Part 2 of Imaam Ahmad Benefits From his Life and Works

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    Part Two

    [ In the Name of Allaah, the All-Merciful... ]

    Loving and Hating for the Right Reasons

    From the noteworthy sayings of Imaam Ahmad about the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah is his statement, "Love the people of the Sunnah according to the degree that they are upon the Sunnah." This means that your love should be based on the Sunnah, that you do not love for petty reasons, nor for some worldly reasons. Real love is for those who are upon the Sunnah.

    It could be that a person of the Sunnah, a person of the correct 'aqeedah, does some evil things. However, due to his correct 'aqeedah, his clarity, and his submission to Allaah's Book and the Sunnah of His Messenger (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), you find that he is a person whose heart is free of innovation and doubts.

    He said, "Love the people of the Sunnah according to the degree that they are upon the Sunnah." What is understood from this also is that a man hates the people of innovation according to the degree of their innovations. This means that if they perform some acts of worship, or they are known for their distance from worldly things, or they have conveyed some important knowledge, then they are not to be hated for these things. Rather they are to be hated because they have gone against the Sunnah of our beloved one, Muhammad (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam).

    Similarly, Aboo Ad-Dardaa', may Allaah have Mercy on him and be pleased with him, used to say, "O how great is fasting!" mocking them, "Rather how great are the people who sleep deeply at night and do not fast in the daytime! How could you be so unfair about the fool and how he stays up at night and how he fasts in the daytime?! For verily an atom's weight of righteousness along with taqwaa and conviction is greater than a mountain's weight of worship performed by conceited people!"

    The scholars have said, explaining these words of Aboo Ad-Dardaa', that he was encouraging the people to love the one who sleeps all night without praying, as well as the one who does not fast any optional days. Why? They said that this kind of person, upon the Sunnah with conviction, his affair is good. He said, "An atom's weight of righteousness along with taqwaa and conviction is greater than a mountain's weight of worship performed by conceited people!"

    If a person is upon the Sunnah with conviction, then verily Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, will bless his small efforts. A person may perform a lot of worship, be he is haughty and self-righteous about his worship, his lengthy recitation, or his many days of fasting. He looks at the people as if they are nothing. He does not even realize the effects of his behavior, nor does he know how his actions will be at the time of his death.

    The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) said:

    "Verily a man may perform the deeds of the people of Paradise until there remains only a handspan's distance between him and it, and then what is written for him overtakes him, and he performs the deeds of the people of the Hellfire, and thus enters it."

    "And verily a man may perform the deeds of the people of the Hellfire until there remains only a handspan's distance between him and it, and then what is written for him overtakes him, and he performs the deeds of the people of Paradise, and thus enters it." [7]

    Because of this hadeeth, many of the Salaf used to cry upon thinking about the book that contains what is written for them, saying, "My heart in suspended, what has preceded me? (What is written for me?)" Others, when they used to think about their final actions as mentioned in this hadeeth, that what is written for him will overtake him, they would say, reflecting over these final deeds, "Our hearts are suspended according to our final actions, what will we be taken upon?"

    Therefore, when a person worships, he must worship with fear, fearing that perhaps Allaah will not accept that deed from him. Some of the Salaf said about this, "I only wish that I could offer two rak'ahs that I know would be accepted." Why? That is because Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, says [8]:

    ( Verily it is only the deeds of the people of taqwaa that Allaah accepts )

    We see here that Imaam Ahmad was establishing the relationship between every Muslim and Ahlus-Sunnah, between every Muslim and those of the correct beliefs in tawheed, those who do not contradict the Sunnah with their intellects, nor do they contradict the Sunnah with their desires.

    If something from the speech of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) reaches you, that which gives details to the Qur'aan, or if something reaches you from the actions of the Companions (may Allaah be pleased with them) or their speech, then it is the truth. The scholars are those who sufficed themselves with the reports of the Companions, acted by their way, and lived according to their guidance. Whoever takes from other than this is on the brink of destruction.



