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Hadith Jibreel

(2/2) It is related by Umar ibn al-Khattab <4 “One day I was
with the Messenger of Allah a [from another version of the
Tradition’ it appears that a number of Companions were present
at that time and the Prophet #8 was talking to them] when, all
of a sudden, there appeared a man from the opposite direction
whose clothes were very white and hair very dark and who also
did not show the effects of a journey [i-e., from his appearance
it did not seem that he was an outsider]. At the same time, it
was a fact that none of us recognised the newcomer [which
showed that he was a stranger]. [The man. came up, passing
through the people who were present], till he kneeled down and
sat back on his heels before the Messenger of Allah (S) in such
a way that his knees were touching the knees of the Prophet (S)
and his hands were placed on the Prophet’s es thighs, and said,
“O Muhammad, tell me, what is Islam?” “The Prophet (S)
replied, ‘Islam is [i.e., its fundamental doctirnes are] that you
affirm [with tongue as well as the heart] that there is no deity
but Allah [i.e., no one is worthy of worship and obedience save
Him] and Muhammad is His Messenger, and that you establish
Salah [prayer], and pay Zakah [the obligatory charity], and
observe fasting during the month of Ramadan, and pefrom the
Hegj [pilgrimage] if you can afford the journey.’ On hearing the
Prophet’s reply, the newcomer remarked, ‘You told the truth’.
[The narrator of the Tradition, Sayyidina Umar <8, tells that
they were surprised at it that the stranger was asking the
question, and, also, ratifying the answer]. After that, the
newcomer said, ‘Now tell me, what is Jman?’ The Prophet a
replied, ‘Zman is to believe in Allah, and His Angels, and His
Scriptures, and His Prophets, and to believe in the Resurrection,
and the Last Day, and the Divine predestination of good and
evii, and to have the fullest faith in all these things.’ [On hearing
it also] the man remarked, ‘You told the truth’. After it, he said,
‘What is Jhsan?’ The Prophet 8% explained, ‘Ihsan means to
worship Allah as if you see him, for if you do not see Him, be
sure, He sees you.’ The man, then, said, ‘Tell me about the Hour
when will it come?’ The Prophet as replied, “He who is asked
has no more knowledge [about this] than he who asks’. The man
thereupon, said, ‘Tell me some of its portents, at least.’ The
Prophet i replied, ‘[One of its portents is that] the slave-girl
will give birth to her master, [and another is that] you will see
that bare footed, semi-naked, emptyhanded and obscure
camel-herdsmen will erect high buildings and try to surpass
each other in it.’ Then the man went away. Sometime later, the
Prophet Pes 9 enquired from me, ‘O Umar! Do you know who
[that] questioner was?’ I replied, ‘Allah and His Messenger know
best.’ The Prophet as, thereupon, said, ‘That was Jibreel, he
came in you assembly to teach you your religion.”

Commentary: In this Hadith, the holy Prophet && has described
five things in reply to the questions put by the Jibreel: /slam, Iman,
‘Ikhlas, the warning about the Last Day that no one except Allah
had the knowledge of when it would be, and, lastly, its portents.
Let us regard them one by one.

(A) Islam:

Literally, Islam denotes self-surrender or to give oneself up to
someone and accept his overlordship in the fullest sense of the
term. The religion sent down by Allah and brought into the world
by His Prophets has been called Islam for the simple reason that, in
it, the bondsman yields completely to the power and control of the
Lord and makes the rendering of whole-hearted obedience to Him
the cardinal priniciple of his life. This. is the sum and substance of
the Islamic creed and this is what is required of us in the Qur’an,

And your God is One Allah,
therefore surrender unto Him.
(Al-Hajj 22:34)

Who is better in religion than he who surrendereth his purpose to Allah?

