Being Very Hard and Strict Upon Oneself

 

by

 

Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Mualla Luwayhiq

 

 

Taken from Religious Extremism in the Lives of Contemporary Muslims, pp. 419-440

 

 

The Lawgiver has laid down the Shareeah in its normal state according to the capabilities and means of humans. The forms of hardship that occur every now and then are causes of legal concessions that make matters easier, out of mercy for His servants and to lighten their burden. Similarly, He has forbidden humans from going to extremes and being harsh upon themselves.

 

Allah says,

 

"Say: O People of the Book! Do not go to extremes in your religion, trespassing beyond the truth, nor follow the vain desires of people who went wrong in times gone by, who misled   many, and strayed (themselves) from the even way" (al-Maaidah 77).

 

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also warned about becoming like the People of the Book. A man asked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), "There are some types of food that I feel uneasy about." The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied to him,

 

"Do not let such feelings enter your soul like those similar to the Christians." [1] The meaning is,

 

"Do not let any hardship or bad feelings enter your heart as you are on the monotheistic, plain way. If you doubt and make things hard on yourselves in that fashion, you will be similar in that manner to the monks." [2]

 

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also forbade being very harsh upon oneself. Anas ibn Maalik narrated that he said,

 

"Do not be very strict on yourselves for then Allah will be strict upon you. Verily, a people were strict upon themselves so Allah was strict upon them. It is the remnants of those people in the hermitages and monasteries. [Then he quoted the verse,] 'But the monasticism which they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them."' [3]

 

The hadith prohibiting being harsh and very strict upon oneself as well as the hadith in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) showed the remedy for such behavior are many. [In fact, many were presented earlier in this work.] From these texts, one can distinguish the standards by which one can judge an act as to whether it is being overly harsh and strict or not. I shall make these points clear in the following:

 

Being harsh upon oneself refers to every deed that leads to hardship and makes the person suffer. "Being harsh is sometimes in treating an act of worship which is neither obligatory nor recommended as being obligatory or recommended. It can also be in treating something of the good things which is neither forbidden nor disliked as being forbidden or disliked." [4]

 

Since this issue is very closely related to the concept of hardship, one should know that hardship is of two types:

 

(1) The Customary [Acceptable] Type of Hardship

 

No worldly or religious act is free of this type of hardship. Every Shareeah requirement has some aspect of work and effort related to it. This effort and burden is of different levels. For example, the effort related to the Fajr (Morning) Prayer is not the same as that related to the Dhuhr (Noon) Prayer. The fact that such requirements are termed obligations and burdens is a sign that they do require some type of effort. However, it is a customary, acceptable type of effort. It is only called "hardship" in a figurative sense. Furthermore, the burden in itself is not the goal of the Shareeah. It is not meant for its own purpose but it is due to the overall benefit of the act itself that the doer reaps in his worldly life and in the Hereafter.

 

Similarly, worldly actions all contain some effort and hardship to them. Earning a livelihood involves effort. However, in general, it falls within the ability of a human and it is something that they can normally bear. In fact, the intelligent people consider not earning one's livelihood [supposedly] due to hardship a type of laziness for which the person is held blameworthy. The point is that this type of hardship does not free the person from responsibility. Everybody's situation in this world contains some hardship and burdening. However, Allah gives him the ability such that these interactions are under his control and he is not under their control. This is the way it is with [the Shareeah] responsibilities and burdens. [5]

 

(2) The Uncustomary [Beyond the Norm] Hardship

 

As for this type of hardship, if we want to define it precisely in the light of the Shareeah texts, we look at the deed and what it will lead to. If a [temporary] continual practice of the deed will lead to that act, all of it or part of it, being discontinued or will lead to some shortcoming in its doer, it is considered a type of uncustomary [unacceptable] hardship. Here is a further explanation of these two categories:

 

(1) Discontinuance of the Act:

 

The act will be discontinued for one of two reasons:

 

(a) Aversion and Boredom Followed by Inability: The texts refer to this sometimes as becoming adverse to an act of worship, bored by it and becoming unable to perform it anymore. The following texts give these meanings:

 

(1) Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to her while another woman was with her. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked who that was and Aishah answered that it was so and so. Then Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) began to speak about how much that woman prays. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then said,

 

"That shouldn't be done. You should do what is within your ability.

 

By Allah, Allah will not get bored until you get bored. The most beloved way of action to Him is what the person does continually." [6]

 

(2) Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

 

"This religion is very solid, so penetrate into it with gentleness [and you will reach your goal]. And do not make an act of worship of Allah disliked to yourself. Verily, the one who injures his steed due to harsh riding does not traverse the land nor is there a steed left to ride." [7]

 

(3) There is also the story of Abdullah ibn Amr presented earlier. After he got old, he stated, "Woe to me, if only I had taken the concession of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)." Al-Nawawi noted, "Its meaning is that he got old and was unable to continue to perform those deeds he made binding upon himself and continued to practice during the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It became difficult for him to perform them due to his inability while he was unhappy to leave them as he had made them binding upon himself.