    Identifying Innovation and Staying Away From it

    From Imaam Ahmad's other noteworthy sayings, may Allaah have Mercy on him, is his statement, "I do not know any people more in need of learning hadeeth than the people in our time."

    They asked him, "And why is that?"

    He replied, "Innovation has spread, so whoever does not have the Sunnah, or the narrations, then he will fall into innovation."

    Why would a person ignorant of the narrations of the Sunnah fall into innovation? Because innovation is something beloved to a person's soul, since the person only does it trying to get close to Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted.

    An example of this is what is reported about Ibn Mas'ood (may Allaah be pleased with him). He went to a gathering where one of those present would say to the rest, "Glorify Allaah 100 times," and they would say, "Subhaanallaah," 100 times. He would say, "Praise Allaah 100 times," and they would say, "Al-hamdu lillaah," 100 times. Then he would say, "Declare Allaah's Greatness 100 times," and they would say, "Allaahu akbar," 100 times, all of this with stones in front of them to keep count with.

    So Ibn Mas'ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) came to them when he was informed of this. He rebuked them, saying, "Verily you people are either more rightly guided than the Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), or you are upon a branch of misguidance! These are the dishes of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) that are not yet even broken, and his wives have not yet even passed away…" This shows that this event occurred shortly after the death of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam).

    They said to him, and they were good people, "O Abaa 'Abdir-Rahmaan! We only intended good!" They declared that they did not intend except good, to glorify Allaah, to praise Him, and to declare His Greatness. And you all know the hadeeth teaching us to do this every day. They said, "O Abaa 'Abdir-Rahmaan! We only intended good!"

    Ibn Mas'ood said, "How many have intended good, but never accomplish it?" He meant that a person must hold to the Sunnah in his affairs, as innovation is built upon the idea of intending good, just as those people said, "We only intended good!"

    People intend good in every type of innovation that you see, like innovations in our belief for example, like denying some of Allaah's Names and Attributes. You find them saying, "We were denying such and such an attribute to establish tawheed." They were only intending good. They negated an Attribute that Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, is worthy of, something that is part of His Perfection, while they say, "We only intended good!" They only intended to exalt Allaah [9]. The Mu'tazilah considered the negation of Allaah's Attributes to be from tahweed.

    Others named their negation of Allaah's Attributes "ta'weel" and explained them as something else. What did they intend by this? They intended to exalt Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted. However, the statement of 'Abdullaah ibn Mas'ood applies, "How many have intended good, but never accomplish it?"

    Certainly this is an important principle. How can a man be saved from this? How can someone be saved from worshipping with innovation, or admiring the innovative worship of others, or approving of their novelties in worship? These acts can seem outwardly good, they can seem to be ways to get close to Allaah. Perhaps they are acts of humility, the person may even be crying. How can he be saved from this confusion? He must have knowledge of the Sunnah, the narrations, and the statements of the people of knowledge.

    One of Imaam Ahmad's companions used to sit with Al-Haarith Al-Muhaasibee [10] frequently. Imaam Ahmad's companion said to him, "Al-Haarith is saying this and that, and he has humility in his worship, and he has great acts of worship…"

    Ahmad said, "When does he visit you?"

    He replied, "He visits me after Maghrib."

    Imaam Ahmad said, "Then I will also come, but allow me to sit in a place where I can hear his talk but I do not see him nor does he see me. I want to hear his talk while he does not see me."

    So Imaam Ahmad went and hid himself. After praying Maghrib, they sat down and their host brought food. Then they prayed 'Eshaa', returned to the house, and sat down again. They sat for a long time and Al-Haarith did not speak. Rather he sat in humility, in a way that fear, humbleness, and humility could be felt from him.

    One of Al-Haarith's companions asked him something, and then he began to talk, using good manners and softening their hearts. He continued talking as some of his companions reached states of humility, and others began to weep.

    The companion of Imaam Ahmad said, "Then I went to see Imaam Ahmad, and I found him crying. So I said, 'O Abaa 'Abdilllaah! What about this talk that you heard?' He replied, 'I have not heard any speech finer than this! However, do not sit with him!'"

