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Monday, July 6, 2009

Surah Hud:118-119 Disagreement – Any Way Out?

وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ لَجَعَلَ النَّاسَ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَا يَزَالُونَ مُخْتَلِفِينَ۝ إِلَّا مَنْ رَحِمَ رَبُّكَ وَلِذَلِكَ خَلَقَهُمْ وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَةُ رَبِّكَ لَأَمْلَأَنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنَ الْجِنَّةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ

"And if your Lord had so willed, He could surely have made mankind one Ummah [nation or community (following one religion only i.e. Islâm)], but they will not cease to disagree,- Except him on whom your Lord has bestowed His Mercy (the follower of truth - Islâmic Monotheism) and for that did He create them. And the Word of your Lord has been fulfilled (i.e. His Saying): "Surely, I shall fill Hell with jinns and men all together."
[Surah Hud : 118]

From Tafsir Ibn Kathir (summarized): Allah, the Exalted, informs that He is able to make all of mankind one nation upon belief, or disbelief. This is just as He said,

وَلَوْ شَآءَ رَبُّكَ لآمَنَ مَن فِى الاٌّرْضِ كُلُّهُمْ جَمِيعًا
"And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed, all of them together."
[10:99]

Allah goes on to say,

وَلاَ يَزَالُونَ مُخْتَلِفِينَإِلاَّ مَن رَّحِمَ رَبُّكَ
"but they will not cease to disagree. Except him on whom your Lord has bestowed His mercy"

This means that people will always differ in religions, creeds, beliefs, opinions and sects. Concerning Allah's statement,

إِلاَّ مَن رَّحِمَ رَبُّكَ
"Except him on whom your Lord has bestowed His mercy,"

This means that those who have received the mercy of Allah by following the Messengers are excluded from this. They are those who adhere to what they are commanded in the religion by the Messengers of Allah. That has always been their characteristic until the coming of the seal of the Prophets and Messengers (ie. Muhammad). Those who received Allah's mercy are those who followed him, believed in him and supported him. Therefore, they succeeded by achieving happiness in this life and the Hereafter. They are the Saved Group mentioned in the Hadith recorded in the Musnad and Sunan collections of Hadith. The routes of transmission of this Hadith all strengthen each other (in authenticity). In these narrations the Prophet said,

إِنَّ الْيَهُودَ افْتَرَقَتْ عَلَى إِحْدَى وَسَبْعِينَ فِرْقَةً، وَإِنَّ النَّصَارَى افْتَرَقَتْ عَلَى اثْنَتَيْنِ وَسَبْعِينَ فِرْقَةً، وَسَتَفْتَرِقُ هَذِهِ الْأُمَّةُ عَلَى ثَلَاثٍ وَسَبْعِينَ فِرْقَةً، كُلُّهَا فِي النَّارِ إِلَّا فِرْقَةً وَاحِدَة

"Verily, the Jews split into seventy-one sects, and the Christians split into seventy-two sects, and this nation (of Muslims) will split into seventy-three sects. All of them will be in the Fire except one sect."

They (the Companions) said, "Who are they (the Saved Sect), O Messenger of Allah'' He said,

مَا أَنَا عَلَيْهِ وَأَصْحَابِي
"The sect that is upon what my Companions and I are upon."

Al-Hakim recorded this narration in his Mustadrak with this additional wording. My own comments: Let’s get our thinking cap and ponder on the verse and also what Imam Ibn Kathir was trying to say:
1) Allah confirmed that He has the Power to make all Mankind unite under one religion, as one nation.
2) Allah left mankind to disagree, as Ibn Kathir pointed out, with regards to “religions, creeds, beliefs, opinions and sects”.
3) Allah excluded a group of people from the ruling of disagreement, and they are those: “whom your Lord has bestowed His mercy”. In other words, disagreement is not mercy.
4) According to Imam Ibn Katihr, “Those who received Allah's mercy are those who followed him (prophet Muhammad), believed in him and supported him.”
5) How to recognise these people who received Allah’s mercy? The answer given was the hadith: “The sect that is upon what my Companions and I are upon” I would like to stress here based on the tafsir that the ONLY WAY to get out of DISAGREEMENT (ikhtilaf) is by returning to the way of the sahabah. No surprise that the prophet said: “The best of generation is my generation, then those who follow them, then those who follow them.” [Agreed upon]

But how do we know this way? Surely, the generation after them being the second best and then the next generation being the third best have all followed their way. These generations were known in Islam as the generation of as-salaf as-saleh. In other words, we have here A BENCHMARK! THE ACID TEST! So those who want to be saved, then he should look to follow the sahabah in understanding this religion. I end the article with what Ibn Hajr said regarding a statement commonly used by the khalaf saying:

طريقة السلف أسلم، طريقة الخلف أعلم وأحكم
"The Way of the Salaf is safer, the way of the Khalaf (generations after the salaf) is more knowledgeable and wiser."

وقال غيره قول من قال طريقة السلف أسلم وطريقة الخلف أحكم ليس بمستقيم لأنه ظن أن طريقة السلف مجرد الإيمان بألفاظ القرآن والحديث من غير فقه في ذلك وان طريقه الخلف هي استخراج معاني النصوص المصروفة عن حقائقها بأنواع المجازات فجمع هذا القائل بين الجهل بطريقة السلف والدعوى في طريقة الخلف وليس الأمر كما ظن بل السلف في غاية المعرفة بما يليق بالله تعالى وفي غاية التعظيم له والخضوع لأمره والتسليم لمراده وليس من سلك طريق الخلف واثقا بان الذي يتأوله هو المراد ولا يمكنه القطع بصحة تاويله

Al-Hafizh Ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani in his famous book Fath al-Baaree, explanation of Sahih al-Bukhari: And others quote this saying: ‘The way of the Salaf is safer, and the way of the Khalaf is wiser’ is not correct because it is a belief that the way of the Salaf as merely (blind) belief of the words of the Quran and hadith without understanding and that the way of the Khalaf is derivation of the meanings of the texts dismissed off its realities through various types of metaphors. So the person who says this has combined between ignorance of the way of the Salaf and false claims about the way of the Khalaf. And the matter is not as he thinks. Rather, as-Salaf had the utmost knowledge of whatever is appropriate for Allah, and they had the utmost glorification of Him, and (complete) submission to His commandments, and unquestioning recognition of whatever was meant by Allah (in the Quran and Sunnah). And whoever treads the path of the Khalaf is neither confident that his takwil is actually what was meant (by Allah and His Messenger), nor can he be sure of the soundness of his takwil.”
[Fath al-Bari, explanation of Kitab at-Tauhid in Sahih al-Bukhari]

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