Goodly Word, Wisdom in Poetry, Mutawatir Hadith

Issue 1018 » September 28, 2018 - Muharram 18, 1440

Living The Quran

Goodly Word
Ibrahim (Abraham) - Chapter 14: Verse 24

"Hast thou not seen how God has struck a similitude? A goodly word is like a goodly tree, its root set firm, its branches reaching into heaven."

The pure words and true speech of a person of faith are like a pure tree that gives forth good fruit. A pure tree in fine soil and pleasing water gives forth only sweet fruit. This is why God says, "And the goodly land, its plants come forth by the leave of its Lord" [7:58].

The pure soil is the soul of the person of faith, the pure tree is the tree of recognition, the pleasing water is the water of regret, and the sweet fruit is the formula of tawhid. Just as a tree sends down roots into the earth, so also recognition and faith send down roots into the heart of the person of faith. Just as the branches bring forth fruit in the air, so also the tree of recognizing tawhid brings speech to the tongue and deeds to the limbs, and both rise up. This is why the Exalted Lord said, "To Him ascend the goodly words, and He uplifts the wholesome deed" [35:10].

A tree is sustained by three things: roots sent down into the earth, a trunk standing in place, and branches lifted in the air. The tree of recognition has three things perfectly: attesting in the heart, acting with the limbs, and speaking with the tongue. The Prophet said, "Faith is recognizing with the heart, assenting with the tongue, and acting with the body." [Ibn Majah, Tabarani]

Compiled From:
"Kashf al-Asrar wa Uddat al-Abrar" - Rashid al-Din Maybudi. p. 269

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Wisdom in Poetry

Ubay ibn Kab reports that the Prophet said: "Some poetry is pure wisdom". [Bukhari]

This short hadith states what people have always known about fine poetry, but expresses it in the clearest way. Furthermore, it distinctly implies a directive to anyone with fine poetic gifts to use such talent in an appropriate manner. All people praise wisdom and esteem a wise person. Therefore, when a poet expresses wisdom in poetry, people are bound to appreciate the meaning and put it into practice. This helps to improve values in society. Indeed, many a poet has influenced practical behaviour in communities and encouraged it to aspire to a higher standard of values. It is this type of help the Prophet is implying in this hadith.

Muslim poets have also devoted much of their poetry to God's praises and to pointing out the Prophet's fine character. Al-Aswad ibn Suray reports: "I said: 'Messenger of God, I have praised my Lord, the Mighty and Exalted, in some poems of mine'. He said: 'Your Lord loves to be praised'. He did not say anything more." [Ahmad, Nasai]

We all know that glorifying and praising God is one of the acts of worship Islam recommends. The Prophet also clarified that God gains nothing by our glorification or worship. It is we who benefit by it, because such praise gives us a clear sense that whatever blessing we have and enjoy is granted us by God. It is not the result of our own endeavour. It is what God bestows on us of His grace. God has also promised us that He will give us an increase of His blessings if we show gratitude to Him for what He has given us.

In Islam, poets can have a very prominent role. We know about Hassan ibn Thabit, who is often described as the Prophet's poet. Hassan was a fine poet and belonged to the Ansar. As Islam was fighting the onslaught of the unbelievers who tried hard to suppress its message, the information battle was no less important than the military fight. Unbelieving poets were engaged in a determined attack on the Prophet and his companions. Poetry played the same role the media plays in our modern times. It travelled easily in Arabia and was appreciated by all Arabs. Hence, it was necessary for Muslim poets to rise to the occasion and defend Islam in poetry to reply to the abuse of pagan poets.

Compiled From:
"Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary: A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality" - Adil Salahi

Cool Concepts

Mutawatir Hadith

Hadith scholars have differed over the definition of the term mutawatir. Some hold that whether a hadith is mutawatir depends on the number of narrators. Imam Ibn Hajar wrote:

A hadith may be classed as mutawatir if it meets the following four conditions: (1) The number of individuals who narrated the account is so large that it would be virtually impossible for them to have colluded in deceit. (2) All individuals in the chain of narration are of equally unquestionable integrity. (3) The last individual in the chain of transmission physically witnessed the action or heard the statement in question. (4) The account in question conveys genuine knowledge to those who hear it.

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi defined the term mutawatir as referring to reports "which have been transmitted by a sufficiently large number of people that, upon seeing them, one would know that it would have been impossible for them to have agreed amongst themselves to lie."

The question, then, is: How can we expect to acquire meaningful knowledge from a report simply because it was passed down by a certain unspecified number of people? And on what basis can we determine how large this group of people has to be in order for it to be impossible for them to collude in deception? One cannot help but note, moreover, that all the proposed definitions of mutawatir revolve around the notion of lying and deliberate deception, whereas none of them makes any mention of the possibility of error, illusion, forgetfulness and the like, to which even the most trustworthy narrator could fall prey.

Scholars have never settled amongst themselves on the number of narrators required for a report to be classified as mutawatir, with some specifying three as the minimum, and others specifying as many as 1,500! Each number proposed is based on the conclusions these scholars have drawn from relevant texts or situations. With reference to scholars' speculations on the number of narrators required for a hadith to be mutawatir, Indian scholar Abdul Hayy Lucknawi (d. 1304 ah/ 1887 ce) wrote:

All such statements and their like are invalid. The more correct view, put forward by numerous hadith scholars, is that the classification of mutawatir does not require a hadith to have been transmitted by a particular number of narrators. Rather, what matters is that it convey certain knowledge.

In the view of thinkers such as Lucknawi, the classification of a hadith as mutawatir has to do with one's reason, emotions and sense of trust or confidence in what an account is saying. After reviewing the various points of view on the number of narrators required for a hadith to be termed mutawatir, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 605 ah/1209 ce) stated:

None of these restrictions and qualifications has anything to do with the question at hand. You might say: "If you define knowledge based on the fulfilment of a certain, undefined quota of narrators, you will not be able to argue from this against an opponent." And to this I reply, "We do not argue in favour of certain knowledge on the basis of reports classed as mutawatir, that is, based on a requisite number of narratives that is not even specified. Rather, as we have explained, the matter of whether one may gain certain knowledge has to do with one's perceptions."

Compiled From:
"Reviving The Balance: The Authority of the Qur'an and the Status of the Sunnah" - Taha Jabir Alalwani. pp. 163-165.