 

He wished that he had accepted the concession and taken the lighter path." [8]

 

(4) [In the hadith presented earlier concerning the three who wanted to perform more acts of worship than what they found the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) doing,] Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated that when the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would order them, he would order them to do deeds that were within their ability. They said, "We are not like you, 0 Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Allah has forgiven what has preceded and what will come of your sins." The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) got mad such that his anger could be seen on his face. He then stated,

 

"By Allah, I am most fearful of Allah and most conscious of Him." [9]

 

The meaning is that whenever he ordered them to do something, he would order them while being easy upon them and not causing hardship out of fear that they would be unable to continue the act.

 

He would do similar acts to what he ordered the people to do. However, they requested that he burden them with hardship as they believed that they were in need of going to the furthest extreme so that their ranks might be raised. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) became upset for achieving the higher ranks does not necessitate falling short in one's deeds. Indeed, it necessitates a steady increase and therefore he ordered them to do the lighter acts so that they would be able to perform them continuously. [10]

 

(b) Discontinuing the Act Due to Its Conflicting with Other Rights:

 

When one is burdened with responsibilities and Shareeah deeds, he must perform them while fulfilling the rights of Allah and the rights of the other humans. If a person goes deeply into a difficult, burdensome act, this may cause him to cut off other acts.

 

This, in fact, occurred among some of the Companions.

 

Abu Juhaifah [11] narrated from his father who said,

 

"The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forged a brotherhood between Salmaan [12] and Abu al-Dardaa. [13]

 

Salmaan visited Abu al-Dardaa and found his wife Umm al-Dardaa [14] dressed in shabby attire. He asked her, "What is going on with you?" She replied, "Your brother Abu al-Dardaa has no need for this worldly life." Abu al-Dardaa then came and he prepared some food for him. He told him, "Eat." He replied, "I am fasting." Salmaan replied,

 

"I will not eat until you eat," so he then ate. At night, Abu al-Dardaa went to perform late night prayers. Salmaan told him, "Sleep," so he slept.

 

He then went again to perform late night prayers and Salmaan told him again, "Sleep," so he slept. It was the last portion of the night, Salmaan told him,

 

"Now get up." They then both prayed. Salmaan then told him,

 

"Your Lord has a right over you, your own self has a right over you and your wife has a right over you. And give everyone who has a right its proper due." The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then came and he mentioned what Salmaan had said and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told him [Abu al-Dardaa], "Salmaan has spoken the truth." [15]

 

Ibn Hajar noted,

 

"This contains a permissibility to forbid one from recommended deeds if one fears that that would lead to adversity towards the act and boredom or the failure to perform obligatory rights or more deserving recommended acts than the respective recommended act that one is going to perform." [16]

 

The Presence of the Shortcoming:

 

When a deed leads to a shortcoming in the person-either psychological or physical-such that he is tormenting himself or making himself fail in the performance of his religion and worship, that act is considered a type of hardship upon the person. Anas ibn Maalik narrated that a group of three people came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and asked about his acts of worship. When they were told of his actions, it was as is if they considered them little. They then said, "Where are we with respect to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)? Verily, Allah has forgiven for him his past and later sins." One of them then said, "As for me, I shall pray the whole night long." Another said, "I shall fast continuously without breaking my fast." The third said, "I shall remain away from women and will never marry." The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then came and said,

 

"By Allah, I am most fearful of Allah and most conscious of Him. However, I fast and break my fast, pray and sleep and I marry women. Whoever turns away from my way of life is not from me." [17]

 

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) objected to their acts as they were a type of forbidding the good things that a human is naturally inclined towards. By preventing oneself those good things, the person will cause a shortcoming within himself. As Ibn Abbaas narrated: While the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was delivering a speech there was a man who was standing. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked about him and they said that it was Abu Israaee [18] who had taken a vow to stand in the sun and not to sit, nor seek shade, nor speak and he also vowed to fast. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then said,

 

"Order him to speak, seek shade and sit. And let him continue his fast." [19]

 

Ibn Hajar stated,

 

"[This hadith indicates] that everything by which a person hurts himself, even if in the long-run, and for which there is no sanction in the Quran or Sunnah, such as walking barefoot or sitting in the sun, is not an act of obedience to Allah. Therefore, a vow of that nature is not to be fulfilled." [20]

 

Ibn Taimiyyah wrote,

 

"As for the pure act of tormenting oneself or one's body without any overriding benefit to it, this is not sanctioned for us. Instead, Allah has ordered us what benefits us and forbidden us from what harms us." [21]

 

The conclusion from these two categories is that a deed is a type of unacceptable hardship upon oneself when it causes a shortcoming in the person himself or when it leads to a discontinuance of a Shareeah act either due to aversion, boredom or conflict with other rights. After presenting these parameters, there are a number of important issues that need to be discussed.

