Hadith al-Manaam1 (The Hadith of the Night Vision)

Although the following hadith is being offered in full, the notes on it will be offered in installments. The notes are either by the author, or from Ibn Rajab Hanbali’s commentary on this hadith in his work, ‘Ikhtiyar al-Awla fi Sharh Ikhtisam al-Mala’ al-A`la.’ Note that since the last appearance the translation of the hadith, it has been slightly modified, in view of the explanations offered by the scholars.

Mu`adh ibn Jabal2 reports: “One morning the Prophet was held back from us for the dawn Prayers3 until we began to see the sun’s horns.4 Then he emerged in haste. The call for starting the Prayer was made.5 He led in the Prayers,6 shortening it.7 After he had said the termination formula, he said, ‘Remain in your rows.’ Then he turned to us and said,8 ‘Let me tell you what held me back.9 This morning I rose up and Prayed as much as I was destined to.10 Then I dozed off in my Prayers, until I felt heavy.11 And lo! I was in the presence of my Lord, the Exalted, the Supreme – in the best form.12 He asked, “Muhammad! What are the angels of the upper-most constellation13 disputing over?”14 I said, “I do not know, my Lord!” He asked, “Muhammad! What are the angels of the upper-most constellation disputing over?” I replied, “I do not know, my Lord!” He repeated, “Muhammad! What are the angels of the upper-most constellation disputing over?” I answered, “I do not know, my Lord!” Then I saw Him placing His palm between my shoulders until I felt the coldness of His fingers over my breast,15 and everything became clear to me.16 And I knew.17

‘Then He asked, “Muhammad! What are the angels of the upper constellation disputing over?” I said, “Over expiations and ranks.” He asked, “What are the expiations?”18 I replied, “Moving the feet towards the congregational Prayers,19 sitting in the mosques after the Prayers<sup.20 and doing the ablution well despite discomfort.”21 He asked, “What are the ranks?”22 I replied, “Offering food,23 kind words,24 and Prayers when people are asleep.”25

‘He said, “Ask.” I asked, “O Allah.  I ask You for the best of deeds, eschewing of evil deeds,26 love of the meek and the poor,27 that you forgive me and show me mercy. And, when You wish tribulation of a people, send death upon me untried. And I seek Your love, the love of those who love You and love of the deeds that take one nearer to You.’ Then the Prophet added, “This is the truth, therefore, learn and study.'”

(Ahmed, Tirmidhi, Ibn Khuzaymah in Kitab al-Tawhid, and in a dozen other books of traditions, through scores of narrators, with variations in the words, additions and deletions, with some experts declaring the report weak, but others as trustworthy, such as Haythami, Hafiz, Hakim, Ahmed Shakir and Tirmidhi, the last of whom reports that when he spoke to Imam Bukhari about it, he said it was trustworthy).


(For earlier notes, ref. to April, May and June 2001 issues of this magazine).

24. (Contd.) In this vein we might add that good behaviour is something of a great value in its own right. One could attain the position of those who pray and fast a lot with the help of good behaviour. A hadith says, “A man attains the level of someone who fasts during the day and prays during the night, by virtue of his good behaviour (alone).” And it is narrated of one of the Salaf that he was seen in the dream. He was inquired about one of the other pious brothers (as to where he was). He answered, “That man? Oh! He has been raised to Paradise because of his good behaviour.”

Good behaviour also includes good manner of preaching the Islamic word. One should entirely avoid harsh words. It is said that Hasan (al-Busri) was invited to a dinner. He was presented sweets in a silver bowl. (Since silver utensils are banned in Islam), Hasan took out some and put it on a piece of bread. Then he ate out of it. Somebody remarked, “This is preaching without words.” Sometimes, when Sufyan al-Thawri passed by people playing chess, he would inquire (although he would know), “What are they doing.” He would be told by his companions, “They are looking into a book.” He would shake his head and move forward. The (chess-players) would know he had disapproved of it.

Similarly, good behaviour would include responding with good when faced up with evil. The Salaf have said in explanation of Allah’s words, “And they respond to the evil with good,” that it means to say to someone who had said some bad words to him, “If you are truthful, may Allah (swt) forgive me. But if you were lying then may Allah (swt) forgive you.” It is said that a woman told Malik bin Dinar, “O, the show-off man.” He exclaimed, “How did you come to know my true name? No one knows that in the whole of Busra except you.” It is also reported that a soldier asked Ibrahim b. Ad-hum the way to people’s dwellings. He pointed towards the grave yard. The man hit him on his head and walked away. Somebody told him that the man he had hit was no less than Ibrahim Ad-hum. He came back offering apology. Ibrahim said, “I have left the head that needs your apology back in Balkh.” (The city in which he was born and raised).

25. Praying at night when others are asleep is an important way to achieving higher levels in Paradise. Allah (swt) said about the people of Paradise, “Surely, the pious will be in gardens and springs. Receiving what their Lord would be bestowing. Indeed, earlier they were of those who did things well. Little did they sleep in the nights. And by dawn they used to seek forgiveness. And in their wealth was a known amount as the right of those who ask and those who are destitute” (Al-Dhariyat, 15-19). It is said that one of the Salaf heard someone in his sleep say to him, “Hey. Get up and Pray. Don’t you know that the keys to Paradise are in the hands of those who Pray at nights?”