Further, there are some tenets that are peculiar to Islam in the
Shari’ah [Ways of Law] brought by the Divine Prophets. These
tenets, so to say, are the outer manifestations of the inner reality of
Islam, its signs and symbols, and it, again, is sustained and
nourished by them. They are purely of a devotional nature and it is
by means of them that the exterior-beholding eye distingushes
between those who have opted for Islam and those who have not.

Thus, in the final, complete and perfect Law brought to us by
the Last of the Prophets (S) the testimony of the Oneness of Allah
and Messengership of Muhammad, Salah, Zakah, Fasting, Hajj
have been prescribed as the principal tenets of Islam. In another
Tradition it is candidly set forth that:

“Islam is built upon these five things.”

The five things the Prophet (S) has delineated in the above
Tradition in reply to the question regarding Islam are, at all events,
the fundamental priciples of Islam and constitute its external form.
Thus it is that [slam has been made acquainted through them in this

(B) Iman:

In the literal sense, it means to believe i in varacity of someone
on the basis of one’s faith in Him! but in the usage of Islam it
denotes the affirmation and acceptance as true and authentic of
what the Messenger of Allah may tell and the guidance they may
bring from the Lord about the realities that are beyond the organs
of one’s own understanding, Dogmatic faith, in any case, is
basieally related to things that are invisible and about which we
eannet knew through the organs ef physical preeeption [like the
eyes, the ears and the nose].” These include the Existence of Allah,
His Commands and Attributes, and the mission of the ledge
furnished by them concerning the present world and the Hereafter.
Henee, in the terminolegy ef the Shari’ah, iman signifies sincere
asceptanee of all the things the Prophet (S) may teach or reveal
[like these mentioned above] due to an absoulte reliance upen his
truthfulness. To disbelieve er reject any of the Prephet’s teachings,
belonging te the aferementioned category, amounts to the
repudiation af the Prophet (S) himself and takes one out of the fold
of Islam? It is, therefore, essential for being a believing man to acknowledge:

All the things brought by the Prophet (S) from Allah.
But it is not necessary to know all these things in detail. Only a
general affirmation is enough.

There are, however, some fundametal truths to believe in which
is indispensible for a Muslim. The things the Prophet && has
mentioned in the Tradition under discussion, in reply to the
question about iman [i.e., Allah had His Angels and His Scriptures
and His Messengers and the Last Day and the Pre-ordination of
good and evil] are the basic realities one must precisely affirm in
order to be a Believer. The Prophet (S) has, for that very reason,
spoken of them explicity and in the Qur’an, too, these have been set
forth as the Fundamental Articles of Faith.

The Messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him by His Lord and [so do] the Bellevers. Each one beleiveth in Allah and
His Angels and His Scriptures and His Messengers. (2:285)

Whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His Angels and His Scriptures and His Messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath
wandered far astray:
(Al:Nisaa 43136}

Though pre-ordination ef good and evil is net ineluded in the
verses produced above, it haa been mentioned specifically at
another place in the Qur’an. In surah-u-Niva, the Prophet & is
commanded te say:

All is from Allah.(ALNisaa 4:78)

Allah has also said:

And whosoever it is Allah’s will to guide, He expandeth his
bosom unto the surrender, and whosoever it is His will to send astray, He maketh his bosom close and narrow.
(Al-An’am 6: 125)

We will, now, examine briefly the significance of belief in all
these things.

Affirmation of faith in Allah means to believe that Hie is One
and without a partner, that He is present everywhere at once, and
that He is the Lord of the worlds and the Creator of the universe,
free from the blemishes and adorned with every attribute of

Belief in the angels, in the same way implies that their
existence as a permanent species of created beings should be
accepted as a reality, and, also, that they are virtuous and honoured
creatures of Allah,

Nay, but [they] are honoured
There is not a trace of mischief, sinfulness or intransigence in
them. They are bound in utmost loyalty to Allah and carry out
faithfully the duties that are assigned to them.

