Kitab al-Iman: Ahadith from Selections in Miftahul Ma`ani

Hadith No. 13:

Said `Amr b. `Ambasa1 the Sulami: “I had felt in pre-Islamic days that people are in error, and that, worshipping idols they are on nothing. Then I heard that someone in Makkah was narrating news (of another world). So, I climbed my beast and headed for him. I found that the Messenger was hiding and his people were pretty bold on him. So, I observed some diligence and then entered upon him in Makkah. I asked, ‘What are you?’ He answered, ‘Allah has sent me.’ I asked, ‘What is it he has sent you with?’ He replied, ‘He has sent me with joining of the kin, breaking up of the idols, and that Allah be believed in as one true God – with nothing associated with Him.’ I asked, ‘And who are with you in this?’ He said, ‘A free man and a slave.’2 (The narrator said, ‘That day he had Abu Bakr with him who had believed). I said, ‘Let me follow you.’3 He said, ‘You cannot bear it at this time. Don’t you see my situation with the people?4 Rather, return to your folks and when you hear about me that I have overcome (the resistance), come to me.’”5 (Muslim)



1.It is said that `Amr b. `Ambasa was fourth or fifth in Islam. Abu Nu`aym has reported that he had given up idol-worship before Islam. He died during the caliphate of `Uthman. (Ikmal al-Mu`lim bi Fawaa’id Muslim)

2. The Prophet mentioned a free person (Abu Bakr) and a slave (Bilal) not mentioning `Ali ibn abi Talib because he was hardly seven years old, nor Khadijah because he knew that `Amr was interested in men alone. (Al-Kawkab al-Wahhaj, Sharh Sahih Muslim)

3. He meant to say that he would (embrace Islam) and stay with him in Makkah. (Al-Kawkab al-Wahhaj, Sharh Sahih Muslim)

4. That is, ‘You can see my condition that I am forced to conceal myself from the Quraysh.

5. Qadi `Iyad has commented that when the Prophet said to `Amr b. Anbasa that he might presently return to his people, to come back when he, the Prophet, had overcome resistance, when he could come and join him – when he said that – he was not allowing him to remain on the old religion. He advised him to stay away from him in that phase when Islam was weak. He told him that there was but one free man and another, a slave, who were all of his followers. He feared that if `Amr had stayed, the Quraysh would torture, or even kill him. (Ikmal al-Mu`lim bi Fawaa’id Muslim)

`Amr b. `Ambasa reported about himelf: “I went back to my tribe (Banu Ghifar) and kept inquiring about the Prophet to ultimately learn that he had migrated to Madinah. I asked the people about how he fared at Madinah. They said people were hastening up to him while his own people had attempted to assassinate him but had failed. So, I went to Madinah, met him and asked him, ‘Messenger of Allah. Do you remember me?’ He replied, ‘I do. You are the man who had met me in Makkah.’ I said, ‘Sure.’” (Fath al-Mun`im Sharh Sahih Muslim)

This gives us some idea of the Prophet’s memory. He hadn’t forgotten a man he had met in Makkah, after a life and death struggle lasting some fifteen torturous years. And memory is linked to attachment, care and love. But what was there in `Amr b. `Ambasa that he won a place in memory? The inference is obvious. The message he had been endowed with, placed the central role in his life, emotions, and passions. That’s where `Amr b. `Ambasa found his passage into the Prophet’s memory. (Au.)

`Amr b. `Ambasa had returned to the Prophet after the Khaybar battle of the 5th year after Hijrah. (Al-Kawkab al-Wahhaj, Sharh Sahih Muslim, and others)

Hadith No. 14:

Abu Huraira (ra) says the Prophet (saws) said: “Faith1 has over seventy branches.  The noblest of them is in the words, `There is no deity save Allah’, and the lowest is to remove harmful things from the path of the people.  And modesty is a branch of faith.”2(Bukhari and Muslim)


1. The word used in the original for faith is “Iman,” and thus the hadith makes clear that Iman is not the name of a certain catechism, the utterance of certain words, or even the confession of a certain truth. Although these things are part and parcel of faith, i.e., spelling out certain words (the words of the Kalimah), and confession of a certain truth (that there is no deity save one God), etc. But faith in the Islamic sense is much more. It is also deeds which corroborate the words… deeds that are not contradictory to the dictates of faith… deeds that are fruits of a healthy tree.  Thus, faith can have many branches… as many branches as activities of life branch out into. The figure 70 has been used for illustration: to indicate the multifariousness of the effects of faith.  It is not meant to be taken literally. (Au.)

2. The last sentence of the hadith: “And modesty is a branch of faith” has two functions. One, to give a full definition to Iman as something that should have its effects on a man’s character as much as it should change his every little behaviour. To be modest is the natural effect of faith. And second, to show that just as faith should leave its mark on deeds (removal of a harmful thing from the path of the people) it should alter the character and personality of the believer: modesty being one of the aspects of character. If a person does not find his very inner character changing, then faith has not taken root in his heart, even if his outward behaviour has changed. Sometimes outward behaviour changes by force of the society and habit, and not out of conviction. (Au.)