatory charity) in Surat Al-Baqarah (2), verse 43.

And be steadfast in prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship). (Al-Baqarah 2:43)

However, in order to obey these instructions correctly, one must study the methodology of the Prophet in this regard. Among his many clarifications concerning salah and zakah, he instructed his followers saying “Pray as you saw me pray,” (Al-Bukhari) and he specified that 2.5% of surplus wealth, unused for a year,9 should be given as zakah.

Also, there are a number of authentic hadiths in which the Prophet gave specific instructions concerning the items and quantities on which zakah was due, as well as the time it is due. Among them is the following narration from `Ali ibn Abi Talib:

`Ali ibn Abi Taalib quoted Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying: “Whenever you possess 200 dirhams and a year passes on it, 5 dirhams is to be paid on it. You are not liable to pay anything until you possess 20 dinars and a year passes on it, in which case ½ a dinar is due. Whatever exceeds that will be counted likewise9. And no zakah is payable on wealth until a year passes on it.” (Abu Dawud)

3- Laws

One of the primary duties of the Prophet was to judge between people in their disputes. Since his judgments were all based on revelation, as stated earlier, they must be considered a primary source of principles by which judgments are carried out in an Islamic State. Allah also addressed this responsibility in the Qur’an saying:

O believers obey Allah, obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. If you dispute about anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger. (An-Nisaa’ 4:59)

Thus, hadiths are essential for the smooth running of the law courts in an Islamic State.

4- Moral Ideal

Since the Prophet was guided by revelation in his personal life, his character and social interactions became prime examples of moral conduct for Muslims until the Last Day. Attention was drawn to this fact in the following Qur’anic verse:

Surely there is for all of you a good example (of conduct) in the way of Allah’s Messenger. (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

Consequently, the daily life of the Prophet as recorded in hadith represents an ideal code of good conduct. In fact, when the Prophet’s wife, ‘A’ishah, was asked about his conduct, she replied, “His character was the Qur’an.” (Ahmad)

5- Preservation of Islam

The science of narration, collection and criticism of hadith was unknown to the world prior to the era of the Prophet .

In fact, it was due in part to the absence of such a reliable science that the messages of the former prophets became lost or distorted in the generations that followed them.

Therefore, it may be said that it is largely due to the science of hadith that the final message of Islam has been preserved in it is original purity for all times. This is alluded to in the Qur’anic verse:

 Indeed, I have revealed the Reminder, I will, indeed, protect it. (Al-Hijr 15:9)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Usool Al-Hadith”.

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His Legacy New Muslims

Prophet Muhammad: The Greatest Revolutionary Ever

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Prophet Muhammad’s great contribution to history lies in his being a philosopher and a seer as well as a living embodiment of his own teachings.

In the cavalcade of world history the sublime figure of this wonderful person towers so high above all others that they appear to be dwarfs when contrasted with him. None of them possessed a genius capable of making a deep impression on more than one or two aspects of human life. Some are brilliant theoreticians but are lacking when it comes to practical action. Some are men of action but with little knowledge. Some are renowned as statesmen only, others are masters of strategy.

Others again have devoted their energies to ethical and spiritual problems but have ignored economics and politics. In short, one comes across heroes who are expert in one walk of life only.

His is the only example where all the excellences have been blended into one personality. He is a philosopher and a seer as well as a living embodiment of his own teachings. He is a great statesman as well as a military genius. He is a legislator and also a teacher of morals.

He is a spiritual luminary as well as a religious guide. His vision penetrates every aspect of life. His orders and commandments cover a vast field from the regulation of international relations down to the habits of everyday life like eating, drinking and personal hygiene.

On the foundations of philosophy he established a civilization and a culture without the slightest trace of a flaw, deficiency or incompleteness. Can anyone point to another example of such a perfect and all round-personality?

Why that Unique?

Most of the famous personalities of the world are said to be the products of their environment. But his case is unique. His environment seems to have played no part in the making of his personality. At most one might accept in the light of Hegel’s philosophy of history or Marx’s historical materialism that the time and environment demanded the emergence of a leader who could create a nation and build an empire.

But Hegelian or Marxist philosophy cannot explain how such an environment could produce a man whose mission was to teach the highest morals, to purify humanity and to wipe out prejudice and superstition, who looked beyond the artificial compartments of race and nation-state, who laid the foundations of a moral, spiritual, cultural and political superstructure for the good of the whole world, who practically, not theoretically, placed business transactions, civics, politics and international relations on moral grounds and produced such a balanced synthesis between worldly life and spiritual advancement that even to this day it is considered to be a masterpiece of wisdom and foresight.

Can anyone honestly call such a person a product of all-pervading darkness of Arabia?

He does not only appear to be independent of his environment. When we look at his achievements we are irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that he actually transcends the limitations of time and space. His vision breaks through all temporal and physical barriers, passes beyond centuries and millenniums and encompasses within itself the whole of human history.

History Maker

He is not one of those whom history has cast into oblivion, and he is not praised only because he was a good leader in his own time. He is that unique and incomparable leader of humanity who marches with time, who is modern in every age and in every era.

Those whom people style ‘makers of history’ are only ‘creatures of history’. In fact, in the whole of history of mankind, he is the unique example of a ‘maker of history’.

One may scan the lives and circumstances of the great leaders of the world who brought about revolutions and one will find that on such occasions the forces of revolution were gathering momentum for the destined upheaval, were taking their course in certain directions and were only waiting for the right moment.