Who resist not Allah in that
which He commandeth them, but do that which they are commanded. (Al-Tahrim 66:6)

A Misgiving-and Its Answer

The misgiving about the existence of the angles that if they
were present we would be seeing them is patently absure. How
many things are there in the world that are not visible to us, though
they are present? Before the invention of the microscope had
anyone seen the organisms in the blood or water that are common
knowledge today? Or, has anyone been able to see the soul, al! the
inventions notwithstanding? Just as our eye cannot see the soul, or
the microbes without a microscope, so, also, we cannot observe the
angles. There is, thus, no validity in the argument that what we
cannot see with our eyes does not exist. Have our eyes or other
faculties of perception encompassed the totality of the material
world? Only a fool can make such a claim. Particularly in the
modern age when discoveries are being made every day. Our
intellect and other sources of knowledge, after all, are very limited
and inadequate. As the Qur’an has put it:

And knowledge ye have been vouchsafed but little.
(Al Isra’ 17:85)

Likewise, belief in the Scriptures signifies that Allah sent down
His Books of Guidance, from time to time, through His
Messengers, and that the last and the terminator of the Divine
Scriptures is the holy Qur’an which, also, is their Musaddiq
{Testifier] and Muhaimun [Custodian]. In other words, whatever
was contained in the earlier Scriptures, the preaching and
propagation of which is necessary in all ages, is included in the
Qur’an. It is comprehensive of the essential features of all the
sacred text previously revealed by Allah and makes one
independent of them, and, since those Scriptures are no longer in
their original form, the Qur’an, now, is the only authentic Book of
Guidance for mankind. It has also taken their place and is more
complete than all of them. Allah accordingly, has taken upon
Himself the responsibility of its reservation till the end of the

We, verily, are its Guardian.
(Al-Hijr 15: 9)

Further, faith in the Messenger of Allah means the recognition
of the truth that, from time to time, and at different places, He sent
down His chosen men with His Guidance and the Law of His
preference for the instruction of His bondmen and the Messengers
conveyed the Divine Messange faithfully to His slaves and strove
to their utmost to lead them along the Straight Path. All the
Prophets were truthful and selected servants of the Lord. The
names of some of them and few details about their lives are given
in the Qur’an while nothing has been said in it specifically about
the rest.

Among them [the Messengers] those of whom We have told rots of we
thee, and some of whom We have not told thee.
(Al-Mu’min : 78)

Anyhow, to declare all the Prophets to be true and to hold them
in reverence is an essential requisite of Faith.

As it is borne out clearly by a number of verses of the Qur’an
and sayings of the Prophet, the glorious line of Messengers was
brought to an end with the raising up of the Prophet Muhammad

& He is the ‘Seal of Prophets’ and the last of the Divine

Messengers and now the salvation and felicity of all men that are
going to be born till the Last Day depends on following him and
adhering to his guidance.

Faith in the Last Day denotes that’it should be believed in as an
unalterable reality that the present world will be destroyed
altogether one day, and, then, Allah will raise from death ail men
and women and requite each one of them for the deeds he or she
may have performed during their earthly existence.

Obviously enough, when the entire structure of faith and belief
is based, as such, upon the doctrine of Divine Reward and
Punishment, one who does not believe in it will also find it
unnecessary to believe in any religion or its teachings.
Consequently, Divine Requital constitutes a fundamental tenet of
faith in all religions, whether revealed by Allah or evolved by man.
In some faiths conceived by men it has been expounded in the form
of dogmas like the transmigrtion of souls while all the religions
sent down by Allah are agree that the shape of things to come after
death will identical to what has been indicated by Islam and which the Qur’an has explained so logically that only an imbecile can now
be skeptical about the doctrines of the Last Day and the Final Judgement and regard them as false or mythical.

Finally, belief in Predestination shows that one is convinced
that whatever is happening in the world, good or evil, is at the
behest of Allah and in accordance with His Will. Every event has
been determined by Him beforehand. It is not that Allah may want
something else and the workshop of the world may operate
independently of His wish and desire. Such an idea or belief will
virtually connote the utter helplessness of the Almighty Creator.