 

The First Issue:

 

The existence of hardship for individuals is not on the basis of an absolute standard. Instead, it is a relative issue that differs with different individuals and circumstances. For that reason, we see that the resultant ruling exists when its legal cause is present-which is discontinuance of an act or the presence of a shortcoming in the person-and does not exist when its legal cause is absent. If that legal cause is present, the deed is a type of unacceptable hardship upon the person. [22]

 

People are actually of two types:

 

The first type: Some people are affected by performing certain burdening actions and hence the legal cause is present in their case.

 

For such people to practice those types of acts would be a type of extremism and unacceptable causing of hardship to oneself. It was for this reason that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said about the woman whose prayers were mentioned,

 

"That shouldn't be done. You should do what is within your ability. By Allah, Allah will not get bored until you get bored." [23]

 

He also forbade Abu Israaeel from what he was doing [concerning standing in the sun, not seeking shade and so forth]. Similarly, he forbade Abdullah ibn Amr from his continuous fasting to the point that when he got older he said,

 

"Woe to me, if only I had accepted the concession of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)." "Even though he became less capable and had wished that he had accepted that concession, he continued to practice what he had set out for himself although he did take some lessening measures." [24]

 

In a narration it states, "when Abdullah became weak and old, he would fast those days by connecting some fasts with others and then break his fasts for an equal number of days, thereby regaining some of his strength.', [25]

 

Abdullah ibn Amr explicitly stated that he was harsh upon himself, "I was harsh, so Allah was harsh on me." The second type: The second type of people are not affected with boredom or laziness due to a self-discipline that is stronger

 

than the hardship or a seriousness that makes the difficulty easy. Therefore, that hardship, in their case, no longer remains a hardship. They do not suffer any of the defects that make that act a form of extremism. Instead, they are blessed with being able to combine both acts and, therefore, they have more good deeds. They are able to perform Shareeah deeds related to the heart and limbs that others consider overbearing. Hence, their deeds are not considered extreme.

 

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) pointed to this fact when discussing the fast of David. He said,

 

"He would fast one day and break his fast the next day. And he would not flee when the [two armies would] meet." [26]

 

Hence, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) pointed out that his fasting would not make him too weak to face the enemy, thus, due to his weakened state, fleeing and abandoning the jihad when it was needed. [27]

 

Al-Tabari stated,

 

"The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed that the fast of the Prophet of Allah David was more virtuous than that of others. This was because, although he performed those [many] fasts, they did not weaken him from performing the other deeds that are more virtuous than fasting. For example, he was firm in his fighting against the enemies of Allah at the time of the confrontation and he did not flee from such fighting.

 

The reason the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) judged his voluntary fast the best is the reason we just gave. Hence, everyone whose fast does not weaken him [thus preventing him] from performing his other obligations to Allah or from doing what is more virtuous than his fast, then it is a voluntary deed from his life that is sound and it is not disliked for him due to his situation.

 

For anyone whose fast weakens him from performing the obligations to Allah, such a fast is not permissible for him. In fact, it is forbidden for him. By such a fast, he is causing a hardship. If, however, that fast does not weaken him from performing the obligations to Allah but it does weaken him from performing more virtuous voluntary deeds, then said fast is disliked for him, not beloved, if, in fact, we do not consider him sinful. What we have described that is not according to what the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) chose for his Nation does not apply to him [Dawood because he met all the necessary conditions to keep his act from being negative]." [28]

 

One gets the same impression from what Aishah narrated concerning the fasts of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). She stated, "He would fast until one would say that he is not going to discontinue his fasts. And he would not fast until one would say that he is not going to fast. And, from the time he came to Madinah, I never saw him fasting the entire month save for Ramadhaan." [29]

 

Imam al-Shaatibi noted,

 

"You must consider the aspects of energeticness and spare time with respect to related rights or strength in performing the deeds." [30]

 

It has been recorded concerning many of the Companions and those who came afterwards that they performed deeds that only certain individuals could perform. "In doing so, they were not going against the Sunnah. Indeed, they were reckoned among those who went forward in doing good deeds, may Allah make us one of them.

 

This is because the reason behind the prohibition of such difficult deeds was not present in their case. Therefore, the prohibition did not arise concerning them." [31]

 

The Second Issue:

 

The acts that put hardship upon oneself are not all at one level with respect to their ruling. They do differ. For example, with respect to the ruling concerning discontinuing something because it interferes with other rights, the case of the act preventing one from the prayer is a much stronger case than wherein it causes one to fail to fulfill the spouse's rights.

 

In accepting this principle, Ibn Taimiyyah noted,

 

"When the act of worship is such that it brings about harm to the person by preventing him from performing a more beneficial obligatory deed, the act is then forbidden. An example is that of fasting to such an extent that it makes a person too weak to earn his livelihood or it prevents him from being able to think or understand in a proper manner. The same would be the ruling if it prevented him from an obligatory jihad. The same ruling is true if it would be expected that the person would fall into a forbidden situation whose harm is not equaled by its good. Such would be the case, for example, if he were to give away all of his wealth and then he would seek the wealth of the people and beg from them. However, if said act were simply to weaken him from a more virtuous act or it is expected to put him in an undesirable circumstance, the act would then be considered simply reprehensible. [32]

 

The Third Issue: Should a Person Seek Acts of Hardship as a Means of Earning Rewards from Allah?

