On the Importance of Being with the Community of Good

Ibn `Umar reported: `Umar (b. al-Khattab) addressed us in Jabiyahwhere he said, “People! Today I stand before you as the Messenger of Allah (peace upon him) stood before. He said, ‘I exhort you about my Companions, then those that will follow them, and then those that will follow1. After that lies will spread, until a man testifies, although he is not asked to testify.2 Lo, never is a man alone with a woman but Shaytan is their third.3 Hold on to the Jama`ah.4 And beware of divisions. Shaytan is with a single man, but at a greater distance from two. So, whoever wishes the best and the choicest of Paradise, may hold on to the Jama`ah. And whosoever is pleased by his own good deeds,5 and displeased with his evil deeds, he, (such a person), is a believer.’”6(Ahmad, Tirmidhi)

Commentary

1. (Abu Bark) ibn al `Arabiyy has said that none other except for these three classes, viz. the Companions of the Prophet (asws), those who followed them in the next generation, and then the third generation, has the special rank in Islam of having been named by the Prophet. (Fayd al-Qadeer)

2. Ibn al `Arabiyy also said that, ‘We have experienced this happening in the second century, although it was at a very low level. In the third century it increased a bit, but by the third century, the occurrence was easily noticeable.’ (Fayd al-Qadeer)

At all events, the prediction covered people of all regions of the world (i.e., not specifically the Muslims). (Al-Shaafi fi SharhMusnad al-Shafe`ee)

In any case, this appears to contradict the hadith, ‘Best of testimony is that which is offered before one is asked.’ The answer is, the testimony of this hadith is of he who is eager to offer it, whether asked or not. But the one who is praised for offering it is that of a man who has the testimony, and fears that a false testimony by someone else might harm the rights of the person or persons involved. (Based on Tibi, Sharh al-Mishkah)

3. A man and woman being alone together leads to the rise of carnal desire on the man’s part and lessening of modesty (haya’) on the part of the woman resulting either in illicit sext, or, in the least, to some foreplay.   (Fayd al-Qadeer)

4. By the termJama`ah of the text, the allusion is to the mainstream Ummah following whom in matters of doctrines, principles of Islam and religious stipulations is an obligation; to which Ibn Jarir added that even if the Imam is not of their own (tribe), following the principle that if the Ummah has agreed over something, a divergence is inadmissible. (Fayd al-Qadeer)

It might be kept in mind, however, that holding on to the Jama`ah applies to religious affairs, where following the major scholars prevents one from deviations since the Ummah does not unanimously go off the right path, except he who breaks the rule for very personal reasons. This is more obviously applicable at the times of insurgencies, and to a weak Muslim (unable to take a stand). – (Fayd al-Qadeer)

Ibn Battal has said that the main point has been to direct the Muslims to remain within the mainstream. This is because Allah said (2: 143), “So that you may testify against the people,” and a condition for acceptance of testimony is uprightness, which has been confirmed as the quality of this Ummah by naming them as the ‘wasat’ where ‘wasat’ is uprightness, and trustworthiness. As for the term ‘Jama`ah’ of the original, the allusion is to the ‘ahl al hull wa al-`aqd’, that is, the prominent leaders of the Ummah. Kirmani has pointed out that the allusion by holding fast to the ‘Jama`ah’ entails following the ‘mujtahidun,’ (juridical experts) – Fath al-Bari.

As for the ahadith that direct cutting oneself from the people, they are for the times of chaos and disorder. (Al-Tanweer, Sharh Jami` Sagheer)

Remaining with the mainstream Muslims, and all united over an Ameer is so important that a hadith warns, “He who disobeyed (the Ameer) and parted from the Jama`ah and died, died the death of the pre-Islamic times.”(Tuhfah)

Nonetheless, some scholars have thought that by ‘Jama`ah’ the allusion is the mainstream Muslims, while others have said that the allusion is to the scholars in general. (Tuhfah)

5. The word in the text is “hasanah” which applies to such deeds about which one is hopeful of winning rewards and which are certain of being beneficial (so long as such an attitude does not lead to self-conceit: Tibi).

Ibn Mas`ud has said, as reported by Hakeem al-Tirmidhi: “If a believer commits a sin he feels as if he is under a rock fearing it would fall on him anytime, killing him. On the other hand when a hypocrite commits a sin, it is like a fly on his nose (that he waves away).” Raghib has in fact said, “He who is not displeased by the censure, nor pleased by the approval, cannot be checked  against evil deeds except with the help of a whip or even a sword.” Others have said that he who is not checked by condemnation of the evil deed, nor is pleased at good deeds, is either an inorganic body, or maybe an animal. (Fayd al-Qadeer)

6.Mu’min”: That is, a man of firm belief. If a believer does not feel any joy at a good deed he performed, nor is pained at an evil deed he committed, it could be suffering from heedlessness; such a man’s faith is defective, in fact, it could be a sign of belittling of the religion on his part. (Fayd al-Qadeer)