(C) Ihsan:

Like islam and Iman, Ihsan, too, is a distinctively theological
and typically Qur’anic term. In the Qur’an it is stated:
Nay, but whosoever wpe We be ae aise oe poy
surrendereth his purpose to Allah while doing good (AlBagarah2:112) and,
Who is better in religion than he who surrendereth his
purpose to Allah while doing good? (Al-Nisaa 4:125)

The significance of Ihsan has been amply indicated by the holy
Prophet (S) in the Tradition under study, i.e., to worship Allah in
such a way that the subduer and the Sublime, the Most Gracious
and the All-Powerful is present before our own eyes and we, so to speak, see Him.

Take it like this. The slave carries out the commands of his
master, sometimes in his presence and sometimes in his absense.
Generally, there is a difference in the quality of his work in the two
situations. He discharges his duties with greater efficiency and
keenness under the eye of the master than when the master is away.
In the absence of the master, he is apt to be negligent. The same is
true to bondsmeh in respect of the real Lord and Sovereign. When
the bondsman will feel that the Master is present right there,
watching his every act and movement, his servitude will acquire a
special earnestness and diginity which cannot be posibile if his
heart is devioid of the awareness. Jhsan denotes nothing more than
that Allah should be worshipped and His decrees and injunctions
obeyed as if He is seeing us and we are seeing Him. There is
nothing that He does not watch and observe. This is what is meant
by the Prophet’s (S) advice contained in the above Tradition:

Ihsan means to worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, be sure, He sees you.

The import of the above part of this Tradition has been explained in another
way as well, which, incidentically, is more popular i.e., Worship Allah as if you
see Him, but if you fail to attain that degree of excellence, you ought to worship
Allah with the feeling and realisation that He is seeing you. The theologists who
prefer this interpretation are of the view that, in it, two grades of worship have
been described. One in which worship is performed with the “seeing of Allah”
[which is the station of those who are perfect in piety and devoutness}, and the
other is that the station of second calss worshippers].

Although some of the most eminent commentators have expounded this
view, in our humble opinion it is not borne out by the saying. The interpretation
given in the commentary here seems to us tf be nearest to the text of the
Tradition and Iman Navavi in Sharh Muslim, and Allama Sanadi in Hawashi
Muslim, have also upheld it. Hence, the purport of the above saying of the
Prophet £ comes down to this that Jhsan signifies that you should worship
Allah as if you are seeing Him, for if you did not see Him, He, is any case, sees
you, and when He is seeing you, your devotions ought to be as they are expected
in His presence. The slave performs his duties better in the master’s presence for
no other reason than that he is being watched by him. The most effective factor
in the elegance of worship, really, is the seeing of the devotee by the Lord.


Often it is maintained about this part of the above Tradition
that it applies exclusively to salah. It is said that only salah is
required to be offered with full humility and devotion. But the
words of the Tradition do not justify it. It speaks of T’’abud which
denotes absolute worship and obedience. Thus, thre is no
Justification for limiting the Prophet’s observation to salah.
Moreover, in another version of this Tradition the word Takhshi
has been used in the place of 7’abud which, when translated into
English, reads: “Jhsan means that you fear Allah as if you see
Him.” Yet another version has it that “Zhsan means that you
perform every act for the sake of Allah and in such a way that you
see Him.” Both of these accounts make it clear that JAsan is not
related only to salah, but it covers the entire tange of living and
doing and its pith and substance is that every act of worship and
obeisance should be performed and all the Divine commands
catried out and the prospect of Final Reckoning dreaded as if the
Lord is pesent before us and watching all our acts and movements.