 

An individual should not intend hardship in a deed, viewing a greater reward. Instead, he may seek the deed that has a greater reward due to its greater hardship. The intent is taken into consideration here because deeds are according to their intentions.

 

A hadith states,

 

""Surely, all actions are but driven by intentions and, verily, everyone shall have but that which he intended." [33] 

 

No deed is proper if it is not in accord with the goals of the Lawgiver. If the person's intention is to undergo hardship, he is contradicting the intent of the Lawgiver. Every intention that contradicts the intent of the Lawgiver is void. [34] Hardship is not a parameter for reward. Reward is the result of hardship being a necessary consequence of something requested by the Shareeah and something that may be expected to occur when fulfilling such an act. However, it is never a goal in itself. The following aspects prove this:

 

(1) A study of the texts of the Shareeah leads to the definite conclusion that removing hardship, seeking ease upon the people and lessening of burdens is a distinguishing characteristic of this nation. [35]

 

(2) There are explicit texts in which certain individuals were prohibited from specific deeds entailing hardship that they had believed would entail them reward and blessings. It was also made clear that such an approach was in contradiction to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), being only torture and hardship for which Allah would do nothing.

 

Examples of these reports include:

 

(a) There is the group of three who came to the Prophet's wives. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told them, after asking them if they had said the things they had said,

 

"By Allah, I am most fearful of Allah and most conscious of Him. However, I fast and break my fast, pray and sleep and I marry women. Whoever turns away from my way of life is not from me." [36]

 

(b) Anas ibn Maalik narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saw an old man walking while leaning on his two sons. He said, "What is the case with him?" They said, "He made an oath that he would walk [while performing the pilgrimage]." The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then said,

 

"Allah is not in need of that man tormenting himself," and he ordered that he ride. [37]

 

(c) Uqbah ibn Aamir [38] said, "My sister swore to walk to the House of Allah barefoot and she ordered me to ask the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) about that, so I did. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied, 'Let her walk and let her ride."' [39]

 

(d) There is also the previously discussed hadith of Abu Israaeel [who had vowed to stand in the sun and so forth].

 

These hadith and similar others clearly indicate that intending hardship is not part of the religion whatsoever. Indeed, it is only torment and punishment that is inconsistent with the ease and simplicity of this religion.

 

[40] Imam al-Izz ibn Abdil Salaam [41] stated,

 

"It is not proper to get closer to Allah by hardship. This is because all means of getting closer are forms of extolling Allah and the essence of suffering hardship is neither extolling nor respecting." [42]

 

(3) The reality in the Shareeah is that rewards are varying but not due to hardship. In fact, a great reward could be the result of a "small" deed. A hadith states,

 

"Imaan (faith) has seventy some-odd branches. The highest of them being the statement, 'There is none worthy of worship except Allah,' and the lowliest being removing something harmful from the road. And modesty is a branch of faith." [43]

 

This contains an indication that deeds are of varying degrees according to their amount of honor and benefit as well as the good that results from them.

 

Ibn Taimiyyah stated,

 

"It must be known that Allah is not pleased or loved due simply to torturing one's self or forcing the soul to withstand some hardship in such a way that whenever a deed has more hardship it is more virtuous. Many of the ignorant think this way, thinking that the reward is according to the amount of hardship in every thing. No [this is not so]. But the reward is according to the beneficial aspect of the deed, its goodness and benefit, and according to the amount of obedience there is to the command of Allah and His Messenger. Any action which is better and its doer more obedient and following will be more virtuous. The deeds are not more virtuous by mere number. The levels of superiority are based on the result in the hearts while the deed is performed." [44]

 

Al-Shaatibi affirms this. Then he presents an objection, whose purport is that that foundation differs from what has been narrated from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and some of the Companions. They understood that the amount of reward was in relation to the amount of hardship. These reports include the following:

 

(1) Aishah, the mother of the believers, said, "O Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the people are returning having performed two rites [both the Hajj and the Umrah] but I am returning with just one." He said,

 

"Wait until you become pure and then go to al-Taneem. Enter the inviolable state and [after performing the Umrah] meet us at such and such place. But it [the reward for Umrah] is according to your spending and hardship." [45]

 

Al-Nawawi noted,

 

"This is clear in meaning that the reward and virtue of an act of worship is increased by an increased amount of toil and expense. The meaning of toil is that which is not censured by the Law. The same is true for expenses." [46]

 

(2) The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told the tribe of Salimah [47], when they wanted to sell their homes and move close to the mosque,

 

"O tribe of Salimah, [remain in] your homes. Your footsteps are recorded for you. [Remain in] your homes. Your footsteps are recorded for you."

