Hadith Al-Man’aam1 (The Hadith of the Night Vision)
Although the following hadith is being offered in full, the notes on it are in installments. They 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 has been 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 after the night 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 and doing the ablution well despite discomfort.” He asked, “What are the levels?” I replied, “Offering food, kind words, and Prayers when people are asleep.” He said, “Ask.” I asked, “O Allah. I ask you for the best of deeds, eschewing of evil deeds, love of the poor and the humble, 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).
18. “Kaffarat” (expiations) are good acts that help obliterate sins. They are not a replacement for repentance. For, a sinner can never be sure that his repentance has been accepted by Allah (swt) . Maybe he never did it properly, or, did it half-heartedly, or maybe he was never sincere about it. In all such cases, his repentance is rejected and the sin remains in his accounts, although the sinner might have repented several times – but every time badly. So, what’s the solution? It is in offering expiations. To give an example, ‘Umar (ra) spoke out a few sentences of protest to the Prophet at Hudaybiyyah, when the Prophet was in the process of making a peace-treaty with the Makkans, on apparently very disadvantageous terms. In `Umar’s mind, uppermost was of course the cause of Islam. But, he overlooked, temporarily, that he was protesting against a Prophet’s decision. Although the Prophet did not censure him, neither then nor later, `Umar, from the great knowledge of Islam that he possessed, realized that on that day he was at fault for protesting. So, he expiated. For how long? Well, almost all his life: freeing slaves, feeding the poor, etc. That is because he knew, and taught us through his example, that repentance can be rejected, but expiations work, especially, when there are several acts of expiation against a single sin. By the question however, “what are the expiations” what was meant was, what are the outstanding deeds of expiation,” the answer to which was taught to the Prophet, by “the touch” (Au.).
19. In the original there are two versions: one “jumu`at” (Fridays), and another “jama`at” (congregations) We have followed the latter, as in Ahmed and Tirmidhi.
This is the first of several methods of expiation of sins, and the best of them: moving the feet towards the mosques to attend to obligatory Prayers. It is a beautiful expression too: “moving the feet.” If you look out a window, you find people on the move. Everybody is rushing: on feet, cars, airplanes, and by every other imaginable means of transportation. Where are they going? Why are they rushing? Well, they are rushing on in search of success and happiness. But their steps are in the wrong direction. Success and happiness are not in those directions. They are in the direction of the mosques. It is said in the Call to Prayer: “Come to success.” It is in the mosques that the path to true happiness, bliss and tranquility is illuminated. Without this guiding light, peace eludes a man. Prayers are the best means of expiation. No other deed removes sins better than Prayers. And, if the Prayers are in the mosque, then, all the better (Au.).
Ibn Rajab writes: The Prophet said in a hadith preserved in Bukhari and Muslim: “A man’s Prayers in the congregation is twenty-five times better in comparison to that done in his house or shop. That is because, when one makes ablution, and does it well, and then goes out to the mosque, then, he does not place a foot but is raised by a level in his ranks, and a sin is removed from him. Then, as he begins to Pray, the angels supplicate for him so long as he remains in place (saying, `O Allah, send peace on him, O Allah, show him mercy’). And, one of you is (counted as) being in Prayers, so long as he is waiting for (the congregational) Prayers.”
Another hadith clarifies that what is stated about levels raised and sins forgiven with each step, is also applicable to the return walk from the mosque. Obviously then, the more one at a distance from the mosque, the better. Hence, when Jabir wished to sell his house somewhere off the mosque, and buy one nearer, so that it would be comfortable to attend the Prayers, the Prophet prevented him saying, For every step you get a good deed (written in your record). Similarly, Bukhari reports that when Banu Salamah who lived in the outskirts of Madinah wished to move to quarters nearer to the Prophet’s mosque, he told them, “O Banu Salamah. Do you (forget to) reckon your footsteps?”
(According to other versions: “Your footsteps are written down”: Au.).
And hence, walking down to the mosque is better than going to it on a mount or a vehicle. The Prophet used to walk down the length to the fields outside of the town for offering `Eid Prayers. The Companions were of course the first to attempt such virtues and their rewards. Accordingly, we find a report in Muslim. Said Ubayy b. Ka`b: “There was a man I used to know as one of those farthest from the Prophet’s mosque. And, he never missed a Prayer in the mosque. I suggested, ‘If you bought a donkey that you could mount in dark and hot nights (it would be better for you).’ He replied, ‘It wouldn’t please me that my house should be next to the mosque. I want my walking up and down the mosque written down in my favor.’ The Prophet said, ‘Allah (swt) has brought together all of it.’” (That is, both up and down walks are written in your favor).
Further, if the way up and down the mosque is dark, then the rewards are further enhanced. The Prophet said in a hadith of Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah: “Give glad tidings to those who walk through darkness to the mosques: of complete light on the Day of Judgement.” Hasan al-Busri used to say that the believers in Oneness of Allah (swt) will not be bound up in chains in Hellfire. Some of the keepers of the Fire will ask others, “Why is it that some people are unbound while all others are in chains?” It will be said, These people used to walk up to the mosques in darkness.”
But, footsteps in the direction of the mosque are merely precursors to the expiation of sins. Prayers in the mosque further help in eradication of sins. A hadith of the Sahihayn reports the Prophet as having said, “Supposing one of you had a river flowing past his house in which he bathed five times a day, do you think he will have any dirt left on his body?” The Companions replied, “No, he will not have any dirt left on his body.” He said, “That is the example of the five daily prayers. Allah (swt) erases sins by virtue of them.”
Nevertheless, continues Ibn Rajab, it might be remembered that all these reports are talking of minor sins and not major ones. A hadith of the Sahihayn clarifies this issue. It reports the Prophet as having said, “Five daily Prayers, Friday to Friday, and one Ramadan to another: they all expiate sins, so long as major sins are avoided.” Another hadith says, There isn’t a Muslim who when faced with an obligatory Prayer, makes ablution, bows down, prostrates himself, and remembers Allah (swt) much, doing everything in a goodly manner, but it serves as an expiation for sins of the past, so long as he does not commit major sins. And this is true for all times.”
[To be Continued]