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 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 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 Prayers20 and doing the ablution well despite discomfort.”21 He asked, “What are the levels?”22 I replied, “Offering food,23 kind words,24 and Prayers when people are asleep.” He said, “Ask.” I asked, “O Allah (swt). 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).


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

20. What’s meant by “sitting in the mosques after Prayers“, is, in wait of the next congregational prayer. This has been called “Ribat” in other traditions. (Ribat is to guard a post on the borders of Islam: au.). Whoever sits waiting for the next Prayers after the last, will remain in obedience of Allah (swt), which is equivalent of guarding a post in the way of Allah (swt). Ibn Majah has a narration which reports ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr as saying, “I did my Maghrib Prayers with the Prophet. Then those who had to stay, stayed on, while those who had to return, returned. Then the Prophet re-appeared, hastily – knees uncovered – and said, `Good tidings. This is your Lord. He has opened one of the doors of heaven and speaks proudly to the angels, saying, ‘Look at My slaves. They have finished doing an obligatory Prayer, and are waiting for the next.’”

Such waiting in the mosque would include remaining in it for other good purposes such as for Dhikr, recitation of the Qur’an, listening to a talk, etc. There are ahadith that speak of the great virtue in such activities of the mosque. Such tarrying in the mosques is similar to one waiting for the next Prayer, since, after all, he did not come but for Prayers and did not stay but for an act of obedience. A report (in Muslim) says: “No people ever gathered in one of the houses of Allah (i.e., a mosque), reciting the Qur’an and teaching it to each other, but Sakeenah comes down on them, mercy encompasses them, angels surround them, and Allah (swt) mentions them to those around Him.” Finally, we have the Prophet’s report (in Bukhari and Muslim) which speaks of seven persons who will be given shade on a day when there will be no shade but one provided by Him. One of the seven that he mentioned in that hadith is someone whose heart is stuck in the mosque as he leaves it, until he returns to it.” And, while on this topic, we might mention that Ziyad, one of the freed slaves of Ibn ‘Abbas, a well-known very devoted person, who used to stay within the Madinan mosque most of the time, was once heard speaking to himself, saying, “Where do you want to go, O my innerself? Is there a place better than this mosque? Do you wish to go out to see the quarters of so and so, and so and so?” (Ibn Rajab).

21. A hadith (in Muslim) says, “Cleanliness is half of faith.” And the Qur’an said about those who keep themselves clean and pure (9: 108), “Therein (i.e., in Masjid Quba) are a people who love to purify themselves.” And the Prophet said (in a hadith of Bukhari and Muslim), “Whoever made ablution, and did it well, and then did two cycles of Prayer in which he did not speak to himself concerning anything of this world, came out of his sins like he was on the day his mother gave birth to him.” The Prophet also said (in a hadith of the Sahihayn), “Whoever wishes to lengthen the portions (of the body) that will shine (on the Day of Judgement) may do it.” And he said in another report (of the Sahihayn), “The ornaments (of the Paradise-dwellers) will reach as far as ablution water reaches (the parts of the body)” – [Imam Ghazali in Ihya,’ ch. Taharah] – Au.

22. The textual word “darajaat” is for levels in Paradise. Every person will inherit Paradise of level, grade and quality in consonance with his faith and practices. The Prophet said, “One of you will see others in other levels like you see the stars”(Au.).

23. Ibn Rajab writes: In His Book, Allah (swt) has placed great emphasis on feeding the poor. He said (76: 8-10), “They offer food despite it being dear to them, to the poor, the orphan and the imprisoned; (saying), ‘We only feed you for Allah’s sake. We wish not in return any reward or gratitude. Indeed, we fear from our Lord a Day, austere and fearful.’” Our Prophet also greatly stressed on feeding the poor. In fact, the first thing he said when he entered Madinah after his migration journey is, “People. Spread the Islamic greeting, offer food, join the kin, pray at night when people are sleeping, and enter Paradise in peace.” In the Sahihayn we have another report in which a man asked the Prophet, “Messenger of Allah. What kind of Islam is the best?” He answered, “That you feed the food, offer Islamic greeting to the one you know and to the one you do not.” Feeding is also the best way to avoid entry into Hell-fire. The Prophet said, “Save yourself from the Fire, even if it be with a slice of date.” Indeed, feeding from whatever little one has is so important that the Prophet said in a hadith of Muslim, “Abu Dharr. When you prepare soup, add on a little extra water and gift some to your neighbor.”