 

He also told them,

 

"For every step, there is for you [an increase in] rank." [48]

 

(3) The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prayed the late-night prayer until his feet were cracked. [49]

 

Al-Shaatibi responded to this in three ways. His response may be summarized as follows:

 

(1) These reports are concerning one issue and they do not constitute a definite conclusion. Furthermore, probable aspects cannot contradict what is known definitively. On this issue, we are discussing what is known definitively [that seeking hardship is not a goal of the Shareeah].

 

(2) These hadith do not indicate that the goal was to undergo hardship. In the hadith of the Tribe of Salimah, for example, it is narrated that, "He [the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)] did not like to have that area of Madinah left vacant such that there were would be no one left guarding that district." [50]

 

(3) The objection that the objector presents is contradicted by the Prophet's prohibition to the three who wanted to be more strict in their worship and in his prohibition of what Abu Israaeel was doing. Indeed, the prohibition of being harsh is something wellknown in the Shareeah, to the point that it is one of its definitive basic principles. If being harsh upon the soul is not one of the goals of the Shareeah, when an individual intends that, he is intending something that is in contradiction with the intent of the Lawgiver with respect to the well-known, definitive aspect of lessening the burden on the people. If the act's intent is in contradiction to the intent of the Lawgiver, the act is void and not sound." [51]

 

The result is that the matter revolves around the intention.

 

The individual is not to intend hardship. However, if hardship occurs along his path, he will be rewarded in accordance with its amount.

 

Ibn Taimiyyah wrote,

 

"A deed having hardship is not the cause for its merit and preference. But a meritorious deed could be a hardship and its merit is due to some reason other than its hardship. Persevering in it with its hardship increases its reward and recompense. The reward may be increased by hardship, like the one who lives further away from the House [of Allah] having a greater reward for Hajj and Umrah than one who lives closer. This was as the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told Aisha, 'But it [the reward for Umrah] is according to your hardship.' [52]

 

This is because the reward is dependent upon the amount of effort in the work. When the distance is far, the far distance increases the hardship that in turn increases the reward.

 

The same is true for jihad... Often the reward is increased according to the amount of hardship and exhaustion. However, tilis is not because exhaustion and hardship are intended by the deed. Instead, it is because the action itself is necessarily accompanied by exhaustion and hardship." [53]

 

Being harsh and very strict upon oneself is a form of individual behavioral extremism that is difficult to find exemplified in our times. However, there are some books that speak about the spiritual side of the caller to Islam in which one finds some connection to extremism. In describing the daily obligations, Saeed Hawa wrote,

 

"(6) He should have among his good deeds a preoccupation with the words of remembrance, from seeking forgiveness to saying prayers on the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to the statement of tauheed to other general words of remembrance. He should try to make those statements 70,000 times [a day]." [54]

 

It is well known that this number has not been recorded from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) or any of the Companions. Furthermore, adhering to that is definitely a kind of hardship upon the soul.

 

Forbidding the Good and Pure Things

 

Allah created humans, placed them as Successors on the earth, provided for them from the good and pure things and made subservient to them what is found in the heavens and the earth.

 

[Allah says,]

 

"We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for Sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of Our creation" (al-Israa 70).

 

At the same time, this world has been made a place for trial and examination. [Allah says,]

 

"He Who created death and life, that He may try which of you is best in deed; and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving" (al-Mulk 2).

 

Included in the trials and examination of the servants of Allah is the fact that Allah has made all of their acts fall into one of four rulings:

 

(1) The obligatory acts concerning which it is forbidden to miss them.

(2) The limits set concerning which it is forbidden to transgress them.

(3) The forbidden acts concerning which it is obligatory to refrain from.

(4) The permissible acts concerning which there is silence [from the Lawgiver].

 

Abu al-Dardaa narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

 

"Whatever Allah allowed in His Book is permissible. And what He forbade is forbidden. What He was silent about is forgiven. So accept from Allah His forgiveness. Verily, Allah has never been forgetful." And then he read the verse, "And your Lord is not forgetful" (Maryam 64). [55]

 

Every action in contradiction to what Allah ordered concerning any of these aspects is an act of disobedience to Allah. As for the permissible-and this is what is meant here-it is forbidden to forbid it. This is because "forbidding is only for Allah and His Messenger. It is not allowed for anyone to forbid anything. Allah censures those who did that when He said,

 

'Do not forbid the good things Allah has made permissible for you and do not transgress' (al-Maaidah 87).

 

He has made that a type of transgressing. He also said, 'But say not-for any false thing that your tongues may put forth-"This is lawful, and this is forbidden," so as to ascribe false things to Allah' (al-Nahl 116)." [56]

 

Forbidding the permissible is one of the foundations of misguidance. Most of the misguidance on earth springs forth from two roots:

 

(1) Following a religion which Allah did not sanction,

(2) Forbidding that which Allah did not forbid.