    He said, "I have not heard any speech finer than this! However, do not sit with him!" Why? Because this kind of speech had not been in accordance with the guidance of the people of the Sunnah who preceded them. He was coming with a new manner of speech and a new manner of humility that had not been known to the scholars, a new style that the people before them had not known. So due to this, Imaam Ahmad was afraid that, with these new things, if they would have continued sitting with them, they would have strayed toward some innovation. Imaam Ahmad prohibited the people from befriending Al-Haarith and from sitting with him, due to what reached him about some of his other erroneous statements.

    He said, "I have not heard any speech finer than this," referring to the talk that affected the people's hearts, "However, do not sit with him!" He said that because Al-Haarith's style of presenting knowledge was not the way of the people of knowledge.

    Let us return to what Imaam Ahmad said about that era, "I do not know any people in more need of learning hadeeth than the people of our time."

    They asked him, "Why is that?"

    He replied, "Innovation has spread, so whoever does not have the Sunnah, or the narrations, will fall into innovation." With regard to our current condition, this is something that everyone should take note of. Because, in our times, everyone loves the Religion, everyone wants to be religious and obedient, everyone wants to have humility in their hearts.

    But all of this must be done according to the Sunnah, since any act of worship that is not in accordance to the Sunnah is rejected. Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, says [11]:

    ( He is the One who created life and death in order to test you, which of you are best in deeds )

    Al-Fudhayl ibn 'Iyyaadh said, explaining this verse, "The best deeds are the most sincere and correct ones."

    It was said, "We all know about sincerity, but what is the meaning of correctness?"

    He replied, "That it is in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam)." This is the meaning of the hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam):

    "Whoever performs an action that is not in accordance with our affair shall have it rejected."

    Imaam Muslim collected this hadeeth in his Saheeh.

    Therefore the affairs is not simply about someone softening the people's hearts, benefiting the people, or reminding the people of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam). "This is a fine thing, it is nothing but good," the people may say. It is sufficient to reject it that it is not in accordance with the Sunnah. Why is that? Because the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), the one we take as our example, said, "Whoever performs an action that is not in accordance with our affair shall have it rejected."

    There are some actions that were invented after the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), and they are considered innovations, novelties, and misguidance. There are other actions that were introduced after the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), however the scholars do not count them among the blameworthy innovations. So what is the criterion that separates the two cases?

    How can a person distinguish between what is considered innovation and what is not? The distinguishing factor is this: Do you see a precedence for it in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), or an incentive for it in the Sunnah? If there was an incentive for it in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) and he did not do it, then that action is not legislated. Allaah has said [12]:

    ( Today I have perfected for you your Religion… )

    Imaam Maalik said, "Whoever believes that there is a good innovation in the Religion, then he has accused Muhammad (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) of betraying the trust of the message." And the refuge is only with Allaah.

    Therefore, as long as there was an incentive to do the action in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), and in the time of the Companions, then this proves that performing the action is an innovation. Why is that? Because the incentive was present in his time, in ours, and in the times between.

    So this action, if it was something legislated, then it would have been legislated in the time of the Prophethood. So since it was not legislated in the time of the Prophethood, this shows it is a misguided innovation.

    As for the second category (of things introduced into the Religion), they are those actions that did not have an incentive for them in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), there was nothing warranting these actions. Let us look at some examples of both the first and second categories.

    To mentions something well known, the first category would include the various innovative parties and gatherings, like celebrating the night of Al-Israa' and Al-Mi'raaj, the night of Al-Badr, or the birthday of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), and this is the most serious of them.

    What is the goal behind all of these celebrations? The intention behind them is to instill a love for the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) in the souls of the people, and to let people hear the history of the Messenger (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), so that they will love him. These intentions are all good.

    But weren't these incentives present in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam)? The people in the time of the Companions and the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), all the Companions, all the Bedouins, all the people around Al-Madeenah, weren't they all in need of reflecting? Didn't they all need to love Al-Mustafaa (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam)? They were in need of that.