In harnessing these forces the revolutionary leader played the part of an actor for whom the stage and the role is set beforehand. On the other hand the Prophet is only a person who had to genuinely create a revolution; he had to mold and produce the kind of men he wanted because the spirit of revolution and its necessary conditions were nonexistent.

He made an indelible impression on the hearts of thousands of his disciples by his forceful personality and molded them to his way of thinking. By his iron will he prepared the ground for revolution and directed events into the channels he wanted. Can anyone cite another example of a maker of history of such distinction, another revolutionary of such brilliance and splendor?

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The article is an excerpt from the book “Towards Understanding Islam” by Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi.

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His Character New Muslims

Prophet Muhammad: The Embodiment of the Role and Features of Believers

By Abdur Raheem Kidwai

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) devoted himself heart and soul to the mission of Islam and achieved great success notwithstanding stiff opposition, in transforming the polytheistic Arabs into champions of monotheism. He drew upon every conceivable means for articulating the truth of Islam.

Prophet Muhammad: The Embodiment of the Role and Features of Believers

The Prophet was granted the following charter of social justice, which also spells out the role and features of believers.

His concern was so deep felt that he cried over the prospect of the inevitable divine punishment for those Arab unbelievers who refused to embrace Islam. The Qur’an, however, directed him not to grieve so much about the miserable fate of such unbelievers:

Perhaps you will kill yourself with grief because they do not become believers. (Ash-Shu`araa’ 26:3)

The Makkan unbelievers asked him to produce a miracle which they could see with their own eyes. They were told to look around them in that Allah’s distinct signs are scattered everywhere. He was, nonetheless, granted the miracle which we know as the Qur’an. For it embodies the light of Allah’s guidance and mercy.

Prophecies

The Qur’an recounts the prophecies about the Prophet Muhammad’s advent which featured in the earlier Scriptures, especially the Torah and the Gospels. Take this as illustrative:

And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the Messenger of Allah sent to you, confirming the Torah, which came before me, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me. His name shall be Ahmad.” (As-Saff 61:6)

Even in the face of such clear pronouncements in their own holy Books about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Jews and Christians of the day rejected and opposed him. They did so for their own selfish ends. For the radical message of Islam was set to destroy their vested interests, their degenerate way of life and their clergy that abused religion for pecuniary gain.

Overwhelming Victory

However, Allah promised and sent His help to the Prophet. For example, when the unbelieving Makkans mocked him for being without a son, Allah consoled and comforted him:

To you We have granted Al-Kawthar. Turn to your Lord in prayer and sacrifice. For he who hates you will be cut off (from future hope). (Al-Kawthar 108:1-4)

Allah blessed him with an overwhelming victory over the unbelievers, the Jews and Christians. Millions accepted Islam and country after country was won over to the Caliphs, who succeeded the Prophet, to lead the community of believers. As for the Prophet himself, he devoted more and more of his time to glorifying Allah and seeking Allah’s forgiveness.

As to the exalted rank which he enjoys in Allah’s sight, the following Qur’anic passage is instructive:

Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O Believers! Send your blessings upon him and salute him with all respect. (Al-Ahzab 33:56)

Allah also conferred another distinction on the Prophet – that of his Ascent and Night Journey to the heavens, which is recorded thus in the Qur’an:

Glory be to Allah Who took His servant (Muhammad) for the night journey from the sacred mosque to the farthest mosque, whose surroundings We have blessed in order that We might show him some of Our signs. (Al-Israa’ 17:1)

Our Role Model

More importantly, on that occasion, he was granted the following charter of social justice, which also spells out the role and features of believers:

Those who are constant in their prayer. And in their wealth there is a recognized right for the beggar and the deprived. (Al-Ma`arij 70:23-25)

And those who respect their trusts and covenants. They stand firm in their testimony. (Al-Ma`arij 70:32-33)

The same note of social justice permeates the Prophet’s sermon at `Arafat which he delivered on the occasion of his farewell pilgrimage.

It captures the essence of the mission which he professed and practiced throughout his illustrious life:

“No Arab is superior to a non-Arab and any non-Arab does not have superiority over an Arab. Piety alone confers honour on man. All men are from Adam and Adam was made of clay.

O people! Your lives, blood and property are sacred for one another … All of you will certainly appear before Allah and He will take you to account. Thus do I warn you. Whoever among you is entrusted with someone’s property shall return the trust to the rightful owner.

O people! Allah has laid down rights for everyone. No one should therefore, leave a will in favour of any of his heirs. Debt is to be repaid. Borrowed things are to be returned. It is not lawful to deprive anyone of what is due to him. Your wives have rights. They owe you obligations. Treat them well. For they are dependent upon you. If you follow the Book of Allah and my practice (Sunnah), which I leave behind with you, you will never go astray.”

This sermon stands out as his strong exhortation for cordial human relationships and a tension-free society.

This sermon stands out as his strong exhortation for cordial human relationships and a tension-free society. His assertions about shunning violence and bloodshed, not usurping others’ belongings and refraining from betraying the trust reposed in one re-echo the Qur’an:

No prophet could (ever) be false to his trust. If any person is so false, He shall, on the Day of Judgment, restore what he misappropriated; then shall every soul receive its due,- whatever it earned,- and none shall be dealt with unjustly. (Aal ‘Imran 3:161)

If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (Forever): And the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him. (An-Nisaa’ 4:93)

He is also seen reminding everyone of the need to discharge their obligations, especially those which they owe to fellow human beings in general and to their family members, friends and neighbors in particular. Man is asked to keep the trust placed with him as a responsible member of the society and as a good citizen.

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The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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