 

For this reason, the basic principle upon which Imam Ahmad and other Imams built their schools is that the deeds of the creation can be divided into two categories: ritual acts of worship and customary acts of this world. The basic principle concerning the ritual acts of worship is that nothing is sanctioned unless it is clearly sanctioned by Allah. The basic principle concerning the customary acts of this world is that nothing is prohibited unless Allah prohibited it. [57]

 

For that reason, Allah invited His messengers to eat of the good things. He stated,

 

"O messengers! Enjoy (all) things good and pure, and work righteousness: for I am well-acquainted with (all) that you do" (al-Muminoon 51).

 

He also forbade the believers from forbidding the good things. He said,

 

"0 you who believe! Make not unlawful the good things that Allah has made lawful for you, but commit no excess. Verily, Allah loves not those given to excess" (al-Maaidah 87). In commenting on this verse, al-Tabari noted,

 

"Allah is saying: 0 believers, believe in what Allah and His Messenger have said and accept what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has come with as it is the truth from Allah. And, 'Make not unlawful the good things that Allah has made lawful for you.' The 'good things' are the enjoyable things that the soul desires and the heart has an inclination to.

 

Forbidding them would be acting like the priests and monks who forbade for themselves women, pure food and tasty beverages.

 

Some of them enclosed themselves in monasteries while others traveled through the earth. Allah is saying: O believers, do not do what they have done. Do not transgress the limit of Allah that sets for you what is permitted for you and what is forbidden for you. By exceeding this limit that He has set, you will be going against His obedience. Verily, Allah does not love those who go beyond the limits He set for His creation concerning what He has permitted for them and what He has prohibited for them." [58]

 

Allah condemned those who forbade the adornments and beautiful things that He has made for His servants. Allah says,

 

"Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He has produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He has provided) for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who understand" (al-Araaf 32).

 

In this verse, Allah has refuted anyone who forbids something of His [permissible] adornments, In this way,

 

"He has made it clear that such people are forbidding for their own selves what Allah has not forbidden." [59]

 

Then Allah makes it clear that those good and pure things-which is a general term for everything that is pleasing of possessions and food [60] -are for the believers and the others of disbelievers and polytheists in this world while on the Day of Judgment they will be solely for the believers.

 

"That is, Allah will give the good things in the Hereafter exclusively to the believers only. The polytheists will have no share in them like they had in this world." [61]

 

In the following verse, Allah clarifies the head of the forbidden matters when He says,

 

"Say: The things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are: shameful deeds, whether open or secret; sins and trespasses against truth or reason; assigning of partners to Allah, for .which He has given no authority; and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge" (al-Araaf 33).

 

Allah also reproached the disbelievers of Makkah for forbidding the good things that Allah had sent down for them.

 

Allah says,

 

"Say: 'See what things Allah has sent down to you for sustenance?

 

Yet you hold forbidden some things thereof and (some things) lawful.' Say: 'Has Allah indeed permitted you, or do you invent (things) to attribute to Allah?'" (Yoonus 59).

 

This is a rhetorical question implying a censure. In other words, it is saying, "Say to them, O Muhammad, did Allah permit you to permit or forbid what you will? No, indeed, you are just making fabrications about Allah." [62]

 

However, here we must distinguish between avoiding excessive permissible things, things which are beyond what a person needs for the welfare of this religion and which he is rewarded for leaving, and leaving permissible things absolutely or in general. The latter is not from the permissible type of abstinence. Indeed, it is a type of forbidding what Allah has permitted. [63]

 

This also makes clear the refutation of those who say they are forbidding something due to the desirable great piety and fear of Allah. The desirable great piety is "where one avoids what one fears may be a cause for blame and punishment when the stronger view concerning that act is not clear to him. This includes performing the obligatory deeds as well as those deeds which, due to some ambiguity, seem like they may be obligatory. It also includes avoiding the forbidden acts as well as those acts which, again due to some ambiguity, seem like they may be forbidden. If one also adds the disliked acts, I would say that such is out of fear that they may be a cause for a shortcoming and punishment." [64]

 

Based on this, if there is something unquestionably permissible, it is not permissible to refrain from it in the name of great piety. This shows that forbidding the good and pure things is a type of extremism and exceeding the bounds, as Allah has said,

 

"But commit no excess" (al-Baqarah 190). "This means to go beyond the established limit." [65]

 

Anyone who forbids what Allah has permitted is an extremist in the religion.

 

This forbidding of good things has also taken shape in contemporary times. However, rarely it is a practice that does not have some theoretical basis to it. For example, some people forbid driving cars. They argue that it is a product of the disbelievers. Similarly, they prohibit other contemporary apparatus on the same basis.

 

 

 

1) Recorded by Abu Dawood and Ahmad. [According to al-Albaani, this hadith is weak. See Muhammad Naasir al-Deen al-Albaani, Dhaeef Sunan Abi Dawood (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islaami, 1991), pp. 485-6.-JZ]

2) Abu al-Taib al-Abaadi, Aun al-Mabood, vol. 3, p. 412.