    Then why was that action not done? No doubt, abandoning certain actions is from the Religion. Just as receiving an order and obeying it is from the Religion, to avoid doing something that had an incentive in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) is also from the Religion. Otherwise, there would exist some things in our Religion that get us closer to Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, that our Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) did not convey to us.

    The second category includes actions that have incentives that came after the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), and there was no incentive to perform that action in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), or something preventing it from being done.

    An example of this is the compilation of the Qur'aan into one book. Another example is Taraaweeh Prayer. The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) prayed with them some nights, and then left it off, fearing that it may be taken as an obligation by the people. So when he passed away (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) and the time of 'Umar came (may Allaah be pleased with him), there was no longer anything preventing them from the action.

    As for the compilation of the Qur'aan into one book, the Qur'aan was still coming down in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam). So if it had been compiled into one book during his lifetime, then every time a new verse was revealed, they would have had to add it into the sides or bottoms of the pages, thus the mus-haf would be in disarray.

    Or they would have had to rewrite the mus-haf every time Allaah revealed a verse, as Allaah orders the affairs however he likes, they would have had to keep rewriting the mus-haf. For this reason, Aboo Bakr (may Allaah be pleased with him), began the compilation of the Qur'aan into one book after the death of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam).

    Therefore, what a great piece of advice Imaam Ahmad (may Allaah be pleased with him) left for us! From his advice about sticking to the Sunnah, he said, "I do not know any people more in need of learning hadeeth than the people of our time." When they asked him why, he said, "Because innovation has spread."

    So if that was just about innovation in teaching styles and manners, then what about those that are related to affairs of belief? For example, what about issues of leadership, issues of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, issues of obeying the rulers and not opposing the leaders, and the likes?

    Many people have contradicted the Sunnah in these affairs and followed their opinions. So for this reason, what a great need we are in for the Sunnah! Reflect over what Imaam Ahmad said in the end of this statement, "So whoever does not have the narrations will fall into innovation."

    So whoever holds to the Sunnah and submits to the narrations, then Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, will protect him from the newly invented matters by His Bounty and Generosity.



    Praying at Night

    One of Imaam Ahmad's students, 'Abdus-Samad ibn Sulaymaan, said something that I mentioned earlier in this lecture, "I stayed with Ahmad ibn Hambal. He left for me a container of water. In the morning he found that I had not used it. He said, 'A companion of the narrations, and he has no activity in the night?!' I told him, 'I am a traveler.' He replied, 'Even as a traveler!'"

    This is an outstanding lesson from Imaam Ahmad! The student of knowledge must keep himself upon some rites of worship, he must have an eagerness to get close to Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.

    How will he memorize the Sunnah? How will he gain knowledge? How will he learn? How will he gain understanding? How will he comprehend the meanings of the Qur'aan? How will he understand its explanation? How will he memorize the Qur'aan when he does not keep himself firm upon acts of worship and obedience?

    He must dedicate himself specifically to praying at night, with whatever is easy for him. Allaah says [13]:

    ( Stand the night except for a little )

    Then, Allaah the Exalted says in the last part of the same chapter [14]:

    ( Then recite from the Qur'aan what is easy )

    This means that you stand for a time that is easy on you, even if it is only three rak'ahs. Stand for whatever is easy for you.

    It can not be that the norm for the student of knowledge is that he does not pray tahajjud at night, that he does not dedicate himself to some worship. The righteous man, the one who seeks to correct himself, must have a special concern for this great act of worship, standing in the night.

    Praying at night is one thing. These days we need to talk about something even more serious. We have to talk about offering the Fajr Prayer in congregation! If the people of the past were advised to take care of their prayers at night, then where are we in these times when many of the people who ascribe to righteousness can not even master praying the Fajr Prayer in congregation!

    Then how will our affair be, and what should we be talking about? No doubt the affair is not easy, so let every one of us inspect our own selves. Let us repent sincerely, without delay, from every sin. If we have been negligent of our duties, then repentance is obligatory. If we have been negligent of recommended things, then a person renews his commitment to seek Allaah's great Bounties.

