Letters to the Editor
Some Historical Matters
Alhaj Muhammad Riyaz Ahmad Shah, Imphal, Manipur
During the course of my critical research work on various matters relating to Islam, I got myself confused on some aspects as the opinions of the scholars or historians differ from one another. Your help is needed in this matter. I shall, therefore, be extremely grateful if you kindly enlighten me with correct information by way of answering me the following questions through the next issue of your esteemed “Young Muslim Digest.”
The issues you have raised are of historical nature, where you are bound to get more than one opinion. Muslim scholars have been extremely careful in the past not to present an unequivocal historical opinion about which they did not have personal experience. They were not like the Western historians who rely on a single source, and then present the history as if it “definitely” happened the way they narrate.
Regarding the date of birth of Prophet Muhammad (saws) I find the opinion of scholars/historians differing from one another. In this connection I would like to know from you the actual date of birth according to the most authentic Islamic records/traditions.
The earliest Muslims were more concerned with the message of Islam rather than such details which do not have any impact on the message. Therefore, the Companions – despite their great love of him – did not inquire when exactly the Prophet was born. Although date-keeping mechanisms were available then, they were not widely practiced. Therefore, authentic Islamic records/traditions are not available.
Latter day scholars have tried to work out backwards from confirmed events of the Prophet’s life, but have arrived at various dates, with the majority arriving at 12th of Rabi`1 the year of the Elephant, (40 years before Prophethood). But there is no means to confirm this as the correct date.
In the article “A short History of Islam-1” of Umm Muhammad, published in your esteemed “Young Muslim Digest” of July, 2009, Prophet Abraham and Ishmael are stated to have built the Ka`bah for the worship of Allah, without mentioning anything about Adam. So far as my knowledge is concerned, Prophet Adam was the first builder of Ka`bah for the worship, by circumambulation, of Allah like the Farishta doing the same around the Bait al-Ma`mur. Kindly give the correct position in this regard with reference to the most authoritative source.
The construction of Ka`bah at the hands of Ibrahim and Isma`il (asws) is stated by the Qur’an and authentic ahadith; but construction by Adam is an unproven event, stated in some history books, but with the cautionary words added: “Allah knows best.”
The Qur’an however has thrown a hint at the existence of the foundation by saying, “When Ibrahim and Isma`il were raising the foundation;” (2: 127), rather than saying, “When Ibrahim and Isma`il were building…” But who laid the foundation? This is not stated in the Qur’an or in any trustworthy hadith. There are reports in history books concerning first, second and third constructions, with the builder(s) named in each case, [the Ibrahimi construction being the 4th), but none is trustworthy.
An authentic report however, coming from the Prophet says that he could see earlier Prophets (like Hud and others) arriving at the Sacred House for pilgrimage. Although the scholars have pointed out that the allusion by the “Sacred House” could be to the spot (or the plot, or place) and not the building, there is some possibility that some sort of construction was in place since the earliest times. Allah knows best.
What is the background story of Hajr al-Aswad (Black Stone)? Was it not brought by Jibreel from the Heaven and given to Adam at the time the latter was building the Ka`bah for the first time?
There are reports that Hajr al-Aswad was brought down by Jibreel from the heavens, at the time Ibrahim was building the Ka`bah. But there is no report which says that it was brought down at the time of Adam.
This report leads one to believe that if the Ka`bah was there earlier to Ibrahim, then, either it was without Hajr al-Aswad, or, there were no walls to begin with.
I am a Sunni Muslim belonging to the Hanafi school of thought. Your answers may kindly be given in accordance with the most authentic Islamic record and Hanafi tradition.
These are historical and not legal matters. Hanafis and non-Hanafis cannot have different opinions in these issues.