3) Discussed earlier. Recorded by Abu Dawood and Abu Yala. It is hasan.

4) Ibn Taimiyyah, Iqtidhaa al-Siraat al-Mustaqeem, vol. 1, p. 283.

5) Cf., AI-Shaatibi, al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, pp. 119-120.

6) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

7) Recorded by aI-Bazaar from the hadith of ]aabir. Ibn Hajar mentioned it in Fath and said that the correct view is that it is mursal [missing the name of the Companion and hence weak]. Al-Haithami stated, "Its chain contains Yahya ibn al-MutawakiI Abu AqeeI and he is a liar." Ibn Hajar stated that it has supporting evidence in a narration in al-Zuhd by ibn al-Mubaarak. It is number 1334 in that work. The first sentence is narrated by Anas and recorded by Ahmad. AI-Haithami stated, "Its narrators are trustworthy, however Khalf ibn Mahraan never met Anas." By this supporting evidence, one may strengthen the above hadith. In fact, al- Albaani declared the first sentence hasan in Saheeh al-jaami al-Sagheer #2442. [Al-Albaani has discussed this hadith in sufficient detail and has declared it weak. See Muhammad Naasir al-Deen al-Albaani, Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth al-Dhaeefah, vol. 5, pp. 501-503.-JZ]

8) Quoted from ibn Hajar, Fath al-Baari, vol. 4, p. 220.

9) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

10) Cf., ibn Hajar, Fath al-Baari, vol. 1, p. 71. For more details, see al-Shaatibi, al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, pp. 136-138.

11) He was Wahf ibn Abdullah al-Sawaa' ee. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) died before he reached the age of puberty.

He died in 74 AH. Cf., Siyar Alaam al-Nubalaa, vol. 3, p. 202; Tahdheeb al-Tahdheeb, vol. 11, p.164.

12) He was the Companion Salmaan al-Farisi. He was one of the earliest Companions. He lived a long life. The story of his conversion to Islam is a long, marvelous story, as he went from being a Magian to a Christian to a Muslim. He was the governor of al-Madaain. He was very humble and would give his salary away in charity. He died in al-Madaain in 36 A.H. Cf., Siyar Alaam al-Nubalaa, vol. 1, p.505; al-Isaabah, vol. 4, p. 223; al-Alaam, vol.

3, p. 112.

13) He was Abu al-Dardaa Uwaimir ibn Maalik ibn Qais ibn Umayyah al-Ansaari al-Khazraji. He was a Companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He was a businessman in Madinah before the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) received his first revelation. He then left all of that for the purpose of worship. He was a judge in Damascus. He was one of the people who had memorized the entire Quran. He died in al-Shaam in 32 A.H. 109 hadith have been narrated on his authority. Cf., Siyar Alaam al-Nubalaa, vol. 2, p. 335; al-Isaabah, vol. 7, p. 182; al-Alaam, vol. 2, p. 328.

14) She was the Companion Khairah bint Abi Khadrad, known as Umm alDardaa. She learned and passed on knowledge directly from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his wives. A number of the followers narrated from her. She died in al-Shaam around the year 30 AH. Cf., al-Alaam, vol. 2, p. 328.

15) Recorded by al-Bukhari and al-Tirmidhi.

16) Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Baari, vol. 4, p. 212. Cf., al-Shaatibi, al-Muwaafaqaat, vol.2, pp. 143-146.

17) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

18) He was Abu Israaeel, a Companion who was well known by his kunya [father of...]. Some scholars said that no other Companion had the kunya Abu Israaeel. It is said that his name was Yaseer while other say that it was Qasheer. There is also a difference of opinion concerning his lineage; some say that he was from the Quraish while others say he was from the Ansar.

Cf., al-lsaabah, vol. 8, p. 160 and vol. 11, p. 12.

19) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Abu Dawood.

20) Fath al-Baari, vol. II, p. 590.

21) Ibn Taimiyyah, al-Fataawa, vol. 22, p. 314.

22) Cf., al-Shaatibi, al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, p. 138.

23) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

24) Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Baari, vol. 4, p. 220. Also see Fath al-Baari, vol. 4, p. 218; al-Shaatibi, al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, p. 138.

25) Ibn Hajar mentioned this and ascribed it to ibn Khuzaimah via the chain of Husain from Mujaahid. I found this report in Sahih ibn Khuzaimah (vol. 3, p. 293) but I did not find said wording.

26) Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim and al-Nasaa' ee.

27) Cf., al-Shaatibi, al-Itisaam, vol. I, p. 301.

28) Tahdheeb al-Athaar: Musnad Umar ibn al-Khataab, p. 323.

29) Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa' ee.

30) Al-Shaatibi, al-Itisaam, vol. 1, p. 311.

31) Al-Shaatibi, al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, p. 141. For more details, see al-Shaatibi, al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, pp. 138-143; al-Shaatibi, al-Itisaam, vol. 1, pp.308-313.