    Allaah the Exalted has described the people of taqwaa in Soorah Ath-Thaariyaat [15]:

    ( Verily the pious will be in gardens and springs, receiving what Allaah has given them, verily they used to do good works before that, they used to sleep little at night, and they used to seek forgiveness in the morning )

    Al-Hasan Al-Basree (may Allaah have Mercy on him) spoke about these two verses ( They used to sleep little at night, And they used to seek forgiveness in the morning ), with some very remarkable comments. He said, "They stood the night praying, and when the early morning came they sought forgiveness, fearing that their prayers would not be accepted from them."

    These are the kinds of statements that come from those who have live hearts. We may have no part in the affair except to convey the narration, as the ones who we narrate to may be more receptive and understanding of them than the narrator.

    TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING

    What did Aboo Ad-Dardaa' say when the people were so enthused about their fasting and praying at night?

    What is one of the dangers of being ignorant of the Sunnah as mentioned in the article?

    How can we distinguish between new affairs that are acceptable in Islaam and new affairs that are considered innovations? Give examples.

    FOOTNOTES (Abul-'Abbaas)

    [1] As for the first part of this hadeeth, "Whoever shows enduring patience, Allaah will make him firm upon patience," it is found in Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree (3/408 of Fat-hul-Baaree), on the authority of Aboo Sa'eed Al-Khudree (may Allaah be pleased with him). I was not able to locate the rest of the hadeeth mentioned.

    [2] the meaning of Soorah An-Nisaa' (4):114

    [3] from an authentic hadeeth collected by At-Tirmithee and Ibn Maajah, on the authority of Aboo Ad-Dardaa' (may Allaah be pleased with him). Al-Albaanee declared it to be saheeh in Saheeh Sunan At-Tirmithee (#2682).

    [4] the meaning of Soorah Al-Qalam (68):44-45

    [5] This hadeeth, with a slight difference in its wording, is found in At-Tahaawee's Mushkil Al-Aathaar and At-Tabraanee's Al-Mu'jam Al-Kabeer, on the authority of Hakeem ibn Hizaam. Al-Albaanee authenticated it in Silsilah Al-Ahaadeeth As-Saheehah (#852).

    [6] the meaning of Soorah An-Nahl (16):50

    [7] from the hadeeth of Ibn Mas'ood (may Allaah be pleased with him), collected by Al-Bukhaaree (6/303 of Fat-hul-Baaree) and Muslim (#2643).

    [8] the meaning of Soorah Al-Maa'idah (5):27

    [9] Based on their mistaken assumption that to say that Allaah has Attributes like speech, hearing, a hand, a foot, etc., this implies that He must be like His Creation. So based on this, they reject these Attributes, intending to glorify Allaah and clear Him from being like His Creation. Of course the correct position is to affirm the Attributes of Allaah that are mentioned in the Book and the Sunnah, they are truly His Attributes, they befit His Majesty, and they are not like the attributes of His Creation.

    [10] Al-Muhaasibee was a soofee ascetic from Baghdaad. Even though he was firm in some issues that were in accordance with the way of the Salaf, like how he made takfeer of his own father because he withheld from saying that the Qur'aan is not a created thing, the scholars still warned against him and his books. Aboo Zur'ah Ar-Raazee said, "Be warned about these books! They are books of innovation and misguidance!" Refer to Sayru A'laam An-Nubalaa' (12/110-112).

    [11] the meaning of Soorah Al-Mulk (67):2

    [12] the meaning of Soorah Al-Maa'idah (5):3

    [13] the meaning of Soorah Al-Muzzammil (73):2

    [14] the meaning of Soorah Al-Muzzammil (73):20

    [15] the meaning of Soorah Ath-Thaariyaat (51):14-18
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  2. strive-may-i
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    strive-may-i Junior Member

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  3. Umm Abdullah
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    Tabaarak'Allah! Jazaak'Allah kheyr. There is aslo a great muhaadarah about him called: "Profiles of Courage : Story of Imam Ahmed". You can find it on kalamullah.com (for those of you who haven't heard it yet)

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