(D) The Last Hour

After enquiring about Jslam, Iman and Ihsan, the newcomer
requested the Prophet (S) to tell when the Last Hour will take place
and the Prophet (S) replied:

“He who is asked has no more knowledge [of it] than he who asks,”
meaning that so far as the appointed Last Hour was concerned, he
was as much ignorant as the questioner himself. In Abu Hurayrah’s
(RA) account of the above Tradition [which is reproduced also in
Sahih Bukhari] it is added that the holy Prophet 4 said that “the
Last Hour is among the five things about which it is stated in the
last verse of Surah Luqman of the Qur’an that their knowledge is
with Allah alone and no one else knows anything about them.”!

Commentarors have observed that the Prophet (S), instead of
giving a straightforward reply that he had no knowledge of the
Hour, preferred to say that “he who is asked has no more
knowledge (about it) than he who asks” because he wanted to
emphasise that no one in the world, neither the one who asked nor
the one who was asked, was aware of it, and by reciting the last
verse of the Surah Luqman he made his reply more striking.

(E) Portents

On receiving this answer about the Last Hour, the visitor asked
the Prophet (S) to tell him something about its portents. The
Prophet ee, thereupon, described two of the main signs: (I) the
slave-girl will give birth to her mistress or master; and (IL) the poor,
illclad and sarving herdsmen will erect high buildings.

The first sign has been explained by the authorities in various
ways. In our view, the most reasonable interpretation is that in the
period preceding the Hour the tendency to disobey the parents will
become widespread, so much so that daughters, who by nature are
more respectful to their mothers and about whom it is hard to
believe that they can ever be defiant towards them will not only
become insolent to their mothers but actually domineer over them
and treat them as a misress treats her slave-girl. In other words,
there will be a general tendency towards parents becoming the
slaves of their children and the sign, indeed, is already being

The other sign denotes that the period preceding the Hour will,
among other things, be remarkable for the fact that wealth will pass
into the hands of the low-born who will be utterly unworthy of it.
They will be interested only in making a vulgar display of their
affluence by building palatial houses and competing with each
other in other fields of ostentatious living.

(When authority and high offices are handed over to the unworthy then wait for the Last Hour).

At the end of the Tradition under discussion it is mentioned
that after the visitor had departed, the Prophet (S) disclosed that he
was Jibreel, the Trustworthy, who had come to teach people their
religion by means of the dialogue.

In some versions of the above Tradition, it is stated that the
visit by Jibreel and the ensuring conversation had taken place
during the last days of the Prophet’s life. That being the case, it
would appear that Allah had mercifully, decided to bring to
perfection the Companions (RA) in Faith by making the Prophet (S)
explain its sum and substance in reply to questions put to him by
Jibreel (AS) and to make them the trustees of that knowledge.

In fact, three things from the basis of Faith. Firstly, the
bondsman surrenders himself wholly to Allah and casts his life into
the mould of submission to Him. This is what Islam actually is
while its tenets and practices are the signs and symbols of this
fundamental reality. Secondly, the major transcendental truths the
Messenger of Allah have revealed and called on mankind to believe
in are accepted as true. This is man. Thirdly, if Allah enables one
to complete the stages of Islam and Iman, the third and ultimate
stage is that the consciousness of the existence of Allah and the
awareness of His Omnipresence became so strong that allegiance is
rendered to Him and His commands are carried out as if He is
present before our own eyes in all His Glory and Splendour, and
watching all our deeds and actions closely. This state of feeling is
called fhsan.

The concentrated meaning of Islam is contained in these few
questions and answers, and the scholars of the Traditions have,
accordingly, described this saying as the ‘Mother of Sunnah’. As
surah al Fatihah is called the ‘Mother of the Book’, since it is
symbolical of all the main precepts and doctrines of Islam, in the
same way the above Tradition deserves to be known as the ‘Mother
of Sunnah’ because of its comprehensiveness. For the same reason,
Imam Muslim has placed this Tradition at the head of his compilation and Imam Baghawi, also, has opened both of his
books, Masabih and Sharh Sunnah with it.

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Noomani, Manzur (2012). Meaning and Message of the Traditions).

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