32) Ibn Taimiyyah, al-Fataawa, vol. 25, pp. 272-273.

33) Recorded by al-Bukhari. Muslim, ibn Maajah. Ahmad, al-Tayaalisi and aiBaihaqi.

34) Cf., al-Shaatibi, al-Muwaafaqaat. vol. 2, pp. 128-129.

35) Cf., al-Shaatibi, al-Muwafaaqaat. vol. 2, p. 133; Dr. Saalih ibn Humaid, Rafu al-Haraj fi al-Shareeah, p. 352.

36) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

37) Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa' ee.

38) Uqbah ibn Aamir was a Companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He was present at the conquering of Egypt with Amr ibn al-Aas. He was the governor of Egypt in 44 A.H. He then led the battle on the seas. He died in Egypt in 58 A.H. Cf., Siyar Alaam al-Nubalaa, vol. 2, p. 467; al-Alaam, vol. 4, p. 240.

39) Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, al-Tirmidhi and alNasaa' ee.

40) Cf., Dr. Saalih ibn Humaid, Rafu al-Haraj fi al-Shareeah, pp. 352-353.

41) He was Imam Abdul Azeez ibn Abdil Salaam, nicknamed, "the Sultan of the scholars." He was a Shafi'ee jurist, born and raised in Damascus. He visited Baghdad and then returned to Damascus. He gave the Friday khutbahs and taught. He was known to be very strong in standing for the truth. He had a number of run-ins with the rulers. He was a judge and khateeb for Sultan Salaah al-Deen ibn Yoosuf in Egypt. He then left that job and remained in his house. He produced a number of famous works, including Qawaaid al-Ahkaam. He died in 660 A.H. Cf., al-Subki, Tabaqaat al-Shafi'iyyah, voL 5, p. 80; al-Alaam, voL 4, p. 21.

42) Qawaaid al-Ahkaam, voL 1, p. 36.

43) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

44) Ibn Taimiyyah, al-Fataawa, vol. 25, p. 282; for a further discussion, see vol. 10, pp. 621-624.

45) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

46) Al-Nawawi, Sharh Saheeh Muslim, vol. 8, pp. 152-153.

47) Salimah was Salimah ibn Saad ibn Ali ibn Asad, a grandfather from the time of the Days of Ignorance. His descendants were one of the main tribes of the Khazraj, from which came some of the Companions. Cf., al-Samaani, al-Insaab, vol. 7, p. 114; al-Alaam, vol. 3, p. 113.

48) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

49) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

50) Recorded by al-Bukhari.

51) Cf., al-Shaatibi, al-Muwaaqaqaat, vol. 2, pp. 128-133.

52) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

53) Ibn Taimiyyah, al-Fataawa, vol. 10, p. 621-622.

54) Saeed Hawa, Tarbiyatuna al-Roohiyyah, p. 125.

55) Recorded by al-Haakim who said, "Its chain is sahih." Al-Dhahabi agreed with him. Al-Haithami presents the hadith in Majma (vol. 7, p. 55) and states, "Recorded by al-Bazaar and its narrators are trustworthy." At another place (vol. 1, p. 171), he states, "Recorded by al-Bazaar and by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer and its chain is hasan; its narrators can be trusted." Al-Bazaar said, as quoted by ibn Rajab in Jaami al-Uloom wa al-Hikm (p. 242), "Its chain is saalih ('good')." [It seems that the strongest opinion is that this hadith is weak. This translator has discussed it in more detail in ]amaal aI-Din Zarabozo, Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi (Boulder, co: al-Basheer Company for Publications and Translations, 1998), vol. 3, pp. 1125-1130.-]Z]

56) Ibn Hubairah, Sharh al-Bukhari, quoted from al-Shaatibi, al-Itisaam, vol. 1, p.329.

57) Cf., Ibn Taimiyyah, Iqtidhaa, vol. 1, p. 329 and al-Fataawa, vol. 14, p. 450.

58) Al- Tabari, jaami al-Bayaan, vol. 7, p. 8. Also see ibn Taimiyyah, al-Fataawa, vol. 14, p. 449.

59) Al-Qurtubi, Jaami li-Ahkaam al-Quraan, vol. 7, p. 195.

60) Ibid., vol. 7, p. 198.

61) Ibid., vol. 7, p. 199. Also see al-Tabari, Jaami al-Bayaan, vol. 8, pp. 162167.

62) Cf., al-Qurtubi, al-Jaami li-Ahkaam al-Quraan, vol. 8, p. 355. For more details, see al-Tabari, Jaami al-Bayaan, vol. 11, p. 127.

63) Cf., Ibn Taimiyyah, al-Fataawa, vol. 20, pp. 133-134.

64) Ibn Taimiyyah, al-Fataawa, vol. 20, p. 138.

65) Ibn Taimiyyah, al-Fataawa, vol. 14, p. 449.

 

 

 

 

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