It is for these reasons that we find the Salaf taking great care to feed others. Indeed, some of them fed others while they themselves would have fasted the day. Ibn ‘Umar, for instance, would never break his fast unless he had the poor and the orphans with him. Sometimes, as Ibn Hanbal reports, when he came to know that his home folk had returned a poor unfed, he wouldn’t break his fast that night. There were other people who would never have food unless they had a guest with them. For example, some people of Banu ‘Adiyy never ate their food alone. If one of them found someone to share his food, he did it. Otherwise, he would take his food to the mosque and eat with someone there. There were others of the Salaf who would feed others while they themselves would be fasting; yet they would serve them the food. One of them was Hasan. Another was Ibn al-Mubarak. Of the latter it is reported that when he wished to eat a dainty, he would order it prepared for the guests, and then share with them. Some others got special dishes prepared and then fed them to the poor saying, “These people never have a chance to eat these kind of things.” Yet others got special foods prepared, but wouldn’t eat out of it saying, “By Allah (swt). I have no desire for it. I only got it prepared for you.” One of them got prepared a very special sweet dish and then fed it off to an insane. Somebody remarked, “This man doesn’t know what he is eating.” He replied, “But Allah (swt) knows.”

Rabi` b. Khaytham felt like eating some sweets. He ordered it prepared. When it was brought to him he distributed it all among the poor. His household people complained to him saying, “You gave us a hard time but didn’t eat yourself?!” He answered, “Who else but me ate it?” ‘Ali is reported to have said, “That I should get ten men to share dinner with me, is preferable to me than that I should enter the market, buy a salve and then set him free” (Ibn Rajab).

24. The Qur’an has said about “kind words” (41: 34-35), “Respond with what is better. With that (you will discover that) the one between whom and you is enmity, is, as if, a close friend. However, this is not achieved but by the patient, and is not achieved but by someone of great portion (of good).” In fact, good words are by themselves charitable works. In a hadith of Muslim the Prophet said, “Save yourselves from the Fire, even if it be with a slice of date. As for him who doesn’t find (even that) then, with a good word” (Ibn Rajab).

According to some reported versions, the words here are “spreading the Islamic greeting” in place of the present “kind words,” which is another of those things whose rewards is Paradise. According to a report in Muslim, the Prophet said, “By Him in whose hands is my life, you will not enter into Paradise until you believe. And you will not believe until you begin to love each other. May I not tell you of a thing, that, if you did, you will begin to love each other? Spread the Islamic greeting among yourselves.” Ibn Mas`ud has another report which says, “When a man passes by a group of people and precedes them in greeting them in the Islamic manner, then, if they reply to him, then he earns a higher grade (of reward). But if they do not reply to him, then those do, who are better than them and more goodly” (i.e., angels).

Feeding the poor and good words have been brought together (in this report), writes Ibn Rajab, because what is known as “doing good” (Ihsan in Arabic) cannot be achieved merely by feeding, unless good words and spreading the Islamic greeting are also practiced. Allah (swt) also mentioned the feeding and good words together in the Qur’an. He said (3: 133-34), “And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a Paradise whose width is that of the heavens and the earth, prepared for the god-fearing. Those who spend in ease and difficulties, who suppress their anger, and forgive the people. And Allah (swt) loves those who do good.” Thus, one has to do good both in words as well as deeds.

[To be continued]

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