Monday, September 25, 2017 - 4 Muharram 1439

How to Live the Hadith of Gabriel Part I

How to Live the Hadith of Gabriel Part I

When one looks around in the world today they will be hard-pressed to find news that is illuminating, encouraging and beneficial to themselves, their families and community. In fact, the bulk of news today is information that brings about intense fear and disgust for those that read it, especially those of us within the Muslim community. Muslim parents are finding it increasingly difficult to explain to their children what Islam believes and why there are so many individuals that purport to be followers of Islam but instead take the lives of innocent men, women and children across the world. Why is this happening? What can we do about it? What does God say about it? What is the stance of Islam and what does Islam truly stand for and call towards? These are all important questions that need to be answered and they should be answers that every Muslim and Non-Muslim should know.

So what does Islam stand for? First, one must identify what Islam stands upon. What are the core tenements of Islam? For that we have been blessed with a prophetic narration recorded in Imam Nawawi’s compilation of the 40 hadiths. It highlights a situation in which the angel Gabriel (God’s peace be upon him) appears before the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and begins a discussion which becomes recorded in the books of Prophetic narrations from then until now.

On the authority of `Umar (may God be pleased with him) who said:
While we were one day sitting with the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) there appeared before us a man dressed in extremely white clothes and with very black hair. No traces of journeying were visible on him, and none of us knew him. He sat down close by the Prophet, rested his knees against the knees of the Prophet and placed his palms over his thighs, and said: "O Muhammad! Inform me about Islam." The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) replied: "Islam is that you should testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should perform salah (ritual prayer), pay the zakah, fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House (the Ka`bah at Makkah), if you can find a way to it (or find the means for making the journey to it)." He said: "You have spoken the truth." We were astonished at his thus questioning him (the Prophet) and then telling him that he was right, but he went on to say, "Inform me about Iman (faith)." He (the Prophet) answered, "It is that you believe in God and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and in the Last Day, and in fate (qadar), both in its good and in its evil aspects." He said, "You have spoken the truth." Then he (the man) said, "Inform me about Ihsan." He (the Prophet) answered, "It is that you should serve God as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you." He said, "Inform me about the Hour." He (the Prophet) said, "About that the one questioned knows no more than the questioner." So he said, "Well, inform me about its signs." He said, "They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and that you will see the barefooted ones, the naked, the destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings." Thereupon, the man went off. I waited a while, and then he (the Prophet) said, "O `Umar, do you know who that questioner was?" I replied, "God and His Messenger know better." He said, "That was Jibril. He came to teach you your religion." [Muslim]

In this hadith we find the very core of Islam. These tenements that we as believers in the Divine must fulfill with the best actions and sincerity that we can render unto God. He who is absolutely Pure and Merciful tells us in the Quran,
“So fear God as much as you are able and listen and obey and spend [in the way of God]; it is better for yourselves. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul - it is those who will be the successful.” (Quran 64:16)

There are many lessons we can derive from this hadith. But in this article we will highlight a few lessons we learn simply from the behavior found in the hadith and if God gives the ability, a follow-up article will expound on further benefits of this hadith so as to allow you to implement and contemplate the beautiful teachings of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Alertness
As we begin to dissect this narration, we can envision the Companions in the middle of their sitting with the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him), one who they devote their full being and attention to, a man who they continually aim to learn from. It is in this gathering that the narrator identifies that a foreign stranger came and joins their holy sitting. There are many lessons we can derive from this, first, the Companions were very much aware of their surroundings. They knew the other Companions; they knew who often would be in the company of the Prophet. They were aware of who was foreign to their city and who was not. Though cities today may be much larger and the people in them far numerous, it is still important today to have a heightened sense of awareness, or of consciousness of that which is taking place around you. Whether it be in your masjid, your workplace, or your neighborhood. In the west, many individuals come to Islam regularly and many of them at times feel ostracized when attending the masjid or events in which Muslims congregate. It is of the heightened awareness of the Muslim community that one should be aware of the newer faces in their masjid and do their best to tend to them. In places such as your neighborhood or apartment building, with heightened backlash against Muslims and increased fear it is important to not only be aware of what is going on around you in order to protect yourself and your family but also to be a source of lessening the fear around you. For example, maybe you are out and walking to your car after running errands and you realize that someone is looking in your direction with a bit of apprehension. You now have the ability, because you are aware, to send a smile in the direction of the person, remove yourself from the situation if it seems it could be dangerous, or go above and beyond and maybe help them with their groceries. Being aware gives you the ability to make a difference.

Good companionship
We also know that this took place in a gathering with the Prophet, and that the narrator was joined by other Companions as well (May God be pleased with them all). This highlights the importance of good companionship and the need to surround yourself with them as much as possible. It is through good company that individuals become better moral citizens, increase their relationship with God and ultimately are able to stay steadfast in their faith. This is increasingly the case when the world wishes to distract them from the various good that they will find in reflecting over God and His infinite glory.

“And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance. And let not your eyes pass beyond them, desiring adornments of the worldly life, and do not obey one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his desire and whose affair is ever [in] neglect.” (Quran 18:28)

Narrated Abu Hurayrah:
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “A man follows the religion of his friend, so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.”