Rewards for staying awake in the nights doing prayers while others are asleep are Houries in Paradise. This is because, a man abandons the comforts of sleeping with his wife for the sake of Prayers. The reward therefore is that he should be given a similar pleasure in Paradise. Many of the Salaf used to say that Qiyamul Layl (i.e., Prayers in the deep of the night) is the muhoor (marriage gifts) of the Houries. In fact, there were some of the Salaf who would be warned by a Hourie in their dreams when they didn’t wake up for the nightly prayer. Sulayman al-Darani says, “I missed to wake up for one of my nightly prayers. A Hourie came into my dream and said, “Are you sleeping while I have been preparing the women’s quarters (of your palace, or tent) since 500 years?” Another report coming from him says that once he dozed off in his prostration. A Hourie came up and touched him with her foot saying, “Beloved! Are you asleep while the angels are awake watching those who are in their nightly prayers?” In fact, some reports from the earliest Muslims says that Allah (swt) says to Jibril, “O Jibril. Wake up so and so, and let so and so sleep.”

(With these kind of reports, only he can be skeptic who hasn’t himself experienced any such thing in his life. But, warnings of this sort, or wake-up calls, are not uncommon to certain kinds of people. This writer knows someone who has on several occasions experienced this kind of thing. For e.g., somebody would touch him to wake him up for the Fajr Prayers, while he slept alone in a room. He would turn to see who it was and find no one. (It never happens to him in any other part of the night, or when he sleeps after doing his Fajr). Or, he would feel as if someone has lightly pricked a pin at the bottom-centre of the big toe (which is ordinarily a non-sensitive area of the body; one never gets a scratching sensation in that part of the body). Or, he would have somebody whisper in his ear, again at Fajr, saying “Time up.” It happens to him so many times, that he cannot deny incorporeal beings doing it. And, it happen especially when, overworked, he sleeps late and would have never got up but for the warnings and wake-up calls. The interesting part is that his loud ringing clock fails to wake him up. It seems very reasonable to believe that there might be scout angels doing this kind of thing to those who otherwise pray regularly: Au.).

Hence Abu Sulayman used to say, “People of the night-prayers enjoy their nightly performance more than those who spend the nights in the pleasures of the world. If not for the nightly-prayers, there wasn’t any good reason to be alive.”

As to the question,  why is it that most people find it hard to wake up for the nightly-prayers?, the answer is given by Hasan (al-Busri). Somebody told him, “We just cannot manage to rise.” He replied, “Your sins have driven you away (from this great blessing).”

26. The words, “O Allah. I ask You for the best of deeds, eschewing of evil deeds,” are great words that seek to ask for a lot by means of a few words. For, whoever, did the right thing at the right time, in the right manner and measure, did the best of deeds for that moment. And whoever sought to avoid munkaraat (evil deeds), sought to avoid everything that Islam frowns upon. If someone is given these two things, he needs nothing more to enter into Paradise. Therefore, this is what people should seek and ask for, instead of making long supplications. ‘A’isha says the Prophet preferred to make short, meaningful, and all-comprehensive supplications, and avoided other supplicatory words.” (This Sahih hadith is in several books such as Abu Da’ud, Ibn Hibban, Hakim, Musnad Ahmed, etc.).

27. Love of the meek and the poor (masaakeen) is one of the great deeds in Islam. That is because, such love can only be out of heart. For, what does one gain by loving the meek and the poor? If someone loves them, then, surely, it is for the sake of Allah (swt). And,  is there a better deed than love for Allah (swt) and hatred for Allah (swt)? Accordingly, the Prophet advised many Companions to love the meek and the poor. Abu Dharr said in a Hasan Hadith preserved by Ahmed, “(The Prophet) advised me to love the meek and the poor and keep close to me.” Sufyan Thawri wrote to some of his companions, “Keep the company of the meek and the poor, and the destitute, for the Prophet used to supplicate his Lord for the love of the meek and the poor.”

The Prophet himself was asked to keep himself in the country of the meek and the poor Muslims. The Qur’an said in verse 52 of Al-An`am: “And do not spurn away those who call upon their Lord morning and evening seeking His Countenance. Nothing of their account falls upon you, nor any of your account falls upon them – that you should spurn them and become one of those who commit an inappropriate act.” And the scholars have explained that this verse was revealed when the following incident took place: Khabbab b. al-Art said: “Aqra` b. Habis al-Tamimi and `Uyaynah b. Hisn al-Fizari came to the Prophet (saws) while he was in the company of Bilal, Suhayb, `Ammar, Khabbab and other Muslims of the weaker section of the society. The Qurayshi leaders belittled them and remarked that they didn’t mind sitting in his company at all but he was all the time surrounded by these lowly ones. They didn’t want the visiting Arab dignitaries to discover them in such company. So, was the Prophet (saws) ready to dismiss them when they came to him? After they had left he had freedom to choose his company. The Prophet (saws) agreed. They wanted that in writing. He agreed to that also and sent for `Ali to write down the agreement while the humble ones sat apart. But Allah (swt) revealed this verse in disapproval. The Prophet (saws) threw away the parchment and beckoned them to himself. He brought them so close that his knees were touching theirs. And, initially, after the revelation of this verse, the Companions report that `We sat with him until he left us. But, subsequently, when Allah (swt) revealed the verse 28 of surah al-Kahaf: “And restrain yourself with those who call upon their Lord morning and evening,” he wouldn’t leave us the humble and poor ones, until we knew it was time for him to go and so abandoned his companionship. It was then that he rose up and went.’ (This report is in Ibn Majah).

(Similar reports of the Quraysh’s disapproval of the humble Muslims have come from various other narrators, such as Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, Kalbi, Mujahid and others, naming others in place of Aqra` and `Uyaynah).

(To be continued)