Here we are reminded of the importance of good companionship. The Quran calls us to be around those that continually call upon Him. God highlights that it should be a regular activity both morning and evening, spiritual rejuvenation and good company is needed for us to continue lives filled with His worship. He also reminds us not to become distracted by the beautiful things in life that may detract us from spending time with the righteous. This is a common matter that many will go through in their life, it’s a common assumption that a person who submits to God is mundane and not as appealing as others. We oftentimes associate entertainment with those that are minimally religious. Needless to say that the Prophet was one of the most delightful people to be around and his companions who were all men and women of God followed in his footsteps in this regard. The Prophet expounds on good companions in the narration by saying that we should be cautious as to whom we call a friend, why? Because the one that is called a friend is often times one we love, revere, and follow. If our friends/companions are those that love, fear and call to the worship of God then we too may fall under the category. Meanwhile if our friends are those who are ruined and are lost then we may easily find ourselves losing ourselves as well. This is an increasingly important reminder today especially for the youth that are growing up questioning everything about their identity, culture, and religion. By spending more time with fellow Muslims and more importantly with Muslims that practice their faith with humility, beautiful manners, and perfection, our young people will only better themselves in every aspect of their lives. Yet, if the youth do not find such companions then we will continue to see much of the problems facing our young people that we have begun to see. The internal struggles of faith mixed with the external struggles of how one needs to look to “fit in” with a world and culture that at times can be antithetical to Islamic culture.

Appearance
It is narrated in this tradition that ‘Umar stated, “dressed in extremely white clothes and with very black hair. No traces of journeying were visible on him”. The importance of appearance cannot be overstressed. There are at times opinions within the religious community and among the overzealous that believe one should look unkempt and untidy because they are signs of being unattached to the world. They will at times quote narrations such as Mujahid’s narration: `Abdullah ibn `Umar (may God be pleased with them) said, "God's Messenger took hold of my shoulder and said, 'Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler."

They highlight that a traveler only has what is needed to make the journey and nothing more. They are not concerned with their appearance but more so that they have their needs. When you look at the hadith of Gabriel, you are given a very different perspective. Why? Because here we find a man who is also a traveler but he is actually amazingly well-kept that the companions are thrown off by it. He also dressed in a way that was evidently appealing to the companions and ultimately as we know from other hadith literature, he was wearing the color most beloved to the Prophet.

It was narrated from Samurah that The Prophet said: "Wear white garments, for they are purer and better, and shroud your dead in them."

Narrated Al-Bara' bin 'Azib:
The Messenger of God (God’s peace be upon him) had hair which reached the lobes of his ears, and I saw him wearing red robe. I did not see anything more beautiful than it.”
It is important to note here that looking well dressed and tidy is of the tradition of the Prophet. The important difference here is that a Muslim tries their best not to allow things such as clothing and appearance to tamper with their relationship with God. The Muslim strives to not be the slave of wealth and glamour as many around the world today have become. Historically speaking, the Muslims, especially in Muslim Spain were known for their glamour and beauty but it was their way of showing the beauty of God, not their own beauty and glamour. Their intentions were to highlight the beauty of God. An important final takeaway point here is that when one is in the presence of others, and more so one that you ultimately respect and admire, one should do well to wear clothing that they like and approve of, and will increase the respect they have for you. One would not go into work wearing clothing that would offend one’s boss, nor should one dress in a way displeasing to their Lord.

Proximity to knowledge
There are a few moments in this narration that we are reminded of the importance of knowledge and the relationship between those of knowledge and those who are seeking it. The first instance we have is that Gabriel did not sit in the back of the gathering, no, he made it a point of going to the very front and even went all the way up to the Prophet to the point where they were touching. In this particular case, Gabriel was the one who would be doing the teaching but in general this shows us that when seeking or giving knowledge one should be front and center. A sad habit within schools or even with circles of religious knowledge you may find people that find a seat in the very back assuming that they are giving the same attention to the knowledge being shared as the one in the front of the classroom, this couldn’t be more wrong.

'Abdullah narrated it on the authority of his father Yahya: “Knowledge cannot be acquired with sloth.”
It is vital that if one is seeking knowledge then they should give it the attention and respect that it deserves. Seeking knowledge, whether religious or not (but especially the former) has been an honored action in the Islamic tradition and culture. It is this that caused us to have such a decorated history in technology, literature and the arts. We historically gave attention to knowledge and so it beautified us. In the great book Fath Al Bari by al-Hafidh ibn Hajir al-Asqalani, he highlights the prayer in the Quran, “Oh my Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (Quran 20:114) He highlights that this shows the heightened rank of knowledge in that it is the only prayer in the Quran in which God himself tells the Prophet to ask for an increase, it is not for food, wealth, rank, or any other topic.

There is also a lesson in the hadith on how to teach. While the Prophet Muhammad is the one that answers the questions in this event, it is in fact the Angel Gabriel that prompts him to do so. By doing this the Companions also learn the topic. In essence showing us that there are various ways to teach or to get a point across other than simply standing on a pedestal and stating the material yourself. One should dialogue with the student and ask questions; by doing so it will help the student learn the material. This and many other techniques are found in Islamic pedagogy books throughout Islamic history. The Angel Gabriel is teaching how to encourage teachers to disseminate knowledge.

These are just a few of many benefits to be derived from this narration. We will attempt to continue this in a mini series of articles covering the benefits and lessons of this transformative hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace be upon him). We ask God for His guidance and protection.